Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Gary Porter- Mary Houseman of Milwaukee browses books at The Little Read Book, a small bookstore in Wauwatosa that has been able to survive for the past 26 years in a competitive market.
They're a reminder that Next Chapter is a locally owned bookstore - one of a fast-diminishing number in an industry that's struggling to cope with the changing nature of the way people buy and even read books.
A couple of decades ago, the threat came from the rise of the big chains: giant Barnes & Noble and Borders stores in or near major shopping centers.
Then came the Internet, with Amazon.com taking an aggressive stance to maintain its tax-free selling advantage. And now there also are e-books, transmitted wirelessly to electronic devices such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad, piling on yet another layer of stress for the brick-and-mortar stores.
Yet in the face of all that, Next Chapter, operating in a former Harry W. Schwartz bookstore location, and a handful of other local booksellers are still standing, even as the nationwide Borders chain is liquidating in bankruptcy. Three Borders stores in the Milwaukee area closed this year.
"The independents and all brick-and-mortars are in the same boat," said Lanora Haradon, owner of Next Chapter.
So how are the survivors coping? There seems to be no single secret, although each of the remaining local independents has found a way to offer enough extra value and a sense of community - book club meetings, appearances by bestselling authors, discounted books for students - to convince customers they're worth the trip.
Haradon's store has built a reputation over the past two years as a host of author events. For instance, Next Chapter will be the site of a ticketed Sept. 1 event for the release of Lesley Kagen's book "Good Graces," a sequel to her bestselling "Whistling in the Dark." And Alton Brown of the Food Network will appear there Oct. 8 to promote his new book, "Good Eats 3: The Later Years."
"It's really a testament to the community support we have here," Haradon said.
Next Chapter has more author events scheduled this fall than it hosted during its entire first year in business, she said.
Haradon's continuing challenge has been to let people know her store exists. Even after two years of operating in a location that has been a bookstore for more than 15 years, local residents come and say they didn't know the store was there.
"My worry is, with less brick-and-mortar outlets, that people will say, 'Let's just go online and buy it,' " Haradon said.
At The Little Read Book in Wauwatosa, owner Linda Burg has stayed afloat by selling books from local high-school reading lists to students at a discount and by adding nonbook items, such as cards, that yield higher profit margins.
But she has also cut expenses by trimming a few hours from the schedule, thus saving on labor costs.
Full story here.