What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

A Rebirth for Independent Book Stores?

August 17, 2010, 12:07 PM
Bookonomics100809_560

Independent bookstores were supposed to be dead, succumbing to Amazon, Kindle, and big box chains Barnes Noble and Borders.  As early as 1998, Hollywood in You’ve Got Mail was predicting the demise of indies, featuring Tom Hanks as a big box owner targeting Meg Ryan’s childrens bookstore.

Consider that between 1991 and 2009, market share for indies dropped from 31% to 12% and the number of indie stores fell from 5,000 to 2,000.

Yet over the past two years, there are signs of resurgence in popularity--even prosperity-- for those independent booksellers that remain.  A number of factors account for the rebirth of independent bookstores, one of the topics I will be tracking here at Age of Engagement.

Strategies include the use of social media to strengthen relationships with customers, expanded book events, and new in store cafes and live music.  But the desire among consumers to regain a sense of the local--experiencing an indie bookstore as a nexus point for their community and as a social outlet—might be the biggest factor.  "I do think there's a swing back to valuing local and independent," Booksmith manager Dana Brigham told the Boston Globe. "Small and local can be good places to do business and very healthy for your community."

Last week, New York magazine spotlighted the emergence of several new independent bookstores in Manhattan.  But as NY Mag details, the profit margin for an indie remains very tight.  Most successful owners are in the business out of passion and a sense of mission, rather than a desire to make it rich.

Here in Washington, DC, Kramers Books and Politics & Prose, the two longtime independent bookstores in the area, pursue slightly different strategies for engaging costumers. 

Kramers thrives on the location and energy of Dupont Circle, featuring a highbrow selection of political non-fiction, history, and literature while attracting browsers from breakfast to late night with a popular adjoining restaurant, café, and bar featuring live music.

Politics & Prose, on the other hand, relies on an unrivaled author series, often broadcast on Book TV, and that attracts dozens of attendees.  They also specialize in carefully curated staff selections for customers, a strong monthly print and electronic newsletter, a basement café and a member program that offers bi-annual discounts.

What do readers think?  Are you as optimistic about the future of independent bookstores? What factors account for the survival and growth of your favorite local indie?  From Portland, Seattle, and Berkeley to Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, which stores are the standard bearers for indie success?  What strategies make them successful?

 

A Rebirth for Independent B...

Newsletter: Share: