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KPBS Midday Edition

How San Diego Bookstores Are Surviving

How San Diego Bookstores Are Surviving
How San Diego Bookstores Are Surviving GUEST:John Wilkens, reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. After 30 years at its Hillcrest location Fifth Avenue books is closing at the end of the month. Owners say sales have declined the mount -- point where they can't stay in business. There are other bookstores in San Diego that seem to be doing okay. Putting the lie to the idea that brick-and-mortar bookstores are dying industry. KPBS round table host interviewed San Diego union Tribune reporter John Wilkens about San Diego's bookstores. Here is the interview. I want to start with the experience of visiting a bookstore, holding and reading a book. Isn't there something mournful about losing that experience for a lot of readers? It is a big problem for a lot of readers and it's one of the reasons why bookstores are sort of hanging on by their fingernails. To be able to go up and to a bookstore and open one up and be surprised by something is really a unique experience. You quoted a bookstore on the bus and many people still want to browse the stacks and browsing online is just not the same. Places like Amazon try to use algorithms to tell you what you might be interested in based on what you are looking at but you do really know what is going into those algorithms. Most of the time it's based on what somebody who about the book you're looking at has also purchased. You don't know what that person's taste are. With so many things that have become digitalized On two computers that used to be old-fashioned. Their predictions that 90 said -- 95% of all books will be offered electronically by now. That is not the case. That is not the case in fact sales of the readers have flattened and there is sort of a surge in the number of stores in the country although the is some disagreement. The numbers are up in recent years. Mac number -- those bookstores that are surviving how are they doing it? There's a lot of ways. Offer things that only booksellers cannot do particular events. There. Very aggressive in bringing others to tell for signings and readings for most types of things. There are live events and other bookstores have had some success by picking up particular niches. We have one in San Diego that is mysterious galaxy. That store has been around -- the niche is in science fiction fantasy mystery books. And people like to go there as a gathering place. It has been interesting the recent polarization of the election are bookstores trying to capitalize on a sense of community. They are a place where people will come into the legislators there are having entitles. They are hot in the news right now. Is a contrast to the books he officer profiled a been a bookstore in Northpark to celebrate the first anniversary this month. Where one of the ways they are trying to increase sales? Genes are limited election handmade publications and a lot of times they are similar to graphic novels. They have a lot of dry and cement. They have sort of set up a corner and I store that allows local authors of those scenes to display and sell them. Is one of those sort of niches. It is interesting about verbatim because it seems in recent years as we lose stores we also gain some.. You have another one not that far away geographically that is celebrating its first anniversary seen doing -- seeming to do very well with the traffic. One of the co-owners is to look at Fifth Avenue books Let me talk to you about [Indiscernible] Traditional bookstores are trying to survive in this digital age there are all sorts of the readers out there. Kendall is the most famous but there are others. Traditional bookstores are more than happy to send you an e-book for your e-reader. They are really trying to engage readers on whatever when they are interested in. Sort of a if you can't beat them join them idea. Just now Amazon has got the Kindle and while into the digital aspect of -- that some brick-and-mortar stores in San Diego. They sort of saw this resurgence of physical bookstores so they have three or four of them now and have some online that are supposed to come on and they have a small number of titles in the traditional bookstore there very much toward -- geared toward steering people toward the Kindle and other product. I've not been into one here the curating is not the same and he may not get the same kind of attention from the hand sanitizer. Some cities have more used bookstores than stores that sell the new books. Including newspapers TVs and everything used bookstores were a little bit better position just because the cost factor. Were lower-priced the tent to have a lower overhead so they were better able to sort of survive that initial wave of the digital. Traditional offers do not love them because they don't make any money off of them. The only person that makes money is the person selling it to you. The book industry as a whole the does not really my member keep people interested in books and keep people reading. It's a significant slice of the book reading pie. John Wilkens of the union Tribune. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me.

After 30 years in Hillcrest, Fifth Avenue Books is closing at the end of February.

While this mainstay is closing, other bookstores in San Diego are doing OK and surviving in what was thought to be a dying industry not too long ago.


Earlier this month, San Diego Union-Tribune reporter John Wilkens wrote about how those stores are surviving.

RELATED: Closure of Fifith Avenue Books in Hillcrest part of changing industry

Wilkens discussed San Diego's bookstore industry Monday on Midday Edition.