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A new chapter for Amazon

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The dodo. The carrier passenger pigeon. The wooly mammoth. The bookstore, at least the brick-and-mortar kind, was supposed to be next. And yet, head to the main drag in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn and right between a real estate agent and a nail salon you’ll find Terrace Books, a small community bookstore.

 “A lot of times people walk by you’ll see them stop in front of the shop, turn around and say, oh my gosh, there’s a real bookstore here,” said store manager Nick Raschella. 

Flip a few chapters back, and you’ll find Amazon was expected to destroy all bookstores — if it didn’t e-books would — but today there was a surprising story arc.  Amazon opened its first brick-and-mortar bookstore. A real, old-fashioned store in Seattle’s University Village — right next to a Banana Republic.

And at Terrace Books in Brooklyn, 95 percent of the stock is made up of books. Not scented candles, thank you notes, or the dreaded e-book. 

“We have absolutely no electronic reading devices here,” said Raschella. 

To understand how book stores are still up and running, just head to the back of the store. Browsing non-fiction, of the old fashioned paper kind, is one of the answers.  Jason Blumberg says he needs a book to read while visiting his parents.

Says Blumberg, he does also shop online but mostly for used books. And if a reporter thought he looked guiltily towards the manager standing behind the counter at the front of the store, while discussing his purchases at Amazon, she’d be right. 

 “Yeah,” said Blumberg, “I didn’t want him to hear that. But I come here too.”

Contrary to expectations, Amazon has not killed the bookstore, and e-books have not yet killed print.

Says Tom Allen, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, “I think a lot of people got caught up with the triple digit growth in the ebook market in the first few years.”

E-Books make up about only about 20 percent of trade books consumers read, Allen notes . Do the math — 100 percent versus 20 percent. Print books are still going strong.

Notes Lori Benton, vice president and digital publisher for Scholastic Trade, a publisher of children’s books, kids prefer print, especially at younger ages. And she says, so should parents when choosing reading material for them.

“As they’re growing up, it’s important to parents, especially for their brain development, that they have a very  analog experience when they’re reading.” 

But said Benton, “there’s more than one route to any given piece of literature.” She continued, “kids are absolutely omnivorous – they will switch between print and digital at any given moment.”

“The important thing,” said Allen,  “is publishers are agnostic about how people read their material – their content.”

Morale of the story, he said, publishers want and need to provide readers with whatever format they want — be it e-book or traditional ink on paper.  

“They have to serve all of those interests,” he said, “because that’s what the public wants.”

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