Tag: independent booksellers

Bookspot of the Week: Buchhandlung Lüders

Welcome back to another Bookspot of the Week, where we connect with outstanding bookstores in order to share their businesses and satisfy your craving for bookstore gems. This week we spoke with Ragna Lüders, the owner of a bookstore in Germany whose shop won the Hamburg Bookstore Prize in 2016, as well as the German Bookstore Prize from 2017 to 2019: Buchhandlung Lüders.

Let’s take a little trip to Hamburg and jump in on all the bookish buzz!

 

IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

 

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

My father opened the bookstore almost sixty-five years ago so it has always been a family business and we are proud to still thrive as an independent bookstore.

 

What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

We offer a carefully curated selection of both new and second-hand books, with more than a few real treasures on our shelves, and our entire team is very passionate about literature. Plus, we use Instagram to share this passion with even more people.

 

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

An even wider range of books about climate change, veganism, feminism and other topics that we feel are the most important in this day and age.

 

IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

 

How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

Many of our patrons live right around the corner and come in at least once a week. We’ve known them for a long time, we know their taste in books, and, very often, we have inspiring conversations.

 

What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

You enter our bookstore and you are surrounded by books. You can smell the paper, roam the shelves that reach up to the ceiling, leaf through a first edition, a children’s book or the newest novel, and get recommendations from people who are booksellers with heart and soul.

 

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

Absolutely. A passionate interest for literature is important and it is out heart’s desire to create a friendly and happy atmosphere – for us and all the people that are coming to our store. We carefully select our staff to have a great and inspiring time together.

 

IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

 

How else do you create a welcoming environment?

We try to give our customers space to browse, but we are friendly and welcoming if support in finding the right book is needed.

 

What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

We are an active part of our neighborhood as we offer readings, dress the store window with changing themes, and communicate a lot with our customers.

 

Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

We do have staff picks. We frequently share them in our Lüders Literatur Leporello and on Instagram.

 

IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

 

Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?

Well, our community strongly reflects our own values so it is a great fit. Both in literary tastes and political attitudes.

 

Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?

We are very happy, and proud, that we won the Hamburg Bookstore Prize in 2016 and the German Bookstore Prize in 2017, 2018, 2019. We just won the German Book Blog Award, and our Instagram account was named the Best Bookstore Blog of 2020.

Come visit us when you happen to be in town!

 

IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

 

FEATURE IMAGE VIA BUCHHANDLUNG LÜDERS

Bookspot of the Week: Gertrude and Alice Cafe Bookstore

What’s more perfect then finding a book or books you want to read and starting them before you even leave the store? To sit at a cafe with a book is the ideal environment for us book lovers out there.

For this week’s bookspot we are going all the way down under to Australia. We spoke to Jane Turner of Gertrude and Alice Cafe, located on 46 Hall Street, Bondi Beach NSW 2026 Australia. 

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

In 2000, Katerina Cosgrove (co-founder) and I decided we wanted to open a cafe bookstore. It took 12 months of planning. We spent every waking hour when we weren’t working scouting possible shop locations and stockpiling 45,000 second hand books to open with. We trawled local markets, charity shops, auctions and garage sales. We lived with 100’s of boxes of books, beautiful but odd sets of china tea cups and mismatched tables & chairs that were stacked to the ceilings in our homes until we finally found our shop in Hall Street, and we opened in 2001. We are fast approaching our 20 year milestone.

 

What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

It truly is one of a kind. People say that our shop is like their lounge room at home but without the clothes thrown everywhere!  Most other shops that have added a cafe to their business model run them as a separate entity. Our cafe bookstore is run by us. As we have been around for 20 years, many of our customers have been with us since the very beginning. We have seen babies go through school, finish their schooling and work part time for us while they complete their studies. Ella,  who works for us full time now used to visit in a pram with her Mum Jo who  is one of our biggest readers.

I love the sense of community that we have created. It would have to be the one thing that I’m most proud of. 

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?

It’s a very long list that keeps getting longer! We actually have a DA (development application) to put in a staircase and extend into the unit above us. We would love to have a bigger space to hold events, book clubs, expand our children’s section and host reading afternoons for little ones. We would love a specialist antiquarian room with big leather reading chairs and my greatest wish is to have a writer-in-residence space under the big window where we could invite people to not only be inspired to write, but be available for a short time each day to chat to other aspiring writers. It could also be an artist in residence space as well. There never seems to be enough money to get it off the ground – but I’m not giving up on my dream just yet. I believe that one day it will happen.

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

We have always called ourselves “a community cafe”. Part of our logo says “for the people” and so we live and breathe this mantra. We would be nothing without the support of our community each and every day  and our entire team is aware of this. We get involved in local projects whenever we can, support  schools and work on fundraisers with other local businesses . I honestly believe that we wouldn’t have been as fortunate as we have been to be in business for 20 years had we not become part of the community. My family grew up here at Bondi so it means everything to us.

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

Totally personalised and individualised service. We know your coffee, we know your name, we know what books you like to read. We know when you need a hug or a shoulder to cry on. We know when you need 5 m minutes to sit and recharge in our cosy chairs and get ready to go out and face the world again. We hold newborn babies so you can finish your breakfast. 

We have seen people that had never read a book in their life become voracious readers. As a family-owned business we are service driven and therefore our care factor is huge. We have been on the other end of the line when dealing with a chain or online businesses and believe that what we offer is everything that they don’t. 

Our customer Michelle wrote this to me recently “It means so much to have some place to go where the staff know your name, your order, a book you might like to read, to have a communal table where people come together and make a community out of strangers.  It’s food for the soul. I don’t care if I can save $5 buying it online -what you do here is priceless.” How amazing is that to have someone write something like that about what you created! A community out of strangers…wow!

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

We do. You have to be an all-rounder as working in a small team means you become multi-skilled. You have to be able to get in and do what needs to be done. Even though we work in hospitality, we don’t really have a high turnover of staff. We become like family even though it has aspects of a highly dysfunctional family at times! It helps if you read a lot. 

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice

 

What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

It has a sense of belonging. Of place and of connection. It’s warm and cosy and welcoming. We try our best to ensure that we provide a service that keeps you coming back again and again. 

 

Image via Gertrude and Alice
Featured image via Gertrude and Alice

Has Amazon Changed Our Book-Buying Expectations?

Last week, Frugal Bookstore, a Black-owned independent bookstore in Boston send the following email to their costumers:

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Images via twitter

In short, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the growing sales in books on anti-racism, this bookstore received around twenty thousand orders on the same couple of titles. But because of the time it took them to sort through this inordinate amount of orders, customers started to lose their patience and sending angry emails demanding refunds and calling out their “bad customer service.”

These demands are not only ironic, but they also very unrealistic. While this is a problem that goes along with this very particular situation, the costumers’ reactions can also be attributed to the way that business magnate Amazon is changing our expectations.

Amazon Books | Amazon.jobs

Image via Amazon jobs

Amazon is the go-to place for many people when it comes to buying all sorts of miscellaneous items, but also when it comes to buying books. We’re so used to, with a couple of clicks, getting to whatever book we desire, paying for it and getting it two or three days later (or even the next day if you’re a prime user) on a neatly packed bag in our doorstep, that we often forget that most businesses don’t run like this. Amazon is a corporation worth more than a trillion dollars with thousands of employees, warehouses all around the world, and with more access to books than anyone else that can assure you that you ill receive the product you want with little to no hassle.

This is hardly the case for independent bookstores. They, first of, don’t have millions of dollars at their disposal; but also they are run by a handful of people who do everything, from processing orders, packaging and sending them, to keeping track of inventory, etc. They also have a very limited amount of books. They don’t have thousands of square feet dedicated to storing books, they often keep one or two copies of a title on their bookshelves, maybe a box or two if they expect it to be a big hit. It is normal, and expected, for orders placed from independent bookstores to take a couple of days to process and ship, especially if they are getting thousands of orders for the same books as in the case of Frugal Bookstore.

Image via lit hub

Beyond the speed of delivery, Amazon has also changed our expectations in regards to the money we are willing to spend on books. It is not unusual for costumers to walk into bookstores to pick out books they are going to order from Amazon once they get back home because they are cheaper there. Amazon often sells discounted books on their site because not only those that make more people want to buy from them, but also because they expect to make that lost revenue up from the other things those costumers will eventually buy from them, so that “lost revenue” actually means more money for them in the long run.

It is totally valid to want to save money and time when buying books. Why wait an extra week and spend three or four extra dollars on a book when we could have it faster and cheaper? But we also have to think about who we are supporting when we purchase our books. Purchasing off Amazon will benefit Amazon. Purchasing off independent bookstore will benefit the owners of that store, their employees, the communities they’re in, and the publishing industry as a whole.

It is important to remember that bookstores are run by real people, people who are being equally affected by the current crisis, and that they can’t always keep up and meet the expectations that Amazon has set for us.

Featured image via the new york times