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Author Topic: Can my book store idea work?  (Read 905 times)
Lazaras
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« on: March 07, 2016, 12:35:27 am »

Bit of a bucket list thing.

I want to try opening a book store even with the razor thin margins. I want to do this as a bucket list thing since I've always wanted a book store with a sort of lounge area that could double as hosting weakly tabletop gaming sessions, a library-box like 'it only opens to the store's personal server' web interface to grab a selection of project Gutenberg texts, things I've written, a discussion forum only accessible in store, and legally free to download things.

I want things like a weekly writers group, A section to feature local writer works, even if the're just giving the text away because it's a hobby, tabletop gaming space. Basically something beyond 'get your book and get out.'

Frankly having a little 'take a book, leave a book' box up front wouldn't be that bad an idea either...

Ditto with non-traditional vending machines for things like notepads, pens, bookmarks, and such.

I want to do this because it is the kind of store I want. One that isn't 90% romance trash and maybe 10% anything else. However I know romance sells, especially where I live. There's also the fact that small business and 'everyone' I talk to locally keeps insisting 'books are dead.'
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Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2016, 01:32:24 am »

points to ponder :

* Who is your intended demographic or target market.
 *Do you want a  gamer lounge with  books on the side - or -  books  with a gamer lounge area.
*Would there be a theme to the books available eg. vintage, sci fi, military, DIY,craft,  fiction, non fiction,  esoteric and so forth.
 * Would you be serving food and beverages.
*Is it a shop or a drop in centre.
 *Is it a  library  or book pawn  type arrangement or a retail store.
* New and or 2 nd hand books.
 * other retail products to be sold.
* Will there be  a charge for gaming.
* How is profit to be made. 
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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2016, 02:15:09 am »

points to ponder :

* Who is your intended demographic or target market.
 *Do you want a  gamer lounge with  books on the side - or -  books  with a gamer lounge area.
*Would there be a theme to the books available eg. vintage, sci fi, military, DIY,craft,  fiction, non fiction,  esoteric and so forth.
 * Would you be serving food and beverages.
*Is it a shop or a drop in centre.
 *Is it a  library  or book pawn  type arrangement or a retail store.
* New and or 2 nd hand books.
 * other retail products to be sold.
* Will there be  a charge for gaming.
* How is profit to be made. 





Going by the original post, I think the collective answer would probably be "yes."
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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2016, 04:21:39 am »

Looks like a very difficult way to make money.  That is not to say that you can't have a library with physical books, but you have to understand you now live in a world with instant access to books (Last year I found an illegal copy of a textbook I used in college, Modern Compressible Flow by Anderson published my Mc Graw-Hill?, as a .pdf on a sharing site frequented by Indian students - gives you an idea what you're up against).

My advice is to make your money selling something other than simple access to books and Internet and have the books on the side more like an accessory.  Like a coffee or tea house making money from the beverages, but the library and gaming table are there to keep the patron entertained for hours - thus keeping them buying more beverages.
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Prof Marvel
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« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2016, 08:41:17 am »

I fear I must side with the "less optimistic viewpoint".
Cities and towns across Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, etc have seen small bookstores dropping like flies in a cloud of DDT.

Denver , Colorado saw the demise of many small bookstores and the near crippling of its best independent , Tattered Cover.
In this new world you have to be prepared to bow under the pressure of the Fed and release all records of who buys what or suffer the same fate as "Tattered Cover" .

from wikipedia
"Colorado Supreme Court case

In 2000 the store resisted, on First Amendment grounds, a search warrant for records related to purchases made by a customer suspected of illegally manufacturing methamphetamine. The case made national news, and was eventually decided in the store's favor by the Colorado Supreme Court.[7][8] Officers were attempting to establish a connection between the suspect and books they found on how to manufacture the drug. The purchase in question was later revealed to be of a book on Japanese calligraphy.[9]"

Since you are in the  U.S. you would  be subject to the "Patriot Act" by which any and all records you have may be taken by officials should they decide that such records are required under the act. No explanation will be offered, possibly no proper warrant, and you will immediately be handed a gag order that will prevent you from discussing it with anyone, even your own attorney.

Some individuals are dealing such things by not keeping any records at all .

our good J. Wilhem pointed out other issues, esp vis-a-vis competing with "free ( ie stolen) off the web"

Do you have a business plan?

Have you also looked into the costs of doing business - licenses, inspections, city, county, state and fed taxes to open & run a store, costs of  filing for either LLC or S-Corp, bookkeeping , self-employment taxes ( i hope you won't have an employee the costs will cripple you), etc.

Unless you have access to a rent-free store front, now is not a good time for such an enterprise.

I would have to advise that you would most likely need to start with a large sum of seed money, and be prepared to spend it all, slowly bleeding money and sleeping in the back  like the comic book store character in "The Big Bang Theory" until you finally decide to close it.


sorry to rain on your dream -
yhs
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« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2016, 09:22:59 am »

I'd just have a coffee house with a library which -as Prof. Marvel pointed out -has no records. People pick books and they only have to leave them in the designated areas, for an employee to pick up. No "check out" of books allowed, period. Perhaps a magazine rack filled with magazines like "The Smithsonian" and such for sale, but that's it.

Sort of like a chain books store in reverse; instead of the patron going to buy books and on the side getting some coffee or pastries, the patron goes for the pastries plus gelatto plus alcohol - yes alcohol will make you a lot of money - one of the most relaxing and intellectual places I know is a little Italian Gelato and Bar called "La Dolce Vita" off the university campus.  They serve upscale Italian deli and pastries plus coffee and alcoholic beverages.

The don't have books but I don't see why it couldn't be added. All the professors hang out there instead of going to the seedy bar closer to campus ("The Posse East") and the other "intellectual alternative" is the coffee house next door (JP's Java).  Other restaurants in the area have come and gone but the gelato+bar and the coffee house have been open forever, even after La Dolce Vita passed hands from the Italian founder.

I'd add a live music venue and rental space for public events. That is an especially hot combination here in Austin ("The Spider House"). A venue for the arts on the side is a model that many college area bars have adopted.  It lends itself to a more upscale intellectual type of crowd, while allowing you to make money.

That could be self sustaining, especially near a college campus (OK now you owe me a participation in the business  Wink )
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Lazaras
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« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2016, 06:11:19 pm »

Wonderful feedback guys This is kinda why I ask. I know the trend is for e-books and will continue down this path and I didn't want to operate under blind optimism that just because I grew up with these kind of stores doesn't mean my niece will or would even want to. I know from watching a friend run their own business (tabletop games, trading cards, that sorta thing) the margins are razor thin, long hours, and if I remember right they got more money selling through amazon and mostly wanted to keep the place open because they didn't want to see the location die out. I mean when even the die hards think book stores won't last particularly long...

Then again unlike my stepdad you're offering up how something like what i want could work rather than just pfft you're stupid get with the times. It's that constructive feedback that's most helpful. Unfortunately I dunno if I'd have a liquor license as it seems to be a complication on top of everything else.

I don't want to sell the place as 'high class exclusive.' That... would quickly feel very douchbag. I want it to feel like 'so long as you don't come in acting like you own the place here is a place you can hang out, unwind, and pass the time.'

Any thoughts on my idea of vending machines for oddball items? Always those small things you need but spend forever looking for (thumbdrives, batteries, pens, composition pads, etc.)
Quote
Do you have a business plan?

Have you also looked into the costs of doing business - licenses, inspections, city, county, state and fed taxes to open & run a store, costs of  filing for either LLC or S-Corp, bookkeeping , self-employment taxes ( i hope you won't have an employee the costs will cripple you), etc.

Unless you have access to a rent-free store front, now is not a good time for such an enterprise.

I would have to advise that you would most likely need to start with a large sum of seed money, and be prepared to spend it all, slowly bleeding money and sleeping in the back  like the comic book store character in "The Big Bang Theory" until you finally decide to close it.


sorry to rain on your dream -
yhs

That's... OK as 'I'm going to hatchet you in the face and consider it doing you a favor' as that sounds, that's far nicer than how my stepdad put things when I asked him (but, to be blunt still pretty tactless to the point of coming off mean spirited then trying ot hide behind 'I'm just trying to help!') See I don't yet have a business plan because I don't yet know if there's a point in drawing one up. If ther'es no market no plan is going to save the venture

I like everyone's respin of reframing it more as a gathering space/place for drinks that also happens to have reading material on premises. I don't know how well THAT will work either.

I just want to do something with myself and I don't look at it as 'there's a reason none of these places exist' as flat excuse for not at least looking at the matter for when/if my situation allows me to try.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2016, 06:21:40 pm by Lazaras » Logged
morozow
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« Reply #7 on: March 07, 2016, 06:36:44 pm »

You may open an anti-cafe (time cafe)?

There are people not paying for services or goods, and for the time spent.

Minute is X cents. And reading books and magazines, game consoles and Board games, tea, coffee and drying with candy - included in the price minutes.
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« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2016, 11:44:02 pm »

Morozows idea is a very good one.
 I've actually watched people in cafes that just have newspapers for customers sit reading the free papers for long enough for me to order an entire meal, wait for it to arrive and eat it, while they are still nursing the half-an-inch of coffee that was in their cup when I arrived, and they were still there making no effort to move when I've paid and am leaving.  To make matters worse I've noticed that this sort of customer invariably sits at a table for four and spreads their belongings onto every chair particularly if it's lunchtime. The profit from a cup of coffee isn't even going to begin to cover what they have cost the business! But paying for the seat ...
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« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2016, 12:10:55 am »

We appeared a few years ago. Now in Moscow many anti-cafe. Although I do not know how profitable they are.

But would like to see. In Russia a big problem with public spaces where you can sit with friends, play games, organize some Amateur a lecture or a concert. There is no place for meetings of the Pickwick club.

As far as I know, in the US public places are much better. Schools and libraries provide to their premises.

We recently the situation is changing, the same library welcome quiet activities and of community. But the people about it do not know and do not come. Smiley

So I'm not sure that what works in Russia will work in the USA.

However I have heard that in new York our immigrants are trying to organize such a business.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2016, 12:15:33 am by morozow » Logged
Prof Marvel
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« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2016, 04:46:08 am »

I myself had several dreams I tried to follow -
 - small scale ranch/farm
 
- smaller scale "critters for meat" and truck garden

- buying a 600 acre property ( large to me , small to ranchers) already in use for cattle ranching, and turn it into a buffalo ranch
to be financed by selling full-ownership interests in 10 5-acre covenant-controlled home parcels carefully spaced along the edges, and take over the  adjacent commercial property to turn into a series of small storefronts consisting of coffee shop/ bookstore / hardware store/ art studio-gallery.

fortunately, each time, before I committed a single penny, the Universe connected me with people who were doing it.
in every case I learned from their experiences, the good, the mostly bad, the headaches, and the fact that I was not cut out for it.

I have completely reigned in my ideas.  The 2 acres we have now is plenty, and I can grow more than we can eat. Maybe I can manage to raise Tilapia fish for protein, as I am less likely to bond with them... or just continue to buy packaged meat like everyone else :-)


Quote
That's... OK as 'I'm going to hatchet you in the face and consider it doing you a favor' as that sounds, that's far nicer than how my stepdad put things


I am truly glad you took it well - I was trying for more of a cold fish than a hatchet, tho... must be my years of former engineering project planning and trying to chain down the (literally) hopelessly optimistic marketing geeks....

Quote
Any thoughts on my idea of vending machines for oddball items? Always those small things you need but spend forever looking for (thumbdrives, batteries, pens, composition pads, etc.)

If you can get them cheap on sale from the big box stores ( no one can compete with a 64g thumbdrive for $15 !) it might be a dandy feature. price them higher than Wally World but cheaper than the Gas-n-Go and you can keep the customers in the shop.

Quote
I like everyone's respin of reframing it more as a gathering space/place for drinks that also happens to have reading material on premises. I don't know how well THAT will work either.

^^^^
THAT - make it an "everything goes anti-cafe"  !!! Now you're talking!

kinda like a bar with a minimum? ie you must spend $3 or $5 to take up tablespace but you get a friendly atmosphere, friendly people,  convenient stuff, slow wifi, music, soda, snacks, coffee ....

make it like something out of Whole Earth Catalog! A worn out but friendly place . plain old wood or concrete floors,
and who cares if the sofa is old and the tables are old doors on bricks!

sell your convenience items from a display case to start ( vending machines cost money)

Coke is $.34 a can in 24 packs at wallyworld. It can be gotten cheaper.
Sell Customer a can of  soda for $2-3 and they get a plastic butter tub full of peanuts in the shell & free (slow) wifi
throw sawdust on the floor and encourage them to throw peanut shells.

Set up a gamers corner, a readers corner, a talkers corner, a music corner  .....

coffee ... you can make good money selling coffee! look at starbucky ...
free refills on plain coffee for a couple bucks.
fancy coffee ( just add quality flavors, spices, real cream, REAL WHIPPED CREAM ) for maybe $5 ?

Pastries - start with getting a big box of mixed pastries from the local supermarket, maybe get a deal with them?
Plate them up in a case to look good, priced "right"
you might expand to prepackaged snacks or sandwiches.
-----------

The big thing is to find the right place, that cna support the effort - Find a neighborhood with good flavor , but inexpensive storefronts.
make your place  a part of the neighborhood,

make it so locals WANT to come and spend time.
Attract gamers, readers, musicians, Steampunkers, SCA , Friendly Bikers, local Constables ...

Invite artists to hold an art show in your cafe - no cost to them! For the Show Opening (usually a friday) , advertise thru local
radio and Indy  Papers .  you can provide trays of snacks for a small fee

Invite musicians to come and jam - free music .

make friends with some Very Large and Strong Regulars and make them feel like they are your big brother and Want to look out for you.

offer cheap used books for a pittance - haunt thrift stores, libraries, used book stores for bargains.

yhs
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Bines
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« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2016, 05:01:22 am »

Half Price Books is a thing. They buy and sell used books and records. Records are popular now, again. They sell used CDs and DVDs, too.

Table top games are also kind of popular. We play at our homes, though. The thing about having that stuff laid out for the public is the public sucks. Pieces will go missing. Still, I see it incorporated into various places. I was at a family friendly bar and grill last week that had a rack of old school games customers could play at their tables.

Maybe having a space for people to bring their own games is better. You could charge for use of the space.

Food and drink is a business of its own. Licensing, laws, inspections. Logistics. Food safety. That's where vending machines may be a good option. There are snack, and hot and cold food machines. You'd probably be in an arrangement with the machine owner/operator.

Booze sells, but it comes with the price of a whole slew of regulations. And drunks. Even places that sell drinks as an aside still have to deal with people who just cannot drink responsibly. A maximum drinks served policy would serve you well.

Instead of a stationary supplies machine, you could have a few racks of materials. No machine upkeep or cut going to the owner/operator.
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Bines
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2016, 05:06:01 am »

I'm digging Prof Marvel's lived in motif.
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Hurricane Annie
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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2016, 09:58:27 am »



 .... friendly  bikers ....local  constables...

 at first I thought oooo ...  then I thought hhmm maybe not ... thats  a bit too much  like the village people...

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Lazaras
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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2016, 02:29:20 pm »

That would be the trick, finding a neighborhood where it would integrate well. The concept you're pitching sounds workable )with a lot of yea, but's thrown in) so I'm not going to just chunk everything. Instead shelving til I can do more than just endlessly prod it while able to do nothing.

Thanks for offering up a few ideas on how something like what I've got in mind might work, even if it would take the stars aligning on the fifth night of the blah blah blah.

In the meantime. Back to building decks.
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Inflatable Friend
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« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2016, 12:38:24 am »

I'll plop a vote into the 'Could Work' pile.

While independent book stores have certainly had a hard time in recent years they're not dead yet. Diversity seems to work for the larger chain stores, many have sprouted large kindle/tablet accessory sections along with comfy chairs, coffee shops and accessories (typically greetings cards, arts and crafts stuff, toys and games and gadgets), either with their own in house branding or offering concession stands (Waterstones and Paperchase being prime examples in the UK). Independent stores on the other hand seem to have tended to go the other way, specialising in ways that the larger chain stores often can't do, offering a much more personal service and being much more community minded. Many of the local indies I know of offer more book related things; writing courses, book readings, book binding, game nights, printing or other crafty things.

From personal experience I don't think the coffee shop strategy is a wise one. While it does seem to function for larger chains who often have the floor space and staff to spare, I cannot think of a single independent bookshop that's diversified into offering food/drink and has survived. Even the few bookshops I knew of whose entire business model was built around combining food/drink with books have closed.

Here's a bunch of links to some newspaper articles. They're worth reading and absorbing if you're planning on doing it.
[urlhttp://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/19/indie-revival-high-street-bookshops-upbeat-amazon-ebooks-independents]Indie Bookshops Revival[/url], [urlhttp://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/12/lee-child-amazons-real-life-bookshops-why-we-should-be-worried]Amazon's Bookshops and why[/url], Starting and Indie bookstore, The opening of Liberia.

The key takeaways are much as everyone has already said - You need to be a keystone for your local community, you need to be able to offer something different than the giant bookshifters, you need to have a real passion for books and people and you need to be able to cater to diverse markets (the librophiles and the casual buyer).

Reserve vending machines for food if you need them, it gets you around a lot of the laws that go with selling food produce, but remember than you're a bookstore and you're selling books. If people come in, buy some chocolate or crisps and thumb through your good stock then you'll be stuck with a bunch of books you have to discount to shift. Keep memory sticks, pens and sundry stuff around the counter where it can be added to sales as impulse purchases or that kind of thing.

Lastly, if you want to give running a bookshop a bit of a whirl then why not plan a trip to Scotland. You can holiday with airbnb at Wigtown's Open Bookstore and run the bookshop into the bargain. See if it appeals as a practical experience rather than a dream.
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rovingjack
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« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2016, 02:12:24 am »

I had an idea some years ago of making a franchise of traveling library, boardgames and story tellers with local hotels for their guests. People traveling for vacation, business or family reasons and staying in a place could find something to do rather than just sitting around in a hotel room.

They could 'rent' a book for their stay or buy it. Maybe trade in one they brought with them. Have a game with the librarian. Or kids could come for an old school story teller before bedtime as a group.

But e-books mean they have access to many cheap books, you can play browser games for free on social media, or watch youtube videos in your room. You can get mostly the same things without hving to deal with some local guy in a small business venture.

It's not really the same as playing a board game in a cafe at 10pm with a real person you've just met, or hearing a real person telling a story by the hearth of an inn. But then neither is chatting on a web board about ones hobby the same as getting together with friends to share a hobby.
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