Two Raleigh women are opening a bookstore this month, confident the appeal of printed words will persist in a digital society.
Stephanie Stegemoller, 26, and Caitlynne Garland, 28, bought a bunch of used books from thrift stores and starting selling them last summer on Amazon. They also sold books at local book fairs and flea markets.
But Stegemoller and Garland, who met when they were both biology majors at Appalachian State University, dreamed of opening a permanent store. This month, they plan to open Dog-Eared Books in a warehouse at 4027 Atlantic Ave. in Raleigh. The store will be open on the second and fourth weekend of every month, and each book will cost $1 or less.
“People like browsing and visiting a physical store,” Garland said. “We’ve talked to customers at our sales, and while Kindles are convenient, they’ve told us that they just love books.”
A decade ago, the future of independent bookstores looked bleak as more people turned to tablets and e-readers. But some store owners in the Triangle say they are finding new ways to succeed, including inviting more authors to speak, which can bring in crowds eager to shop.
The good news is that bookstores are surviving and thriving right now, and that wasn’t the case a few years ago.
Sarah Goddin, general manager of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh
There’s also a surprising factor that’s boosting brick-and-mortar bookstores: the internet.
Some store owners have embraced the digital age, selling books on their websites and using social media to create a more intimate experience. Online sales help pay the bills for the stores.
Stegemoller and Garland have used Facebook to spread the word about their April 29 grand opening and their book selection. They want to continue selling books online after the store opens.
“The good news is that bookstores are surviving and thriving right now, and that wasn’t the case a few years ago,” said Sarah Goddin, general manager of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. “There’s a lot to be said for the resilience of the book industry, and the numbers of people who love print and don’t get that pleasure from online books has certainly helped.”
Independent bookstores are finding success throughout the country. Since 2009, the number of independent stores that are members of the American Booksellers Association has increased by 27 percent.
About 571 million print books were sold in 2015, 17 million more than in the year before, according to Nielsen BookScan, which collects data on the publishing industry.
Meanwhile, sales of e-books have fallen short of some expectations. Their share of the total market fell from 27 percent in 2014 to 24 percent in 2015, according to Nielsen BookScan.
Books autographed by authors have boosted online sales for Quail Ridge, which opened in 1984 and recently moved to North Hills, Goddin said. The store also hosts regular events with authors, including well-known writers like John Grisham.
Independent bookstores meet a niche need in communities, Goddin said.
“These stores, more than other retail options, serve as community centers,” she said. “More than selling books, they are places people come to discuss ideas and learn and meet people.”
Tom Campbell, co-owner of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, said the prevalence of the digital economy has renewed customers’ interest in visiting stores.
“The opportunity to browse books at a real bookstore and interact with real people is unusual these days,” Campbell said. “People are newly appreciative of these stores in a digital culture, even if they could buy a cheaper book somewhere else. That’s our magic formula.”
Nearly every week, The Regulator sends an email to about 6,000 subscribers across the United States notifying them of upcoming events and new book offerings, Campbell said. The store, founded in 1976, has also promoted online sales.
To prepare for Dog-Eared Books’ grand opening, Stegemoller and Garland have spent weeks sifting through cardboard bins, sorting books into piles and stocking the shelves.
Because their business is fairly new, both women work second jobs: Stegemoller as an actress and Garland as a veterinary technician. They hope their store, and their cheap books, will be a hit.
“Books have gotten so expensive these days, but they’re still in demand,” Stegemoller said. “People want to be able to buy books at a cheap price, and that’s what we can do.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; firstname.lastname@example.org