Back in the 1990s, the big box bookstore was the enemy of the culture lover. As Borders and Barnes & Noble moved into your town, smaller, locally-owned bookstores were their victims. Given the size of a big B&N and the selection that such a warehouse-sized store could offer, the little guys were quickly squeezed out.
But something funny happened over the next decade or so, as Amazon took the inventory advantages of the big box store, and undercut the chains on price (a recent Scholarly Kitchen commenter described Amazon as, “not really a retail company, since it does not make money that way…Amazon is an investment vehicle, in which consumer traffic generates cash flow which Amazon leverages for growth, yielding investment income”). Now Borders is gone, and B&N is shrinking.
At the same time, independent bookstores have risen from the ashes, with the American Booksellers Association reporting 35% growth in the number of such stores from 1,651 to 2,227. Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli has been researching the cause for this resurgence, and the video below presents some of his thoughts on the subject.