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article imageOp-Ed: Sonoma bookshop is thankful for its 24th Anniversary/'birthday' Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 30, 2015 in Business
Sonoma - Owner of Readers' Books, Andrew Weinberger had much to celebrate as well as be thankful for this Thanksgiving season as his bookstore has its 24th anniversary.
The holiday weekend was a gathering of friends, family and long-time patrons and supporters at Sonoma's only locally owned bookstore. Food, music and of course, readings from books were plentiful on Saturday Nov. 28. "It was a very busy afternoon open house with at least a couple hundred people coming and going, all wishing us a 'Happy Birthday' anniversary," said Weinberger. He and his wife founded the store in 1991.
Yet for Weinberger and his staff, the little anniversary 'birthday' celebration was an affirmation that books in print still matter. When this reporter asked him if the digital age still had an impact upon his business he said, "it's kind of like dealing with high blood pressure. You know it's there but you just don't know exactly when or what's going to make it crop up."
In making note of the ups and downs he has experienced over the years, "Borders and big retailers like it have made it very difficult for local and small businesses like mine to compete; especially, when they began offering discounts and markdowns. But where is Borders now? It's gone, he said. "And Barnes & Noble, well they are still around but their business model hasn't been so great," he said.
As noted on Wikipedia, Barnes & Noble, the major retailer has bought and sold itself several times; and in turn bought out or merged and acquired others. In the mid-1980's, for example Barnes & Noble acquired the B. Dalton chain of bookstores for roughly almost $300 million, transforming Barnes & Noble into the largest major book retailer in the U.S. But, in creating a 'mega-store' as some critics point out, there are lots of details that a mega store can't cover. In 2010, Barnes & Noble phased out B. Dalton. It's demise along with Walden Books and Crown among others, signaled the end of the bookshop in favor of the mega store.
Customized attention, specialties are details a mega/superstore is not always able to manage. Outstanding customer service is one detail. And, this is especially so when dealing with online sales and electronic formats.
"One of the best, most specialized things that you can get in a retail establishment is asking a bookseller for help finding a book, said Rosie Lee. She is the one who coordinates book-signing events at Readers. She makes it her job to know just about everything there is to know about books.
In addition to having a reliable and helpful staff like Rosie, Thea, Jude and Sterling, Readers’ Books is a gathering place for the community; especially when meeting local authors. Sonoma realtor turned author Catherine Sevenau is among the many local writers who has been featured at Readers with a book-signing and reading event. She was overwhelmed when Readers’ Books overflowed with people who stopped by on November 13 of last year 2013. It was for the official launch of her new book, “Passages from Behind These Doors: A Family Memoir.”
“My book launch that Thursday night, a year ago at Readers’ was a ‘life event.’” Sevenau posted on Facebook, “I felt held, seen, heard, and loved. It was joyous with my heart filled to the brim.”
The personal connections made between authors and readers thru gathering events, is another reason why a locally owned book store is a treasure to a community like Sonoma.
The digital age has impacted not just publishing but many industries and no doubt local bookstores like Weinberger's has had to deal with the changes. Yet as Weinberger pointed out, "you can't really give a digital book as a gift; it is not as tangible and tactile as an actual book in print."
Pondering for a moment he said, "sure people can give a gift card or gift certificate in order to purchase an ebook on line. But it is not the same. In fact, he pointed out, many people after purchasing an ebook want a print copy for their own library at home."
Naturally, Readers is very happy to oblige. Again as Weinberger continued to reiterate, "an ebook has limits. You can't loan an ebook copy to a friend. Not unless you hand over your electronic device. And, I doubt that anybody no matter how close a friend, would want to loan out their iPad or notebook."
Open Monday thru Saturday 10 AM to 7 PM, Sunday 10 AM to 6 PM, Readers' Books is located at 130 East Napa Street in the heart of Sonoma less than two blocks from the town plaza. To learn more or to order a book, visit the Readers' Books web site or call: 707-939-1779.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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