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Endangered: Independent book stores in country

A small handful of independent bookstores - including Finally Found in Black Diamond - are struggling in the 'ever changing environment of e-books, internet sales and competition from the big box stores.'(Photo courtesy Finally Found Books)

“Should we close?”

Imagine a world where independent book sellers are unable to compete against online retailers.

That world is close to becoming a reality for another book store in King County.

Todd Hulbert owns Finally Found Books in Black Diamond. Unless he’s able to finally find an affordable commercial space, his store will close this summer.

Hulbert emailed this thought-provoking letter to customers:

I sit here this morning contemplating this thought, is there any longer a need for local independent bookstores?

The last few months have been devastating to our business and communities as we lost several local Indies.

Maple Leaf Books in Issaquah, Browsers Books in Kent, Once Sold Tales in Kent, and Bookworm Exchange in Columbia City have all shuttered their doors this year and I know of at least one more that will be gone by years end. All of these stores had been in business for a decade or more. Kent and Issaquah no longer have an independent bookstore.

This leaves only a very small handful of indie bookstores left, all of which are struggling (including us) in this ever changing environment of e-books, Internet sales and competition from the big box stores.

It’s not just bookstores, it’s all of the small, family owned businesses that are struggling, fighting, and scratching their way for a very meager existence. It’s the businesses that are the foundation of our local economy, founded our entrepreneurial spirit, and were the backbones of our communities.

Should we all sit back and let the giant, multinational corporations, who with their bullying techniques, secure mega discounts from suppliers, which are then used to squash the American Dream?

Do we as a society even care anymore about our local businesses or are we content walking into Target and Wal Mart or choosing Amazon? Sure they can beat the locals on price and convenience but certainly not on service and community loyalty. In the end, what is the real price we pay?

Without a doubt, the bookstore will either move or close this summer. Every month, our sales volume and the number of people coming through the door, drops.

We have tried everything possible to bring people in the door but at the end of the day, feel we are simply too far out of the way and need to be in a much more populous area with high visibility and convenience.

We have been searching, unsuccessfully, for the right building in the Kent, Renton, or Auburn area that would still be fairly easy for our exiting patrons to get too. If a space is not secured soon, or a significant increase in our revenue is seen, we will no longer have the capital to make a move and will be forced to shut down.

Even in contemplating a move, I still wonder, is there a need for independent booksellers and will our communities step up and support us?

We have tried to promote author signings, children’s reading hours, and other events, only to have no one show up. Like so many Indies, we have contributed heavily to community events and fundraisers, have given away thousands of free children’s books and played a big role in promoting literacy.

So imagine what the world will look like when there are no more Indies, no more small local businesses.

If you believe our communities, nation and even world need us then get out, fight for, and support your local independent bookstores and businesses. Trust me, if you don’t, there won’t be any left.

We hope to see you soon,

Todd Hulbert
Owner, Finally Found Books


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