Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Harvard Book Store sent this letter to customers:

We just completed our best holiday season in quite some time. The volume of business happily surprised us after years of challenge. Despite this unanticipated demand, our amazing staff rose to the occasion, the publishers supplied us with the books we needed and our customers showered us with much appreciated holiday cheer. We are very thankful as we head into 2012.

A number of you have asked me why sales were so good this year. Theories abound: the Borders bankruptcy, good weather and great new titles. Maybe even Occupy Harvard and the closing of Harvard Yard, which forced tourists to change their plans and visit local businesses. My guess is that all of these factors played a role, however small. Still, independent booksellers around the country are reporting similar results, even where the weather did not cooperate or there wasn’t a shuttered Borders.

One thing that we all observed was how often customers told us they were choosing to shop with us to support an independent bookstore and local business. While we often receive comments like these, the staff was struck by their frequency and the apparent conviction behind them.

This growing awareness of the importance of shopping local was probably also encouraged by an unfortunate marketing campaign by our biggest competitor, Amazon. I encourage you to read Richard Russo’s wonderful piece, “Amazon’s Jungle Logic” in The New York Times (Dec. 12), listen to Robin Young’s “Here and Now” (Dec. 15), or read this blog post by an editor of Harvard Business Review. What emerges is a picture of a predatory corporation, willfully damaging local communities and abusing their employees in support of a supposedly “efficient” business model.

We know that we have to constantly strive to deserve your patronage. Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide any book ever written, faster than any competitor. We have already taken substantial steps to implement this strategy: a new, a bicycle delivery service and a book-making robot. I am pleased to report the latest development toward realizing our vision: an agreement with HarperCollins, under which our robot will be able to print thousands of recent works. The list includes books from such writers as Russell Banks, Doris Lessing, Joyce Carol Oates, Agatha Christie, Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Dennis Lehane, Ann Patchett, Richard Wright and Howard Zinn, among many others.

For those of you who also read e-books, most titles are now available through our enhanced website. In partnership with the American Booksellers Association, we also now provide an app (available on both Android and iOS), through which you can purchase and read e-books while supporting your independent bookstore.

It is clear that the rumors of the demise of independent bookstores have been greatly exaggerated. Entrepreneurs continue to enter the industry, reimagining how the printed word is distributed to passionate readers. It has been an exciting year, but we promise you that the coming year will be even more exciting. Thanks again for your patronage and support and we look forward to seeing you in the store.

Jeff Mayersohn, owner of the Harvard Book Store