ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The book business might not be booming like it once was, but it's also not bombing, especially not in Anchorage where the owners of a newly opened bookstore believe there's still a real community calling for some good composition.
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While the latest U.S. Census Bureau data for book sales in November shows a 6 percent drop off in buying, the market itself is not on the downturn. The same U.S. Census Bureau data shows that between March and May of 2017 sales were larger than the year prior, showing that the market is fluctuating, not flunking. The Writers Block Bookstore and Cafe in Anchorage has been open for just over a week, since mid-January.
"Independent book stores have always been about their community engagement elements," said Vered Mares, owner of The Writers Block Bookstore and Cafe in Spenard.
Those who aren't in the book business might have the misconception that the industry is declining for a variety of reasons: because people don't read anymore, because kids are spending too much time on their smartphones, or because of the availability of e-books. Mares says that's not entirely true.
"The Alaska region is very different. We knew that Anchorage needed an independent book store. This has been a community project the entire time we've been trying to set this up. It's largely community funded, built and engaged from the ground up. And so that's what I think makes it relevant is listening to and responding to the community around us. You need to be able to blend the book store idea with other elements that mutually cross-support each other and that's why we brought in the cafe," said Mares.
Not too long ago, Borders Books in Anchorage closed its doors for good as part of a national liquidation of the company.
"A book store closing in a town is not a good thing. Our customers buy books that they in turn trade them into us," said Angela Libal, owner of Title Wave Books in Anchorage.
Title Wave Books is a used book store whose inventory is nearly 99 percent used books.
"I think any time a bookstore opens in a community, that's a good thing. Because we're a used book store we don't have the event space for book signings, author signings and events, so I think that's what makes a new book store like Writers Block opening up a needed niche in Anchorage," said Libal.
Title Wave has regular customers who come in two to three times a week, combing the shelves looking for that next great read. But instead of picking up a crisp new paperback for a high price, customers -- if they're able to find it -- can end up buying a used version for much cheaper.
But you don't need to have cash currency to pick up a book. In fact you can use sites like Little Free Library, which allows you to go in, enter your zip code, and shows you a map of multiple free library book exchanges near your area. So even though we live in a digital age, if you're stuck without cash, a smartphone, tablet, or just want to unplug and feel paper pages in your fingers, there's still the demand and access to books if you feel the need to read.