Results of Community Meeting

By tom on November 10, 2011 | 4 comments

Hello all!  Tonight about 150 people crammed into RiverRun to discuss its future, if it has one.  I spent the first part of the meeting explaining why I thought the store deserved saving, and why I thought I had a plan that would make it sustainable going forward, including the good news that we have a tentative line on a new location that would save us over $50,000 a year in expenses.  


Next up was a Q&A session, mostly questioning the current state of affairs concerning ebooks etc.  I did my best to answer those questions.  


Here's what came out of the meeting:



The good folks from the Halloween Parade Committee agreed to drive to your house and pick up good quality used books to be donated to the bookstore.  Reach them at once they get back from the bar.


The Wire offered RiverRun $5000 in free advertising (that's about two years worth)


Corey MacDonald offered free legal services, which we are going to need.


Many people made small donations (not that any donation is small)



Jay Boucher live tweeted the event to the world, including a picture of me looking very dorky.


We collected four pages of emails from people who want to volunteer to help out in some way. 


Popovers on the Square donated coffee (more important to me than you might think!)


Rose and Gail saved the day by making all of this happen.



Soooooooo, are we done??!!  No way.  There is a lot of work to be done yet to make this a reality, and we still need more investors.  Contact me now!!


But I have to say my cautious optimism is creeping toward impetuous optimism, or whatever the more optimistic form of cautious optimism is.


Clearly it is time for me to go to bed.


Thank you and good night!





Jeez, Mom, do you have to be so mean all the time? While your views are valid and in no way wrong-- the store has been mismanaged (thank goodness it's going to have some new owners soon)-- I am thankful that there are hundreds of people who really want the bookstore to stay here. Maybe we donated to their raffle, or maybe we recommended a book that has become their all time favorite. Who knows, the point is people like us (well most people) and it is worth something to them for us to stay. I've answered questions as honestly as possible, and while you may disagree with my answers they are not purposely deceptive. RiverRun was going to close. It's that simple. Customers asked what it would take for that not to happen, and I told them it would take new space, new investment,and some donations. I did not initiate that action, so I find it neither crass nor exploitative. Thanks for your comment. Anonymous (oh wait, no, it's Tom)

I'm sorry, but the idea that Riverrun is in this situation because of Amazon or eBooks is insane. Amazon has been offering deep discounts for years (nothing has changed on that front) and the biggest eBook sellers continue to be essentially pop and genre fiction, which is a tiny slice of what you offer. This probably cuts more into book sales at airports than indie bookstores. Further, it is an oversimplification to say that people are buying eBooks rather than paper because a large amount of the literature on the subject suggests that eBooks have not produced a range of buying habits rather than consumers who will only buy paper or eBooks. These habits are really no different than how some people will only buy books in paperback, others get all their mystery novels from libraries, etc. I only read books on current events in eBook form, but I still buy fiction very regularly, including several hardcovers a month (always from an indie bookstore). I agree that hardcovers are hard to swing for a lot of people in this economic climate but there are ways to combat this. Several local indie stores have adapted and offer small discounts or buying clubs.

Finally, concept of donating or investing in a business that has been mismanaged to this degree is mind boggling, especially when other new and used bookstores in the area are thriving/surviving. I love indie bookstores, but think that this is both crass and exploitative.

Thanks for the comment. The new business model cuts expenses by over $100,000 a year while expanding the programming that has been successful for us, including events, first editions club, book groups, and online sales of used and rare books. New investors not only slashes our debt, but in brings in a diverse group of people who care about books, and may have lots of fresh ideas. It's invigorating to say the least, and also an extremely positive change. Deep discounting at Amazon and the rise of the ebooks have and will take their toll on books sales. There is no way around that. We need to refocus on the books that made us cool in the first place: staff picks, small presses, local authors, university press. Because any plan that tries to beat them at their own game will lose. To that end, we have never had a NYT Bestseller display, because those books are always, always cheaper somewhere else. When we moved into the bigger, more expensive space, we tried to compete in that market, but I think it's time we worked harder at the things we do well and let the chains and the grocery stores sell the mass market stuff. Finally, I would not say the climate is hostile to printed books. I would say it is particularly hostile to new, hardcover, mainstream books. This category will continue to take a beating. Used books, however, are stronger than ever-- they provide a price point cheaper than ebooks, and they give us a better margin on each book sold. Yes you can buy them online for a penny, but once you add shipping you are more or less at the same price as buying it in the store (unlike a new hardcover, which can be twice as much in store as it is online or in electronic format. There is a long, long future for used books. Thanks for the comment, I hope this answer helps.

I'm sure others like myself believe that having an independent bookstore in town is a good idea. Without any doubt in my mind, I believe it is important. Our community values everything from the authors you bring in to the employee written book suggestions.

But if your business model hasn't worked now, why would anyone believe that it can in the future?

Besides moving to a new location, what is your plan to run a successful bookstore business in climate hostile to printed books?


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About RiverRun

  • We are your friendly neighborhood bookstore, located in downtown Portsmouth, NH.  Small but potent, we offer a fine selection of new books with an emphasis on fiction, history, poetry and mystery.  We also have a great little kids section, and hold over 100 events a year.

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