July 22, 2024

Come Meet the Author, but Open Your Wallet

They are charging admission.

Bookstores, including some of the most prominent around the country, have begun selling tickets or requiring a book purchase of customers who attend author readings and signings, a practice once considered unthinkable.

“There’s no one right now who’s not considering it,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online.”

The Boulder Book Store in Colorado caused a stir in April when it announced it would charge $5 a person to attend store events. In April, Kepler’s Books, an independent in Menlo Park, Calif., began charging customers a $10 gift card, which admits two people to each author appearance. (They also have the option of buying the book in exchange for admission.)

Ms. McNally is overseeing the construction of an event space in the lower level of her store, a warmly lighted shop on Prince Street. As soon as the space is ready, she said, the store will start charging admission to its events.

Bookstore owners say they are doing so because too many people regularly come to events having already bought a book online or planning to do so later. Consumers now see the bookstore merely as another library — a place to browse, do informal research and pick up staff recommendations.

“They type titles into their iPhones and go home,” said Nancy Salmon, the floor manager at Kepler’s. “We know what they’re doing, and it has tested my patience.”

The novelist Ann Patchett, who is currently on a three-week book tour for her new book, “State of Wonder,” appeared at a ticketed event at Kepler’s last week. While she said she was sympathetic to bookstores, she is concerned that people who do not have enough money to buy a hardcover book — especially students or the elderly — might be left out.

“I wouldn’t want the people who have no idea who I am and have nothing else to do on a Wednesday night shut out,” she said. “Those are your readers.”

While e-book sales have exploded in the last year, sales of print books have suffered, hitting brick-and-mortar stores especially hard. But the independent bookstores that have survived the growth of Amazon and the big bookstore chains have tried to retool over the years to become tougher, more agile and more creative in finding new sources of revenue beyond print books.

Anne Holman, the general manager of The King’s English Bookshop, an independent store in Salt Lake City, said an industrywide discussion began a few years ago about whether to charge for events.

“We don’t like to have events where people can’t come for free,” Ms. Holman said. “But we also can’t host big free events that cost us a lot money and everyone is buying books everywhere else.”

The bookshop now requires book purchases or sells tickets for around half of its 150 annual events, up from 10 percent five years ago.

Heather Gain, the marketing manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., said that in recent years the store had begun doing more events that required the customer to buy a book, constantly reminding them that “if they aren’t purchasing the books from the establishments that are running these events, the bookstores are going to go away.”

“We’re a business,” Ms. Gain said. “We’re not just an Amazon showroom.”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8b1ac01dd74e5351b62de5eda2033413

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