Gayle Shanks, the founder and co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, talks about talk about how the closing of Borders book stores may impact the book-selling marketplace.
Ted Simons: The closing of Borders Bookstores is giving smaller independent booksellers an opportunity for growth and change. Here to talk about that is Gayle Shanks, founder and co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. Always good to see you, thanks for joining us.
Gayle Shanks: So good to see you, too.
Ted Simons: The impact of Borders closing on your store?
Gayle Shanks: You know, we don't know yet. It's just happened within the last couple of months. But what we're finding is that already a lot of the Borders customers who no longer have a neighborhood bookstore are coming to our store. And, we're very excited about that. We've felt since Borders started opening in the 1990s, one store after the next after the next, that it was way too much bookselling retail space for the number of readers in the Valley. And so we were kind of waiting to see, was it going to be Barnes & Noble that was going to be the king of the mountain or was it going to be Borders that was the king of the mountain? And curiously enough, it's now Barnes & Noble and Borders are gone but We think that the balance is now going to shift to the place where there is the right amount of bookstores for the number of people and the number of readers. And we're very excited about it.
Ted Simons: The market will adjust, in other words.
Gayle Shanks: It's adjusting, it is adjusting.
Ted Simons: Changing Hands, for long time Valley residents, was an institution on Mill Avenue and it seemed as though Borders, and I don't know maybe you know more about this than you may even want to tell us, but it seems as though Borders targeted your store and may have targeted other independent bookstores in trying to find a place to do business. Ran you guys out of Mill Avenue. Is that somewhat accurate?
Gayle Shanks: It's pretty close to accurate. Borders did that all over the country. You know, you talk about karma and it's kind of like, okay, you tried this it didn't work and Changing Hands is still around. But we were negotiating for the exact same space that Borders actually moved into on Mill Avenue. And, we just couldn't get the deal that the landowner was willing to give to Borders. And so that's when we decided to open our second store on McClintock and Guadalupe.
Ted Simons: Which is doing very well?
Gayle Shanks: It's doing very well.
Ted Simons: How is it doing well in a time of E-readers and a time of Amazon online, the whole nine yards? How are you guys surviving, how are you guys flourishing?
Gayle Shanks: Well, we are surviving and we are flourishing, and we're very excited about that. We feel like book selling is more than just the physical book. We know that people can buy books anywhere, what we give people when they come into our store is an environment, a place to relax, a place to talk about books with passionate book to school sellers, a place to find the next thing they want to read. A place to bring their children to, to teach their kids about books. And a place to meet authors. We have found over the years that providing that kind of third place is what people come to us for, at the same time they are coming to us for books. It's a dual thing. You can buy a book on Amazon, but it's just a book. When you come to Changing Hands, you buy a book but you have a conversation, you have some kind of connection with someone who's in the same aisle looking at books along with you. You have a chance to talk to an author who's there. So it's the experience more than it is the actual book that you've come in to look for.
Ted Simons: How does -- Well, how did and perhaps continues to do so, the impact of E-readers, the impact of online, the "Amazon's" of the world, how much of an impact has that made, and how much has that made you have to change what you do?
Gayle Shanks: You know, we change every day. My byword at this moment is "mutate". I just feel like I wake up in the morning and I think, okay, we have to evolve and mutate into something else. E-books forced us, one more time, to look at what we were doing and how we were doing it, and how we were going to deal with people reading more on their readers. But, 64 million Americans read at least five hours a week. That's a lot of people reading. It's good if they are reading on their E-readers because they're reading. It's better for a bookstore like mine if they are reading with a physical book, or if they buy any book from us. Independent bookstores in this country can now sell Google E-books. We are selling Google E-books. The only thing we can't sell an E-book for, the only device we can't sell it for is an Amazon Kindle. Every other device, you can buy a book at Changing Hands, the same way you can buy a book off our shelves, you can buy a book off our website.
Ted Simons: Does the demise of Borders suggest that second hand bookstores, you sell new and used -- it started off only as used only though. Will we see more of these little mom and pop things popping up here and there, used only bookstores? As you say, you can get an iPad or a Kindle and never touch a book for the rest of your life. But those who do like to pass them on, there could be a market there.
Gayle Shanks: That's right. I think there are many, many, many used bookstores in the country that are flourishing right now. And, Changing Hands started, as you say, a used bookstore. We love our used books, we love the idea that people can come in and recycle their books and get credit. They can buy a used book, a new book, they can buy a solari bell with their credit. We love that idea of recycling. We started out in the 1970s thinking about alternative living and sustainability, and low and behold, here we are in 2011 and people are talking about sustainability and ecology and recycling. And so, we've never lost our love for used books, and I think there are lots of stores in the country that are going to thrive on being able to recycle those books as well.
Ted Simons: You mentioned the solari bells. You sell games, and toys and back to school supplies- it's more than just a bookstore. When does a bookstore threaten to become something different? Because when you started, I remember your store on Mill Avenue- it was a bookstore. It was books and maybe some cards here and there, but books. You store now you've got a lot of things in there. When is the other stuff too much and you lose that bookstore ambience character?
Gayle Shanks: Oh, I hope never. One thing that the gifts and sidelines that we carry do, they allow us to keep all of those books that we love on our shelves, because the profit in some of the gift items is higher than the profit is in books. It's kind of this fine balance that we walk. We love the idea that Changing Hands can be a one-stop shopping experience for people. So we're always trying to come up with new things that they can see when they come in the store that will become an impulse or a gift. You have a birthday, just about everybody has a birthday just about every day that they need to buy a present for. Sometimes, if you don't know if someone is a reader, you often know that they like a certain kind of lotion or a toy if it's a child. That's one area that we've really expanded dramatically, our kid's books and our kids' toys. We're encouraging parents to come and buy birthday presents for instance on the weekend, when they go to these birthday parties buy them at Changing Hands as opposed to one of the big box stores.
Ted Simons: Last question before you go- for those who say bookstores will soon be a rarity that, like record stores and other things you can get online that eventually they're just going to go the way of the dinosaur, how do you respond to that?
Gayle Shanks: I want to tell you I think there have been bookstores for 5,000 years and there's going to be bookstores for another 5,000. I think book are icons of our culture. They really hold all of the information that we have as a culture inside in those words. And I think words are crucial to us as society, sharing those words is part of who we are as human beings. I don't think they are ever going to go away.
Ted Simons: Gayle, good to see you.
Gayle Shanks: It's really nice to see you, too, thank you.
Gayle Shanks:Founder and Co-Owner of Changing Hands Bookstore