This weekeend I stopped by Alabama Booksmith and walked out with a haul (all unsigned books are 75% right now. They said the sale lasts as long as they have unsigned books).
But I had to ask. . . why is Alabama Booksmith doing this?
The answer: the bookstore is getting ready to re-launch with a new business model. I spoke with the guys behind the counter and they said that the signed first editions customer segment has exploded. So they are going to focus on serving these customers. That means that later this year Alabama Booksmith will no longer keep un-signed books on the shelves. Now, they will always be able to order any book for you and they will always keep stock, behind the counter, for book clubs and other groups. But as far as being a “stop in and browse” and “get lost in the stacks” kind of a shop – only if you want a signed copy.
As it was explained to me, they will begin tearing down the free-standing shelves, in early August, and replacing them with table-top displays. This leaves the wall shelves for display and will open up the shop and give add to the “presentation” of the books as objects to own and gift. It also gives them the ability to make space for more chairs and standing room during author events.
I think this is a smart shift for them to do. With the massive success of their subscription-based Signed Editions Book Club, Jake and crew obviously have the data and experience to back up this decision. I have no doubt that they have carefully surveyed the local and online bookseller landscapes and they are capitalizing on a unique skill and reputation they have developed over the years. . . getting authors in the store to meet folks and sign books.
In this day and age it’s great to see a local bookstore maximizing their efforts in a niche they created for themselves and making the capital improvements needed to help keep the Birmingham indie book scene a vibrant one.