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Greenwich Store Blames Decline on Digital Readers

Marion Holmes can pinpoint the exact time when business began to slump at Just Books , the independent bookstore in Old Greenwich she has owned for three years. “Last March we had a meaningful 15 percent drop from the year before, and since then revenue has been down on a daily basis,” Holmes said. “The bottom line is we might not be here a year from now or even six months from now if something doesn’t change.”

With the popularity of digital readers such as the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony EReader and Apple iPad on the rise, even national booksellers are suffering. Borders recently filed bankruptcy and plans to close more than 200 stores, including the one in Wilton. It is no wonder small independent stores are worried.

“People are prone to downloading because it’s easier and it costs less,” said Holmes. “The reality is a lot of people in this area are commuters who are constantly traveling, so it’s easier not to lug books around.”

Steele Hearne, an employee at Just Books, said the store offers faster ordering than Amazon as well as a personal touch. “All of us are constantly reading, and we make recommendations on everything,” said Hearne. “You almost understand stores like Borders going out of business, because there’s no one who will give you that kind of attention.”

Holmes said her bookstore must have continuous local support to survive. “We’re in a very small community. We’re not the corner bookstore in Manhattan. It’s an effort to come here, and we do have loyal customers,” she said. “But we need the support of the community or this store will not be here.”

But Greenwich Library is adapting to digital readers by providing users with a growing downloadable collection of books, music and audio. Kate Petrov, communications director for the library, said, “People sometimes don’t realize we have as many downloadable ebooks as we do. We’ve done training to educate people on different readers to help them decide which one is best for them.” But even though the downloadable library is growing, Petrov said circulation of plain old books is still going strong.

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