Here’s the debate: Do consumers have a responsibility to support local businesses over chains or on-line retailers, regardless of convenience, selection or price? The Capitola Book Cafe is hoping that its customers will consciously choose to support localism by instituting a membership program designed to keep the bookbuying dollar in town.
The bookselling business — like record stores, and local media — has undergone a dramatic change to its business model in recent years. First came the specter of the big-box retailers undercutting the price points of the independents. Right on the heels of that came the on-line revolution led by Amazon.com. If those two huge factors weren’t enough, then came news of a downward trend generally in adults reading anything at all, and now, again thanks to Amazon.com and its Kindle, an e-book revolution is poised to carve up the market even further.
What do independent bookstores do? They attempt to turn their stores into a community venues and they appeal to people’s sense of local loyalty. That’s a hard sell, considering that American consumers have for decades now become accustomed to put price and convenience over localism. The conscious consumer — the consumer who understands that where he/she spends his/her money has wide repercussions in the life of the community — is not a new creature. But the numbers of those kind of consumers have not been enough to make a critical difference in most communities (Santa Cruzans may not realize it, but Americans still love their Wal-Mart). Still, the smaller bookstores have to be impeccable when it comes to customer service. There is just no margin for error.
Do consumers have the power to preserve local retailers (and thus, local/regional culture)? Watch the Capitola Book Cafe to see.