What Veterinarians should learn from Independent Bookstores
One of the best things about the neighborhood where I live is the locally owned independent bookstore. The window display has a different theme every month highlighting interesting books in a colorful array. The warm feel of the shop, high wood bookcases, welcoming environment, and the neighbors I frequently see, all make it a great place to go. I appreciate the expertise of the owner and staff and I often get great recommendations.
When Barnes and Noble and Borders came on the scene, the end of the independent bookstore was prophesized. Remember Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail? Then along came Amazon, and those chains were in trouble also. The E-reader meant many predicted the end of paper books and the brick and mortar stores that provided them.
My family was an early adopter of e-readers. My husband is a book junkie and so I was thrilled to think E-readers might be a way to decrease the amount of space books take up in our home.
But like many others, we have realized that there is something about not looking at a screen in bed at night that is valuable. We also realized there is tremendous value in a recommendation from someone who is passionate about books and reading. In addition, the small size of some of these independent stores is an advantage because they filter out the bad books and focus on books that are a joy to read. Because they are local, these stores can also tailor selections to the region and local interests rather than trying to be all things to all people.
While the total demise of the independent bookstore was predicted, that actually hasn’t happened. Interestingly, Amazon’s growth contributed to Borders going out of business in 2011. However, according to the American Booksellers Association, between 2009 and 2015, there was actually a 35% INCREASE in the number of independent bookstores.
A business professor from Harvard, Ryan Raffaelli, set out to study what led to this resurgence through interviews, visits to numerous bookstores, and analysis of many publications. His key findings support some of the feelings of my family. Here is his summary (the full publication of his research is expected later this year):
1) Community matters and the “shop local” movement has had an impact.
2) Curation. As I mentioned above, people value someone who can tailor a recommendation specifically to what they are looking for. By stocking up and coming authors and not just best sellers, people feel as if they have found and purchased something special.
3) Convening. Independent bookstores have served as centers for people gathering. Bookstores may sponsor lectures, book clubs, or children story times. Our local bookstore works with our local elementary school every year to do a Book Fair.
4) Finally, the non-profit American Booksellers Association, helped work to shape and promote an identity of independent bookstores with sharing of ideas and best practices. The support of a national group to craft a message has been a real asset for the independent side of the book industry. This group is similar to the National Community Pharmacy Association (ncpanet.org) mentioned in one of my earlier blogs –https://vetidealist.com/independent-pharmacies-part-one/
I believe the best local independent veterinary hospitals have a great deal in common with community bookstores. They are pleasant and welcoming. The waiting areas match the style and attitude of their neighborhoods. The bulletin boards and information are relevant to the local community. The medical recommendations from the veterinarians are specific to the diseases and problems of their region. While veterinarians have often not used their spaces for public convening, participation in local events, sponsorship and teaching of pet first aid classes and helping in schools all contribute to convening and community.
However, independent veterinarians do not currently have a national group helping to craft a message to the public of the value of local veterinary ownership. This is worth considering if it is something our profession wants to preserve.
For several years it appeared that independent bookstores would not survive. The story bookstores tell us is that trajectories can be changed. Watch this great short video on Ryan Raffaelli’s research for a story of hope: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/why-independent-bookstores-haved-thrived-in-spite-of-amazon-com.