Monday, July 30, 2012

How To Save an Indie Bookstore

By  - The Washington Post

Praveen Madan, left, explains his vision for the storied Kepler's bookstore to about 80 volunteers in Menlo Park, Calif. (Ron Charles - The Washington Post) PALO ALTO, Calif. — 

We had brainstormed. We had mind-mapped. We had performed corny skits and written rhyming poems and scrawled our life stories on yards of white paper. We had broken into stakeholder groups and synthesized, prioritized and summarized. Although we sometimes rolled our eyes and grumbled cynical cracks under our breath, we had “honored our differences” and agreed that “all ideas are valid. ”
And now the end was in sight.
Saturday, July 28, was the final day of a remarkable three-day process to reinvent Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif. Some 80 booksellers, community leaders, publishers, authors and customers sat in a large conference room in the Oshman Family JCC, buzzing with new determination — even a touch of anger.
Armed with dozens of strips of paper, masking tape and glue sticks, the participants quickly distilled their previous 14 hours of discussion to eight foundational principles and activities. 

The new Kepler’s Books must:
1. Be financially sustainable.
2. Have a clearly defined mission.
3. Be dedicated to community outreach.
4. Serve as a gathering place for creative events and social events.
5. Support life-long learning and literary education.
6. Sell books in any form, on any platform.
7. Maintain a virtual presence, with technology fully integrated into the store.
8. Provide a carefully curated selection of books.

Some participants felt inspired by this final list; others complained it didn’t go very deep for all our hard work. “When I look at these ideas,” said Antonia Squire, the children’s buyer at Kepler’s, “they’re wonderful, but I don’t see anything new.”
Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised. This hyper-deliberative process — called “Future Search” — isn’t meant to produce a revelatory business plan. It’s meant to make the participants feel personally committed to helping the struggling indie bookstore in the months and years ahead.

For the full story and links to the first two days of the conference link here.

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