Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Type Friday: Buy local, buy books

From the owner of Harvard Book Store, where I like to blow my 15 percent Frequent Buyer discount at Christmas.

Dear Friends,

I thought I'd use the opportunity of the start of the holiday season to give you an update on Harvard Book Store and share some thoughts with you. It's hard to believe that more than a year has gone by since I realized my dream of becoming a bookseller. The experience has surpassed my expectations in all respects but one; I hardly have any time to read!

When my wife and I bought the store in October of 2008, we were determined to keep the essence of the store the same, while enhancing the services we offer. In most respects, it's the same Harvard Book Store. We maintain an incredibly diverse selection of new, used, and bargain books. Our author event series continues to be an important part of Cambridge's intellectual life.

At the same time, we've been proud to introduce a number of new services. We've opened our Somerville warehouse twice to our customers and will do so again on December 5th and 6th. In February, we launched a same-day green delivery service to Cambridge and surrounding towns. In September, we joined a revolution in bookselling through the introduction of Paige M. Gutenborg, our book-making robot that prints and binds any of millions of titles right on the sales floor--in minutes. And early next year, we will launch a new, which will change the way you buy books online. These innovations are building toward the bookstore of the future, where any book ever written is available either in the store or on our website and where deliveries are made quickly, affordably, and in a way that doesn't savage the environment.

These are exciting times. They're also difficult times. I'm often asked how the store is doing. The answer is that sales are down, as is the case with many retailers, but not catastrophically so. We are committed to continuing the important role that Harvard Book Store plays in the life of this community; the investments that we're making in new services and technologies are evidence of that commitment. But we need your help.

There are hundreds fewer independent bookstores in this country than there were ten years ago as a result of competition from chains and online retailers. For the latter, books are commodities, often "loss leaders" for some higher margin item, and independent bookstores are obstacles to increased market share. As vibrant as Harvard Book Store seems when you browse or attend an event, you should have no doubt that our place in your community is also threatened, and that we are under the same pressures.

I've become a great supporter of the "buy local" movement. Amazon uses our city's streets, but does not pay for their upkeep; it gives back nothing to this community's charities and other causes. If we cherish the role that Harvard Square and its small businesses play in the economic and cultural life of our community, city, and country, we should understand that our own actions determine whether these businesses remain vital--and survive. When you're thinking about your holiday purchases, I urge you to shop your local businesses first. Should I be preaching to the choir, I apologize, but also ask that you relay this message to a friend.

I want to close by saying what a pleasure it has been to meet and interact with so many of you. The real strengths of Harvard Book Store are its remarkable staff and loyal customers. Thanks for your continued patronage and happy holidays,


Jeff Mayersohn, Owner

Harvard Book Store

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