It’s Time to Support African American Bookstores and Booksellers

By Denise Turney

A bounty of changes have been impacting the book industry, particularly African American bookstores and booksellers. For example, online booksellers are moving as many books out of their warehouses as some brick and mortar booksellers, at times more. Self-publishing has taken off to the point where major book publishers like Simon & Schuster have entered the arena. Additionally, in a matter of seconds, book readers can locate and download their favorite books on mobile devices, desktop computers or laptops. While these and other changes offer convenience to book readers, they also offer challenges to African American bookstores.

African American Booksellers in Harlem Dealing with Book Industry Changes

As reported in The Grio‘s July 23, 2012 ” Hue-Man, One of Harlem’s Literary Landmarks Closes” article, rising real estate costs and changes impacting the book industry saw one of America’s largest and independently owned African American bookstores close its doors. The bookstore, Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe, located in Harlem, had been serving as a literary lighthouse in the Harlem community for a decade.

The bookstore’s co-owner, Marva Allen, is reported in the article as saying, “Our lease is up. Our rent was going to go up. There is absolutely no question about it.” She continued, “The rate at which our rent would go up, our bookstore could not absorb that in new sales to be able to pay that.”

In addition to dealing with rising rent, Hue-Man found itself challenged with finding innovative ways to attract a significant number of book readers and book buyers to keep generating a profit. Allen, a business leader who remains hopeful that Hue-Man could resurface in the coming years, understands the challenge. In fact, the article reports that, “Allen says the publishing industry has also changed because of technology and will require the  creation of a new model and customer experience.”

Dallas Texas African American Bookseller Faces Changes

November 2012, Jokae’s an African American bookstore that has been serving the Dallas, Texas area since 1993, was set to close its doors. In the November 27, 2012 Dallas News’ JoKae’s African American Books to Close” article, Til Pettis, co-owner of the African American bookstore is reported as saying that, “The book sales were just not there.” Part of the bookstores’ declining sales were due to the fact that the shopping center where the store was located had started to see its storefronts going empty, business owners choosing to either close their doors or move their stores elsewhere.

Jokae’s was one of the African American bookstores where people in the community could go to receive tutoring support, hold book club meetings, catch up and chat with friends, attend writers’ group meetings and be entertained with radio broadcasts the bookstore’s owners hosted. Clearly, the owners of Jokae’s, one of several community focused African American bookstores, were creative and innovative, willing to try new strategies and activities to bring in book readers and book buyers.

Both Hue-Man and Jokae’s expressed plans to continue their businesses online. African American book readers, especially the African American book authors who gained ongoing support from the bookstores’ owners, can continue to support these and other African American bookstores online by purchasing their favorite novels, nonfiction books and coffee table books from these bookstore owners. After all, without ongoing support, what business or individual would make it?

Thank you for reading my blog. To learn what happens to Raymond, Brenda and the other characters in Love Pour Over Me, hop over to, B&, and get your copy of Love Pour Over Me today. And again I say – Thank You! Consider Love.

Sources: (Dallas News: JoKae’s African American Books to Close, November 27, 2012) (The Grio: Hue-Man, One of Harlem’s Literary Landmarks Closes, July 23, 2012)

Booksellers Surviving Book Industry Changes

By Denise Turney

booksellers pubishing companies

Publishing companies and booksellers are experiencing industry changes at a pace unlike that seen in recent decades. The only other industry that has experienced changes at as rapid a pace might be the music industry.

Over the last two decades, technology changed the music industry, permanently, so that there’s no chance of going back to the way things were before file sharing and music downloading took off. Now technology is changing the book industry, forcing book publishing companies and booksellers to hang on . . . wait out the final shifting result. For example, today mobile devices and e-book readers make it possible for  readers to download, preview, purchase and start reading books without having to visit a bookstore or library.

Responding to Changes Impacting the Book Industry

This welcomed convenience may be causing book lovers to visit bookstores in smaller numbers. When I asked one bookseller about the challenges this trend causes, he told me that booksellers who stock rare books may be able to withstand the growing changes technology is bringing to the book industry. This might be true for booksellers as well as for publishing companies. Perhaps booksellers and publishing companies that market, shelve and sell tough-to-find offline books can set themselves apart, continuing to thrive in changing markets.

In addition to selling rare books, to stay relevant, attracting the attention of large numbers of book readers, booksellers could host book club events and host weekly radio programs that focus on current and upcoming events at their brick and mortar stores. They could also schedule interviews with popular local authors, organize literary events at schools and develop and distribute print and digital book reviews.

Publishing companies could hire writers to research and write e-books, how-to books and educational nonfiction books that cover common topics from uncommon angles. They can also hire writers to develop content in unique styles, ones that are rarely found on the market.

Booksellers Win by Making Readers Comfortable

Whatever steps booksellers and publishing companies take to engage book readers, they might have to do something they aren’t comfortable doing. For example, they might have to charge book clubs a fee to use their services. They also might have to ask authors to commit to marketing their book signings, helping to bring in dozens of readers rather than showing up to book signings with nothing except a pen and a box of books.

In regards to booksellers, bearing that they have the space, booksellers can also rent out meeting rooms to business and community leaders. By placing computers and WiFi in their bookstores and offering healthy food and beverages at their stores, booksellers might be able to attract a broader audience.

It’s going to take creativity and innovation, the same type of innovation that’s moving technology forward at warped speeds, for bookstores, and some publishing companies, to survive. Years from now, booksellers and publishing companies that are up for the challenge might be the lone rangers that not only survived, but also thrived, changes currently impacting the book industry.

Thank you for reading my blog. To learn what happens to Raymond, Brenda and the other characters in Love Pour Over Me, hop over to, B&, Ebookit.comand get your copy of Love Pour Over Me today. And again I say – Thank You! Consider Love.