While major chains flounder, independent bookstores regain foothold

It was not so many years ago that independent bookstores were declared a dying breed, unable to compete with the lower prices and larger selection of places like Borders and Barnes & Noble.

But in an unforeseen twist, Borders is now dead, Barnes & Noble is struggling and, according to the Washington Post, there are now more indie bookstores opening than closing.

The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, says its membership — it hit a low of 1,600 in 2008 — has grown 6.4 percent in 2013, to 2,022. Sales were up 8 percent in 2012, and those gains have held this year. In the District, sales at Politics and Prose, where President Obama and his daughters went Christmas shopping last month, have grown each of the past few years.

Still, there are those who argue that the resurgence in small retail venues is doomed to be short lived:

Amazon shows no sign of giving indies any relief on what store owners consider predatory pricing, especially on key titles they need to push. Donna Tartt’s new novel, “The Goldfinch ,” is selling for $30 at Curious Iguana. Amazon is selling it for $15.41.

And then there’s Barnes & Noble. While the Borders demise was good for indie sales, a Barnes & Noble collapse would be catastrophic for the publishing industry, which depends heavily on the company’s enormous bookselling footprint to move huge inventories, including bestsellers that help finance the more literary offerings that indies typically stock.

Where do you buy your books? And are they physical, or digital?