Book stores fight for survival in Lake County
Sue Boucher, who owns the Lake Forest Book Store, poses for a portrait at her shop on Feb. 5. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 8:00AM
According to Barnes & Noble, the company has no plans at this time to close its locations in Lincolnshire and Vernon Hills.
That’s good news because other than those two stores, there are few other places in the area to buy books.
The national book, CD and DVD giant caused a stir last week when reports surfaced that it planned to close approximately 200 of its 689 stores in the next 10 years. Barnes & Noble said those reports reflected the average number of unprofitable stores the company already close annually.
But the idea of Vernon Hills or Lincolnshire losing its primary book stores still stirred up concern from residents.
Mary Ellen Keating, Barnes & Noble spokesperson, said local readers had nothing to fear.
“We have no plans to close stores in Illinois,” she wrote in an e-mail on Friday.
And though the chain is moving steadily toward online sales — shoppers at both local locations are greeted by numerous large signs promoting the company’s Nook e-reader — Lake County’s demographics is helping the two locations survive, Keating said,
Partly because there is little competition. Buffalo Grove has no big-box bookstores, and the only independently owned new-book seller in the area is located in Lake Forest.
Sue Boucher, owner of the Lake Forest Book Store, said she works diligently to extend her operation’s presence beyond her 1,800-square-foot store at 680 N. Western Ave. The key to that, she said, is the programs she sponsors at the Vernon Area Public Library, among other numerous events.
“We have made partnerships with many libraries in Lake County, and several in Cook,” she said. “We’ve found that all these different libraries have different markets.
“What we’ve done,” Boucher said, “is figure out other places to sell books.”
The question that remains, though, is how much appetite Lake County will have for hard-copy books going forward.
Officials at the Buffalo Grove Area Chamber of Commerce lamented the loss in recent years of Books Again, formerly in the Town Center, and Half-Price Books, which closed at the intersection of state Route 22 and Buffalo Grove Road.
Boucher noted that, with every small store that goes under, Barnes & Noble and Amazon gain more control of the market — and the five major publishers.
“It affects the business of book-selling,” she said. “The less outlets there are for books, the less books are going to get published.”
But while the big suppliers move more toward digital books on their own e-readers, Boucher said she still sees a future in the hard copy. She sells a few digital copies on her website, but does much of her business by bringing in authors for face-to-face interactions with readers. Old-fashioned marketing can still thrive in Lake County, she said.
“That’s the plan,” she said. “I think independents are feeling a lot more positive. We’ll just work hard at it.”