"The experience of physically visiting a library or bookstore is an entirely different approach to reading than downloading e-reader content"
Books are more than the words that comprise them. They are tactile, intimate experiences, each evoking memories of thoughtful decision and silent introspection. Art and photography books serve as visual treasures, fully realized when physically experienced by the hand and the eye. To many booksellers, collectors and lovers of the printed medium, books provide a connection with the reader that electronic readers fail to convey.
The experience of physically visiting a library or bookstore is an entirely different approach to reading than downloading e-reader content. The meaning of words, pictures and illustrations is somehow different on a page than on a backlit computer-like device. Reading poetry in the bathtub is a favorite personal pursuit, as poetry lends itself to short spaces of time designed to relax the mind and body. Taking your e-reader to the bath is disturbing to even think about, and something most people would not be comfortable with.
Santa Fe is home to many wondrous independent bookstores with specialized collections, knowledgeable owners and helpful employees. These retailers take the business of books and customers to a new level. They know they are competing in a rapidly changing market, at a time when new economic lines are being drawn. Change is in the air. Santafe.com visited Garcia Street Books to get owner Francoise Paheau’s input on what's new in the industry.
SFDC: I understand you are fairly new to the book business. What brought you to becoming a bookseller?
Paheau: I came to the United States from Belgium in 1974 to live with an aunt in Utah. I stayed for love, a job and an education, eventually taking my PhD in French and French linguistics. I love the tri-cultural aspect of New Mexico and my life long dream was to own a bookstore. When Garcia Street Books became available, I saw the opportunity to realize my dream. My husband and I have been here since January of 2011.
SFDC: Changes in the industry have many small booksellers getting out of the business, yet you made a decision to go into this field now. Why do you think there is a future in selling books?
Paheau: I feel the future is always in books. The physical attraction of the book will not wane. A book is an individual possession with a memory attached to it… your personal thoughts written in the margins. Owning a bookstore is more complicated than I thought, but it is my passion.
SFDC: Does Garcia Street Books have a specialty that our readers need to know about?
Paheau: Oh yes, we have an extensive collection of books relating to style, art and architecture. Our selection is by a team effort involving myself and the staff. We target all our selections to our audience. Our customers' taste is reflected in our choices.
SFDC: Is there an area where you want to expand the collection?
Paheau: Well, I do want to see more children’s books in the store. We have a very up-to-date collection of fiction and non fiction. I personally love a good mystery, so we will be looking to expand in that area as well. Of course, we will continue to carry a respectable Southwestern collection. I also want to have more author events at the store. Garcia Street Books has been in Santa Fe for over 20 years and I think it works well. Now that it is “my baby, “ I want my vision to be evident, but the basic business module of the store works very well.
SFDC: The big issue for booksellers today is the Internet and e-readers. What is your take on this issue, and what is Garcia Street Books doing to stay competitive?
Paheau: Customer service is our key at Garcia Street Books. We have a highly-trained staff and we make recommendations to our customers based upon intimate personal contact. I believe being in the store and browsing translates into impulse sales. I find customers who are browsing make serendipitous choices to purchase where online or e-reader purchasers do not. There is a certain sensuality about browsing. We also decided to get involved with e-commerce. Through a partnership with Baker and Taylor, book distributors with over 30 years experience in helping small business, we have the capability to warehouse over two million book titles. Our online prices are competitive with Amazon. E-commerce took a 25% chunk from our sales, but through focusing on these methods we are regaining that margin. We believe, as a brick and mortar bookstore, that the future is books.