Q: The Book Frog has been open for nearly two years. Why are you crowdfunding now?
A: We opened The Book Frog in the wake of the closure of Borders--both of us had worked there as general managers for many years--and though we were savvy about managing a big box bookstore we didn't really know anything about owning a business. In a rather devil-may-care manner we went ahead and opened with about a third of the funding we needed to do it right. We're crowdfunding now to try to catch up to where we should have been two years ago.
Q: Why should anyone care about whether or not The Book Frog stays in business? Can't people just shop online (and probably get better deals)?
A: It is so true that if price is a reader's driver then Amazon is the place to go. There's no way The Book Frog--or any bricks and mortar bookstore--can match the prices Amazon charges. In fact, Amazon prices several hundred of its top-selling titles below cost. Below cost! No real bookstore is going to be able to match that, but what we can do is provide a place where people can come to discover books, whether by browsing at random (to paraphrase the great Richard Russo, you'll find exactly what you're looking for online but nothing you're not looking for) or by engaging in discussion with a bookseller. We believe that a community bookstore is good for everybody in the community: it's a resource, a supporter of local schools, a place of discovery...really, there's at least a little something for everyone at a good bookstore!
Q: Let's go back to the Amazon price question. If they grab so many sales from small bookstores by lowering their prices, why don't you just lower yours?
A: Here's the dirty little secret-that's-not-so-secret about Amazon. Amazon is a predator. They price their books at or below cost, meaning they actually lose money on book sales. They can do that because somehow, with all the other things they're selling they bring in gazillions of dollars. We don't. We can't. Our volume is a mere fraction of a fraction of Amazon's, and even the 20% discount we give on bestsellers is stretching it. Not to reveal our trade secrets, but the markup on books is not very much at all.
Q: Aren't bookstores going away because of Kindles?
A: Not really. The last couple of years have seen small independent bookstores popping up all over the country. The thing is, while it's true that some people have gone with the e-reader, many more love the entirety of the book--reading it, of course, but also seeing it, smelling it, hefting its weight. Now, whether we can hang on depends on whether the community will buy in and support us...and unfortunately, so far we haven't seen that. We have a wonderful core of loyal regular customers who come in regularly, think of us first when they need a book, and are willing to wait for us to order something. But the number of people who respond to an offer to order a book with, "No thanks--I'll just get it from Amazon" is frighteningly high.
Q: There have been quite a few bookstores in the mall before you. Why do you think you'll succeed where others have failed?
A: Well...originally, we thought that our enthusiasm, knowledge, and love of books would draw people into the store. Since that hasn't panned out quite the way we expected, we're pouring ourselves even more into making The Book Frog into a true destination store, a place where people know they can come to pick up what they need and stay to discover something they didn't even know existed. But we come full circle, because in this world of self-fulfilling prophecies, if we don't have the books in stock we don't get the sales and if we don't have the sales we can't get the books in...But we strongly believe that if we have what people want then that, combined with the aforementioned enthusiasm, knowledge, and love of books, will bring success.
Here's the address for how you can help keep The Book Frog going: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shelf-by-shelf