New York-based bookstore Shakespeare & Co. has announced the opening of three new locations in Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side, and Philadelphia, in a year that has been very hopeful for independent booksellers. In February, the American Booksellers Association reported that the number of independent bookstores has risen 35% since 2009, with a collective sales increase of 2.6% in 2017. Dane Neller, the new owner of Shakespeare & Co., is optimistic about the future. “It’s gratifying,” he says. “Nice to see what I’ve always suspected—that there is a demand for beautifully curated bookstores.” But with its high-tech concept and many opportunities for self-published authors, Shakespeare & Co. does not look like the independent bookshops of the past.
Neller is also the CEO and co-founder of On Demand Books, the company behind the Espresso Book Machines (EBM) that have been popping up in indie bookstores around the US. Customers can use the print-on-demand feature to create copies of any book from a large virtual library, which can be printed and bound in the time it takes to enjoy a coffee at the in-store cafe. Neller plans to put one of these machines in every Shakespeare & Co., arguing that the machine’s efficiency can reduce shelf space and storage, while still giving customers access to millions of approved titles. Unlike struggling big box retailers, his view of a modern bookstore combines the vibe of an indie bookstore with the ease of an online retailer. He plans to make each Shakespeare and Co. store as neighborhood-friendly as possible, with unique designs that reflect the local architecture and spirit of the community. “If you can offer curation and community within an intimate space but also have the technology to get any book you want, that’s a real game changer.”
The Espresso Book Machine is of special interest to writers who wish to self-publish their work. An EBM produces paperback books between 40 and 800 pages, at a quality that the company guarantees is “indistinguishable from books produced by traditional publishers.” There is no minimum print run, so authors can order as many copies as they want, whenever they want, without worrying about where to store the extras. Authors can also upload their books as digital files in the EBM library, making them available to purchase for any customer who visits the shop. Neller believes this gives local authors a better chance to get their work into the marketplace. “It’s good to get your work online, but there’s a lot of clutter online,” he says. “At the same time, shelf space is very expensive, and some books don’t turn quickly enough to justify the real estate. Exposure is critical for authors. By putting their content on our technology, authors can get a store front to display and sell their content without ever being out of stock.”
At extra cost, Shakespeare & Co. offers a sliding scale of publishing packages, some of which include physical placement on the store’s shelves and author consultation services. The new stores in New York and Philadephia mean that more local authors will have access to Espresso Book Machines, and since Neller has plans to expand in future years, more locations may follow. Visit www.shakeandco.com for more information, or go to the flagship store at 939 Lexington Ave, New York, NY.