Bookstores rely on large distributors to keep their shelves stocked with the latest titles. One of the nation’s largest distributors, Baker and Taylor, recently decided to stop wholesaling to retailers and focus its efforts on supporting libraries.
Jo Goerner, known locally as Jojo, is the owner of the Moosterious Emporium bookstore in Haines.
She says that Baker and Taylor has been the primary book distributor in Haines for the last 20 years. Now that the company has decided to stop distribution to stores, Goerner will have to find another wholesaler.
“Which overall should be a better price margin,” Goerner says. “We had really great shipping, inexpensive shipping with Baker and Taylor. It will be interesting to see how the shipping prices are handled.”
Bookstore owners who relied on Baker and Taylor to stock their shelves are now looking to the Ingram Content Group, the world’s largest wholesale book distributor.
Goerner says shortly after buying the bookstore she tried working with Ingram.
“Back in December when I took over I did reach out to Ingram because they had a couple of titles that Baker and Taylor did not have, and they couldn’t figure out shipping. So part of being a business owner in Haines I’m finding out is that you really have to describe how remote we are,” Goerner says.
Some independent bookstore owners also worry that Ingram could have a monopoly over distribution that negatively impacts the industry.
There are other distribution options though. Small publishers and self-published authors often sell directly to retailers.
In addition, there are smaller regional distributors that offer books by local authors.
Skagway News Depot and Books owner Jeff Brady says he is not so worried about losing Baker and Taylor because most of his books are regional.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a huge impact on us because we work with a lot of publishers for our Alaska/Yukon titles and also our distributors, a couple of distributors in Alaska and in the Northwest,” Brady says.
Books from local authors in Haines such as Caroline Van Hemert and Dan Henry won’t be affected because they come from a regional distributor.
But there is still the question of stocking local libraries.
Carolyn Goolsby is the director of the Haines Borough Public Library, but she also used to work for the book distributor Ingram in their library division.
Goolsby says it makes sense for large libraries to stock books directly from a large distributor because they make it as convenient as possible to add books to a collection.
“Mostly, the library division is about shipping these things ready to go into your catalog,” Goolsby says. “They can process those things to put the call number label on and everything else. So our computer already knows we got it. It already knows how much it costs. It already knows where it goes in the library.”
But in Haines, she would rather buy from a local retailer whenever possible.
“If something goes wrong with your order or if something gets back ordered or doesn’t show up that person is on it,” Goolsby says. “Buying local means a lot not only just for customer service but also we want to support the businesses here in town.”
Goerner says it will be a month before Baker and Taylor stops shipping to the Moosterious Emporium. In the meantime, she is looking to reach out to some publishing houses directly and start adding used books to her catalog. Goolsby has offered her advice on how to communicate with Ingram to resolve potential shipping problems.