While Borders bookstores may be just a memory and Amazon ebook sales have surpassed paperback book sales in America, Book People Austin forges ahead into the 21st century as the “destination bookstore in Texas.” Long a ‘Best of Austin’ mainstay, Publisher’s Weekly voted BookPeople as ‘Bookstore of the Year’ in 2005. Best-selling authors and former US Presidents such as Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton hawk their books on its premises.
History of BookPeople Austin
Housed in a 40,000 square-foot building, BookPeople – a member of the Austin Independent Business Alliance – is the largest bookstore in the state of Texas, stocking around 300,000 titles. It first opened its doors for business in 1970 as Grok Books (taken from a phrase found in Robert Heinlein’s seminal work ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’) near the University of Texas campus. Following a sojourn at Brodie Oaks starting in 1974, BookPeople moved to its present location at Sixth and Lamar in 1995.
The BookPeople Business Model
While independent bookstores have been in decline for several years, BookPeople thrives as residents and visitors “Keep Austin Weird.” According to the American Booksellers Association, Austin has the highest per capita book sales in the US. The store takes advantage of its centralized location in a trendy part of central Austin; it shares proximity with Waterloo Records, another dominant independent retailer, and the recent redevelopment of “2SD” aka the Second Street District. Among the amenities BookPeople offers to its patrons are Massage Chair massages and a café serving light refreshments and sandwiches. Throughout the week they host events for book clubs and “Storytimes” for children and adults. The store features nooks scattered throughout its multi-floor facility to encourage browsing.
Marketing to Children and Teens
Bookpeople recognizes the brand value of marketing to children. They build customer loyalty starting at an early age since children who read books grow to be adults who buy them. Besides “Storytimes” for children, Bookpeople holds literary camps during the summer months. They’ve also partnered with Disney Book Group to offer scholarships to underserved children so they may attend literary camps. Bookpeople even provides space for children’s birthday parties with the options of storytellers, puppet shows, musical performances and visiting animals from a local petting zoo. Events for adolescents are covered by the BookPeople Teen Press Corps whose reporters post blogs and reviews of books that appeal to a young adult audience.