My brother and I were chatting about e-mail newsletters yesterday, and he typed that he considers them useful for only three things: Reviews, Recaps and Resources. In other words, they're good for depositing reports about specific items, summarizing recent news, or providing tidbits that will come in handy in the future. (I would add that newsletters are also good for providing Real-time alerts, for those of us who aren't married to an RSS feed. But I digress.)
Anyway, among the newsletters I rely on for reviews and reference: bookstore newsletters. I think these are a great vehicle for promoting the stores as must-go destinations, and I've been curious as to which ones do a good job.
Locally, I currently subscribe to the e-mail newsletters for City Lights, Stacey's Bookstore, Pegasus and Pendragon, Books Inc., and Kepler's Books. (I'd have signed up for Cody's, but it's not offering a newsletter yet.)
However, the one local bookstore who turns out fabulous newsletters is not local to me at all: Powell's Books. Their newsletters are a delight to read, with links to reviews, interviews and store events. I get the review-a-day, technical and general bookstore news dispatches. Each one makes me excited to be a bibliophile, and each one makes me want to visit Portland just so I can empty my wallet and fill my luggage at Powell's.
I thought about Powell's newsletters last week as I walked by Pendragon Books on College Avenue in Oakland. There's a sign in their window promoting Northern California's independent booksellers (reproduced at left), comparing them primarily to Amazon.com and pointing out the benefits to buying locally.
(Unfortunately, the sign does not also explain the benefits to buying from a local independent bookseller compared to buying at a local Border's or Barnes & Noble. That I'd like to see, because I suspect the online book-buying audience is not always the same as the bricks-and-mortar crowd, so comparing a place like Pendragon to Amazon doesn't seem like an apples-to-apples comparison.)
ANYWAY. I pasased the sign and I realized ... the last four books I bought online, I bought at Powell's, based purely on what I had read in their newsletters.
Powell's newsletters are a model for how local booksellers can cultivate a wider online audience. There doesn't need to be an "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to buying offline and online. Do it like Powell's: make your locations the must-go destination for the local community of eager minds, and make your newsletters your sales emissaries to those of us who can't be there in the flesh. Provide compelling content that people can't get anywhere else. Make those newsletters resources, not merely leaflets for what's going on at your store.