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Mon, Oct. 14

Prescott bookstores thrive in Internet era

Jason Wheeler/The Daily Courier. Book Nook owner Marilyn Unruh stands amid an aisle of books. Book Nook has about 40,000 books.

Jason Wheeler/The Daily Courier. Book Nook owner Marilyn Unruh stands amid an aisle of books. Book Nook has about 40,000 books.

It's the age of the Internet, where almost any book is just a few simple keystrokes and a mouse click away. And with that massive availability, some cynics have been predicting the end of brick and mortar bookstores for quite some time.

Indeed, Borders bookstores went belly up in 2011 and the Wall Street Journal reported two years ago that Barnes & Noble plans to close as many as a third of its stores over the course of the next decade. Prescott itself used to have a Barnes & Noble, which closed its doors a few years ago. The town also has a Hastings bookstore, with DVD rentals, electronics and more.

However, despite the rising trend of reading books electronically and the slow demise of the retail giants, local independent bookstores in Prescott continue to not only survive, but thrive.

Peregrine Book Company is Prescott's largest locally owned bookstore and Tom Brodersen, former general manager of the store, has been involved with bookstores for most of his life. He said local stores reflect the diversity of the community and helps support local publishing.

"Some best selling books are by local people," Brodersen said, noting they might not be worth the bother of a nationwide corporation. "It gives us an edge."

Local bookstores are also able to get to know their customers on an individual level. Susan McElheran, owner of Old Sage Book Shop, said that she has quite a few customers that she has personal relationships with and that even visitors from out of town come back.

Another local bookstore, Book Nook, is preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary and owner Marilyn Unruh took over the store from her father quite some time ago. Unruh stated she also gets repeat customers, many of whom she met when she took over the store, some even crossing generational lines.

"A lot of grandparents are bringing in their grandkids," Unruh said.

Unruh also said she has a lot of customers who share the same interests and has a file system based around what her customers look for. If she has something they'll enjoy reading, she'll give them a call. And if a customer is looking for a book that isn't among the thousands she already has, she'll special order it. Unruh said she places a special order almost every day.

And even though it's incredibly easy to find a book for sale on the Internet, Unruh said there is an enormous difference between ordering online rather than in a bookstore, especially when it comes to quality. Unruh said that a description of "Good" could mean "almost perfect" or "still in one piece, but not by much."

"In a bookstore, you can look at it, touch it, open it," she said. "You know exactly what you're getting."

McElheran also mentioned that physical books will never be obsolete and electronic books have reached a plateau She said that there will always be someone who will have them in their homes.

"Hard copy won't go away," she said. "Books are here to stay."

Peregrine Book Company is located at 219 North Cortez St., Old Sage Book Shop is located at 110 South Montezuma St. and Book Nook is located at 324 West Gurley St.

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