What Are the Major U.S. Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Joey Graceffa Signs Copies Of His Book 'In Real Life: My Journey To A Pixelated World'
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Brick-and-mortar bookstores are booksellers that have a physical retail presence, whether a freestanding building or a store in a shopping mall. 

Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores Are Important to Book Marketing

For centuries, bookstores were the main centers of commerce for the bookselling industry and book-buying public. Now, while some consumer dollars have shifted away from print books to e-books, bookstores remain hubs for those who like the feel of holding a book in their hands and browsing the stacks to see before they buy.

Therefore, despite Amazon.com's domination of online retail bookselling and digital book sales, bookstores remain a critical player in the book publishing industry. Below are the major bookstores in the United States.

Brick-and-mortar stores promote books in numerous ways, including: 

  • Author readings and signings
  • Promotional signage 
  • Point-of-purchase promotion, such as newsletters, bookmarks and bags
  • On-table promotion - these feature seasonal, holiday or category-specific books.
  • Endcap promotions - these are the books displayed thematically at the end of a row of books. 
  • "Handselling" - that is, when the staff at a bookseller personally recommends a book to a customer.

Note that many of these promotions are funded by the publisher by way of cooperative advertising funds. 

Major Bookstore Chains

The major bookstore chains are especially important to publishers and authors for their potential ability to buy and sell large quantities of new books and to stock backlist sellers, as well as their ability to promote books to the book-buying public through chain-wide bookstore promotions.

Barnes & Noble 

The chain, started by Len Riggio when he was still a college bookstore manager, is arguably the largest and most forward-thinking chain bookseller in the nation. Early in its history, Barnes & Noble differentiated itself with a number of bookselling innovations including television advertising, “value” pricing, publishing proprietary books and deep discounting of bestsellers. It has remained on the forefront of bookselling in all its iterations, including online and with e-books thanks to the Nook e-reader.

The Barnes & Noble Bookseller chain operates approximately 630 brick-and-mortar retail bookstores in regional shopping malls, major strip centers and freestanding locations.

Starting in 2016, B&N began to further leverage the power of its brick-and-mortar stores by offering promotional inclusion for self-published books that hit a certain threshold of B&N ebook sales. 

Books-A-Million 

Books-A-Million (or BAM, as it is often referred to) is based in Birmingham, Ala., and operates approximately 260 stores in 32 states. The chain was founded in 1917 as a street corner newsstand in Florence, Ala., Since the closing of the Borders Group bookstore chain, it has been the second largest brick-and-mortar book retailer in the United States.

Border’s Group

The acknowledged originator of the book “superstore” concept and once the second-largest bookstore chain in the U.S., the Borders Group was a publicly held bookstore chain that operated Borders superstores and Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment stores. This includes Waldenbooks, Borders Express and Borders airport stores. Lagging behind on the digital revolution, the last Borders store closed in Sept. 2011.

Major Independent Bookstores

Major brick-and-mortar booksellers aren't limited to bookstore chains. Throughout the United States, there are a number of major independent booksellers, most with one or a few outlets, too few or too localized to be considered “chain bookstores.”

These independents booksellers are influential in the publishing industry not only because of their ability to move quantities of books relative to many other independent bookstores, but because of their great reputations in their respective communities, the loyalty of their customer base and the business savvy of their ownership, who have continued to be committed to bookselling through a tough and volatile business landscape.

Some major independents in the United States include:

  • Book Soup in West Hollywood, Calif.
  • Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Wash.
  • Square Books in Oxford, Miss.
  • Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Kentucky and Ohio
  • Northshire Bookstore in Sarasota Springs, N.Y.
  • Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.
  • R. J. Julia in Madison, Conn.
  • Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colo.
  • Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif.