Local bookstores defy odds of Amazon and e-readers

TAMPA, Fl. - First Borders bookstore shut its doors.  Now Barnes and Noble  will be closing a third of its stores.  Is the brick-and-mortar bookstore becoming a relic?

In spite of the rise in popularity of the iPad and Kindle and in spite of the behemoth Amazon.com, there are a few bookstores that are enduring. In South Tampa, tiny Inkwood Books is a haven for book lovers. Here you can always find a hand-picked selection of reads, and cookies on the table.

“We’re a great store. We’ve been here 21 years, we specialize in finding the best book for the person,” said employee Amanda Hurley. “We love nothing more than to put the right book in your hands. We all read like crazy so we know the store really well.”

That may be what distinguishes Inkwood from the diminishing big box bookstores. Drop by a few times, and share your interests, and the staff at Inkwood is likely to remember your preferences and look out for reads you’ll appreciate.  That’s not something you’ll find on Amazon.com.

On the other side of the Bay, Haslam’s Books in St. Petersburg has its own magic working.  Now in it’s fourth generation of family ownership,  Haslam’s has been open since 1933. Today, they take up three-quarters of a city block. Inside you’ll find both new and used books, even rare and valuable volumes.

Co-owner Ray Hinst says there is serendipity to be found in browsing through a bookstore that you can’t get online.

“Its easy to browse, new stuff comes in every day, so you don’t know what you’re going to find on a day to day basis,” said Hinst.

But Haslam’s has more going for it than just tradition and selection.  There’s a rich history here, and some say, a touch of the supernatural.  Beatnik writer Jack Kerouac was a St. Pete resident in his golden years, and was a frequent visitor to Haslam’s.

“Authors like to have their things at eye level. So Kerouac would move his books from the low shelf to the upper shelves where they were easily accessible to his possible readers. “That used to throw our inventory off,” said Hinst.

In fact, some believe the ghost of Jack Kerouac still hangs around Haslam’s.  We can’t speculate on that, but here is no doubt, a rich and colorful history inside this large and friendly bookstore.

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National Girl Scout Cookie Day

Of course, a book always goes well with a good cookie. February 8th is National Girl Scout Cookie Day.

So get your orders in soon for your Thin Mints, your Samoas, your Savannah Smiles, or whatever your pleasure.  The day is to celebrate the largest girl-led business in the world.

There’s more than money-making for the cause going on with cookie sales. The girl scouts are challenged to learn the five essential skills involved. They are:

  1. Goal-setting
  2. Decision-making
  3. Money management
  4. People skills
  5. Business Ethics

Girl Scout Julie Smith shared her selling strategy.

“It’s like the golden rule, treat others as you would want to be treated. If you’re nice to others, they’ll ususally buy more cookies….sometimes,” said Julie.

Scout Morgan Cortes has a few personal recommendations.

“Our ‘Savannah Smiles’ we got on our 100th year of scouting, and I think those are really good.  I also think Samoas are really good, too, said Morgan. But if you want to follow conventional wisdom, she said, go with the Thin Mints.

The Scouts will have their booths up in the Tampa Bay area beginning February 22nd. You can download the “Girl Scout Cookie Locator” to find your nearest cookie fix.

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