The 1990s have been tough for independent bookstores. They've lost customers to
big chains such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. The newest threat is Amazon.com
and other Internet superstores, but independent booksellers are starting to fight back.
Forrester Research, a top computer and Internet market-research firm, says Americans will buy more than a billion dollars worth of books on the Internet in 1999, double last year's total. Forrester predicts 18 percent of all books sold will be sold on the Internet by 2003.
The Hungry Mind is a favorite hangout for the Twin Cities literary set. It sits at the edge of the Macalester College campus on St. Paul's Grand Avenue. At the Hungry Mind, you can browse through an extensive collection of small-press fiction, flop down on a comfy couch and read for a while, or pick up a copy of the nationally-renowned Hungry Mind Review. Owner David Unowsky admits to mixed feelings about online superstores such as BarnesandNoble.com. On one hand, they're convenient and make books available to people who don't live near good bookstores. On the other hand, they're a danger to independent stores such as his.
Unowsky says the Hungry Mind is doing OK financially, but in the last few years has grown at a much slower pace. He attributes some of the slowdown to Internet book buying. Other stores have felt the pinch even more. Baxter Books of Minneapolis cited Internet competition as one reason it closed last October. It had been the last major independent bookseller in downtown Minneapolis.
"It is the little guys on Main Street, in small towns, that are at the
most risk. For them, the Internet is just one more nail in the