It’s no secret that many bookstores are struggling these days. With the advent of Amazon and other online bookstores, it has become increasingly difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to stay in business.

Plus, with Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, many traditional bookstores were forced to close shop or find new ways to survive.

So, if you own a bookstore or are considering starting one, it’ll be no surprise if you ask yourself – are bookstores profitable?

The truth is that there are a number of factors that go into the profitability of a bookstore, and all is not lost.

So, the question we should be asking is what needs to be done to keep a bookstore profitable in the age of Amazon and digital publishing.

In this article, we will discuss some strategies that you can deploy to keep your bookstore running and compete with online alternatives. 

When Are Bookstores Profitable? 

The market for bookstores has been evolving with the advent of online book retailers and digital publishing.

In this new world, profitable bookstores are those that are able to generate enough revenue to cover their operating costs and leave a margin for profit.

Operating costs for a bookstore include things like rent, staff salaries, utilities, and inventory.

A bookstore’s revenue comes mainly from selling books but it can also come from other sources like selling coffee, renting out space for events, or selling books online.

In fact, the most successful bookstores are usually those that are able to generate revenue from a variety of sources.

This is especially necessary in the modern age when bookstores are competing with not just other brick-and-mortar stores but also online retailers.

Strategies For a Successful Bookstore

Here are some of the top strategies you can deploy to keep your bookstore relevant in the age of online bookstores and digital publishing.

  1. Diversify your revenue streams
  2. Offer unique books
  3. Create a community
  4. Promote local authors
  5. Invest in marketing

Let’s dig deeper.

1. Diversify your revenue streams

As we mentioned before, the most successful bookstores are usually those that are able to generate revenue from a variety of sources. This could include things like selling coffee, renting out space for events, or selling books online.

You could consider putting a vending machine in your store or have a small coffee shop where people can sit with a book in their hand and enjoy a nice cappuccino.

It may come as a surprise to you but often you can make more money and even higher margins from alternate revenue streams than just selling books.

2. Offer unique books

Another way to stand out from the competition is to offer unique items that can’t be found at other bookstores or online. This could include items like rare books, vintage books, signed copies, or even just really well-curated selections of books.

Your bookstore can become the neighborhood bookstore where people can go to find that perfect gift or hard-to-find book. When people go online to buy a book, they usually know what they are looking for. But if you have taken the effort to curate a selection of interesting books, they are more likely to browse and make impulse purchases.

Remember, you need to give your customers a reason to walk into your bookstore rather than pull their phones out of their pockets and place their orders online.

3. Create a community

One of the best ways to compete with Amazon and other online bookstores is to create a sense of community at your bookstore. This could involve things like hosting events, offering discounts to members, or just creating a space where people can come to browse and chat about books.

One of the strengths that online bookstores have is that customers are able to leave feedback and reviews. This is a valuable source of information for potential customers but it also makes the experience more personal.

You can create a similar feeling of community and personalization by being active on social media, responding to customer queries, and offering recommendations. You could offer customers the possibility of getting on an email list and receiving your personal recommendations each month.

4. Promote local authors

Another way to create a sense of community is to promote local authors. This is a great way to connect with your local market and build loyalty among your customer base.

You could host book readings or meet-and-greets with local authors to really make your store the center of the local literary community.

Most of us never have the chance to meet the authors of books we enjoy. but by promoting local authors, you can make that happen for your customers. This will make your bookstore a destination rather than just another stop on their weekly shopping trip.

It will also give you the opportunity to do something that Amazon or an online bookstore can never replicate.

5. Invest in marketing

Finally, it’s important to invest in marketing to make sure people are aware of your store and what you have to offer. This could involve things like online advertising, social media campaigns, or even just old-fashioned print advertising.

One way to promote your bookstore would be to offer a discount to customers who sign up for your email list. You could also offer a loyalty program where customers earn points for every purchase they make.

You could even host a contest where people win a prize if they share your store’s information with their friends. There are endless possibilities when it comes to marketing and you need to find the right ones for your store.


The key to success for any bookstore is to offer something that Amazon and other online bookstores can’t. This could be a unique curated selection of books, a sense of community that can meet in person, or even just great customer service.

By investing in marketing and promoting your store, you can make sure people are aware of what you have to offer. With so many people spending so much time online, many crave the personal interaction that a local bookstore can provide.

So are bookstores profitable? It depends on how you define success. If your goal is to make a lot of money, then probably not. But if your goal is to create a space for people to connect with books and each other while making a decent amount of money along the way, then the answer is most definitely yes.

Thanks for reading!