Inside Indie Bookstores: Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver

Jeremiah Chamberlin
From the September/October 2010 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

What are the best-selling sections in your stores?

Backlist and genre fiction, new fiction, new nonfiction, and children's books. The next tier would include history, religion, and travel.

What for you is the most unique or defining aspect of Tattered Cover as a bookstore?
The dedication of its booksellers to providing a special comfortable "place," physical and mental, where customers can browse a vast selection of ideas in print. 

Is there anything special you look for in terms of an author event?
The Tattered Cover offers a wide variety of ideas presented in the form of author events—over five hundred each year—including the very literary, thought provoking, humorous, topical, educational, controversial, and political, to name just a few. All of this said, first and foremost, the author's work has to have an audience motivated to come to hear the author speak. We can provide the venue, the publisher can provide a few dollars to advertise the event, but in the end it's the author who is the draw.

What role does technology play in your store?
If one considers the modern printing press a technological wonder, not to mention the various elements of production, these are the very basis of our existence as a business. However, technology, as we tend to think of it today, plays a significant role in database information and searches, communication, business record keeping, marketing, and, increasingly, the presentation and download of "the book" itself into handheld and/or computer devices.

What has been the biggest challenge for Tattered Cover in the last decade?
Maintaining a strong customer base that will continue to support the booksellers; offering customers a substantial inventory in a faltering economy and a highly competitive atmosphere.

What is the most important service that bookstores provide their communities?
The free flow of ideas in print through a sense of place within the community, offering an opportunity for people and ideas to come together.

Jeremiah Chamberlin teaches writing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is also the editor of the online journal Fiction Writers Review.

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