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Today’s guests are Frank Hall and Kim Hall, the owners of That Book Place in Madison, Indiana. We met recently at Context 24 at sci-fi/fantasy con in Columbus Ohio, where we made new friends and learned a lot. Welcome, guys!

Thank you, glad to be here!

Tell us about your bookstore: what do you carry, when did you start, what makes your store different?

Our doors opened to the public on the Ides of March 2006. We are primarily a used book store. We do carry some new books in stock of local authors within a few hours drive of us and from some local publishing houses. I like to think that we are different because I don’t try to push the newest bestseller on you. I try to get to know our customers and make recommendations based on what they have read and what other people have read that have also read what they like.

Do you have new books? Used books? Not a library, right? How do you decide what new books to carry? What are your criteria for used books?

We are definitely not a library and we carry both used and new, mostly used. With the new books we do focus on local authors and local publishing houses but I will also have something in that I know people are wanting. Right now we have a few copies of Game of Thrones in stock new. Once the TV show came out, probably we have a person each week who learns it’s a book series and comes looking for it. We carry pretty much everything so our only criteria with used is that it needs to be in good shape at least and still current for non-fiction.

What’s the most important thing that distinguishes the kind of experience a reader will have at a small, indie bookstore from the big box store?

For us it’s just more personal. I am here pretty much everyday Monday through Saturday. Over the years I have gotten to know our customers so I can help them better. Also, since I am here all the time I see what comes in for trade and what goes out so I have good idea if we have a certain book or not and where it is. I also know what is going on in most of their lives, so I make it a point to ask how things are. Of course that also goes because we are in a small town.

At Context 24, you said, “Independent bookstores are the future.” What are the implications of that? What purpose will indies have in the future?

It’s going to have a profound impact on the industry. We are down to only one national chain. Two, if you count Amazon. When you start getting big stores that are more worried about the bottom line instead of helping customers then you start having issues. I don’t see a time when B&N will move into a small town like mine. They don’t see enough customer base to turn a profit. So we smaller stores are beginning to flourish. I think you will see more and more stores like mine pop up in smaller and midsize towns. The big Houses are going to have to take notice and start working with us smaller venues to help increase sales.

What do you see as the ways independent bookstores can most help authors?

Work with them. They are the reason we have a business, so work with them. It doesn’t matter if they went through a small press, vanity press, self published or is from a big house. They make the product we sell. So encourage them. If they are local, set up a spot for them in your store. Host readings for them or if there is a local writing group, invite them to your store. Make them know that what they are working towards is not in vain.

What are the ways authors can help independent bookstores?

That’s simple. Keep writing.

What would you like to have authors do when they want to schedule an event at your store?

Call us or email me at least 2 or 3 months in advance. I like to advertise in the store that we have someone coming so that the customers can decide whether they want the book or not. If the customer can’t make it in that day they can go ahead and buy it and I will get it signed to them and they can pick it up after the event.

What’s your favorite event of the year?

My new favorite event is our Authors fair. This past year for our 5 year anniversary we did an authors fair and had around 30 authors here along with one of our big outside tent sales. We have decided to make it an annual event, so this coming March 17th we are having another one. We are shooting for 50 authors and I am really excited about it. I guess a very close second will be October. The entire month. We decorate for Halloween and have a blast in the store.

What’s the nicest thing a reader has done for your store? An author? Does it involve chocolate?

Actually it does involve chocolate. We have a few customers that will bring us gifts during our anniversary celebration. Sometimes it’s candies and such. We even have a few that will occasionally bring us cookies if they pass by the bakery before coming to the store. The nicest thing that any author has ever given me is after the signing they shake my hand or give me a hug and say thanks. I love being able to have a spot where the authors feel welcomed.
What do you think of the book printing kiosk?

I think they are an intriguing idea. And being able to load them up with classics and such would be a wonderful way to make sure you always had a particular book in stock. There are lots of things that I can see that could come from them that could revolutionize the industry.

What would you like people to know about your store?
I think, all in all, the best thing to know about our store is our motto. It sums everything up in a nutshell. “No such thing as too many books.”

I've got to agree with you there! Thanks for being here and best wishes for the next year. Find out more about THAT BOOK PLACE at their Facebook page, and if you're passing through, stop in and say hello.

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