When avid reader Julie Higbee of Rapid City walks into a bookstore, she can’t help but be drawn in by the array of book displays, colorful covers and inviting titles.
“It’s fun to look at books on the shelf and find your favorite author,” Higbee said. “I love reading other stories and using my imagination. It’s a form of escape.”
Higbee, like many other Rapid City readers, loves to visit the area's many bookstores, which offer titles that will take readers back to the Wild West, land in the midst of a zombie apocalypse or fall in love with Prince Charming.
The variety of new and used bookstores in the area is unique. With the popularity of Nooks, Kindles, iPads and other gadgets that allow avid readers to conveniently download a book wherever they are, it would not be a surprise to see bookstores dwindle in communities.
But bookstore owners in Rapid City say that’s not the case. They find that business is still booming.
Mitzi’s Books offers a wide selection of new books to customers. Located in downtown Rapid City, the three-year-old independently owned bookstore tailors its selections to reader interest.
Tarah Jennings, who works at Mitzi’s, said a majority of requests come in for children’s literature, history or local-interest books. But, they also offer a variety of titles from best-selling authors and new releases. And if readers can’t find a book on their shelves, Mitzi's will place a special order.
Popular publications include the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Pioneer Girl,” by the South Dakota State Historical Society Press and the thriller “Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins.
And these popular titles, along with others, are most commonly sold in their paperback or hardcover editions.
“Rapid City still serves a high percentage of customers that prefer the physical book,” Jennings said. “They really enjoy reading with a book in their hands.”
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Lori Speirs, owner of Everybody’s Bookstore in Rapid City agrees. Speirs has owned the used bookshop for nearly 20 years and offers customers a wide range of favorites from westerns to romance novels and mysteries.
“A bookstore offers a quiet atmosphere. People are relaxed when they are in a bookstore,” she said.
But as individuals across the nation are equipped with electronic devices offering easy access to e-books, it’s changed the business for some.
E-books have changed the industry for Speirs and she did say when the online books first came out, it decreased business. But, she added, customers still come in to buy a physical book, where they can see and feel the cover before buying it.
“And a physical book doesn’t require batteries,” she added. “And it won’t break when you drop it.”
Jennings said Mitzi’s is not threatened by the popularity and convenience of the e-books.
“We know e-books are here to stay,” Jennings said. “We’ve learned to adapt our business and work alongside it.”
Mitzi’s allows customers to purchase and easily download e-books through the store’s website to their e-reader devices. But their customer base still prefers to turn the pages, leading them to the next great chapter.
“Every book has its own magic with each story,” Jennings said. “Having that story with you, physically, is the best feeling.”