BUY THE BOOK: Books on the Square Manager Jennifer Kandarian rings up Katherine Schoppel of Providence. The bookstore founded in 1992 is a brick-and-mortar survivor specializing in fiction and children’s books.
There are businesses, even in the 21st-century United States, built on the sales of bound volumes of printed paper from shelves in old-fashioned, bricks-and-mortar shops.
They are now survivors of digital technology that sells books without them, or sells the words and thoughts they contain, book and paper free.
Books on the Square in Providence’s Wayland Square eluded oblivion in 2007, when current owners Rodney and Mercedes Clifton bought it out of receivership.
“There haven’t been a lot of changes, and that is a positive,” said Books on the Square store Manager Jennifer Doucette, when asked to reflect on the store over the years. “A big change probably would mean a lot of us wouldn’t be here.”
As it has been for more than 20 years, Books on the Square remains a general bookstore with a strong focus on fiction and children’s books. The store has a children’s specialist and most of the rear half of the store is dedicated to younger readers.
Readings from local authors, book signings and story times for kids are big parts of the weekly routine, as are providing personalized recommendations on what books are new, great or well-suited to each reader.
But that’s not to say nothing has changed at Books on the Square or that the business has totally resisted digital technology.
The store has a website and several years ago it deployed Google Books, a sales portal run by the Internet search giant.
Google took the bulk of each sale, and when it decided to stop working with independent bookstores, that experiment came to an end, Doucette said.
Books on the Square is changing its website to a new platform created by the American Booksellers Association this summer. Currently the site’s most active function is a form to order books, for in-store pickup.
Doucette said the store is watching partnerships some Boston bookstores have made with e-reader companies, such as Kobo, to see if that could be a potential fit.
Books on the Square was founded by Sarah Zacks, a book lover who worked at College Hill Books for a few years before opening her store, Doucette said.
Before the Internet, big chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble put many independent bookstores out of business, but Books on the Square endured and in 2002 opened a second downtown location at the corner of Empire and Washington Streets.