When Going Gets Tough, Bookstore Goes (Sort of) Nonprofit

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December 18, 2012; Source: Peninsula Press

In Menlo Park, Calif., the prospect of ongoing financial losses for an independent bookstore led management to think beyond the traditional business box to come up with a hybrid model that incorporates a new nonprofit. According to the Peninsula Press, Kepler’s Books was able to restructure and reopen earlier this fall after raising over $750,000 from local donors. As part of its commitment to this new donor base, the store will have more structured partnerships with a few local nonprofits and will dedicate part of its store’s physical space to be run as a new nonprofit.

The fact that independent bookstores are currently struggling to compete with the seemingly limitless power of online retailers isn’t news to most people, but it is interesting to consider that the Kepler’s example might provide a new path for similarly struggling businesses. Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler’s Books, told the Peninsula Press that he “saw an opportunity to sustain and build upon” the connection his store has established with the community “by reducing the square footage of retail space to designate a corner of the store to events hosted by the new nonprofit.” Madan envisions that, within two years, the store will also be able to offer stock offerings to customers and community members. “The idea of the 70s and 80s where there was one bookstore owner who managed, ran and completely oversaw the store for personal capital won’t work in coming decades,” Madan told the Peninsula Press.

Kepler’s does not outline the mission or goals for its nonprofit branch, Kepler’s Arts and Lectures, on its website, but we expect that these pieces are still forthcoming. The Peninsula Press points to the example of another independent bookstores using the hybrid model that is already up and running: the Los Angeles-based The Last Bookstore, which has a partnership with Central City Community Outreach, a tutoring and mentoring organization, and which splits profits with Books for the People, a book collection and distribution organization.

In his recent column on predictions for 2013, NPQ’s Rick Cohen suggests that, while there might be growth in hybrid organizations in 2013 and beyond, it might come with calls for a new level of accountability from these organizations. It will be interesting to follow the next stage of this evolution of the sector from the vantage point of this California community. –Anne Eigeman

  • William McClung

    Just a note to say that University Press Books/Berkeley created a version of the for-profit (a limited partnership) and non-profit affiliate, to support events and programs in 2010.

    Now two-years in development — and about 170 free cultural events supported — we have moved in the direction of the Kepler model, without the large new capitalization, though that would have been mighty helpful.

    William J. McClung
    General Partner
    University Press Books/Berkeley
    2430 Bancroft Way
    Berkeley, Ca 94704

    2430 Arts Alllance (a 501(c)3 non-proft affiliate.


  • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan

    I have long been a fan of Kepler’s, going to book signings and sometimes buying books from them (they are 15 miles from me, so hardly the “local” book store), But when I heard about the Kickstarter they used for fundraising I gave them some money. Local book stores that care about their community need support. And since I can’t always go there to buy books, I donated my money to help them instead.
    If you have a local book store, treasure it. Go to them rather than Amazon when you can. It may cost you a bit of time and cost a bit of money, but you are saving a community asset.

  • meryem melisa

    Dear Official,
    My name is Mert ASLAN, an academician and writer in Turkey.
    My six books have been published so far. The sixth one is a novel which was published four months ago is, at the same time, my first work in the branch of novel whose title is “CENNETTE İKİ YIL” (TWO YEARS IN PARADISE). It is now one of the best-sellers in my country, Turkey.
    It is based on a true story and totally 317 pages.
    At this point, I would like you to know that some film companies in my country are closely interested in filming this novel as a movie Picture or a Tv serials because it has not only a very interesting, extraordinary and touching true story, but also a real cinematographic character.
    So, naturally, I would like to share it with the world. I will be very happy if you want to be interested in making it translated into your language and publishing through your publishing house in your own country.
    To begin with, here I would like to introduce you the synopsis of the novel.

    (Synopsis of the Novel)
    //As I expressed before, It is based on a true story which was lived after the military coup in Turkey in the year of 1980.
    The main chararacter, Rüzgar, a man who was a successful and wealthy lawyer in the city of Adana on the coast of Mediterranean Sea before the military intervention. He was the best friend and also tutor of the leader of a socialist fraction that had thousands of millitants who were carrying out bloody actions throughout the country. Rüzgar didn’t have any organic or official relationship with the political organisation in question, but was the person who not only formed its structure at first but also directed and oriented it from the beginning with its influential intellectual accummulation and sound theoritical power. He always stayed hidden behind the curtain…
    He had seen an interesting dream the night before the coup and in his dream he was driving back home from the neighbouring city Mersin and at that moment felt a horrible ununderstable turmoil around, then a group of soldiers waiting for arresting him ahead of the road for an unknown reason. So he was doing his best to stop the car, but he coudn’t succeed it. However a strange middle-aged man came out on that second in front of the car all of a sudden and stopped the car with a strange finger movement and oriented him to the North where there was the mountains. He looked at his face with a serious expression and showing the direction of the North with one of his hands, said to him: “This way Oh King!”
    In the morning, he saw on Tv that a military coup happened and after staying there one day more he decided to go home in Adana, but while he was returning home in his car, he learned in a town on his way that he was being looked for and wanted by the military administration as the leader of the fraction. So he didn’t want to surrender and escaped towards the North under the vague and indistinct effect of the dream…
    He was being looked for everywhere in the country by the military administration. He was a wanted political guilty and fugitive…
    Later on, he entrusted his car to an old family friend in Pozantı, a small town on top of the mountain chain of Toros in the North of the city of Adana. Then he went around fourty kilometers down towards the South back and from that point after two days’ of a exhausting walk with his heavy bag on his shoulders in the direction of East in bare nature all alone he came upon a remote, desolate and wonderful valley on the lower and warmer South bottom of a mountain. He had chosen the South lower slopes of the mountain chain facing the Mediterranean Sea to look for a shelter because it will no doubt be much warmer in the wintertime.
    Rüzgar began to live there as a absolute castaway and established a new life, a kind of “a one man kingdom”. He called his new country “The Wind’s Kingdom” because his name meant “Wind” in Turkish.
    One point here needs explaining: When he came the area, he spent the first night in a cave on the near slope of the huge mountain in the North of the valley and he saw an old scraped word on the East wall of the cave: “OLI”. He didn’t care about it very much at that moment, but that word was contracted form of a lady’s name which was scraped by his loving black dad years ago when he came to the region along with his two friends, an academician and an archeologist carrying out an important scientific research in the name of a university in Birmingham, England.
    Towards the end of the novel, the secret of this word will dramatically come out, proving that “God sometimes writes someone’s destiny with another human’s hands.”
    But before that, something else would happen… One year later in the area, when the Spring comes with all its beauties, Rüzgar learns that he was not all alone in that erea within the passing one year’s time because a mysterious guest turns out to his “country”, a tall, bulky, middle-aged man with short grey hair, a short beard and deep, dark eyes that seems as if they don’t look at a certain point, but everywhere.
    Our hero hosts him very warmly in his home, but there was something ununderstable with this man and so a huge question mark stuck into young anarchist’s mind just from the moment he came there: He was definitely sure that he had seen his face before somewhere, but where? He would remember his face only after he left saying “Goodbye and see you next Saturday!” in the evening… He was the man himself who directed him in his dream to the North and his beautiful valley where he took refuge while he was escaping from some people’s betrayal and the horrible wrath of the state a year ago. The moment he matched his unexpected mysterious guest’s face and the face in his dream perfectly at night just before the military coup, he was exactly shocked, fell down on his knees and began to cry his heart out like little kids covering his face with his hands… This terrific and interesting fact which he came across with for he first time in his life and was of course never easily compatible with his past cognitive processes through modern education and also starting strong friendship between them will throw his life into another curve…//

    I can send you the full text as a word file if you like.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you.
    With my best wishes.

    Mert ASLAN, the writer.