Powell's Books looming large in the Bay Area
"Used-book sellers in the region say it's become increasingly difficult to compete with Powell's because of its vast inventory -- more than 4 million titles in stock -- and the company's ability to undercut rivals' prices. They also say that as more used-book stores go under amid economic hardship, Powell's will only grow more formidable as it snaps up huge quantities of additional books at fire-sale prices, often as low as 15 cents on the dollar. "Powell's has been doing this all over the country," said Allan Milkerit, a San Francisco bookseller specializing in used and rare volumes. "But they've been especially active in the Bay Area because of the number of used books here." "
The great thing about the internet is that it is available to everyone. Yes, Powell's had a jump by recognizing the potential of being online early on. But if these independent used book stores would get together online and offer their inventories in a central shopping experience, then maybe they COULD compete with Powell's. The thing is, the investment in such an approach is not that cost intensive. I would imagine their current clientele would appreciate being able to peruse the inventory for dozens of stores in one place, reserve a copy, have it mailed to them, etc.