Tonawanda News

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December 29, 2012

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Paperback Swap N' Shop closing after 38 years on Webster Street

Tonawanda News — For decades, Doris Spencer has watched Webster Street from behind the big glass windows at Paperback Swap N' Shop, overseeing the passage of thousands of books across her front counter and introducing readers young and old to new authors and beloved stories.

But in an age of e-books and tablets and online shopping sites, she said, the used book business just isn't viable anymore. The store, which has existed at one location or another on the street for 38 years, will close Jan. 26.

"I love what I do," Spencer said. "I've always been a reader. But it's changed. The whole concept of reading has changed. We're not making enough money to stay in business anymore.

"It is a shame, but I think it's time."

The used bookstore has been in its current location for 19 years. Spencer has worked there for 32 years, starting out as a 24-year-old single mom with two children who needed a part-time job in a location to which she could walk. Eventually, she became the manager, then bought the store 22 years ago when the owner, who lived in Texas, wanted to sell.

The downturn, she said, started about three or four years ago, when e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook first started catching on. 

"That's exactly when our business started dropping," she said. "It's convenience. You can take it on vacation. ... and if you can't sleep at 3 a.m., you can just download a book.

"It's winter. There are a lot of new e-readers out there right now. And come spring, they're going to tear up the street for the new water lines. That would be the kiss of death anyway. It's not the best time to go out of business, but it has to be done."

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