Of the more than 500 retail outlets operated by Paradies Shops in airports and hotels, almost all stock books, with the exception of specialty stores like Brighton Collectibles and Brooks Brothers. And the company, which was founded in 1960 and is based in Atlanta, is committed to working with partners to develop both national and local bookstore brands.

In mid-March, Paradies opened its eighth New York Times Bookstore, this one at Louisville International Airport. The company began testing the concept in 2005 at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky. Since then Paradies has opened the New York Times stores at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Florida-Jacksonville International, New York's LaGuardia, and T.F. Green Airport in Warwick, R.I. Although the stores stock New York Times bestsellers, crossword puzzle books, and reading accessories, they also have a strong selection of children's books, branded merchandise, and DVDs. A plasma screen television runs videos relating to books, news, and documentaries.

In addition to maintaining relationships with national brands like the New York Times, Paradies works with local retailers, including booksellers. “We partner with local stores, but they're operated by the Paradies Shops. Almost all of our locations have a store that relates to the city where it's located,” says company spokesperson Jill Nidiffer.

She points to partnerships with Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, Wash., at the Spokane International Airport and Novel Idea Bookstore in Tulsa, Okla., at Tulsa International. “They came to us five years ago,” says Auntie's owner Chris O'Harra, who has been pleased with the relationship, which has been profitable for both; Paradies uses the Auntie's name and operates the store. “They did a beautiful job in setting up the store. They tried to cover more than New York Times bestsellers, and carry some local books and do events with local authors.” Paradies is currently in talks to operate a local bookstore in a California airport.

One book-oriented program that links many of Paradies's stores is Read & Return. Begun in 2003 with 12 dedicated bookstores, Read & Return is used as a marketing tool for the company's stores that sell books. Even stores that don't deal with books will accept returned books, notes Nidiffer. When it was first introduced, Read & Return was designed to boost hardcover sales and was advertised in stores and in airline publications. The concept was built around the idea that customers who purchased a book at a Paradies store at the beginning of their trip could return it at trip's end (with a receipt) at a Paradies store in another airport and get 50% back. The book was then resold as a used book.

Paradies continues to promote Read & Return, which has since been expanded to include trade and mass market paperbacks. The program's discount appeals just as much to frugal airport employees as passengers. To underscore that point, the company gave out 500 books—mostly New York Times bestsellers like Shutter Island, Janice Y.K Lee's The Piano Teacher, and Food Rules—at last month's Airport Revenue News conference.

Much of Paradies's book strategy now relies on Read & Return and the slow addition of bookstore brands. But that could change with January's announcement of a new strategic partnership with the private investment firm Freeman Spogli & Co., which will keep the current management team in place. “We are very excited to be gaining a partner with such a long history of backing successful retail companies and helping them to grow,” says CEO Gregg Paradies in a statement. The partnership won't be finalized until later in the second quarter.