Although new stores continue to open in Maine, the state has lost about half of its traditional bookstores over the past decade, according to New England Independent Booksellers Association executive director Steve Fischer. Maine membership in NEIBA went from 47 bookstores in 2004 to 22 today. Dean Lunt, publisher of Islandport Press in Yarmouth, Maine, said that the closures were even greater in northern and eastern Maine, where he estimated the number of bookstores declined nearly 75% in the last 10 years.
Islandport, which is 15 years old, has a strong regional list, and to counter the disappearance of such stores as Mr. Paperback, Brunswick Bookland, Port in a Storm, and Kennebunk Bookport, it opened a book kiosk in both the Maine Mall in South Portland and the Bangor Mall in Bangor in October. Islandport specifically targeted malls that don’t have an “inside” bookstore. Books-A-Million has a store with a separate entrance at the mall in South Portland.
The kiosks, which Lunt describes as a temporary experiment, have been open during regular mall hours and have had signings with 30 Islandport authors over the past few months. So far, said Lunt, “Mall customers have been surprised and pleased to find a bookseller in the mall.”
Although the press won’t have final data until after Christmas, Lunt has been encouraged by the venture. “It is great exposure for our books, our authors, and the book ecosystem in general,” he noted. “It helps put books as gifts back on the radar of mall shoppers who might not venture into bookstores or don’t want to make one more trip on a busy shopping day.”
Among Islandport’s biggest sellers at the malls have been Tom Hennessey’s Leave Some for Seed, Lynn Plourde’s Merry Moosey Christmas, G.A. Morgan’s The Fog of Forgetting, Tamra Wight’s Mystery of the Eagle’s Nest, and George Danby’s The Essential Danby. Both kiosks will close at the end of the holiday season.