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Falmouth independent book seller turns the final page

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Falmouth independent book seller turns the final page

FALMOUTH — After consolidating and moving, and trying to survive by selling used books, Books, Etc. will close its doors for the final time Feb. 28.

Owner Allan Schmid said he doesn't know if the business will re-open anywhere else.

Books, Etc. opened in the early 1970s on Exchange Street in Portland. Schmid took over the business 23 years ago and until 2008, he said, it continued to do well. He opened the Falmouth store at 240 Route 1 in December 2000.

However, Schmid said, the economic downturn combined with changes to the industry damaged the business irreparably. 

"What really killed us was the fall of 2008. The economy tanked. Everyone stayed home," Schmid said. "We tried to cut costs, but it was too little, too late."

The Portland store closed in April 2009, and last October he moved the Falmouth store a few doors down to a smaller storefront in The Shops at Falmouth Village. He has even tried selling used books online to supplement the store's income. None of it has been enough to keep paying the bills.

Schmid said he doesn't blame any one thing for the store's failure. The combination of competition from online book sellers, the economy, technological changes and changes in people's reading habits all had impacts, he said.

"Technology is just the flavor of the month," he said. "But there's always a demand for books. We'll have to have printed books when the lights go out, when you can't plug in your devices."

He said he has tried to keep a positive outlook.

"I've had fun in the last year getting to know customers again," Schmid said, after he carried a pile of books out to an elderly customer's car for her.

When the two Books, Etc. stores were open and doing well, Schmid employed 25 people. However, for the past year, he's been doing things on his own and focusing on used books instead of new titles.

"You develop a relationship with your bookseller. Readers like to talk about books, I like to be able make recommendations, get to know what people like," he said.

Schmid also recalled the many authors he met over the years, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, at a writers event in Washington, D.C.

While he still has many photos of authors, the wall of author signatures at the old Portland store could not be saved when the store closed.

Although he tries to keep his chin up, it's hard not to see Schmid defeated, surrounded by partially empty shelves as he tries to sell off what remains of his stock. The store is having a big sale for its last week and many books are marked down to $5 or less.

Schmid said if the right deal comes along, he'd reopen the store in another location, but that, for now at least, nothing is in the works.

"I'm definitely going to miss the customers," he said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net