A few weeks ago, I walked into Bookberries, a small bookstore on 71st and Lexington, in search of a specific book — a longshot, to say the least. While there, two other customers walked in. One, an older lady, asked for a biography about Frank Lloyd Wright — no luck. The other, a middle-aged man, stopped by the register to tell the shopkeeper that he liked the store, praising its “very exclusive selection”. The shopkeeper replied with a thank you and a half-joking comment: “Sometimes, too exclusive, I think.”

Me? They did not have the book I wanted, nor could I find a book that interested me. I left, having purchased nothing. Twenty minutes, three customers entered, no sales. Too exclusive indeed.

Or is he?

There is simply no way a tiny bookstore is going to compete with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, or even mini-New York chain Shakespeare & Co. (a mere two blocks away!) on selection. But the small guy can compete. Take Archivia Books, for example — two blocks away! They only carry books about “architecture, art, design decorative arts, gardens, interiors.”

Bookberries needs to come up with something else. Focus on children’s books and parenting, or true crime/mystery. Or even better, break the mold: figure out what books buyers of bestsellers would like if they only knew the books existed. Either way, there’s only one way to win:

They need to be more exclusive.