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‘I Don’t Believe Books Are Going Away’

Publishing Veteran Hopes to Resurrect Downtown Bookstore in Bradford, Vt.

  • Nancy Hanger of Orford hangs up an open sign after returning from lunch on the opening day of her new store, Star Cat Books, in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. Hanger, who has worked previously in the book publishing business and has also run a book store, hopes to freshen up the inventory of the store that was previously called Booked Solid, adding a wider variety of Children's, Young Adult, and Science Fiction books to the store. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Nancy Hanger of Orford hangs up an open sign after returning from lunch on the opening day of her new store, Star Cat Books, in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. Hanger, who has worked previously in the book publishing business and has also run a book store, hopes to freshen up the inventory of the store that was previously called Booked Solid, adding a wider variety of Children's, Young Adult, and Science Fiction books to the store.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nancy Hanger of Orford, owner of Star Cat Books in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Nancy Hanger of Orford, owner of Star Cat Books in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nancy Hanger, right, owner of Star Cat Books, hands a stack of books to her friend, Juan Villar, who was helping her set up the bookstore in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Nancy Hanger, right, owner of Star Cat Books, hands a stack of books to her friend, Juan Villar, who was helping her set up the bookstore in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nancy Hanger of Orford hangs up an open sign after returning from lunch on the opening day of her new store, Star Cat Books, in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. Hanger, who has worked previously in the book publishing business and has also run a book store, hopes to freshen up the inventory of the store that was previously called Booked Solid, adding a wider variety of Children's, Young Adult, and Science Fiction books to the store. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Nancy Hanger of Orford, owner of Star Cat Books in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Nancy Hanger, right, owner of Star Cat Books, hands a stack of books to her friend, Juan Villar, who was helping her set up the bookstore in Bradford, Vt., on November 22, 2013. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Bradford, Vt. — Nancy Hanger is betting that a new business name, a comfortable setting and community events will be the key to success for her new Main Street bookstore.

Hanger opened Star Cat Books Friday after giving the old Booked Solid store a quick face lift, adding some new inventory and putting sofas and chairs for customers to relax in at the front of the store. More improvements are planned before the end of the year, she said last week.

“We’re just trying to get it back open, right now,” Hanger said. “The big changes will really be evident in the next few weeks when we’re able to get more new books in” and shift the orientation of the new and used inventory to featuring science fiction and children’s books.

Although it would be easy to view Hanger as a romantic traveling the well-trodden path of a city resident moving to a picturesque rural town and naively buying that certain quaint little business of their dreams, that perception would be wrong. She doesn’t fit the mold, well, not entirely.

It’s true most of her life has been spent living and working in cities — born in Washington, D.C., and worked in the Boston area — but Hanger, a published author now living in Orford, has more than 30 years of experience with books — publishing, editing and sales — and she and her husband own and operate Windhaven, a book consulting and editorial service. Most of her career has been with Baen Books working in the science fiction genre. She also studied in the master’s program at Simmons College, specializing in children’s literature.

She has long-standing friendships and business relationships with authors and publishers and has lined up writers to appear at the store in the next few months to sign books and talk with readers.

Hanger also has agreements from a couple of authors to provide special signed editions of her books in exchange for a $500 contribution to her $8,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

With about three weeks to go on the fund drive, she had raised about half the money she hopes to use for renovations and inventory.

In addition to book signing events, Hanger also plans regular Friday evening “Stitch and Bitch” sessions for knitters and others, writers workshops and co-hosting events with other merchants.

Despite dramatic changes in the publishing business, Hanger said independent bookstores that are engaged with a community, provide a welcoming atmosphere for customers and have a strong online presence are doing well across the country.

“I don’t believe books are going away anytime soon. People still like the feel of a book in their hands, and Bradford is a wonderful community that has a long history of supporting local merchants. I think that if I provide books that people like and want to read, they will come in here,” she said.

Hanger, who is in the process of joining the American Booksellers Assoc., also plans to sell the KoBo electronic reader, which has more than 3 million e-books.

The ABA formed a partnership with KoBo earlier this year and has been working with independent store members to promote the readers and the e-books.

The readers were largely unheard of until this summer when the companies took steps to get the word out. They launched an on-going national brand campaign, sponsoring spots on a number of National Public Radio’s top programs, targeting 6.5 million listeners who fit the book reading demographics.

Sales from e-books in the United States are rapidly approaching $1 billion a year, with more than 100 million units sold annually, according to figures published by the Small Business Administration last year.

In general, book industry sales are just over $19 billion a year, and U.S. households spent an average of $55.23 last year in bookstores, the SBA report says.

In spite of the decline in the economy, the growth of e-books and the competition from such online booksellers as Amazon (books for Amazon’s Kindle reader can only be purchased from Amazon), independent bookstores are growing nationwide, ABA spokesman Dan Cullen said in an email earlier this year, adding that independents had about an 8 percent growth last year, and in the first two quarters of this year, they have shown double-digit growth.

“Independent bookstores are doing well, and we’re small and specialized in a community where people work together and buy locally,” Hanger said. “This bookstore has remained here a long time, and I think people are going to like the changes we’re going to make.”

Warren Johnston can be reached at wjohnston@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.