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Owner of new bookstore has a strategy
Posted Friday, December 11, 2015

By Sharon Short - Contributing Writer

In an era of seemingly ever-increasing online retail and digital content, here is some perhaps surprising news: a new bookstore has opening in the south suburbs of Dayton.

A physical bookstore that includes a cozy fireplace and lounge area, a cafe with a full menu, a sizable selection of printed magazines and gift items. Oh, and books. Lots of books. Plus a knowledgeable, friendly, book-loving staff, eager to help patrons find just the right … book.

The store is The Booksellers at Austin Landing, located at 3649 Rigby Road in the Austin Landing retail development in Miami Twp. It opened in October.

The Booksellers’ owner, Neil Van Uum, a Cincinnati businessman, has been in the book business for 32 years.

Neil and his former wife Mary Beth founded the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in 1984 when they opened a store in Lexington, Ky., deriving the business name from their middle names.

And even after experiencing the roller-coaster ride of the book retail business for more than three decades, Neil remains dedicated to the bookselling business. “It’s been my life,” Neil says, “And I love the people I work with in bookselling. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Neil, who grew up in Cleveland and attended University of Cincinnati where he majored in business, says

he has a pragmatic take on bookselling in today’s market. “There’s no doubt that ebooks took market share from brick-and-mortar bookstores. Ebooks, marketers like Amazon and even the availability of digital content have changed what it means to be a bookseller with a physical location,” Neil says. “For example, it would no longer make sense for me to fill three shelves of books on a specific topic such as diabetes. Readers can find reference information almost as soon as they know they want it, without leaving their couches, through digital devises. What this means is that I have to offer an intimate physical setting that book lovers want to come to, with booksellers who will help them find the books their looking for that can’t easily pop up on an Internet search. It also means curating a collection that will appeal to readers who crave a physical bookstore.”

Neil is cheered as well by the increase in teen and younger readers. “Many teens are great readers,” Neil says.

“At one time, booksellers were fearful that ebooks would wipe out print books for good,” Neil says. “But what’s happened is that many adults look at a screen all the time for work or for social networking. Picking up a physical book and entering into its world feels like more of an escape from the everyday world, which is now filled for many of us with digital devices. And for many of us, that’s what books have always been about — escaping into another world in fiction, or entering another world or era in nonfiction.”

Fiction, he says, particularly science fiction, fantasy and mystery, are strong sellers in brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Neil adds that his new enterprise — besides the Austin Landing site, he has Booksellers’ locations at Fountain Square in Cincinnati and in Memphis — will also emphasize fostering a connection with the community.

“Here at Austin Landing, we’re happy to host local writers,” Neil says. The store has already hosted book events for local writers Jan Irvin, Craig Steffen, Carrie Bebris, Beth Gully, Jessica Lemmon and others.

The store also hosts community events, such as a recent fundraiser for the Centerville High School Jazz Band.

Follow the store’s events on its Facebook page. The bookstore’s website is at


• Friday, December 18, 7 p.m. at Books & Co. at The Greene—Western Ohio Writers Association will present “A Holiday Beatnik Café,” with members of the organization reading original works with a holiday theme. For more information, please contact Gery Deer at

• Making 2016 resolutions to focus on writing? Word’s Worth Writing Center is offering a slate of four new classes starting in January: Fiction Jumpstart, Memoir, Dialogue and Revision. All classes are led by award-winning writer Katrina Kittle. Special holiday pricing is currently available, as are gift certificates. Find out more about class schedules, pricing, and reserving classes or gift certificates at the center’s website,

Sharon Short ( is a novelist and director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. Contact Sharon with news about your book club or organization. Email: Twitter: @SharonGShort



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