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Aaron Eisenhauer -

A chalkboard announces an upcoming event at Red Fox Books on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010. Special events are one way that independent bookstores are trying to set themselves apart from online and big box stores.

GLENS FALLS -- Citing a sluggish economy and the rise of e-books, the owners of downtown retailer Red Fox Books announced Monday they plan to close the store.

After months of struggling to stay afloat and exhausting their resources, owners Susan Fox and Naftali Rottenstreich said it was clear they had reached the end of the line.

"We have loved our role as booksellers in this community, and we are heartbroken to see this chapter in our lives, and in the life of Glens Falls, come to an end," they state in a letter to customers on the store's website.

"We want to believe that bookstores won't die out entirely, but for the time being, the challenge posed by digital media, in all its forms, is simply too much for us to withstand."

The independent bookstore opened in 2006. The owners said various factors contributed to a "shocking decline" in sales in the past year, necessitating the closure.

According to Rottenstreich, the deterioration began in the winter as e-reader sales picked up.

Despite their best efforts, many independent booksellers have had trouble gaining traction in the digital marketplace.

The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent stores like Red Fox, tried to level the playing field for small sellers last year by partnering with Google e-books. Through the agreement, ABA members could sell any of the hundreds of thousands of digital titles on their own sites.

But for Red Fox, it's been challenging to get customers to think local when they download an e-book.

"People can buy e-books with our site, but the problem has been and will continue to be changing people's perception about where to buy e-books," Rottenstreich said.

He said consumers should be aware the click-and-delivery system has an impact on the local economy.

With Red Fox's exit, Glens Falls will be without a full-service bookstore.

Dog Ate My Homework on Glen Street sells mostly children's books, along with toys, teaching materials and games. Owner Michael Smith said he has tried to diversify his offerings, and because his target audience is younger, Dog Ate My Homework is somewhat insulated from the digital trends.

Still, he said, the loss of a local retailer hurts all downtown merchants.

"There's a greater good, and you never want to see anybody close or go out of business," he said. "The greater good has been jeopardized by them going out."

Red Fox's owners said they are willing to assist another bookstore venture downtown; they are also entertaining offers from buyers interested in part or all of the store.

Gift cards will be honored while the store remains open. Merchandise is currently on sale.

Fox and Rottenstreich live in Glens Falls and plan to stay in the area.

They said they are happy to have had the experience or running the store.

"We are heartbroken about this, but we are very proud of what we did accomplish in our five years here," Rottenstreich said.


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