Ann Wilson admitted she sometimes buys books online, but really, the retired librarian likes the way they feel between her fingers. She's among a throng of loyal customers who frequent one of Hernando County's only book stores, the Book Fair in Spring Hill. And as the national book chain Borders prepares to close its remaining stores because of poor sales, the Book Fair's owner said faithful patrons like Wilson have kept the local shop flourishing, even in the face of Internet sellers and a haggard economy.
"I'm really doing quite well," said Ruth Wharton, who has owned the shop at 1219 Kass Circle for the last 27 years. "There are still people who like to go in and look around and feel the books."
The store's low prices have helped as well.
"I've been coming here for years," said April Rickert, 25, who teaches special education in Pasco County and was shopping Wednesday. "I don't shop at Borders or places like that. It's too expensive."
Because 98 percent of Wharton's reading material is used, she can charge far less than many competitors. When people bring in books to the store, Wharton gives them credit toward others she has for sale. Her method, says the 70-year-old, is "kind of like recycling."
There are no Borders stores or any other national outlets in Hernando County. People who once shopped at the big book chains, Wharton said, may now be coming to shops like hers because of the discounts.
Still, Wharton said, she is sad to see Borders close.
"There has always been a place for them," she said. "The economy, I think, is just killing everybody. I certainly hate to see them go."
Wharton is also concerned that fewer people seem to be reading these days.
Maria Male-Basile, who manages Inner Peace Bookstore and Wellness Center on W Jefferson Street in Brooksville, has seen the same decline, noting that business lately had been slow.
"It may be because people buy the books they can download," Male-Basile said, "but I like to have a book in my hand."