While the new store owners may be sensing opportunity, it’s a competitive market. From 1993 to 2003, the total retail square footage devoted to books quadrupled with rollout of the major chain stores as well as expansion of book sections in supermarkets, Teicher said. In the San Fernando Valley, the number of Yellow Page listings for bookstores actually increased from 1996 to this year. But a couple of stalwarts have shut down: Dutton’s Books in North Hollywood and Green Ginger Book Shop in Canoga Park. At The Bookhouse in Northridge, the staff is still chatting with customers about everything from silver chopsticks to painting. Owner Barbara Lyons likes to keep a clean shop. The painted concrete floor is regularly swept by a cleaning service, and used books are cleaned with Windex before being put on the shelf. The store is not a main source of income for Lyons’ family, but running the shop was part of her retirement plans. She’s not so sure anymore. “We’re squeaking (by) right now,” she said. Dave Dutton, 70, former owner of Dutton’s Books in North Hollywood, is retiring to Washington state. Dutton and his wife fly north this week, and he is using a 30-foot truck to haul the more than 50,000 books he’s taking with him. It might take more than one trip, he said. Dutton has a long view of the book business now, the one that has allowed him adventures such as discovering books from the 17th and 18th centuries at an estate sale or owning a signed John Steinbeck volume. “The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn’t like business, didn’t admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise,” he said. “It’s a wonderful business. You’re not taking advantage of anyone; you’re improving your neighborhood,” he said. “That’s not possible anymore because it’s impossible for a small bookstore. You can’t have the huge numbers and quantities that the chains carry, or in any way compete with Amazon.” [email protected] (661) 257-5253 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! A basket of free lemons sits by the front counter at The Bookhouse, next to a scale that employees use to weigh books going out by mail. King didn’t know how to turn on a computer when she first started at the store, but she has since learned to expertly navigate Internet sales. At the Paperback Emporium in Canyon Country, co-owner Jane Kopecki, 58, said the Internet has barely affected sales, perhaps because customers prefer to buy paperbacks at a store. The Soledad Canyon store offers used paperbacks and will trade with readers but not purchase from them. Stores that sold used hardbacks in the area are no longer in business, Kopecki said. “I hope we have it for a good (many) more years,” she said. “Rent is the biggest killer for bookstores.” Nationwide, 200 independent bookstores have closed each year for nearly the past 20 years, said Oren Teicher, chief operating officer for the New York-based American Booksellers Association. Almost no stores opened during that time period, but that changed in the past two years with 100 stores opening each year, he said. Once a refuge for the retired book lover and the idealist escaping the corporate world, owning an independent bookstore has become an increasingly competitive enterprise. The growth in the Internet book trade and an explosion of retail space devoted to books has made buying a tome more convenient than ever. It has also made it harder for independent bookstores to survive. And like the major retailers, many independents have had to build an online presence or perish. “When you can buy your books online for $1, it makes it very tough to keep your doors open,” said Val King, 75, who works at The Bookhouse in Northridge.