Ingram selects what he believes to be the "Best Book of the Year" in some twenty categories, packs up dozens of copies of each, and hauls them to a local church for his "Ministry of Books" event. Ingram has created a new context for book lovers to congregate and for him to make suggestions, and sales. He sells several books at top dollar at the event, that go on to sell hundreds of copies of titles based on word-of-mouth recommendations coming out of the event. Brilliant.
The small town where I grew up is dying. As Wal-Mart and other big box stores moved in, there was this outcry from local business owners that residents should feel an obligation to shop at their Main Street stores. It is an ignorant point of view to expect people to ignore higher prices, lack of parking, and other inconveniences to support local business. Inflicting a sense of guilt doesn't work. People want value. Value doesn't have to mean discount prices. It can mean service. Hand selling. Community. Independent retailers need to find ways to make themselves valuable to their customers. Prairie Light's "Ministry of Books" is a perfect example.