Small bookseller finds children’s niche on Web

Cherry Valley Books Owner Marilyn Walker, who operates her business from her Boulder home, now offers a list of 2,000 parenting and children’s books from her Web site, www.cherryvalleybooks.com.

From Japanese adults who want to learn English by reading children’s books, to rural

Americans looking for parenting books, the on-line Cherry Valley Books offers a fast solution.

The Boulder-based, on-line bookseller started up in November 1996 with a small catalog of 800 parenting and children’s books, said Owner Marilyn Walker. Its list now has expanded to 2,000 premium books.

Walker’s Web site faces such book-selling rivals as amazon.com and Barnes and Noble’s on-line service. But Cherry Valley Books focuses exclusively on the children’s and parenting market and combines reviews and ordering in a single site. (www.cherryvalleybooks.com.)

Two years ago, after getting involved in some parenting groups on the Web, Walker

decided there was a niche for an on-line bookstore focusing on books for parents and kids.

Her endeavor has found customers in surprising places — all over the world. Some customers order from Saudi Arabia and Japan. Others are military people stationed overseas. The strong international interest was a surprise.

“For instance, we sell a lot of parenting books to Australia, which has a more limited

selection than here,” she said.

But most of Walker’s customers are from the United States — about 75 percent. Of those, the great majority live in rural areas and don’t have access to large bookstores, she said.

“We’re offering something they can’t get elsewhere,” she said.

Depending on the distance, books can be delivered within a couple days to a week of

the order, Walker said. Most of Cherry Valley’s premium books are kept in stock.

Currently, the company does about $300 to $500 a day in sales. “Our growth is really

high,” Walker said.

A parent herself, Walker has a 5-year-old son. Along with her bookstore venture, she

has served on the University of Colorado faculty for 10 years and is an associate professor in

biology.

Walker said she became interested in parenting and kids’ books when she was pregnant. “I like good information,” she said.

Like many small independent bookstores, Cherry Valley Books provides “handselling,” or recommendations on good books for its customers. Some of the more popular books it sells include: “Good Night, Gorilla,” All the Places to Love, and “Siblings Without Rivalry.”

Walker said her company probably has enjoyed some spillover impact from large on-line

booksellers. She said many of the large booksellers are reportedly operating at a loss on their Internet sales even though on-line services contribute to their brand name recognition.

A company spokesman for Barnes and Noble said the bookseller launched a site on America Online in March and a separate company Web site in May. No sales data has been disclosed, but the company said its Web sites were meeting expectations.

Barnes and Noble has more than 1 million books available on-line. It has a

distribution facility with several hundred thousand books in stock, and the company’s goal is to

fulfill orders by shipping out books the same day orders are received, the spokesman said.

Amazon.com, another Internet bookseller, offers 2.5 million titles through its Web site and promises fast delivery.

Walker said she works closely with cooperatives on the Internet and parenting sites to

market her books.

Starting Feb. 1, Cherry Valley Books will offer British and American children’s and

parenting books. The new service will be available through a cooperative arrangement with Gregory’s Books of Edinburgh, Scotland. Many popular British children’s books are not printed in the United States, and vice versa.

Customers from either country can use the reviews at the site to purchase books published

in their home country or they may combine British and American titles in a single order.

“We put a lot of resources into reviewing and displaying books — our trademark service is

our recommendations,” Walker said. “We’ve purposefully maintained a narrow niche focus in

order to best serve our customers.”