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Books and beer could be winning combo

The recent announcement that Atomic Books will expand and make beer available at special events is an intriguing -- and promising -- development for all indie bookstores.

We've all seen how hard it is for the small stores to compete these days. They've been hammered on all sides -- by giant Barnes & Noble, by discounters such as Walmart, and more recently by the growth of ebooks. It takes a lot of imaginative marketing -- and a fair share of good fortune -- to survive.

That's why the Atomic Books expansion in Hampden is so interesting. The store will continue to carry music while focusing on a literary niche that includes graphic novels and small press literary fiction. It's also adding a "bottle shop where we'll be carrying our own Atomic Books beer as well as a selection of bottles related to music, comics and literature."

The store's move mirrors attempts by other cultural institutions to add food and drink, creating a party atmosphere -- and a new revenue stream. For example, the new Everyman Theatre on W. Fayette Street partnered with a gourmet food truck to provide table service in the lobby before shows, and added a bar with wine, beer and cocktails. Movie theaters have become more sophisticated as well; for example, the Landmark Theatres in Harbor East has a chic bar to supplement traditional offerings such as popcorn and Sno Caps.

Beer may not guarantee every bookstore's financial health, but it's worth a try. For me, you can serve up a cold mug of Tell Tale Hearty Ale.

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