David vs. Goliath

Harvard Book Store vs. Amazon
DAV18 harvard book store

The challenge: Maintaining an old-fashioned bookstore against the onslaught of online sellers.

What he did: Former tech executive Jeff Mayersohn, 62, helped create technology to build the Internet, but he's still a die-hard fan of printed books. In 2008 he bought the iconic Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., and resolved to beat the big online retailers at their own game. He bought a printing press about the size of a Smart Car that could produce any one of millions of titles within minutes -- effectively expanding inventory without using precious shelf space. His theory: "Digitization, rather than being the death knell for the corner brick-and-mortar store, could be its salvation." He also introduced local bicycle messengers who can deliver books faster than Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500) can ship them. Sales rose by more than 10% in the past year. Not bad for a dying industry.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated February 28 2013 10:44 AM ET
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