Town Square

Independent bookstores fight for survival

Original post made by JB, another community, on Oct 1, 2006

Last Saturday night (9/30/06) I saw the film "Indies Under Fire" at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church theater in back of Ace Hardware in downtown Menlo Park. This well scripted and filmed documentary, directed by Jacob Bricca, gives you an intimate view of the plight of the indepepndant bookstore.

The bookstores they reviewed, including the former Printers Inc. in Palo Alto, had a common thread. All were owned by booklovers and have been around for years.

One young woman said, "I grew up in this bookstore."

Of the stores the film covered, not all were still around at the release of the film.

With the deep discounts offered only to the big chains, along with agressive marketing plans provided by the major publishing houses, I am amazed these independants survive at all.

The independant bookstore has always been a wonderland for me. I always come out with books I never thought I would read and felt like I had just struck gold.

That's not to say that the chains are bad guys. They are always well lighted, clean with an accommodating staff and excellent staging on the sales floor with the bestsellers up front.

I vote with my bucks. I know that if I purchase from my local independant I'm putting more money back into my community. Amazon is quick, painless and fast but nothing comes back to my hometown. So you don't pay sales tax, is that the breaking point? And the chains, by the time they post their sales it's less back into the community because all their supplies and services comes from corporate.

There are approximately 3,000 independants nationwide and I wonder why they haven't banded together to flex some buying power? Better still, why haven't they created some type of publishing co-op that could bring more titles to their bookshelves?

Hearing that the big publishing houses take their picks and run them by the big chains for their opinion smacks of a popularity vote and not a literary assessment.

Kepler's runs a terrific membership program that offers some specials and gifts. I would pay the membership without the deals as my way of saying, "I want you around for myself and the next generartion." Ambitious, yes but I will keep voting with my bucks.