I’m hearing stirrings and rumblings, far and wide, about ways to fight the constant death blows to indie bookstores.
There’s been a revival in community supported projects on several fronts, like green markets and CSA’s. And now, at Parnassus Books in big city Nashville and Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY, people by the hundreds are buying shares to open – or keep alive – indie bookstores. I bumped into the notion on Utne Reader, which has a great video of a Colbert Report spot on indie bookstores, from an interview with Ann Patchett who started Parnassus. Read the NY Times article about what she’s doing here.
Then there’s the emergence of NYC storefront retailers, a few of them bookstores, as described in a Metrofocus Op-Ed, Occupy Manhattan Storefronts. It appears that chain stores of all kinds are losing ground, and small shops are gaining by connecting with their neighborhoods. Booklovers Fight for Stores Uptown remarks, “Neighborhood bookstores offer a smaller selection of books targeted for a local audience. ‘You don’t get a Washington Heights section from Borders,’ said Veronica Liu, Word Up’s founder.”
I think community interest in neighborhood indies is more than rebellion against (now defunct) Borders and (struggling?) Barnes and Noble, quelled by bloodthirsty Amazon. It’s also dismay, after removing the blinders, about what we’ve lost. A bit of guilt about our own passive complicity. And a few smart people who are taking it upon themselves to do something about the mess.
The other day I was eating breakfast with my writing group at a local village restaurant, and noticed a change in a storefront window across the street. Oh yeah, said my friend Judy. There’s a new bookstore coming to town.
She’s the mayor’s wife, so she ought to know. The occasion clearly called for strapping on my tap shoes, but in deference to fellow diners I let out a ladylike whoop. We turned to stare in open-mouthed wonder, then one by one we turned back to our pancakes and shared remembrances of the bookstores that failed to thrive in our charming downtown.
This time will be different. If our glorious new shop starts to go under, I’ll be pulling people in off the streets to sign up for shares.