Sunday, December 20, 2009

Read Street: A blog for a community of readers, in Baltimore and beyond.
The Baltimore Sun, December 17, 2009
Letter to Santa: Help independent bookstores

Left - Santa claus

Author Gail Farrelly's Christmas list includes an unusual plea to St. Nick. With the help of the National Security Agency, we intercepted her message, and share it with you:

Dear Santa, all during 2009 I've been nice (okay, okay, I was a little naughty, but only once or twice!), and now I have a very special request. Can you figure out a way to save independent bookstores? More and more of them are closing, and it's very scary.

Do you have a favorite indie at the North Pole, Santa? I hope you do, because a bookstore like that is a fabulous place to be -- surrounded by books and book lovers -- on a cold, snowy day.

I recently had a wonderful evening at a book signing in New York City at Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers in Greenwich Village. Great book, terrific food supplied by the author, an interesting blend of people. Civilization at its best. And Santa, since you travel around the world, you may want to come to New York and attend one of the live, old-time mystery radio plays at Partners & Crime. You will love the plots, actors, organist and sound effects. Admission to the plays is reasonable, and they transport you back to another time and place. Finding a parking place for a car is hard in the Village. But for a sleigh and reindeer, any rooftop should do it.

But you know, Santa, with the growth of e-books and increased competition from chain bookstores and chain superstores, how many of the indies will be able to survive? It's something we should all be thinking about. We are letting a good part of our book culture go down the drain. Are we nuts?

Maybe you could help develop better marketing plans and strategies for the indies. Or how about a more direct approach. Santa, you could label as "naughty" any reader who buys a lot of books, but never from the indies. Maybe a big lump of coal in their Christmas stockings would convince them of the error of their ways.

I'm asking a lot. Saving the indies is a big challenge, I know. But Santa, for someone like you who is able to circle the globe in one night to bring gifts to all the good little boys and girls in the world, this should be a piece of cake. We look to you for a miracle. A lot of us are no longer little, but we are good and deserve a gift: the indies 4EVA!

Get to work on it, please. Pronto. Oh and yes, Merry Christmas!
Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


Thank you Gail, we need it! Quite often folks forget that the local small businesses are the ones that a) pay state sales tax which goes to local schools and fire & police, b) take out ads in local schools' athletic programs so the sports are sponsored, and c) spread around our own money locally by hiring local people. [Though, now that I think about it, I'm paying the local church carollers this weekend in candy canes and tea/cocoa.]

I hope Santa is good to ALL of us this season!

Posted by: Lauretta(ConstellationBooks) | December 17, 2009 12:21 PM

Thank you, Gail, for your kind words and lofty wish! Independent Booksellers are a hardy breed but we need all of the support from our communities - readers, authors and publishers - that we can get! Merry Christmas everyone - books make great presents!

Best to all,
Partners & Crime

Posted by: Kizmin (Partners & Crime) | December 17, 2009 12:59 PM

My favorite independent bookstore in Chicago, where I once lived, was Stuart Brent on Michigan Avenue. It was a frequent lunchtime or after-work stop. The books Stuart and his associates displayed/suggested on tables broadened my reading lists. Of course, sadly, that institution of literary depth got pushed out by megastores (after a valiant fighting stand) and closed. Yet I still remember wonderful conversations I had with Stuart Brent. (I was in my 20s, pulling Proust's Remembrance of Things Past from the shelf, and he advised me to wait until my 50s to read it ... to appreciate it more.) Many of the indies where I now live have closed. But I find similar joy in the used & rare bookstores in town, where I get the indie experience. I fear for their demise, like the indies, because of the Google online project and ebooks. In the future, we may need to write to Santa about them, too. (I hope not.)

Posted by: Kassie | December 18, 2009 8:20 AM

Dear Gail,
Do not be disheartened. No, printed books, small publishers, and independent bookstores will not disappear. Yes, the context and the contingencies will change; maybe, even for the better. The "big-box" stores may compete against each other to the point of extinction. Readers will use e-books to complement their printed versions, so they can read wherever and whenever they wish. Buyers might have to pay more, so good but little-known authors can earn a living; after all, it is they who create the stuff without which nothing else in publishing would exist. New, small publishers will arise, offering a wider selection of previously ignored or censored categories of writing. There can be a better tomorrow.

Posted by: Lorelei Kilbourne | December 18, 2009 10:00 AM

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