Requiem For A Bookstore

Requiem For A Bookstore

Our county (Palm Beach County, Florida) is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island in land mass (as well as in population, I’m sure). Yet in so large an area as that, there are only two indie bookstores—and one of them is about to close.

I read the “advance obituary” for The Book Cellar in PW DAILY, which I receive online every Monday through Friday. The store will permanently shut its doors at the end of this month—just two weeks from now.

Authors published by indie publishers, especially (but not solely) the so-called “boutique” publishers, as well as self-published authors, don’t usually get their books sold in Barnes & Noble. This leaves B&N understandably uninterested in hosting these authors for book-readings and -signings. Indie bookstores are usually more welcoming. But they are so few and far between.

And now we’ve lost another one.

The opportunities for book- readings/signings outside of bookstores are limited. I know one author who held a reading/signing in a bakery, but how many bakeries have seating space enough to accommodate a decent-size audience? And then, because any such alternative venues are not bookstores, they don’t order copies of the books themselves. Instead, the authors have to guesstimate how many people will show up, and then buy copies of their own books in advance. Buy too few and you don’t maximize your potential; buy too many and you’re stuck with an inventory you might not unload and an expense you might not recover. It’s a risky proposition either way.

So if you’re an author who either is published by a small indie publisher or is self-published, an indie bookstore is the best place to hold a reading/signing. But, one by one, indie bookstores are vanishing, challenged by the twin demons of B&N and Amazon. Indeed, Amazon is having a deleterious effect even on B&N, whose sales have declined markedly.

Now, I am not one to decry Amazon. I think Amazon is a great convenience to have. Whether health issues preclude your getting out much, or you’re a mother with young kids who are a handful to bring along with you on a shopping expedition, or you live in a remote area where there are no bookstores of any kind nearby…or if you are trying to get through the coronavirus pandemic with a minimum of visits to public places, including bookstores…being able to order books from Amazon is a godsend. And it’s certainly preferable to not reading.

But most good things have a downside, and Amazon is no exception. It is a major contributory factor in what is driving indie bookstores out of business.

Farewell, Book Cellar. I enjoyed the two readings/signings I held there, and I was looking forward to another in the near future. Now it won’t happen. We will miss you.

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