Friday, October 17, 2008

"Paperback Dreams" And The Need To Support Independent Bookstores

As followers of this blog know, I am an avid book collector and the entirety of my browsing and shopping takes place at used and/or independent bookstores, be they in San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, or Portland.
Given this hobby and the joy I derive from it, I, of course, have a strong allegiance to these stores and do my best to support them. In that vein, The Jess and I watched an amazing and unsettling program on PBS this morning entitled "Paperback Dreams." This program focused on two important and vibrant stores in the Bay Area: Cody's Books in Berkeley and Kepler's Books in Menlo Park.
The journey of these stores, the influence they and other similar stores have in our communities, and the significant chance (or reality) of them failing were explored in a fascinating and telling fashion. You can buy the DVD or click here to find out when it's on your local PBS network.
I've written about this subject before, but was spurred to bring it up again by the facts brought up in this program. These stores are a vital part of our communities, and when they're gone, they stay gone. They face tremendous pressure from many sides, but mostly from the sterile and soulless chain bookstores (Barnes and Noble, Borders) as well as big-box stores (Target, Costco, Walmart) that carry new releases right next to the lawn furniture.
Now more than ever these independent bookstores need our support. In tough economic times, we all need to make careful and considered decisions on where our money goes. So what's the difference when you shop at an independent store? The wonderful website spells it out, as well as allowing you to find local stores in your community.
"When you shop at an independently-owned business, your entire community benefits:
The Economy
  • Spend $100 at a local and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community--where they belong
The Environment
  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
The Community
  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors—support them and they’ll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents means more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community"
I simply ask that when you and your friends are going book shopping, make the choice to shop at your local independent store. Chances are, they'll have or be able to order what you're looking for, and when you're there, you will be helped by any number of really bright and engaging people who share your interests and can make great recommendations.
If you want to shop online, don't just leap to Amazon, as most independent stores have their entire stock easily searchable and available. The best example is the wondrous Powell's Books in Portland, which has everything and will deliver virtually anywhere. You can even use Amazon and still support independent bookstores. Simply select your book and click on the "used and new" link in the center of the page. This gives you access to a host of private sellers that you can support with your purchase.
Spending money is a conscious act, so we have a responsibility to be conscious of where our money is going when we spend it. That said, here are some links to independent stores throughout California. Please feel free to send me other stores via comment and forward this post to anyone you think may be interested.
San Diego
Adams Avenue Bookstore
Wahrenbrocks Book House
Santa Rosa
Copperfields Books
Treehorn Books
San Francisco
Green Apple Books
Cody's Books. I include this link to remind us how much of a loss it is when one of these stores closes. Cody's fed minds for 52 years and now it's gone for good.
Menlo Park (near Stanford University)
Kepler's Books
Los Angeles
Angel City Books


Anonymous said...

Santa Barbara, CA
Chaucer's Books
3321 State Street
34 years old generatl independent bookstore in over 7000 square feet

woman owned small business

Anonymous said...

addition to last comment


Mark said...

Another in Northern California is Book Passage ( in Corte Madeira. Great books and great speakers including Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Mohamed Yunus (2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner), Paul Krugman (2008 Nobel Prize for Economics)

amalthea said...

Thank you for this Mark! Independently owned businesses everywhere are suffering in this economy (as if it isn't difficult enough to make it in the best of situations). Our favorite book stores, flower shops, stationary stores, grocers, restaurants, clothing boutiques, coffee shops will not survive without us making the conscious decision to think local first.

Anonymous said...

Mark , I didn't realize Cody's had closed. I have my Cody's bookbag from a trip there when I was working one summer in San Francisco.

I was introduced to Keplers by a six year old who took me on a tour of the store years and years ago. Sadly I have not been back in almost as many years. I do spend time at Camelot Used Books in Fountain Valley California. It's a great used bookstore.
Susan Sweet