Friday, September 05, 2008

The Unhappy Bookseller

I am terribly saddened today to see the news about The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, SC closing. And I must say, watching independent bookstores closing more and more these days, I'm sickened by it. What can be done?

Growing up on Hilton Head Island, my mother would listen to Radio Reader. We listened to many books that way, thirty minutes at a time. We'd arrive to wherever we were going and sit in the car until Dick Estelle had finished his last sentence. That show was sponsored in part by The Happy Bookseller. That was twenty-five years ago.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of signing books at the Happy Bookseller for the first time and meeting the Graves who own the store now. We talked about how tough things had gotten in the book business this year with the economy as challenging as it has been. I had no idea the store was actually going to close. Until today.

Last month, Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, GA held an emergency fund-raiser in order to try and stay afloat. It worked...for the short term. Please, won't somebody help protect these mom and pop stores where people actually know your name and know what you like to read? Something's got to happen. I don't have the answers.

I'll admit, my local Barnes and Noble has that small town feel where they do know my name. Many of us go to bookstore chains for price or convenience. But what will happen when the local independent bookstores go away...the ones that support local literacy efforts and local authors, and the people who know your name and what you love to read have left to find more "stable" jobs?

I want your comments on this. Do you have a favorite independent bookstore? If so, which one is it? Why do you love the store? What can independent bookstores do to stay afloat in this world of chains and mass markets books in grocery stores???

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