Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore.

Via on Mar 3, 2011

Mindful Consumerism of the Day: Read a Book you buy in an Independent Bookstore.

Independent Bookstores: out of business within 5 years.

Do we want our children to grow up in a world without bookstores?

I talked with my lifelong Buddhist friend David Bolduc, founder of the Boulder Bookstore. The Boulder Bookstore is one of those Hollywood-movie-ready independent bookstores we all love to love, but generally, these days, fail to “support.”

When’s the last time I bought a book there? A year ago? I’ve probably bought a few magazines, too, in that time. But three or four purchases over 12 months does not a viable retail business make.

I put “support” in quotes, because we used to call it “shop at.” Now, these days, I do most of my reading online—and my hour at night reading (I have a sizable library left over from my booknerd youth) has been replaced by working on my laptop, and netflix streaming. I probably read a book a year (for pleasure, that is), just so I can remember what it feels like to be unplugged and relaxed up on a couch with tea, my dog and I curled beneath the warm light of a lamp.

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And those of us who do buy books have the insulting audacity to walk into bookstores around the country, browse, enjoy the expensive retail space, and…then scan the barcode and buy online at Amazon or somesuch at 30% off the cover price. It’s akin to shoplifting—like walking into a cafe or restaurant with your own coffee or lunch so you can use the free wifi/enjoy the ambiance.

Here’s what David said: in five years, he’d have to close up shop if something doesn’t change.

And the Boulder Bookstore’s among the top 10 strongest independent bookstores in the country, with a populace that talks the talk about why it’s better business to shop local. Knowing David as I do, I asked him, “Are you being doom n’gloom, or serious?” Serious, he assured me, and asked me when I’d last bought something in the bookstore.

So here’s the deal: bookstores will have to evolve. Sell book packages (and coursepacks to students) at a discount. Like, right now, I’m taking a Buddhist class at my local Shambhala Center. There’s probably 12 books involved. Package ‘em all together, sell ‘em at a bulk discount, I’d buy them digitally or physically, and a cut goes to the Bookstore. This would work great for book clubs, I’d think, too. Hopefully Steve Jobs in all his brilliance will take a moment to save the bookstores he and Amazon are so successfully putting out of business.

Bookstores will have to message: support local, independent. Or they’ll meet the fate of even such gargantuan corps as Borders, which recently bankrupted. My fave bookstore/cafe in the world, Trident Café & Booksellers, supports its used bookstore with its cafe profits—it’s been years since the bookstore held its own (and I’m writing this at Café Aion, named after the former used bookstore that used to occupy the premises). I talked with the huge, successful, diversified CU Bookstore, and they said their non-textbook, general interest book section is 1/4 the size it used to be only a few years ago.

But, for now, there’s one easy way to protect these bastions of community, knowledge and fun: go buy an effing book and read it and talk about it and pass it on or lend it out, as humans have been doing for generations upon generations. If it’s eco-printed, all the better. I’m gonna go down and buy me a Tintin, or the Mark Twain bio within 48 hours of writing this. That’s my vow. You?

Or maybe I’ll just buy whatever happens to catch my eye. For that’s the magic of the Bookstore: unlike the Kindle, it introduces you to reading outside of your existing envelope. It opens and lights us up, anew.

About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom

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14 Responses to “Buy a Book, Save a Bookstore.”

  1. Stressless says:

    I know intellectually I want to do the 'right' thing. And yet as a single parent I have a hard time making time for my yoga, meditation, breathing, dinner, homework with the boys.. reading time for them and myself…. let alone going to the independent bookstore, having a coffee, buying a book THEN coming home and reading… those were the days when I was single ME. My Christmas Kindle has been amazing.. and I know the bookstores are rare and a lovely experience. Moderation for me.. I buy locally for certain books but have to admit most of my recent purchases have been on my Kindle.. for ease, and practicality. Our world is changing and we may have to learn more about "letting go" of the old rather than preserving the old. But i hear ya!! Love all your articles on Elephant!

  2. joshua says:

    I love the BBS, but I really don't think the future of knowledge and enjoyment reading will be found at bookstores…plus we need to move away from physical print….its just more landfill…but who the hell knows….

    • djh2 says:

      Aren't all of the kindles going to end up as e-waste at some point, as well? And they are far less biodegradable and eco-friendly than a book.

  3. Sean Conley Sean Conley says:

    Amen to this! just drove by a closing Borders. the collapsing of the book industry is sad to say the least. wish we had some independents here in Pittsburgh. the bricks and mortars will be officially gone in a few weeks in the Burgh. here's hoping one springs forth soon to fill the void for us bookies

  4. Colin Wiseman Colin Wiseman says:

    I do like reading on my iPad. I find it much easier to use when sitting on public transport. I like a book on a shelf. It looks nice. But I cannot be gung ho about buying books in print. I understand the evolution of print…it will be mostly digital in 5-10 years. Kids these days a the ones that are the future of the bookstore, so maybe the digital medium needs to be rethinked. Walk into a book shop, browse a selection of books in hard copy, but walk over to a counter to buy the digital version, and go and buy coffee to read it…you might save a couple of trees along the way from the mass of books that get printed and destroyed as no one buys them.

    • Waylon Lewis says:

      I'm with you on saving paper—as you know gave up 3 years of life, nearly lost home taking my 6 year old magazine online, lost all profits and staff and business. That said, I llooooove bookstores–and books if from FSC paper and distributed and returned responsibly are not nearly so eco-inefficient.

      Yours,

      Way

      • Colin Wiseman colinwiseman says:

        So it's not really the book you are concerned about…it's more the book store itself? Which I get! I love the quietness of it, the comfortness of it, the world is a million miles away when you are in an small book store. I used to lose myself for hours just looking at the spines, picking the odd one up! Ah they were good days.

  5. sarasvati3 says:

    Awesome! I'm totally going to do this! There is an independent bookstore in my city not far from where I volunteer every week. I'm buying something there on Saturday!

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  7. Jaeryn says:

    I don’t have an independent local bookstore near me anymore. The last one we had closed last year. Another impact of it closing people don’t realize- that store was the only local business that would allow the shelter to bring dogs available for adoption. It was usually the only way senior dogs got adopted. Now its gone.
    Since I don’t have local- I go to Borders and only Borders. I was a Borders employee for 5 years and lost my job when our location closed.

  8. Jennifer says:

    For me, I've moved to buying most of my books used. I think a lot of people have. Online gives you a better ability to find specific used titles, especially with Amazon or Google Stores search. Part of this is cost, as well as the idea of "Reduce, reuse, recycle." Honestly I don't too often go into Bookstores anymore unless they have other things I'm interested in. So I think that is something that bookstores will need to think about. Diversifying so to be competitive. Offer used titles. Have classes to draw people in. Etc. It's not a lost cause by any means. It's just a new and different world… and like with anything, sometimes you have to evolve to survive.

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