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most of my reading online—and my hour at night reading (I have a sizable library left over from my booknerd youth) has been replaced by working on my laptop, and netflix streaming.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.
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.