Thursday, January 7, 2016

Independent Bookstores - Encouraging News (with one local glitch)

Ann Patchett bought an independent bookstore in Nashville, TN with a partner back in 2011.  She reports on its progress 4 years later.  She not only is planning a major expansion, but she also gives us a very positive outlook on independent bookstores in general.  Here's what she has to say:  

Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores

Despite Amazon and e-readers, customers are embracing their community stores
When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville a little over four years ago, I repeatedly said that we were part of a trend. The small independent bookstore, long ago beaten down by Borders and Barnes & Noble, then repeatedly kicked by Amazon, was rising up from the ashes. People were tired of pointing and clicking. People were tired of screens in general. They no longer wanted one store that promised them everything but instead were longing for a store that sold good books, had a staff of smart readers, a thriving children’s section and maybe a couple of shop dogs. That is what we were offering.

I don’t know if I’m prophetic or just lucky, but what was at the time not much more than wishful thinking has turned out to be true. New stores are opening; old stores are branching out into new locations. In Nashville, we’re not only doubling our size in 2016, we’ve bought a mobile book van. Booksellers are, generally speaking, a cautious group when it comes to voicing optimism, but I sense a cultural shift coming on: Books and bookstores and reading are the wave of the future.

I don’t credit the booksellers for this change. In my extensive experience with booksellers, they’ve always been a hardworking, innovative bunch of passionate readers w ho were in this business for love. I credit the customers, who seem to be collectively waking up to the fact that they are in charge of what businesses fail and succeed based on where they spend their money. If you like your bookstore and want it to stay in your community, then you have to buy your books there, in the same way you must buy your hammer from the guy at the hardware store who always gives you good advice.

I also credit the authors who keep people passionate about reading. This is going to be a fabulous year for books. In 2016, Elizabeth Strout has her best novel yet coming out, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and I can’t wait to sell the late Paul Kalanithi’s gorgeous “When Breath Becomes Air,” and just when you think Louise Erdrich can’t get any better, she goes and writes “LaRose.” Go to your local independent bookstore this year and buy a copy. You’ll be part of the trend.

On the flip side is some disappointing news.  Black Oak Books in Berkeley, after 33 years, is closing down.  If you click on the link, you can get the details.
Black Oak Books, which has had a presence in Berkeley for 33 years, is...


  1. We had one independent bookstore that was doing well and now a new, fancier one has opened and, while I love both of them, I don't want the first one to close so I continue to support it. I'm not sure this area is large enough to support 2 stores.

    1. We've definitely had some closures in the Bay Area. But it appears that the majority of them are doing okay. It's really a bummer when an indie closes.