6 Indie Bookstores to Patronize NOW
A quiet battle between Amazon (the behemoth bookseller) and Hachette (the giant book publisher) has been waging on for years but the lid was blown off this past week by a combination of factors that many observers are predicting will lead to the The War To End All Wars in Bookville.
At the 2014 Book Expo of America (the largest annual book trade fair) in New York City, a few brave authors spoke out against the giant retailer for its strong-arm tactics of notifying customers that pre-orders of books published by Hachette are no longer being accepted. In addition, Amazon notified customers of delays in book shipments and that certain books by authors whose works are published by Hachette are not available, bringing the industry issues to the public’s attention. But, I am getting ahead of myself so let’s take a step back.
In the world of books there are the physical books (which retailers like Amazon purchase from publishers and sell at whatever discounted price they want) and e-books. The dispute is not about the physical books but rather e-books, and specifically, who should control the price of e-books: Hachette or Amazon? In the most simplistic terms, the dispute comes down to profit-sharing: will the greater share go to the author and publishing house or the retailer?
Whether you’re on the side of Amazon or Hachette depends on your view of books. Those who primarily want super cheap books and think that publishing houses have too much power side with Amazon. Those who still want discounted priced books but understand that publishing houses are needed to find and support authors with book advances, and not let Amazon gain a monopoly in the book industry, generally side with Hachette.
Of course, it’s not that simple because neither side is talking publicly right now and we don’t know all the details. What we do know is that many books published by Hachette are either unavailable, offered at the full retail price to discourage readers from buying, or being shipped slowly by Amazon who seems to be bullying Hachette into submission (yes, I am supporting Hachette because I don’t think books are like other consumer products despite what Amazon says). We need independent publishing houses separate from retailers to support and maintain the integrity of writing and for both established and up and coming authors to be able to afford to write.
The readers most affected right now are those who purchase e-books but its unclear how the outcome will affect the sale of physical books if Amazon wins. The giant retailer is just too big, efficient, cheap, and gratifying for the public to turn its back on and yet the publishers are too important to eliminate. In the spirit of supporting Hachette and the rugged commitment of independent bookstores, I’ve compiled a short list (there are probably dozens more) of “indie” bookstores that carry books and e-books published by Hachette:
Powell’s Books: The largest independent new, used and rare bookstore in the world. If you can’t visit one of their six locations including the 68,000 square foot Powell’s City of Books that covers a whole city block in downtown Portland, Oregon where book lovers can spend days (dare I say weeks?), then use their on-line book service that has the entire inventory listed: www.powells.com. Powell’s uses KOBO to sell e-books (4 million titles in 68 languages) at www.powells.com/ebooks.
The Strand: New York City’s legendary home of 2.5 million new, used, and rare books and an institution for book lovers. Use the store website: www.strandbooks.com if you can’t visit the store on Broadway at 12th Street.
R. J. Julia Booksellers: Located on the central eastern coast of Connecticut in Madison, R. J. Julia Booksellers makes up in quality what it lacks in size. Located in two 2-story buildings downtown, the bookstore and its well-read staff attract authors and book lovers to its homey wooden bookshelves, creaky floors, and cafe. Use their on-line service to purchase books: www.rjjulia.com but plan a visit if your travels take you to coastal Connecticut.
Parnassus Books: Located in Nashville, Tennessee (a city becoming more well-known for books and food than country music), Parnassus is co-owned by best-selling author Ann Patchett and publishing veteran Karen Hayes. A book store primarily based on the physical connection between writers and readers and readers and books, Parnassus nevertheless sells e-books through KOBO at www.parnassusbooks.net.
Bookshop Santa Cruz: Local and independent since 1966, this bookshop buys and sells new and used books at their physical site and on-line along with providing access to e-books through KOBO at www.bookshopsantacruz.com.
The Flying Pig Bookstore: Most people visit Shelburne, Vermont to visit the Shelburne Museum or Fort Ticonderoga but I always find my way to The Flying Pig Bookstore, located in a small shopping center in the center of town. My husband discovered this bookstore years ago when our daughter was very young. He would take day trips and drive his Harley through Shelburne and convince his fellow mannish motorcyclists to stop at The Flying Pig Bookstore so he could buy his little girl the newest book recommended by their friendly and well-read staff (picture a group of leather-clad Easy Riders parked outside a charming bookstore causing every mother to hold on to the hand of their child a little tighter). With more than 40,000 books on hand and 2 million books that can be ordered, The Flying Pig Bookstore was voted the best Children’s Bookstore in New England in 2013, a well deserved award. See the bookstore website for more store information: www.flyingpigbooks.com.
So, if that e-book or book by Joshua Ferris, Kate Atkinson, Alice Hoffman, Malcolm Gladwell, J.K. Rowling (or Robert Galbraith), J.D. Salinger or the hundreds (if not thousands) of other authors represented by Hatchette isn’t available or is being delayed by Amazon, consider purchasing it from one of the above independent bookstores or KOBO.