Sunday, December 07, 2008

Don't Destroy Our Culture. Buy a Book.

Quote of the day:"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them." ~Ray Bradbury

Song of the day: How Far We've Come by Matchbox 20

State of mind: In flux.

Date: December 17th, 2008

In many parts of the country the economy really blows. Fat chunks, actually. First the real estate market fell down and broke it's crown and the auto industry came tumbling after, so it's not surprising that the publishing industry has also taken a great fall. As the holidays approached I figured people would take stock and return to the simpler things in life like homemade wooden toys for the kids, baking cookies, and giving books as gifts for their loved ones. However, I was wrong. Books went the way of the seven dollar grande half calf latte with foam on the list of things to cut. And that is unfortunate. I mean, a cup of coffee only last a few hours from sip to drip but a book is forever. (Like diamonds, only with words and a lousy resale value.)

Up until October and November NeilsenScan was reporting that sales for books were up. But the tightening of belts across the nation left so much stock in all the bookstores that the returns effectively nullified any profits most publishing companies had gained up until that point. And because of that many publishing houses are reducing their staff and putting a freeze on acquisitions of new books.

Which is sad because I love books. I think this is what mathmeticians call "a given". Books line my walls, are stacked next to my chair in my living room, and occassionally are piled on my bed- even when I'm sleeping. I love their smell, compact size, the covers, what's inside, everything except the occassional papercut...

But the rumblings that there was trouble in paradise started back in April when the big box book stores that had slain most of the smaller independent bookstores had a new enemy in places like Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and Costco. Suddenly the big stores weren't king of the hill anymore and found themselves on the recieving end of tricks they had used against the independents. Slashed prices and convenience. Who can beat being able to shop in your pajamas and have your choices delivered to your door? Not even Barnes & Noble or Borders with their big comfy chairs and coffee bars with sticky buns or croisants. Or the funky jazz playing over the in store sound system. I'll take PJs over the PA anyday.

What worries me isn't really that Borders or Barnes and Noble might start closing their doors. No. What worries me is that a lousy economy means less choice. It's not really the big bookstores themselves that are in trouble. It's the people that create the stock and those people pay the writers who create the content of that stock. But if they have to cut back on what they publish to ensure profit you know they are going to start choosing works that appeal to the most people. And that means "lowest common denominator". We know what is at the end of this road. Crap. Recycled crap. Bye bye daring new fiction. So long books that challenge the reader to think. They'll be looking for the next Twilight or Dan Brown thriller. Not that I didn't enjoy The Da Vinci Code, but I want more on the shelves then teen angst and mindless pulp to pick from.

So what is a bibliophile to do?

Buy a book. But a few even. Christmas is just around the corner. Need gift ideas? Books. Books make the perfect gift. They come in all shapes and sizes. There is bound to be a volume for every person on your list. Go look! I promise you'll find something that fits even the most particular of your gift giving circle. Plus, they're square and easy to wrap.

Some tips:

If ordering online, try BetterWorld.com. For each book they sell a portion goes to various literacy charities. The shipping cost for any book is just 2.97. They also recycle by accepting books for resale which keeps all of that paper out of the landfills and gives them even more money to donate to their chosen charities.

If buying locally but want to shop an independent store try indiebound.org. There you can enter your zip code and it will give you a list of independent bookstores in your area. Or if you can't get out to the shops but want to support the independents, find their websites and make a purchase online. Most, if they are smart, will fill orders via the world wide web. Like Powell's in Oregon or Changing Hands in Arizona.

Want to make your shopping even easier and judge the books by the cover alone? Here's a list of the best desinged of 2008.

If you are going to use Amazon.com, find a site that you support that has an affiliates store. The price of the book is the same but the site with the store gets a percentage of the sale. (Actually, it's like a percentage of a percentage. But these days, every 1/3 of a penny counts.) If they don't have a book you want in their store, email them and ask them to add it. You get what you need while helping out someone else. Isn't that cool?

And when you are done, list the book(s) here. They are trying to reach 1 million books by January 1st and I can't do it all myself. Although, I'll try. I'm already up by 7 books so far.

Show quote of the day: "Are you asking me to talk to a woman I've already had sex with? That's like changing the oil on a rental car."

6 comments:

JennyLu said...

WOooHoooOo! Job Well done! Thank you so much for posting this!

NYPinTA said...

Sorry it took so long.

LL said...

You should be...

erm... what's a book?

Kathleen said...

I'm with you...a complete book addict. I have piles upon piles of books sitting on the floor in the living room and dining room to say nothing of the bookshelves that are complete full. I just bought a good 6 books a week or so ago and am heading back this week.

Borders was actually an independent bookstore originally in Ann Arbor, Michigan, so I still shop there, although I do understand your point - I've made that same point about independent record stores and not buying CDs at Best Buy (yes, they're cheaper, but that's because they're charging less than they paid for it, how's the independent store supposed to compete with that?).

I think all the independent book stores left around me are used bookstores

Kathleen said...

*sigh*

...completeLY full...

fermicat said...

Ah yes, books! We have a solid wall that is all bookshelves. Both of us are always getting more. I've been buying a mix of new and used. Already gave PDM a list of potential Christmas book gifts.