Monday, October 09, 2006

It's hard out there for a book store

Do you buy books? Seems like a simple question, but it's one I've asked myself recently. For a few years I only worked part-time-making only enough to cover my bills-and I didn't buy books (I made great use of my local library). I'm working full-time again, but still when I go into the book store it's hard to feel compelled to plunk down close to $30 on a hardback book. (And I'm a writer!) I got out of the habit, so I'm teaching myself to buy books again. I love Amazon, and I do buy from them. But I'm also trying to support my local book stores. I hope you will too. They need us. From an AP wire story this morning, "Indie Bookstores Fight Chains, Internet:"

Gary Kleiman, who owns BookBeat in the northern California community of Fairfax, decided the way to do it [stay in business] was to get rid of the clutter and make his store a gathering place.

"We had 10,000 or 13,000 books in the store," said Kleiman. "Now we have maybe 1,500."
Last fall, Kleiman gave all but a handful of his used books to charity. Then he tore down shelves and in their place put tables and chairs and a small stage for live performances. He started offering free wireless Internet access. And to help convince people to take advantage of it all he got a beer and wine license.

As for the books, most of the ones left are new and they're confined to the perimeter walls. While he's selling about the same number of books as he used to, new books are selling better. And his store has a lot more customers - eating, drinking and listening to music - than he did before. About 60 percent of the store's profits come from the cafe.

I applaud this guy for knowing how to keep his business alive, but it seems sad when books get pushed to the perimeter of a book store. My husband is a musician and it makes me think about the clubs he plays jazz in. The audience barely listens. They're there to party and be with their friends. The music is part of the ambiance, like candlelight, like wallpaper. Are books headed in the same direction?

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