11 January 2011

THE LATEST DEATH IN THE FAMILY

The Mystery Bookstore is closing down on January 31. I am sad, a little angry (with nowhere reasonable to direct it) and not, unfortunately, terribly surprised. These are bad times for brick and mortar bookstores and they are only going to get worse.

For an author, even (maybe especially) a non-bestselling author such as myself, The Mystery Bookstore has been a source of tremendous support, comfort, knowledge, inspiration even and most importantly of all friendship. The first time I ever walked in there and saw my own book on a display table, I got teary eyed. Every time I've ever been in there I stayed longer (and bought more books) than I intended because I was enjoying myself so much talking with the staff and customers and browsing books.

But all that and five bucks will buy you the Kindle edition of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at Amazon.

I love books, I always have. My first job was in a bookstore - Book Bargain Center - which, coincidentally, was right across the street from The Mystery Bookstore. (It closed down long before The Mystery Bookstore opened.) Here in my office most of the wall space and too much floor space is taken up with books in shelves and piles. Most of the books in my to-be-read pile came from The Mystery Bookstore.

But I've also got a number of to-be-read titles waiting for me on my Kindle. When I recently took a 12 day trip to Turkey, I read four books on the trip. Three of them are still in hardcover. I was glad not to have to pack them in my suitcase.

Sometime soon I'll be announcing the e-book availability of all of my books. I've got nice new covers for them, they've been well formatted and they'll be cheaper than the ink and paper editions. Hopefully more people will read my books and I will make some money from them because of that. But I feel a little bad about it, too.

I wish I could see some way that brick and mortar bookstores are going to survive, other than as niche businesses for collectors - much like art galleries - but I don't. Maybe a few will if bookselling is just a small part of their business, like Wal-Mart or perhaps some coffeehouses that also happen to sell books on the side.

And that's really sad, as is the demise and/or decline of record/CD shops and newspapers and magazines. But it is inevitable as technology and markets roll on.

I can't fight the modern world and don't even really want to. New technologies and new markets are good things. In the publishing world it means that eventually more people all over the world will have more access to books for less money than before. It's hard to argue with that. And even for us authors the changes in the publishing business are likely to create all kinds of new opportunities sooner or later - though this sorting out period is looking kind of rough. In the long run, though, I'm optimistic about books and publishing and people's reading.

But in spite of my optimism, today I'm sad. Very sad. A future without The Mystery Bookstore is a future that I am not at all happy about.

1 comment:

Kurt Taylor said...

Independent bookstores are something I grew up in, thanks to my dad.
There are a few left, and I try and buy many of my books at these fine shops.
Keep indie bookstores alive!