Last year one of the bookstores in my hometown, a lovely place called Bookends, closed its doors. The store had been operating since before I moved here 22 years ago, and I used to frequent it on visits even then. Bookends was a community-run business. The owners knew and loved books. They always had a kind word, as well as spot-on recommendation for a gift book or new series for my daughter. They supported local writers by carrying their books and hosting events on the downtown plaza. They were “people just like me and you,” as folksinger John McCutcheon sings in Closing the Bookstore Down.
Although the store has been gone many months, I haven’t really grown used to Bookends leaving town.
Our surviving bookstore, Readers Books, carries on. It, too, is a lovely place, run by people just like me and you. They support local writers. They carry our books, as well as the books of best-selling authors like Susan Orlean and Cheryl Strayed and John McPhee and Michael Chabon. And they know and support writers I’ve never heard of but love discovering there.
I’m glad Readers Books is still here–in fact, it’s miraculous given the competition of e-commerce–while I miss the bookend-y feel of having more than one independent bookstore to browse right in our town. In a place like Sonoma, with sophisticated readers of various stripe, two or more bookstores did not seem like too much.
Jennifer, owner of Bookends with her husband Jeff, told me it was the e-book that put them out of business. They’d weathered the pressure of competing with online sales–which they could barely hold their own against–but with the coming of the e-book, which so vastly undercuts print-book prices, they were finished.
Therefore I’m grateful that this Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m., Readers Books is hosting a book party for my novel, Junction, Utah, which is so far only out in e-book format. Owners Andy and Lilla Weinberger and I are experimenting with a community-supported launch. Party-goers will be asked to give a small donation to support both the bookstore and the Sonoma Ecology Center, an environmental nonprofit, also a venerable community institution. For entertainment, I’ll read from the novel and Sonoma’s new band Bosonoma will play.
We’ll celebrate independent bookstores, community organizations, small towns, and locally sourced writing! We won’t forget Bookends as we celebrate.
Selling e-books. With the indies.