More than a gift shop, actually. Also a private lending library. For a pittance per day you could “rent” a book. I was too young, but my mother wasn’t, and I would accompany her as she perused the stock. It was my introduction to independent book stores.
I hated going to that shop. The books weren’t for kids and the gift portion of the shop was boring. What did I care about a tiny porcelain figurine I’d probably break anyway? It was the last time I eschewed independent book stores.
Because I came to love them. A little like libraries, except when you check a book out you get to keep it.
I’ve frequented huge ones in New York and stalls along the Seine. In Boston there was one devoted exclusively to mysteries. I bought a signed copy there of one of Robert Parker’s works. The proprietor was interested in my expressed desire to write mysteries; told me to contact her when I had one ready and she might be able to help.
Some independents are crowded with aisle after aisle of overstuffed unordered shelves in which finding a specific work is difficult if not impossible. Except the owner somehow knows the name and location of every book there.
Others offer less variety but provide niches for reading, and, more recently, Wi-Fi use.
All offer the joy of browsing. Many strive to stock books outside the norms of popular demand.
It has been a tough time for independent book stores. The first blow was the big box versions that included Borders and Barnes & Noble. Their massive networks of stores undercut pricing of the independents and many of the latter fell by the wayside. Then the second jolt came. Online sales where price cuts went even further. It must be hard to survive when potential customers can purchase virtually any book at a great price while sitting comfortably at home. I find it ironic that Borders, which contributed to the first wave, in turn fell to the second. Barnes & Noble still survives, but it’s not the same. The music selection is depleted, and large areas make me think of Toys R Us, itself a victim of the times.
My first book signing was at an independent store. The store eventually failed, but I don’t think its demise can be 100% attributed to the pressure of the mighty. It had a loyal clientele from the gay community, stocked interesting books, and provided a lovely setting for their perusal. Then it was bought by someone who wanted to change both the content and clientele. Not surprisingly, the store was no more after a couple of years.
I placed books in three independents.
One was dedicated largely but not exclusively to new age messages. While When Your Lover Dies in no way fits this designation, I felt it might appeal to the store’s customers. The proprietor seemed delighted to get a couple of copies. I never heard from her and eventually the store went out of business.
Some of my other books went to a store run by a lovely lover of books. A couple of mine actually sold from there. Her establishment also sponsored book signings at least once a year at which approximately 30 authors exhibited their wares. The store took no cut of sales and charged only a small fee to reserve a space. The goal was to encourage the authors. And I sold several at each of these events. Unfortunately, her store too went out of business. Unlike the previous case, this owner was diligent in returning unsold books to authors.
I have some books at another local store. Haven’t heard a word from the folks there but at least it’s still around. In fact, it recently sponsored an evening with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child which drew a couple of hundred.
What about that mystery store in Boston? When I completed my first book I attempted to make contact. Alas, the store had gone out of business.