Hello friends, Ann Patchett's recent comments (below) about "independent bookstore showrooming" have made quite a splash in BookLand, where I live. You don't live there I bet, so I'll fill you in.
Often at booksellers' conferences, or when a bookstore goes out of business, there is always talk of folks who "showroom": use brick and mortar bookstores to get a look and feel of a book, or an idea for a book they'd never heard of, and then head off to the internet to save some money on their purchase. I've mentioned to you before that I don't actually have negative energy - I mean, really I do not dwell on the negative ever - and so when I hear this sort of talk I sort of tune out or even walk away. After all, I said to myself when I started PPB, and I still say it now -- it's up to ME to make my bookstore competitive; to make myself stand out in the marketplace as it IS, and along with that to employ excellent and modern business practices to make sure every cent counts. I told myself I would leap out of this business if I ever began sending out "please, please, please ... support your poor local bookstore, please" vibes.
On the other hand, bookstores have to be smart and just plain say, "I know you have a lot of ways to buy the books I tell you about and I really would appreciate it if you'd honor PPB with your purchase." So way to kick a little hiney, Ann!! As I am standing here, a customer is taking pictures of books in my "American Presidents" display. Urg. Our customers are so loyal, and I know for sure that all of you who actually read my rants are the choir so I won't preach.
From the beginning though, I've been very interested in innovating a new model for bookstores - such that we truly can afford to offer a career in book-selling. No doubt I will never make as much running PPB as I did as a lawyer. And without my husband having a good job and Scott Price's generosity in offering me this lovely space 2 years ago - believe me when I say there would be no bookstore in Wheaton. That said, I didn't love when people would say "oh, that's so cute (crazy)" when I mentioned I was going to open a bookstore. So it is my mission to try to innovate the traditional model and take bookstores from sort of cute and charming to essential to community well-being, and, well ... kick-ass. I'm feeling you, Ann.
Showrooming Patrons: Ann Patchett 'Will Hunt You Down'
"I'm like, 'You cannot come in, soak up what we have, talk to the staff, get recommendations, then go home and buy the book on Amazon. If you do, I will hunt you down and smack you around.' Somehow... Ann Patchett can say that in a way that your regular bookstore owner can't....
"If somebody said, OK, you can either write five more great novels, or you can make sure that the people who work in bookstores have health insurance and have some place to go if they need help because they're broke. At this point I might really go for the good. Nothing fuels the good of the world like happiness, and the thing that makes me feel really alive is figuring out how I can frighten other people into doing good."
—Ann Patchett, author most recently of Commonwealth and co-owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., in a recent Guardian interview