Friday, February 22, 2008

Independent Bookstores Politics and Taste

Cody's Books, 0ne of the Bay Area's long-time and well-known bookstores, has had a hard time lately. Independents as a whole have had a hard time.

Most independents blame Amazon and chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble for all their ills. Their screeching fits of outrage against them is surpassed only by their raging at George Bush, but just barely.

They're in denial.

Independents are having trouble because -- with few exceptions (such as Powell's in Portland) -- independent book stores prefer to promote and sell books they think people ought to read. Rather than sell books people want to read.

People at independent book stores have set themselves up as arbiters of taste and politics.

The politics are always Left-canted. They can't understand why people don't want to by all 793 Anti-Bush screeds. Yeah, he's a dumb fucker, but he's also a lame duck. There's an election this year. somebody tell the anti-George folks. Get over it!

Their taste in books runs to highly, ultra-literary, thin little works written in an unheated garret. They turn their noses up at thrillers, romances and other "commercial" fiction. When they do talk about such undesirable books, their faces wrinkle into a look like a person who's just stepped in dog feces, or just caught a whiff of conversation from someone to the right of Fidel Castro.

If they want to be arbiters of literary taste and hold forth on intertextuality, they should get a position torturing undergraduates with obscure literature.

If they want to succeed as booksellers, then they need to realize they are merchants. They must market. They must sell products their customers want to buy.

Or they can remain in denial and prepare to go out of business.


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