Reason 1. The real magic of Harry Potter.
Trivia question: How many acim bookstore were printed in the first printing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (then called “Philosopher’s Stone”)? Answer: 1,000. So how did people find out about it? Word of mouth. And who passed the word? At first, independent booksellers. Then readers (mostly children) and soon after librarians, teachers, parents, everyone; then the advertising mucky-mucks got their paws on it. But it started with little local independent booksellers saying “Psst, hey, little girl, read this.” Without them, who knows where Harry would be today? That’s the real magic behind Harry’s catapult to international fame. Although the mainstream literary industrial complex (B. Kingsolver’s term) produces and promotes many good books, it also lets many good books fall through the cracks. We have our local independent booksellers to thank for peering between those cracks and picking those books up. These independents are literally closing their doors every day because online and big box booksellers are pushing them out of business. It is up to us to keep those doors open for them so that they can keep the doors to a heap of good reading open for us. Our indie bookstores put Harry on the map (and I don’t mean the Marauder’s Map) so we could find him! Don’t you think the least we can do is give them our business?
Reason 2. What goes around comes around.
Frankly, I owe Ann Kilkenny (owner of Mendocino acim bookstore Co.). She hosted the successful launch of my fantasy adventure The Call to Shakabaz in January. While Barnes & Noble and Borders won’t so much as nod in my direction, small independent bookstores here and there are discovering and hand selling my book and helping get the word out. Booksellers like Stephanie Vela at Black Oak Books in Berkeley (CA), Sharon Wright at Carol’s Books in Sacramento (CA), Bob Spear at the Book Barn in Leavenworth (KS), Susan Sternberg at Alphabet Soup in Lawrenceville (NJ), and St. Helens Bookshop (OR), are making a big difference in my life as a first-time author, and in the lives of my young readers. I’m not a purist. I do shop online. But I also make a conscious effort to buy at Mendocino Book Co., especially something like HP7. It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation to Ann and her staff. My survival and the survival of other new authors like myself depends on her survival and the survival of other indies.
Reason 3. It’s about more than strawberries at the Farmer’s Market.
There’s a lot of talk about community and supporting community by buying local products (also a factor in reducing global warming), but let’s put our money where our mouth is. Our local bookstore owner is a member of our community. She raised her children here. She sells cards and calendars made by local artists. She provides the service of selling tickets for local dance, music, and theater performances. She contributes to the local merchants’ association and she is part of the local economy. Her modest earnings on our purchases do not go to a corporate headquarters outsourced to the Philippines. Ann’s store doesn’t have an upscale gourmet coffee bar, fancy pedestal tables, or pastries for sale; but the store has couches, chairs, and a welcoming atmosphere. While raising my children, I would often say “Meet me at the bookstore.” The staff knew each of them by name and could suggest titles just for them. When we say it takes a village to raise a child, we must remember that part of that village is the local bookstore. So what better place to celebrate the publication of HP7? An online bookseller can’t compete with the face-to-face, warm-and-human event of buying a great book in person, or, furthermore, celebrating the launch of that book with friends and acquaintances as part of a larger community. There is no substitute for the village.
Reason 4. Sharing the pie.
Apparently online booksellers will not make a profit on HP7 because of the rock bottom price they have offered. If the online booksellers want to slit their wrists on this one, let them, but you can be sure that someone is making a profit. No matter what price the online booksellers offer, they still have to pay the publisher a fixed amount per book based on the cover price. The publisher and the author are making a profit. I don’t begrudge JK a penny of her millions. She has earned it. If you have read her books then you are probably as confident as I am that she will make good use of the money. But why are we begrudging our local bookstores this sterling opportunity to turn a profit? What other business would you prefer to support? We have a win-win situation here. The consumer gets a terrific product while stimulating the local economy. What’s not to like about it? My only complaint is that the cover price is so high that low-income families can’t afford the book