In LA, Book Soup's toast. Macawber closes in Princeton...Princeton, not Dundalk Maryland. Robin's in Philly (see photo below) gone as of today. Karibu here commits suicide over domestic issues but hey, their mission was hamstrung by piles of ghetto lit and mawkish romances, church lady novels and nonfiction by strippers. Vertigo Books in College Park (Maryland, not Georgia, you bammas!), like England in 1940, stands alone.
So what?! you sneer. I mean, you've picked up your Xbox, your 72 inch flatscreen and your latest Video Vixen-"Superhead" memoir (or novel, hey!) or T-Pain or Toby Keith CD at WalMart, right? You certainly won't find it at your indie bookstore, whether mystery/crime (the staple for folks like me, my colleagues, friends), sci fi shops, holistic stores, etc. Havens for political works and art (like Red Emmas in Baltimore). It's economics. Yeah, financial survival of the fittest, right? It's the Internet. Geriatric business models. Disconnection from what young folks find relevant, eh? WalMart's business model shut them down, or Barnes & Noble's "pack as much crap in there as possible" paradigm is more consumer friendly. Amazon is killing everyone. Yes, that's the conventional wisdom.
You use an indie anything (store, site, person) because you're smart. You're into rationalism. You want your brain to be exercized and engaged as well as entertained. Part and parcel of that is the relationship. Passionate knowledgeable folks provide a service, feed your passion... but that's not a hallmark of our America. Stupid people don't want the relationship. They want cheap brain candy, escapist numbing, from numbskulls who can get them in and out. Hell that has nothing to do with convenience online. Look at how thoughtful people scramble for tech support, expert help, a keen eye or consultation online or on the phone for so many "convenience" purchases. We also fall prey to brands. From Beyonce to Pepsi to Triple Crown publishing (ghetto lit). Brands short circuit thought. That's their purpose. Accordingly, the problem isn't business model. It's culture. Mindset. Yeah, yeah, running an indie, small business is tough. But if your once educated, thoughtful customer base is graying, and being replaced by drooling teens...Heidi Montag wannabees...yes bammas and white trash, too--how can you not close up shop? It's never a question of money. The trillions lost this past year, or wasted in the uglier portion of this war on terror or in Iraq, or within the "motherland" of Africa or through gas pipelines traversing the horror movie that is Russia--got smack to do with money. It's about will. About culture.
When we're smarter again, when rationalism resurfaces from exile, we will have the newest iteration of indie bookstores, indie thought. I willbe alive to see and enjoy. And hopefully, to provide some nice content. Trust...