Monday, January 05, 2009

...but then again, bammas and white trash still rule

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...


Anonymous said...

"drooling teens"

I love it.

Lisa said...

I've never been to Book Soup but friends have. Is Eso Won still hanging in there? I DID come by the comic book store where Gary Phillips had the first Darker Mask reading, however.

I see your maniacal point but I disagree with your premise that the economic model isn't the determining factor. The "culture" aspect may be between the lines but if the business "paradigm" is shifting to other things, no amount of enlightenment will change that, man.

Anonymous said...

what do you have against Dundalk MD? in pure economic terms, it would be impossible for every community to be Princeton

Anonymous said...

Book Soup may have a new lease on life; don't count it out yet!

By the way we LOVE Vertigo whenever we are in Maryland. College Park doesn't seem to be a sophisticated college town, so I'm sure you are happy the store is present. Is there is still a branch in downtown Washington, DC?

Anonymous said...

I just remembered I need to go to Robin's this weekend. The remaining books are 50% off unitl they close.

Dr. Tracey Salisbury said...

Excellent post! Well stated. What ever happened to the fun of discovering something on your own? That's why I loved independent stores, you may find more than what you're looking for, not the junk that is being peddled and pushed in your face.

@Lisa -

Eso Won is hanging on by it's fingernails. I think it will be lucky to survive in 2009.

Knute Rife said...

You may be looking at it backwards, Chris. We may have been living through an incredible flowering of culture, and now the world is regressing to the mean.