Friday, June 25, 2010

Save the indies? We could have saved each other

I knew this was coming. Again. Remember when the creeping encroachment of chain stores led to a public outcry of "SUPPORT INDIES AND SAVE LITERATURE!!!"? Well, maybe the cry wasn't all that public, emanating mostly from bookstore owners.

And guess what? Indies died by the dozens. They expired like whales on an oil-infested beach, leaving the stench of recrimination on our collective brows.

The next evolution of the outcry is "SUPPORT INDIES AND SAVE REAL BOOKS!!!" This is the case made by The Regulator Bookshop. Basically chastising people who like e-books, sneering and snubbing, creating an elitist argument veiled as a populist uprising. I wish I could be sadder for you. Actually, I am sad. But it's the kind of sadness felt over a long-ago high school crush, or that job where you never got promoted, or that old swimming pool that used to have a diving board.

I am sorry you will have to find a new career. Really. But you are not alone, because I expect the chains will be following shortly. You survived Borders but you can't survive electronic tablets and instant, wireless communication. You didn't do a thing wrong. You will die for one reason only: you are not giving your customers what they want. Thrash and moan but you won't change that. I can't change that.

Sure, I can drive three hours and buy a few books and you can pay the electric bill another week. But the books will cost more than I can afford, and my philanthropy extends primarily to those who are truly starving and not those who might theoretically starve one day. Your books cost more than I care to pay, anyway, because all I care about is the content and the experience, not the package, that wonderful R-book that will cost me two-and-a-half hours' pay and has many, many hands chipping away nickels between the author and my eyeballs.

I do support my local indie when I can. I do buy R-books there, and it's an emotional exchange, not a need. They sell my books. I send people there. Simple.

The local store took out books to put in a yarn section, and now sells gift items and jewelry as well. It's not just a "bookstore" anymore, because the owners realize change equals possible survival. They aren't making people feel guilty for not wanting something they don't need--they are giving them things they want. They are even exploring setting up an e-book shopping experience.

Still, I can't support you, Regulator. You probably don't remember me. Five or so years back, I made multiple book-signing trips across this state. I called you and wrote you emails. I sent you book cover flats and press releases for each new book, asking to set up a signing at your store. I figured since I was a notable North Carolina author, you'd be proud to have me and my books in your store. Because indie bookstores are great at hand-selling and supporting local authors, right? Heck, I promised to do the publicity, since my friend was editor of your local paper. You never answered. Nothing.

I once even drove around downtown Durham looking for your store, so I could meet you in person and maybe buy an R-book or two. I couldn't find you. The cry of "Shop indie" no longer means supporting local bookstores, it means supporting independent writers. Your very battle cry has been usurped.

You ask us to support you and give to you and save you. I wish you had given just a little so we could have helped each other. Maybe I would be even sadder today. Instead, I will just upload my e-books and partner with the people who want a mutual relationship. I don't care about R or E books. I care about MY readers, whatever letter they put in front. Your store doesn't have my readers because I was never in your store.

But you won't be lonely, Regulator. You will find plenty of company in the unemployment office, in the line of agents and editors who insist on artificial preservation of their industry. You guys can kill a little time together, reminiscing about the good old days when books were books and everything was real.

Me, I am going where stories are stories and everything is a dream.



author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Good for you. You're a true inspiration to those of us unknowns who are trying to break into this crazy alternative publishing venture. You did the work, you pounded the pavement and it's paying off. Congratulations.

Flip Dixon said...

Bravo. It seems like much of the book blogosphere is devoted to the mantra of saving independent bookstores and the old way of doing things. It's nice to see a contrarian voice for once.

author Scott Nicholson said...

Thanks. I married the Matron Saint of Lost Causes, so I know a few things about them...

Robert Christopher said...

Wow. Not even your local bookstore was nice to you? The least they could do was give you an answer.