To the Editor: Save the Independent Bookstore

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Letters reflect the opinions of their authors and not necessarily those of the Crozet Gazette.

We are intending to open an independent bookstore in Crozet in early 2010. As booksellers committed to establishing ourselves as vital members of the Crozet community, we are deeply concerned about recent events affecting the book industry as we know it. Devastation for independent bookstores is on the horizon.

As reported in the press recently, Amazon.com, WalMart.com, and Target.com have engaged in a price war in the pre-sale of new hardcover bestsellers, which include books from John Grisham, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, Sarah Palin, and James Patterson. These books typically retail for between $25 and $35. As of this writing, all three competitors are selling these and other hardcover titles for between $8.98 and $9.

These retailers are using these prices on new bestsellers as loss leaders to attract customers to buy other, more profitable merchandise. On Stephen King’s new book, for example, these retailers are losing as much as $8.50 for each book sold. This represents a loss that the independent bookstore simply cannot bear. The result of this practice will be the closing of many independent bookstores.

A local bookseller selects books that will serve the needs and desires of her community. As independent, locally owned stores disappear, so will unproven, yet brilliant writers. John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was not a bestseller. As Grisham stated in an online interview in 2006, “Everybody else had passed on A Time to Kill. Wynwood Press took the gamble, printed 5,000 hardback copies, and we couldn’t give them away.”

If this trend continues, new writers in John Grisham’s former position will never be represented on a bookstore’s shelves. Small publishing houses will cease to exist. Independent bookstores will close. The incredible diversity of thought and ideas now represented in the written word will be at risk. For a society that holds these values paramount, this will be a tragedy.

As a vendor at the Crozet Farmer’s Market said, “You know it’s a real community when it has its own bookstore.”

Laura DeVault, Anne DeVault
Over the Moon Books