So, according to Neil Van Uum, president of the Joseph-Beth Booksellers chain, which recently filed for bankruptcy, most indie bookstores aren’t long for this world:
Van Uum said the bankruptcy’s roots came in the summer when the company began “to run a little bit sideways” on some of the terms of its loans.
“I recognized we needed to do something,” he said.
While the company’s bankruptcy protection doesn’t specify its exact debt, its top 30 creditors are owed more than $5.8 million. The majority of that — $3.55 million — is owed to book company Ingram. [. . .]
Van Uum said the bankruptcy traces to a number of factors, including the tattered economy and increasing Internet sales. The chain has seen declining sales for the last five years.
“I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” he said.
Barnes & Noble, the country’s largest bookseller, put itself up for sale in August and has struggled for years with declining sales. It’s pinned hopes on initiatives including its Nook electronic reader.
“There’s a lot of fixed overhead in the book business, especially with stores as complex as ours,” Van Uum said.
He’s probably right, and that definitely sucks . . . Not for the sale and distribution of books necessarily, but for the culture of reading and book appreciation that underpins all great indie bookstores, which tend to be staffed by people who actually read too much and like to talk about books and the wonders of literature. Announcements like these make the America of Super Sad True Love Story, in which books are considered to be “smelly, outdated products,” seem like a distinct possibility.
But the real cause of J-B’s downfall? Not enough Open Letter titles.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .