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 Announcements like these make the America of Super Sad True Love Story, in which books are considered to be “smelly, outdated products,” seem like a distinct possibility.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.
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .