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 Announcements like these make the America of Super Sad True Love Story, in which books are considered to be “smelly, outdated products,” seem like a distinct possibility.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.
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
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. . .