PushPush Theatre -
Watch the film
The documentary has been airing on various PBS stations
throughout the country, and these upcoming times in the
December 3, 2008 2:00 a.m. - GPB TV - Atlanta
December 7, 2008 6:00 p.m - GPB Knowledge - Atlanta
December 11, 2008 2:00 a.m. - GPB TV - Atlanta
Unfortunately, these are not the most convenient viewing times,
unless you quit your late night partying early on a Tuesday night. But you can
also buy a DVD of the documentary at the website Paperbackdreams.com.
Lively panel discussion
Following the film, the documentary’s director/producer Alex Beckstead joined a panel of local book store owners ( representing A Cappella, Blue Elephant, OutWrite and Little Shop of Stories) in front of an audience of about 50 book-loving souls. Several aspects of this event stand out. One was the lively discourse that took place between the audience and the panel. They weren’t shy about peppering the headliners with comments as well as questions.
A main line of discussion was how the big box stores and the
internet juggernaut squeezes the independent book store. Another vein of discourse
was how the audience loved book stores, with some lamenting the loss of the
Mr. Beckstead respectfully pointed out (both in the discussion and the documentary) that while local people do patronize independent book stores, they also tend to buy a lot of books elsewhere. This contributes as much to an independent book store’s demise as does the internet and the big box stores’ strategy of selling bestsellers at below cost (according to one audience member) as loss leaders to create the illusion of discount utopia where everything from tires to moon pies are priced at near cost as well. And then there’s the added competition from large bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble and the now financially troubled Borders that pepper my inbox with discount coupons on an almost daily basis.
Interestingly, Mr. Beckstead doesn’t do a lot of Amazon bashing; rather, he says that Amazon provides a way for used bookstores to stay afloat by selling their stock online and it also allows us to get out-of-print books.
Importance of buying local
Of course, independent book stores are not alone in competing with the big chains; all other local businesses (hardware stores, jewelry stores etc.) face the same challenges today. Mr. Beckstead reminded the audience that 70 percent of the dollars spent in a local store stay in the local economy as opposed to 30 percent spent in a chain store. (You’ll have to take his word and my memory on this). But he points out that not all is grim, as he sees a renewed interest in supporting local businesses.
Mr. Beckstead does remind those of us in the choir that we should always consider how our book shopping dollars affect not only book shops but also our communities. The bottom line is that book buyers must think of book stores as more than one just a place to buy books.