Editorial: A writer’s largesse returns dividends to local bookstores

Last modified: Thursday, March 06, 2014
James Patterson is one of the bestselling authors in the United States. In the latest Sunday New York Times Book Review, his name appears seven times on various lists, including No. 1 on the Combined Print and E-Book list and No. 1 for Print Hardcover. He even appears at No. 9 on the Children’s Best Sellers, Middle Grade.

So when Patterson lends his name to helping independent bookstores, it’s worth taking a break from the book you’re reading and applaud.

The author last fall decided to give $1 million to independent bookstores around the country, no strings attached. Bookstores were asked to apply on his website. Readers and other authors could also nominate bookstores. The first round of checks ranging from $2,000 to $15,000, for a total of $267,000, has been sent.

Two of independent Valley bookstores, Broadside Bookshop in Northampton and The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, were among the 54 stores that received the first checks.

Odyssey got $5,000, while Broadside received an undisclosed, lesser amount. Odyssey will use the grant to support the children’s author appearances it hosts at the store and in local schools. Broadside will use its grant to buy video and sound equipment to enhance the store’s author events, particularly for posting them on Broadside’s website and over social media.

Patterson feels strongly about supporting independent bookstores in their struggle against the Amazons and Barnes & Nobles of the world. “The federal government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books?” he asked. “Or, if the answer is state and local government, where are they? Is any state doing anything? Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines? Who will save our books? Our libraries? Our bookstores?”

Who indeed. We believe it will be readers.

Patterson has also campaigned on behalf of independent bookstores through interviews in major media outlets and full page ads in the New York Times.

He is giving gift certificates to college-bound high school students to allow them to buy their books from independent bookstores.

Patterson’s actions come amid glimmers of hope for the independent bookstores.

According to national figures, sales were up 8 percent at independent bookstores in 2012 and last year was on pace for similar gains.

The American Booksellers Association’s membership grew 16 percent over the past five years to 1,632.

This is about 20 percent more than in 2009, and the number of books they’re selling is up from a couple of years ago.

These figures reverse a lengthy decline that started in the mid 1990s. But then Borders closed and B&N has retrenched.

Local bookstores still face stiff competition from Amazon, which offers lower prices and, in many states, no sales taxes.

But publishers are starting to work with the smaller independents on price and payment options.

Patterson recently listed his favorite books on his website and urged people to buy them at local bookstores.

Here are just a few of his choices: “All the President’s Men,” “American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur, 1880-1964,” “The Armies of the Night,” “Beloved,” “The Best and the Brightest,” “Black Boy,” “Blood Meridian,” “The Color Purple,” “The Forever War,” “Gravity’s Rainbow,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “A Wrinkle in Time.”

We don’t see a Patterson title in there, so we’ll mention one. Why not pop into your favorite local bookstore and pick up “Along Came a Spider,” the first Alex Cross thriller.