Thursday, December 07, 2006

Support your local bookstore!

Time was, Fairbanks used to have several local bookstores, used and new books. Now, however, chain stores like Waldenbooks and Borders are exerting their slow but sure killing influence on the local stores. Gulliver's Books is feeling the pressure.

One of my sister's first jobs was at Gulliver's, when they were in the main College Inn Building. I love this store: it's convenient, it has all kinds of books you just can't get from the chain stores (or Amazon, for that matter), and the books they've got are great. They buy from small publishers, they have regular book signings and readings, especially with local authors, the cafe is wonderful, they feature local artists on their walls, and they support good causes. The staff gets actual health benefits and are paid a decent wage.

When you buy books at this locally owned and operated independent bookstore, you are supporting local people, local authors, local publishers. Much more of the money you spend at a local shop goes to the local economy. Chains act like vacuum cleaners, sucking the money out of the communities in which they operate. They don't support a community, they colonize it, providing some benefits, but taking much more from it. Chain bookstores require huge discounts from publishers, so they automatically price themselves below what independent publishers and authors can afford--which means you won't find books from many small, independent publishers.

There is a cost associated with really low prices and volume sales: you and your neighbors' choices diminish. There may be a lot of different titles at Borders, but not many from the micropublishers and self-publishers of Alaska. And there's an odd thing about a lot of people's attitude about purchasing--it's as though they believe what and where they buy doesn't have any influence, the "I'm powerless to make any difference" attitude. But if you buy locally, you make a profound difference in your community. The money stays here, you support independent business, and the impersonal supermarket effect that creates generic towns and mall-cities is avoided.

So if you want books, go to Gulliver's and the Comic Shop and Forget-Me-Not Books. You're buying not only reading material, you're creating a stable local economy and giving back to your neighbors.

What goes around comes around--but if it goes Outside, it's gone.

1 comment:

Deirdre Helfferich said...

A correction: Dave Hollingsworth tells me that they no longer have health benefits--too expensive, and most of the employees didn't take advantage of it.