Here at Book Beat the Books are More than a Product
The reason we became involved with books was out of a deep respect
for the material they contain and what books represent. Books are no
less than the ideas and culture of a free society made visible.
It does make a difference WHERE you shop for books. Our values are reflected by the
support we give to the daily products we buy. When bigger becomes better and
when the decision of when and how a book gets published is in the hands of
only a select "privileged few", the system is failing. We are in deeper
trouble than we think. The publishers and mass-merchants of this country have
sold off our most prized possesion-- our intellectual property, our books.
Harper and Row, Random House, Knopf, Double Day, Bantam, Putnam, they have
all sold out, the list goes on: our largest U.S. publishers are now owned by
large multi-national corporations outside of this country. They have already
begun to make decisions to cut authors and printruns solely based on
economics. The political and cultural influence is staggering.
The majority of books are now sold in chain stores and bargain outlet clubs,
where decisions are made by a handful of buyers supposedly "informed" with
the public's best interest.
Mass marketing has been effective (and devastating) in the areas of hardware, drugs, food and clothing. Gone are the local pharamcy, the corner hardware store and the personalized clothiers of yesterday.
The purpose of a chainstore is to be a machine, to sell the most quantity in the shortest amount of time. Lower prices and the lure of caffeine have seduced the public and once the chainstores grip is intrenched, prices always rise. This has been evident by the recent elimination of the 10% discount on hardcovers and the elimination of the NY TIMES bestseller discounts at some of the chains.
The chains have essentialy killed off their competition (the Independent Bookseller) and are desperate to put some higher earnings into their depressed stock reports.
We live in the age of speed, greed and price at the expense of our own enrichment. An untainted selection, good service, and an aversion to censorship is something only an independent store can offer.
Independents are not bought off by publishers eager to push their latest sensation, nor are publishers persuaded on what to publish by any independent. Advertising dollars are usually too small to benifit a single independent store but
at the chains entire departments are devoted to sucking publishers advertising dollars.
The recent Federal Trade Commission judgement against Barnes and Nobles proposed merger with Ingram book distributors was a step in the right direction. The chain stores are NOT serving the public's best interest. They are pulling money out of the community and into their corporate bottom line. They are making decisions on books that only a publisher should be allowed, and they are forming alliances that are in conflict with an open and free system.
The ABA (American Bookseller Association) has won the largest Anti-Trust settlement in history ( $20 million) against Peguin publishers. They were found offering large rebates and discounts to chainstores that were not offered to independent booksellers. The ABA is now fighting the chainstores under similar unfair advantages. Independent stores are not asking for better treatment, just fair treatment, a level playing field.
We at Book Beat are an independent bookstore, and now one of the minority sellers of books. Your support is important to us, our survival depends on it. We hope to continue offering our community a creative bookstore that is a brighter artistic alternative to the cookie-cutter retailers. When you think of purchasing books, please think of an independent bookstore. We thank you for stopping by.
Cary Loren for the Book Beat