Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.
–Henry David Thoreau.
Books are More than a Product
We became involved with selling books at Book Beat out of respect for the material they contain and what they represent.
It does make a difference where you shop for books. Our values are reflected by the support we give to the products we buy and where we choose to buy them. When a cheaper price is the bottomline to your shopping and when the decision of when and how a book gets published is kept in the hands of a select “privileged few”, the system of publishing and distributing books is failing us. Major publishers and the mass-merchants of books have steadily sold off this country’s most prized possession: our intellectual property–our books.
Harper Collins, Little Brown, Random House, Knopf, Harry Abrams, Double Day, Bantam, Dell, Putnam, have all been sold to foreign interests. The largest U.S. English publishers are now gone, all owned by large multinational corporations outside of the USA. They have already begun to make decisions to cut authors and print-runs solely based on economics. The cultural fallout has been staggering, and is also clearly linked to political motivation.
For Barnes and Noble (the last mass-market chain store standing) and the 900 lb. online gorilla A., decisions are made by just a few buyers supposedly “informed” with the public’s best interest. These selected few influence and guide what gets published, at what price, and how books are marketed. When idie stores once controlled the market buying and selling decisions were in the hands of tens of thousands of unique bookshops.
Mass market retail has been effective (and devastating) in the areas of hardware, drugs, food and clothing. Gone are the local pharmacy, corner hardware store and the personalized clothiers of yesterday. We live in a 24/7 world of online price-on-demand, guided by hyper-speed capitalism that never sleeps.
The purpose of chain stores and online gorillas are the same: to control the market, to be always open-for-business; selling the highest quantity in the shortest amount of time; to win the war of capital. By helping kill the competition, they monopolize the market, strangling free trade and forcing publishers to accept unfavorable terms. Only a few publishers have the guts to buck this trend. We live in an age of speed, greed, and price discounting at the expense of our own enrichment. An untainted selection, good service, and an aversion to censorship is something indie stores can offer. Indie stores are invested in community; hosting author events, and offering an ambience impossible to find online. Readers and thoughtful consumers appreciate the small personalized experiences that help enrich their community. Many people encourage small business growth and support the underdogs in their community.
At Book Beat we sell what we believe in, and stock a wide range of quality books. Many are unusual, small press, and under-represented. Our focus has always been on children’s books, literature, art, photography, local authors, and important current events. Having an online presence is important to us; it allows our customers to see a selection of the more unusual books we carry, and they can read and hear about our store events at their leisure.
The presence of Bookshop.org, where we are an affiliate bookstore, has allowed us to stock nearly every title in print. Bookshop was an important source of income that helped carry us through the first year of the pandemic, and has become something of a savior for indie bookstores.
Our “Backroom Gallery” online store features many local authors, signed books, ephemera, photography, African art, and rare and unusual books in fine art and design. It is a place for discoveries. Although we can only showcase a small fraction of what we sell in the gallery store, it represents a part of who we are and is an alternative to our online sites.
Book Beat is a unique indie store, and one of the minority sellers of books. Your support is important to us, and our survival depends on it. When you buy books online from 900 ob. gorillas, you diminish your community. Your money enriches a monopolist and takes tax dollars away from Michigan. When you are purchasing books, please think of an independent bookstore.
Inside of Book Beat we specialize and stock a wide variety of children’s books. We believe children who love reading are the future.Thank you for stopping by!
Cary Loren for the Book Beat