It’s no secret that the independent book business took a massive hit with the rise of online retail giants like Amazon.
With small stores unable to match the low costs and free shipping available online, many readers turned to the web to fill their books needs, leaving local stores to flounder.
In spite of this, there remains a strong love and nostalgia for local bookstores. Many people, young and old, still cling to their community bookstores for the personal touch, community involvement, and the simple thrill of walking through rows upon rows of magnificent smelling books.
San Diego has become an embodiment of the juxtaposition between the love of bookstores and the draw of online shopping.
July 14th was the last day that Adams Avenue Bookstore, a shop that’s been open since 1965 in the Normal Heights neighborhood, was in business. Adams Avenue was the last of its kind in many ways, offering a huge inventory of rare and academic titles.
Another longtime San Diego bookstore, Fifth Avenue Books in Hillcrest closed last year, citing soaring rent prices as the primary reason. There simply weren’t enough book sells happening to cover the tidal wave of overhead costs.
While the close of these stores hit many right in the heart, the positive flip-side is the new growth in the book community the past couple of years.
Verbatim Books in North Park opened their doors in January 2016 and remains running strong, appealing to the demographic of younger readers and artists.
The Book Catapult in South Park is also newly minted and hopeful for the future, being in the unique situation of having a thriving online community before they opened their brick-and-mortar store.
To play on the popular adage, it seems where one book store closes, another one opens.
Every day booksellers see that the love of the book is still alive and well. But many of those same book lovers walk through small shops and leave empty handed.
“Every day people walk through and tell me how important bookstores are and how glad they are that we’re still around,” says Craig Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s House of Books in La Mesa. “They love that we’re here, but they frequently leave without purchasing anything.”
It would seem that love does not always translate to sales. All too often there remains a disconnect in the minds of the public between the joy small bookstores offer and the need of those same stores to sell books in order to remain in business.
Many indie booksellers offer a selection of their inventory online to meet the consumers where they are.
More and more sellers are moving to online platforms exclusively, so as to still practice their trade while avoiding the overhead costs of running a brick-and-mortar store.
This is a very reasonable compromise, but there is a particular magic that is lost with the absence of a physical location.
Here at La Playa Books, community and philanthropy is very important to us. We devote a lot of time and resources to hosting events so that our store may be a hub of connection, learning, and togetherness.
Historically, bookstores have always been a place to gather, exchange ideas, and grow as individuals and as a society. As long as the bookstore lives, we intend to stick to this mission. And we are grateful for each and every one of our patrons who makes this possible.
In short, support your local bookstores. Come connect with other readers at poetry nights, book signings, or author talks at our own store.
The bookstore will live on so long as there are enough willing hearts to keep the doors open. Let’s band together to keep the magic alive.
Our manager, Amy Hesselink, will be speaking on a panel with other local bookshop owners to discuss the role of bookstores in the community and how the digital age has changed reading and the book business. The talk will be moderated by Book Catapult owner, Seth Marko and will take place on July 20th, 6pm, at the Mingei International Museum as a part of the “Business of Books” event.