How to Protect Bookstores and Why: The Present and Future of Bookselling (Paperback)
I remember the first time I stepped into the bookstore I currently work at right now. My friends were talking about a cool bookstore downtown and I thought it would be just like a Barnes & Noble so I tagged along. That first step opened an entire world of possibility. It was magical. I see the same reaction I had when people step past our front counter and see just how tall our bookcases reach, all full of books. There is no place like Weller Book Works.
Working here brings so many new perspectives of the world to me – from silly little picture books to full length multi-volume sets – and nourishes a space of free thought and speech. That's what we do, we sell perspectives of the world. From whimsical fantasy to a harsh reality, we are in the business of free thought.
How to Protect Bookstores and Why is a guide to support not only us, but bookstores in general. Bookstores and libraries are under attack by a group who wants to manipulate fact, history, thought, etc. Just last month of writing this, The King’s English Bookshop was the target of a bomb threat because of a drag story hour. Under the Umbrella across town has been the subject of multiple online threats, harassment, and property damage throughout their operation. These acts intend to silence us, both as minorities and free thinkers. It is more important than ever to protect bookstores.
Danny Caine shares his experience interviewing and understanding twelve independent bookstores across the globe. Each one faces both similar and unique problems. The main antagonist in this book is, you guessed it, Amazon. Amazon is possibly the worst enemy to bookstores, authors, publishers, and readers. Because they are an online store, there is no physical store to shop in, no booksellers, no magic. Also, because they are a multi-billion dollar company, they can afford to create dangerous warehouses and working conditions to get your book as fast as possible. This creates an impossible expectation for bookstores, which causes business to slow and even close.
This includes libraries. The extreme right has made a mission of silencing anybody and anything that disagrees with them or makes them “uncomfortable.” Libraries are currently a main target with the banning of books. According to the Every Library Institute, a total of 816 books were decidedly banned from school and public libraries in 2022. Sixty-eight of those were from Utah school districts, the main ones being Washington and Alpine School District. Many of these books highlight experiences of queer and POC discrimination. We, as booksellers, have a duty to make these books accessible to those who need them.
All twelve of the bookstores in this book have amazing histories that show we aren’t going down without a fight. One I would like to highlight would be Moon Palace Books, in Minneapolis. It had a rough start with a lot of unknowns, much like most bookstores in this book, but Moon Palace is unique. They temporarily closed down in late May of 2020 due to the protest and ensuing riot, caused by the murder of George Floyd. In the book, the owner is said to have hung up on a Penguin Random House representative quoting “I’m sorry. I'm gonna have to go, they’re tear-gassing again.” This shows the commitment this bookstore has to their community, especially in times of pain.
This year, Weller’s will turn 95 years old. Ninety-five years of regulars, store events, recommendations, and Best Wellers such as this one. We still exist, even if we aren't on Main St. anymore. Generations have kept this store open as well as a devoted community. We ask you to not only support us, but find a local shop near where you live and support them. A small misconception is that our neighboring bookstores are enemies. We are the opposite, King's English calls us to see if we have a book in stock and we do the same. We hold each other up and stand together as a local economy. Take action. Support your local businesses.— Apollo Frenzel