Flash News and Thoughts on Independent Bookstores

FLASH!!! Zendoscopy selected as one of 20 indie books to have its review published in the 1 June 2014 issue of Kirkus Reviews!!

And now, this week’s entry:  The Independent Bookstore: An Endangered Species

Books have been a critical part of my life almost from earliest memory. From the Golden Books read to me as a young child by my mother all the way to Christopher Hitchens, I have found delight and stimulation through reading.

I began my independent searching out of reading material while still in elementary school, when once every two weeks the L.A. Public Library’s “Bookmobile” would park on the school’s playground and open its door those of us hungry for words on a page. From Heinlein’s “The Red Planet” to Brooks’ “Freddy the Pig” stories, I devoured the Bookmobile’s offerings.

One day, my mother took me to a new treasure trove of literature. A claustrophobic cluster of little rooms packed with books called Lewis’ Book Store and owned, of course, by Mr. Lewis. I never knew his first name, but I remember him to this day. He was just what you’d expect of such a store’s owner: an older gentleman, short of physical stature, kind and willing to help a young boy find just the right book to take home for his collection. And take home books I did: The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift Jr., Rick Brant, the Winston Science Fiction Series, the Triple Title Series (Space, Space, Space; Ghosts, Ghosts, Ghosts…), Max Shulman’s Guided Tour of Campus Humor, and on and on and on.

I remember those days of poring over Mr. Lewis’ shelves and going home with new treasures with aching nostalgia. I had feelings then that simply aren’t duplicated when I conjure up Amazon.com on my PC or walk into the local Barnes and Noble.

But there are places where the feeling comes back.

There are still wonderful independent bookstores ripe for exploration: City Lights in San Francisco, Book Soup in West Hollywood, and others, but they are an endangered species. It’s so easy to download the latest e-book from Amazon Kindle or Barnes and Noble Nook, or to order hard copy from myriad online sellers. I know – I do it, too. But I feel sad and even a bit guilty about it, because we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves if we allow independent bookstores to become extinct.

Why do I raise this issue now? Because a local two store operation, Mysterious Galaxy, is closing its store in Redondo Beach. For those who follow my blog, the name will be familiar. Mysterious Galaxy is the store that hosted twenty authors at a recent “meet and greet”, giving us (yes, I was one of the twenty) the opportunity to court potential readers and sign copies of our books for those readers interested enough to buy. For those of us committed to the welfare of the independent bookstore, this closure is a major blow, and a sign that places with knowledgeable, helpful staff and offering real, material books that one can pick up, examine, and take home just as I used to do when I went to visit Mr. Lewis, could easily become a thing of the past.

Online booksellers and cavernous Barnes and Noble four-walled stores aren’t going to go away, but we must not let them completely bury wonderful independent and even some limited chain stores, like the dying Mysterious Galaxy or the fortunately still apparently healthy Vroman’s/Book Soup. Mr. Lewis would not approve their demise, and neither should the rest of us.

Reminder: Zendoscopy is available from the following booksellers: Book Soup (8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood – a great independent bookstore) and the UCLA BookZone (Ackerman Student Union, UCLA campus). Please support them. Of course, it’s always available from the usual online booksellers and Kindle, but wouldn’t you like to browse in a real bookstore? And any independent bookstore that doesn’t have my books, Zendoscopy and Spacebraid and Other Tales of a Dystopian Universe, on its shelves can order them for you.

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