Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sign of the Times

by G.M. Malliet

This sign appeared Tuesday on the remaining Olsson's bookstores in my area. Hard to imagine sadder news for book lovers and writers, not to mention all the people who counted on the store's success for their livelihoods.

Olsson's was in business for 36 years. If you don't live in the DC area, you may not have heard of it, but it was an institution here. It was where you went when you had an hour to kill and didn't quite know where else to go. In Alexandria, there was a coffee shop upstairs with a gorgeous view over the Potomac, and you were free to sit there and dream or scribble in your notebook uninterrupted. It was not uncommon to find people asleep up there in one of the easy chairs. No one bothered them. It was that kind of place.

A small chain to begin with, Olsson's had recently dwindled to five stores. Even when they filed for bankruptcy protection in July, we figured they'd weather the storm. But no. They'd been Amazoned and iTuned, as the Washington Post said. They're not the first and sadly, they won't be the last. But they were really great about supporting this newbie author and I want the staff there to know: I will miss you guys. Thank you.

Amazon is convenient, but it doesn't have a river view.


Jess Lourey said...

Oh! That is so sad and an important reminder to support our local bookstores. I'm a big fan of the convenience of Amazon, but you can't find community there.

Mark Combes said...

It's difficult for the independents to find a competitive distinction these days. Can't compete on price or selection - they really have to find what makes them distinctly different - why a customer would pick them to at least order a book from them if they don't stock it.

I'm a guy that has about 20 books on a list that I want to read so I don't need the speed of Amazon. I just go to my local bookstore when the well starts running dry and order up another set to replenish. In fact, I need to do that today....

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

The naked truth is, no author can sustain a serious writing career without joining forces with the big chains and online sellers, but these delightful independents are the soul of our communities (both writing and residential). When I buy books, I buy them at the indies whenever possible, even if I have to pay a bit more.

And, no, GM, Amazon doesn't have a river view, or knowledgeable employees ready with a book suggestion and a smile.

Cricket McRae said...

What a bummer. Recently the High Crimes Mystery Bookshop in Boulder closed its doors. They are now an internet and mail order bookstore, competing for online orders by eliminating their brick and mortar overhead. I miss the physical store, but I sure wish them luck!