Many years ago, there were predictions that the growth of the mega-bookstores such as Borders and Barnes and Noble would be the death of the Independent Bookstore. What a difference a few years makes. Borders is bankrupt and gone. As for Barnes and Noble… well, they just closed their last mega-bookstore in the Los Angeles city limits on New Years Eve (yes, Woodland Hills is closed). There are still stores in the larger SoCal area (Calabasas, Thousand Oaks, Burbank, and a smaller Bookstar in the valley), but no mega-stores. Meanwhile, according to Publisher’s Weekly, Independent Bookstores have big holiday sales.
What prompted this post was a report on LA Observed about problems over at Cliffs. Cliffs is a gigantic used bookstore on Colorado Blvd, around the corner from the Pasadena Playhouse and across the street from Vromans, a great indi-bookstore. Cliffs, which has been around for 25 years, is having trouble. Everything in Cliff’s large inventory is on sale for 15% off and they are hoping for a buyer to show up — and soon. If you are in the area, now is the time to go purchase a few used books. Owner Cliff Gildart apparently doesn’t come in anymore, due to age and illness.
This is very sad. We used to always hit Cliffs when we would go to the Playhouse. We need to support our used booksellers. They are a vital force in the book ecosystem, preventing precious books from being trashed when they are no longer wanted. They are the no-kill shelters of the book world. We’ve already lost Bookie Joint (run by a long time MLJ subscriber), although he is online. We need to keep places like Cliffs, Brand Books, Bargain Books, Books5150, and others of their ilk alive. Luckily, there are some happy stories, such as the success of used bookstores in East Los Angeles.
We can’t let books (and music) go all digital, where you just lease knowledge instead of owning it. Let’s fight for the independent bookstores and the used bookstores!