We all know that the retailers are in trouble because of collapsing consumer demand. (For years Americans spent too much; now....) We all know that the automakers domestic and foreign are in trouble because people don't want to buy cars. Real estate is in trouble because people can't or don't want to buy houses. The stock market is in trouble because people don't want to buy stock. And, arguably most ominous for the republic, newspapers are in trouble because people are losing the habit of buying papers.
There is not much any one individual can do about this. I'm not going to buy a new house or car just because it would have useful tonic effect on the market. There are only so many papers I can buy per day. But after the jump, Roy Blount Jr, through the years a frequent Atlantic contributor and current president of the Authors Guild, suggests a voting-with-your-dollars strategy that is within people's means and can make a significant difference.
Starting now, I've changing my Christmas shopping plans based on Blount's tips. The presents he suggests are good ones -- and although I can't visit independent bookshops myself where I am, the ones I like and have shopped at (Elliott Bay, Powell's, Politics & Prose, etc) have web-based order systems. Seriously, this is a good idea -- as are, of course, gift subscriptions to our own magazine.
Blount's letter to Authors Guild members* below.
I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.
We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!
There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."
Enjoy the holidays.
Roy Blount Jr.
The Guild's staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We're coming! And we're coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We're spelling BOOKS!
* I got this via a friend, Robert Ellis Smith, rather than directly on the mailing list. I have been an AG member for years but, as with countless other details of my personal life, renewal forms etc have disappeared in the mail between the U.S. and China as the years have gone buy. Many strands to re-weave on my return.
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