Keeping The Montclair Booksellers Alive

We’re hopeful about the fates of Montclair Village booksellers, A Great Good Place for Books and The Book Tree.  They are settled in our village, ready to support the reading fixes of a degree-laden populous.  Montclarions are lucky to browse and buy so many interesting titles, right here.

Yet retail booksellers are hurting generally, and our local indies must be feeling a little pain too.

Hardcovers At Risk

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about the price and cultural wars related to hardcover books.  The story starts by featuring our place, A Great Good Place in Montclair Village, where proprietor Kathleen Caldwell says that fully a third of her sales come from hardcovers.

The newspaper of record makes important points about hardcovers and how their distribution is pretty limited.  Apparently a small handful of conservatively-minded, mass titles are discounted heavily and available through places like Walmart these days.  So the Times wonders if independent sellers, like Caldwell, will be able to soldier on.

Oakland Booksellers Hurting

We don’t know whether Oakland indies are hurting a little or a lot, but a major chain is definitely suffering here.  Barnes and Noble, the largest U.S. chain, may close their Jack London Square location by year-end.  The rumored reason is no surprise:  business lost to online discounters like Amazon.

Outside Montclair Village, there seem to be Oakland indies bucking the trend.  Both Diesel and Walden Pond come to mind quickly, since they have interesting titles and deep inventory.  They have many fans and are doing pretty well, right?

We proudly say “no problem” for Montclair’s shops too, as long as we patronize our book gulch on La Salle Avenue.  While these indie booksellers have noticeable challenges from big retailers and online sources, they depend on our reliable business.  And it’s hard to resist stopping by these places and walking out with some find.

Montclair Offers Options

We have two options on La Salle, starting with A Great Good Place. This literary shop is great for more voracious readers, since they host many fascinating authors on their book tours as well as stock up for all the local book clubs.  When asked, Kathleen or her staff suggests titles for you, your family or friends.  Also they offer discounts cards and knock 15% off when you buy online.

Our mass market shop, The Book Tree, is located within the old-timer Montclair Pharmacy.  This bookseller is great for best sellers, and frequently displays discounted “must haves” on their sidewalk table.  They also stock chart-toppers from earlier times, travel guides of every stripe, and all those unmentionable trade/genre paperbacks that are guilty pleasures.

So Montclair Village’s bookstores might be an anachronism.  With two sellers actively competing for our business, there should be critical mass for destination book buyers.  Foot traffic around town is also a key factor, and needs to be continuously boosted by all Montclair merchants.

You probably buy books in many places, but this is a clarion call to help keep our booksellers alive too.  Remember to drop a few dollars in book gulch during the holidays – long live the indies!

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Local Empty-Nesters Tell All, Wed at 7pm

When Oakland parents bid their kids farewell, they share and bond over the experience like any other new empty-nesters.  What’s unique is this trio started curating the experience and ultimately produced this bittersweet tome of loss called Writin’ On Empty.

Whether you are an empty-nester or not, the writing really grabs you.  Editor/writers Joan Cehn, Risa Nye, Julie Renalds and 23 contributors have created a heartwarming snapshot of this separation experience.   Their book is an anthology of “how it feels” when kids leave home.

In the Montclarion (register here), Ginny Prior explained the genesis was a newspaper ad:  “Thinking it would help to talk with someone, [Julie Renalds] ran a notice in The Montclarion advertising a discussion group and got seven calls in three days.”

Julie met Joan first, when they shared sorrows with other local mothers.  Then Julie thought they should write a book, and Joan asked experienced author Risa for help on the tome.  The rest is local Montclarion history in the making.

They begin their Bay Area book tour with a first stop, appropriately, at  A Great Good Place for Books (map) on Wednesday night, at 7pm.  Come support your neighbors!

Brian Copeland’s Here, Sunday at 2pm

One of our East Bay celebs, Brian Copeland, will be at A Great Good Place for Books (map) tomorrow. It’s worth going to see him – even if you normally don’t “do” bookstore readings.

KGO listeners know Brian pretty well. He airs commentaries during the afternoons and also hosts a show on Sundays, from 9-11am (KGO-AM 810).

Copeland will discuss Not a Genuine Black Man, based on his one-man show about racism. Learn more in this NPR interview with Farai Chideya, or CBS5 profile by Barbara Rodgers.

The book and show reflect Brian’s feelings about the East Bay, too. He grew up as one of the few African-Americans in a white suburb: San Leandro in the early 1970s. While the place didn’t welcome him, 35+ years have passed and he still lives there today.

Brian’s a comedian and has a wry take on life. As proof, here’s a KGO audio clip called 7 Words, which is all about the dirty words you’re not supposed to say on air. Who needs bombastic or offensive ways to say the same thing?

Anyway, Copeland will begin speaking after the Farmers Market wraps up, at 2pm. I hope A Great Good Place won’t be too crowded – it’s not that large a shop.