Road Trip

on Dec 07 in Writing by

I read last night at an independent bookstore in Atlanta called Chapter 11*, which would be a funny name except they filed for bankruptcy a month or two ago, just before the new laws went into effect (see my blog entry, New Bankruptcy Laws, 9/22/05). A friendly but rather glum-looking employee told me that this chain, originally named after the average percentage hardbacks were discounted, had been forced to close nine of fifteen retails stores in Atlanta about a month ago, and was experimenting with selling used books.

It is a familiar refrain — the big box retailers, including Costco and Walmart, and Amazon, making it hard for the independents to survive. Unlike many, this particular store was part of a little chain and was located in a strip mall. It was also decorated, as my son commented, like a giant display for Cliff Notes (yellow and black signs with old fashioned typewriter fonts on them). My guess (and hope) is that after some adjustments, Chapter 11* will be able to tweak their business model and be profitable again.

Monday, I read at The Regulator in Durham, which looked to be in better shape, in terms of the stocks being shelved and the customer traffic. My hosts for the evening, Charisse Coleman, who just finished a memoir, and her husband, Ted Corvette, are regular customers of The Regulator, and seemed quite devoted. The store had a look of being well-tended and a new-book smell that made me comfortable.

This coming weekend, I’ll be reading at Books & Books, in Coral Gables, South Florida and Murder on the Beach, in Delray Beach, also independents. I prefer these to the chains as the owners are risking their own money and time to be around products they love and therefore select and recommend carefully, and for the clerks, who are almost always book lovers.

These are the last of my scheduled tour dates. Touring in support of a book takes a certain heartiness — a willingness to engage oneself with a work that was finished a long time ago, as well as to be extroverted about a product that was created in solitude (Interacting with people involves precisely those skills one eschews to be a writer).

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