A big independent bookstore -- in Dallas??!

shops_at_legacy2.jpg Actually, in Plano. Oh well. But still, book/daddy does mean big -- it's the biggest independent to open anywhere in years. Fireworks and dancing in the streets will be considered for later.

The developer of the six-year-old Shops at Legacy had wanted a bookstore, couldn't get Borders, but found Terri Tanner instead -- a veteran of both Borders and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Tanner is taking over a three-level, 24,000-square-foot space in the shopping center on the Dallas North Tollway, with the building to be designed by architect Morrison Seifert Murphy. Ms. Tanner is modeling Legacy Books on several of the classic successes among independent booksellers in the country, such as BookPeople in Austin and Elliott Bay in Seattle.

The opening will be in late summer.

For those who think, big deal, I get my books on Amazon and aren't e-books the real future....

1) Amazon sells only about 10 percent of the total books purchased in America. Collectively, Wal-Mart, Costco and other discount warehouses are a much bigger factor (and actually a bigger threat to healthy independents).

2) For now (and the foreseeable future), Salman Rushdie doesn't come to your town for a reading and a signing because you bought an e-book copy of his latest novel. When major authors tour Texas, they go to Austin's BookPeople and maybe Houston's Brazos Bookstore -- and that's it. They generally don't come to Dallas-Fort Worth, even though the metroplex is actually the largest book market in the region. book/daddy wanted to interview Martin Amis and Julian Barnes for nearly 10 years as they produced novel after novel and toured the U.S. on four occasions. They made it to Austin several times; never got close to North Texas except, perhaps, to change planes at DFW.

The only factor that has offset this fact has been Arts & Letters Live and other paid-admission local literary series, which I maintain have succeeded precisely because the area is regularly neglected by authors and publishers.

Out here in the flyover country that New York publishers know little about, major authors get sent to independent bookstores much more often than to chain stores because independents can deliver an audience for them. Publishers are terrified of sending authors to an empty bookstore. As you might imagine, authors hate the experience. It makes them start thinking that maybe the publisher isn't really supporting or marketing their books -- and maybe they should get another publisher.

Major independents have developed devoted followings, they have tied themselves to the local reading community through the kind of "hand selling" (personal recommendations) and social events that online retailers can't. An independent like the late, lamented Black Images Book Bazaar has even been a significant cultural factor in the community, bringing in speakers, providing a meeting site for local groups.

Even as webheads (and others with career investments in the web) keep chanting that digital is the future -- the only future, all else must die -- people (and companies) continually try to find ways to gather comfortably, sit, chat, read, listen to music, sip. This may not sound like the hip, zappy, dancefloor, speed-freak-crazy, sleep-with-sexy-strangers experience that advertisers love to shout about to twenty-somethings. And the bookstore of the future may well have a digital machine onsite that prints and then handsomely (or cheaply) binds books on demand, right there at the checkout counter for you.

But humans will remain social animals, sharing favorite authors with others will be a natural aspect of reading and sometimes just getting the hell out of the house for someplace quiet will remain a need.  Basically, we pay a little more for books at a bookstore -- more than we might online or at the always cozy and quietly stimulating Wal-Mart -- for that pleasurable experience.

That, and having knowledgeable staff members who can find books and recommend other authors for us..

April 10, 2008 9:42 AM | | Comments (3)


Attempting once again to locate an Authors touring DFW site I found your article addressing why publishers ignore N Texas.
Thought it might interest you to know that Janet Evanovich was in Plano last week at B&N drawing over 900 readers, according to store employees.
Having recently attended appearances by Louise Erdrich (fortunately promoted by Writers Garrett among others thankfully did have an enthusiastic crowd at the Eismann Center), Jeremy Scahill, Lee Child, and Robert Parker all seemed resigned to the few dozen attendees at local stores.
Is there a site collecting all visiting or local author appearances?

I appreciate this article and I especially appreciate the sentiments expressed by Clay Reynolds. As a debut Texas author in the midst of planning a summer tour of independent bookstores to line up fall signings, I would love to see a resource of local writers such as Clay recommends-- because I'd love to be on it!
I look forward to visiting book/daddy-- and thanks for the heads-up!

Beth Fehlbaum, author
Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse

One of the biggest problems many writers, particularly local or regional writers who often publish with regional or university presses face, is that people who want their books cannot find them in the big box bookstores. Borders and B&N will usually not carry these, and if they do, they only carry them in very small numbers and seldom or never feature them or even display them in a way they can be found. Of course, such titles can be ordered on line, but book buyers are notoriously impulsive in their selections, and quite often, they prefer to hold and handle their selections, leaf through them, and consider them carefully before buying.

One feature an independent shop could offer would be a section of local and regional authors' (legitimate press publications) books, perhaps displaying them in an area so labled. (Before it's disappearance, the mall shops of B. Dalton and Waldenbooks did this, and the famous Dallas shop, Taylor Books, did this very well.) If desired--and it may not be--the Legacy shop could easily arrange for readings, signings, workshops, lectures, and other events that are featured prominently in independent bookshops in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles and San Francisco regularly. If properly publicized (which B&N and Borders never do when they stage such "events"), these could become an attractive regular feature. It wouldn't be hard to assemble a reasonable list of authors who are in the area and whose public appearances around the Metroplex or even the whole state or region have stimulated an interest in their works on the part of potential customers. There are several individuals in the area (not necessarily writers, themselves) who could provide an attractive list of individual writers (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, even plays and books on visual and performing arts and film) who will be delighted by the presence of an independent bookstore and eager to contribute to its success, particularly if it meant that they could direct their patrons, students, and even casual contacts to someplace that would actually have their work in stock.

Just an idea.


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