The last of the independent book vendors in Aiken, South Carolina, has closed the doors. Ann Carlson gutted it out for three years, but in the end, the difference between expenses and income didn't add up.
The owner of the Book Stall had to deal with stiff competition from on-line book sellers and the massive economies of scale that Amazon can realize.
Then there was competition from the big box retailers, again enjoying economies of scale that an individual shop could never hope to realize. Residents of Aiken didn't think twice about driving to a bigger city to visit the Barnes & Noble, where the same books could be had for less money, although without the friendly help and suggestions from a knowledgeable staff.
What about the product that Ms. Carlson had available? After all, she could only stock what the publishers were producing, and then hope that the likes of Rizzoli or Random House had guessed right.
Word comes from Rizzoli that they will soon lay down a book of hip-hop star Rihanna's deep thoughts. There'll be photos as well, to fill up over one hundred pages. A person wants to get their money's worth when they shell out $38.00.
It will make a perfect bookend to Kanye West's prose, also available from Rizzoli.
There's two examples of publishers paying huge advances for big-name stars. Two examples of books that the literary world isn't dying to sample. A table loaded with celebrity shite won't bring in the reading public, those who look for well-crafted words and compelling storytelling.
How is an indie shop to stay afloat if they're given less than tasty wares to put out on the shelves?