That’s a startling confession from someone who writes, someone who supports the publishing industry and spends an awful lot of money on books.
I didn’t even realize I’d stopped going until Lydia Dare’s first book came out at the beginning of April. I wanted to take a picture of her book on the shelf. That’s when I realized I hadn’t been there since Christmas. I’d been buying my books online.
How could I go four months without a trip to the bookstore? It used to be my favorite place. At a loss, I consulted my nine year-old daughter. She’s one of those Uber-readers, the 5% of kids who buy 80% of the books.
“When did we stop going to the bookstore?” I shouted in a panicked voice.
“When they covered up the YA sign with a paper that says ‘Vampires,” she answered. “I’ve read all their historicals. Now we go to the library or the church with cats.”
The church with cats is The Book Exchange in Nampa, Idaho. It’s a half hour drive from my home. The kids love this church-converted-into-a-bookstore because it has endless shelves of used books, every kind imaginable, not just the latest fad. And they have cats. Real cats.
I spent a few weeks feeling guilty about not shopping in the retail bookstores. Was I betraying my writer sisters by living at the library and used book store? I’d heard a published author say that using the library was like stealing money out of her pocket. And I would never do that.
Then I realized the role libraries and used bookstores play in promoting new authors. These places give us an opportunity to try out new authors that we might never read if we had to pay full price for them. If I like what I read, I’ll buy a copy for my mother or a friend with similar interests. I’ll check out the author's backlist. I’ll recommend her books to all my uber-reader friends. And when her next book comes out, I’ll be the first in line to pre-order it, hardcover and all.
Libraries and used bookstores are the source of that elusive word-of-mouth advertising no publisher can buy. Therefore, they help the author.
What do you think? Do you frequent used bookstores and libraries? Do you think they help or hurt the author?