Talk of the effects of digital publishing on indie bookstores has been happening in the background of the book industry since the current digital revolution first took off. When stores like the Borders chain collapsed or when B&N’s sales figures plummet, concerns are raised about what ebooks and online retailing is doing to bookstores, but that discussion largely focuses on the major players, and less on the mom-and-pop physical bookstores.
Publisher’s Weekly has been at least trying to keep attention in front of consumers on the ongoing loss of bookstores, often using its social media platforms to remind users of stores that are shuttering. But today, the magazine had some news of hope to share for community bookstores in the form of an article about author James Patterson’s one-man effort to support independent booksellers with his personal grant funding.
Called the $1Million Indie Bookstore Campaign, Patterson stated early last September that he was personally providing one million dollars in funding to eligible bookstores who applied for and received a grant through the campaign. Eligibility only requires that the bookstore be an actual operating bookseller and that it have a children’s section. So far, grants have been applied for through Patterson’s website for everything from educational programs, property taxes and physical repairs to stores, and in one case, a book fair-style retrofitted bus that the shop can take to schools to foster kids’ interest in reading.
According to PW’s article, the first installment of payouts for the grants has now happened, to the tune of over $250,000 dollars. While a complete list of the stores that have already received their grants–in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $15,000–is available in the article, suffice to say that the list is quite long.
Patterson’s publisher, Hachette, is supportive of the author’s decision to support bookstores in this way, but is quick to point out that this is a labor of love that Patterson has taken on all by himself. The publisher’s representatives do encourage their stores to learn more about the grant and apply, but they do not influence the selection or fund Patterson’s project.
But why would an author go to these lengths, especially on his own? The answer he gave in an interview with the magazine is quite remarkable: “The future of books in America is at risk. Bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books. I want to really shine a light and draw attention to the fact that this is a tricky time. The government will protect the automobile industry and the banking industry, but not books.”