Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

Grim Days for Bookstores

The news just keeps getting worse for people who like to browse for books in person

March 18, 2011 Readers in Knoxville were still mourning the impending loss of Carpe Librum, the beloved independent, when the news came that Ohio-based bookstore chain Joseph-Beth would close Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Nashville, a fixture in the community for thirty years. Within weeks, more bad news was tumbling in from all corners of the state: Bookstar in Memphis: gone. Rock Point Books in Chattanooga: gone. OutLoud! in Nashville: gone. The one saving grace was a faint grace at best: bankruptcy restructuring at Borders and Joseph-Beth meant that Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Memphis and Borders in Nashville were safe for the moment.

No longer: the Joseph-Beth corporation announced yesterday that it was putting the profitable Davis-Kidd store in Memphis up for sale. And Borders announced the closing of 28 more stores, including the one in Nashville.

If you’re counting, that leaves Nashville–the home of 600,000 people, and the twenty-fifth largest city in the nation–without a reporting bookstore. Nashville is fortunate in having a number of small, independent bookstores and specialty shops which continue to thrive, and to grow. But the lack of a reporting bookstore–one whose sales are tallied in calculating bestseller lists–is almost on the order of a tragedy for a city that calls itself the Athens of the South.

Humanities Tennessee and the Nashville Public Library are working together to keep bringing top-tier authors to the city for readings, however: the launch of Salon at 615 next month will keep Nashville on the book-tour map, at least. If you’re in Middle Tennessee on April 2, stop in to hear Hampton Sides read from his fascinating book, Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, just out in paperback. And while you’re there, buy a copy or two. Hampton will sign them for you–a human touch Amazon will never offer.

Edited at 3:30 p.m.: BookMan/BookWoman has just become a reporting bookstore for The New York Times.

For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16‘s News & Notes page, here.