September 5, 2011 Every bookstore owner in this country can tell the same story: a customer comes in to look around, studies a table display of nonfiction releases on the anniversary of some historical event, thumbs through a cookbook or three, reads the backs of a few new mysteries. Maybe she asks the bookseller if her favorite writer has a new novel coming out any time soon, or what book she could buy for a kid who loved Eragon but shrugged at The Hunger Games. Then, when it’s time to leave, she thanks the bookseller graciously, whips out her smart phone and, right there in the store, places an order at Amazon, before she forgets the names of the books she’s picked out. She has spent an hour in her local bookstore—and not a single dime.
A bookstore is a business, but it’s also a service to the community. At a bookstore, you can gather up a whole pile of books, read around in them, take your time choosing. At a bookstore, you can ask for advice. When you need a last-minute gift, you can pick up a lovely hardback at a bookstore for less than the price of lunch in a middling restaurant. A bookstore is a refuge on a rainy holiday afternoon, a place for readers to find kindred spirits, an intellectual home.
But bookstores can’t survive as inadvertent—and unpaid—storefronts for Amazon. In a June 13 interview with Chapter 16, novelist Ann Patchett made a plea to all those Nashville readers who were missing Davis-Kidd and longing for another independent bookstore to open in town: “Basically every bookstore is a not-for-profit; nobody’s going to be making big money on this. We’re going to need the community to make a choice, to not get cheaper books on Amazon, because they want to have a bookstore. You want to have a bookstore? Support your bookstore.”
Parnassus Books, a new independent bookstore being launched in Nashville by Patchett and business partner Karen Hayes, isn’t set to open until next month, but there’s already a way to support the store—and help Patchett and Hayes open with shelves fully stocked: “We want the community to have a sense of ownership in what we’re doing,” Patchett writes in a note on the new Parnassus website, where she will keep a regular blog. “If you join us in the beginning, you’re going to buy your birthday presents from us, your book club books and your summer reading books, and that’s what’s going to keep us in business. Second, opening a bookstore is expensive (!!!), and your support will allow us to put on some finishing touches that will take us from really good to truly great.”
Hayes and Patchett aren’t asking for a handout: they’re offering perks for readers who join early, including discounts, prizes ranging from tote bags to autographed broadsides to reserved seating at offsite author events, and members-only sales. To learn more about the Founders Rewards program at Parnassus Books, click here.
For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16’s News & Notes page, here.