[Okay, the book says if you have an opinion, write an Op-Ed and send it in to your local newspaper, and if it doesn't get published to post it on your blog. I DO have a strong opinion about something (big surprise), but I am skipping the whole rejection part, and just posting it to my blog. It still counts, right? Since I am the queen of 97land, I think it does.]
AN OPEN LETTER TO HOLIDAY SHOPPERS: PLEASE BUY BOOKS.
Because I work in publishing, I get daily emails and updates about how the economy is wreaking havoc on the book and publishing industries. Even before all of this recent economic turmoil happened, more and more independent bookstores were going out of business, eaten up by the bigger chains and inability to discount their books to compete, and rents skyrocketing to the point that more and more bookstores had to shut their brick and mortar establishments. And I am not talking about little, tiny, out of the way bookstores that someone opened recently on a whim; I am talking about well established stores that had been in business for decades. I actually cried when I found out that my favorite travel bookstore, Candida's in Washington DC, shut down, as did the giant Olsson's. And those are just two examples.
Now experts are saying that this is going to be a bad retail season, which drives fear into everyone's hearts. This is the season that keeps most retail businesses afloat, and without good sales, we could see a very ugly period ahead. And hit hard is going to be the book business. It used to be said that the book industry was nearly recession proof, as people still would buy books because they were inexpensive, enjoyable, and accessible, but now I'm not so sure. With the internet and the economy, things aren't looking so good.
I would like to encourage you, should you be buying gifts this year, to please buy BOOKS for everyone on your list this holiday season. A few months ago I would have said to please buy from your local independent, and I still believe that is the first choice to exercise whenever possible (if there is even a local independent near you anymore -- I'm still worried they are going the way of the DoDo and ultimately the polar bear, which makes me cry and we need to change the subject), but buy them from any bookstore. Everyone's hurting.
And do I really need to tell you that books make great gifts? Come on... But I will anyway:
~ Books are relatively inexpensive. These days they cost the same or less than a two hour movie, yet they last much, much longer, and can be read again and again. They are a bargain.
~ Books become your friends. If you are sad or worried, a book can cheer you up with a good plot or good advice. They can make you laugh out loud, or tell you a story that will make you cry. They can inspire you to go and do Great Things. (Or Accomplish a bunch of stuff you never did in High School.) And they will NEVER flake on you or cheat on you, and will be there for you as long as you keep them on your shelves. (Though some WILL tell you not to eat that second helping of ice cream. The Health & Diet genre can be a bit cruel and pushy sometimes.)
~ Books are treasures. There is something about a book that has been given to someone that makes it magical, especially when the giver has inscribed it. I still have most of the books my father gave to me when I was little, and while the author's printed pages are precious, my father's handwriting is absolutely priceless.
~ Sharing a book you love with someone has the ability to shape someone's life. My sister, though she didn't inscribe it, gave me a copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers in 9th grade, because it was one of her favorites. It became one of mine, too. And my other sister gave me a collection of John Steinbeck in 9th grade also because she loved him, and again, so do I. Passionately. (And have been thinking a lot about The Grapes of Wrath lately. Time to revisit it.)
~ There are so many to choose from. Even if the people you're shopping for aren't readers, there is a book in the store that they will love. Whether it's a coffee table book full of pictures, a graphic novel, a how to, or a travel guide for somewhere they might go or have been... Trust me. It's in the bookstore.
~ One stop shopping! The best gift you can give yourself that pays off for everyone is lack of stress. What better way to combat it than get all your shopping done in a nice, clean well lighted place that's not the mall or Wal-Mart? Just thinking about that upped my blood pressure. Ugh.
~ Books are a good and cheap and diverse education. I don't know about you, but I'm too broke to go back to school. The next best thing? Books. And books about EVERYTHING. you can virtually teach yourself anything. Sure, you can Google it, but you can't use a HIGHLIGHTER.
~ They are the easiest thing to wrap. Take it from me, the world's worst wrapper. My presents look like they were wrapped by a four-year-old. One time I went to a baby shower and the guests actually laughed at my crappy wrap job. But books? I am a PRO. In my bookstore tenure, I must have wrapped thousands of books. And it wasn't practice that made it perfect -- it was the clean, even lines. Not a lot of tape, and no need for a gift bag, God's answer for the Gift-Wrapped Challenged.
~ Sustainability. I know, it's hip to be green, and how green are books that trees have to die for? Well, a lot of books are now printed on recycled paper, and they do last a long time. Even when you're done with it, you can pass it along. Plus there's that Kindle, which I don't prefer but it's a fact. And like I said before -- easy to gift wrap so no gift bag and wasteful decorative tissue.
~ Books smell good. Seriously. New book smell is heavenly. One of my favorite things to do is walk into a new bookstore and get happily pummeled by that scent. I even like the smell of old books and their musty history, but then again, I'm weird.
~ Reading a printed page is way better than scrolling down on a computer screen. I have never heard about any reported cases of anyone getting carpal tunnel by reading a book. Sure, maybe your butt will fall asleep and you may get a papercut, but it's not like clicking a mouse, which can result in physical therapy or some fancy and expensive aerodynamic or whatever keyboard that doesn't really work anyway.
~ What my Favorite tee shirt says is true:
'Nuff said. Available here: buyolympia
~ Buying books helps the good people of the book industry. Okay, I was an English major in college, so I've never made the big bucks. And with the exception of maybe Danielle Steele and John Grisham and Stephen King and other blockbuster exceptions, people in the book industry -- no matter what side of the counter they're on -- gets paid much money. Writing, producing, editing, marketing, publicizing and selling books is really hard. Trust me. We're all underpaid, but it's a labor of love.
~ Books are Community Organizers. You think I'm joking? you may laugh at Oprah's book club (though I don't know why you would or should), but that's only one of them out there. Social circles are formed around books, as are movements. And there are a lot of towns out there who rely on their libraries and bookstores for events, education, and jobs. Ahem. Communities.
~ Speaking of Community Organizers... Our new president is a writer and reader, and this is one way he leads by example. Shouldn't we up the ante a bit and follow suit? It would be amazing to shed the dumb American stereotype. And what better way to do it than READ BOOKS.
Okay, I could go on, but that's plenty to get you started. Ask is anyone you know has a Wish List, Amazon or otherwise. Pay attention to what they're talking about -- I'm sure a book on that topic is out there. Ask your bookseller for ideas -- they may not get paid a lot, but they have some good suggestions. And think about what you've read and loved that you could give to someone to enrich their lives. And very important: BE VERY VOCAL AND TELL EVERYONE WHAT BOOKS YOU WANT, TOO. Sure, sure, it's better to give than to receive and all that BS, but make sure you're covered, too.
And may I suggest this little gem?
the book that started this blog.
Thank you for reading.
Twenty one down, 76 to go.