Well. It's about half an hour to forty minutes away from us by car, and we don't go there every day - but we DO go there, every so often, and with the new book imminent we thought we'd go visit the place this morning, leave them a few bookmarks, let them know it's coming.
The first thing I saw as I negotiated the odd little twisty main street approach in downtown Mount Vernon was a large banner sign attached to the bookstore building, partially obscuring the name painted on the bricks, flapping in the wind.
We walked into what was billed as a "huge sale" (although, well, there was a rack of books at 75% off and some of the others were being sold at 10-30% off, which ins't exactly HUGE, but anyway). And apparently it had been going on for some time because a lot of the shelves were quite bare. The middle ones, where the science fiction and fantasy usually lived, were missing altogether.
This sucks, you know. It sucks big time. I appreciate that the owners of these places have lives too and sometimes these lives take precedence - but there are so few left, so few good independent bookstores left, that it hurts to see another one go by the wayside. Literally thousands of independent bookstores have closed in the last ten years - succumbing to pressured from the Barnes and Nobles of this world, and to big-chain mass-market outlets like Costco, and more recently and overwhelmingly to online sellers like Amazon. Recent high-profile indie closures, the ones that make the news and the blogosphere, include Cody's Books in Berkeley, California, and a bookstore called A Clean Well-Lighter Place for Books in San Francisco (and this one's personal, folks, it was one of the stops on my Jin Shei book tour, and I hate it that they're gone - it's part of my OWN history...) There have been a couple of cases where the mere threat of closure of a beloved independent has fired the community to sometimes exceedingly creative efforts to save the bookstores; relatively recent examples include Kepler's Books in Menlo Park and Cover-to-Cover Books in San Francisco. But these latter are almost flukes - financial pressures are huge, rents are high, and when booksales are not as high as they need to be the expenses usually come out of the owner's pockets. I am aware of that. I buy independent when I can, for that very reason - my own backyard indie shop, Village Books in Fairhaven, knows my face well, and not because I'm a local author and occasionally take part in events organised at the store. No, they know my face because they see it so often across the cash register. rdeck and I have spent hundreds of dollars at this place.
But oh, DAMMIT. I can't support EVERY independent bookstore I pass. And the vanishing of Scott's hurts. I hate it when stores with this much personality go away. It takes years to build up such a personality. It isn't something that can be recreated from scratch. It takes a faithful clientele, people who know your place, who trust it and who trust you, a certain community spirit. When that's gone, there's a hole in the world - and Scott's will leave a hole.
It's a sad day.