Book News: Don't write off independents yet
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One might believe that the pending June shutdown of Jay's Book Stall in Oakland is just another example of the slow death of independent bookstores, but it's not.
Happily, the trend is running in the opposite direction, reports the American Association of Booksellers.
The trade group for independents reported 115 new members last year, the third year in a row that more than 100 openings were recorded.
There's still a long way to go from the halcyon days of the corner bookshop. In 1992, the ABA had 4,700 members; today, it numbers 1,900.
Many reasons are cited for the decline -- rapid growth of the big bookstore chains, the deep discount sales of books at major retailers, the popularity of online purchasing and the general impression that Americans don't read books anymore.
Yet, even that factor seems in dispute as recent sales figures for last year show a slight increase in book sales over 2006 -- 7.4 percent -- despite a drop in December, apparently a bad month for the retail trade all around.
Sales of hard-cover adult books that month slumped nearly 20 percent over the same time in 2006 (even that category posted a slight sales gain last year). This holiday season lacked a really hot-selling book for adults as well, which might have affected sales.
At the same time, seasonal figures for children's and teen hardcover books jumped 16.7 percent over the previous year.
As for Jay Dantry, owner of the Book Stall, he's simply retiring, as institutions have a habit of doing -- and it's not because some evil corporate giant is forcing him out of business.
• Poet David Blair, a Pittsburgh native, reads from his 2007 collection, "Ascension Days," at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Chatham University's Mellon Hall. He's on the faculty of the New England Institute of Art. Details: 412-365-1210.
• Another writer visits Chatham this month -- award-winning performance poet Debra Marquart on Feb. 26. She's written two collections and a memoir, "The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere." The free event is at 8 p.m. in the Laughlin Music Center, Chatham campus.
• Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer ("Everything Is Illuminated") talks to the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28. The free program is in Room 121, David Lawrence Hall, on the Pitt campus. Details: 412-621-8875.
First Published February 19, 2008 12:00 am