Fairhaven store cheers big pledge by author to help independent bookstores

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 17, 2013 

Village Books

Kyoko Goldbach of Lummi Island reads among books and magazines at Village Books in Fairhaven Oct. 21, 2008 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Having one of the world's best-selling authors pledging financial support to independent bookstores has the industry abuzz.

Earlier this week on the television news show "CBS This Morning," author James Patterson announced he would give $1 million to brick-and-mortar bookstores across the country. He has only two requirements: It must be a viable independent bookstore and have a children's section.

Patterson, who has sold more than 200 million books and holds the record for the most No. 1 best-sellers on the New York Times list, said on the television show that he's is doing it to help these stores, which have been hurt by the rise of e-readers. Patterson is well-known for his thrillers but has penned a variety of other books, including children's novels.

He views this announcement as a start to a longer-term effort to help independent bookstores stay in business and retain employees.

The announcement made national news, and that exposure is as valuable as the donation itself, said Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books in Fairhaven.

"When someone of his stature says this is important, it's a big deal," Robinson said. "(The industry) couldn't afford that kind of advertising."

As e-readers rose in popularity in recent years, retail bookstores were hit hard, resulting in the closure of national chains as well as independent stores. Robinson said things have started to improve, however. The growth of e-readers and e-books has started to slow, and Robinson has noticed a different trend emerging: While people are still buying e-books, particularly for travel, they are also buying print books to read around the house.

"We knew e-books would take some chunk (of sales), but not all of it," Robinson said.

Robinson also has noticed more authors stepping up to support independent bookstores. Author Sherman Alexie, for example, wants to organize authors to volunteer at independent bookstores on Small Business Saturday, held on Nov. 30, a day after Black Friday.

"I think it's terrific," said Robinson, noting that many authors realize that it would damage the industry if the number of outlets for new writers becomes limited.

Stores interested in applying for Patterson's donation can apply at JamesPatterson.com/booksellers.

"I'm certainly going to try," Robinson said with a laugh.

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Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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