Posted by: Stacy Perman on October 12, 2009
What do you get when you pair one independent bookselling legend with another venerable institution? The answer comes in the form of the recent announcement that 115-year-old Vroman’s (based in Pasadena) the oldest indie book store in southern California has signed an agreement to acquire Book Soup, the eclectic 34-year-old West Hollywood indie shop known for its deep stock of inventory and lively readings. For years — even before the Great Recession flattened retail sales in general and book selling in particular — small independent bookstores have had a hard time of it as they’ve navigated a collision course with large chain retailers, Amazon, and even Costco and Wal-Mart. A number of booksellers have gone under. In April, the 20-year-old Cook’s Library in Los Angeles went out of business. Last year, the Bay Area institution Cody’s finally called it a day after more than a half a century, and this past spring, Stacey’s Bookstore, the 85-year-old San Francisco shop, announced it too was shuttering its doors.
According to the American Booksellers Assn., a trade organization made up of independents, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., in 1993 there were 4,700 indies. Last year, that number had fallen to 1,600. This small business merger offers a bright spot in an otherwise bleak trend and a possible alternative fate to stand alone book sellers across the country.