Monday, August 12, 2013

Indie Bookstores That Ask for Donations: Good Idea, or Not?

For those of us who truly love books, bookstores, libraries, and most anything to do with publishing, these are strange times.  We watch helplessly as our favorite bookstores disappear one after the other, all the while knowing there is really nothing we can do to help save them.  Or is there?

From the New York Times comes word about a new bookstore trend in which indie stores are forced to ask for patron donations in order to ensure their survival for even another few months.  This kind of thing seems to be the trend...even grocery store cashiers are pushing pricy bags of school supplies this time of year that often leave me wondering how much profit is in them for the grocery chains.

Where do we draw the line?  Is a one-time donation tied specifically to some catastrophic event acceptable but not a fundraiser to help a small bookstore meet its increased rent burden?  What obligation, if any, does a bookstore have after raising money this way?  It certainly cannot be forced to keep its doors open, but what if management squanders the money and then calls it a day?  How would that make you, a donor, feel?

I have mixed emotions about this kind of thing, wanting to help but wondering what good I am really doing in the long run.  I wish more of us were just willing to pay a "book tax" by shopping at indie bookstores in the first place:

In San Francisco, a campaign for Adobe Books successfully raised $60,000 in March after the store faced a rent increase and nearly went out of business.
In Asheville, N.C., the Spellbound Children’s Bookshop collected more than $5,000 when it appealed to customers for help moving to a new location.
In the Flatiron district of Manhattan, Books of Wonder raised more than $50,000 in an online campaign last fall after the recession and other losses depleted its financial resources.
Web sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, originally made for the public financing of creative projects, have simplified the logistics of raising money, and bookstores facing financial distress are seizing the opportunity. They can set up a Web page explaining what their fund-raising goal is, why they are asking for it and what the deadline is. Donors pitch in as little as $5 or $10 with a few clicks and a credit card number.

Read the article here before you make up your mind.   

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