Recently, two things have occurred in our small community that speak volumes about who we are and what we want, particularly with respect to books and bookstores.
The first thing was my announcement last month that the 2012 Sedona Book Festival had been canceled. Of great significance is that the festival was canceled not due to public support and interest but rather some administrative failures on the part of my non-profit partner. Since that announcement, I have received a great number of expressions of support and interest that the festival continue next year. I even received a couple of offers from potential nonprofit partners to host the event. So I am greatly encouraged that we may be back in 2013.
The other thing was the closing of Golden Word Books & Music. Contrary to what might first come to mind, that now I have one less competitor in the area, I am saddened that another independent bookstore has closed. As with any business closing, there are always a multitude of reasons for it, but lack of community support (i.e., local people not buying books) has to be at the top of the list. Golden Word had been in Sedona for 31 years. They are gone forever.
But, we should take heart - the list of national chain stores in Sedona and the surrounding area keeps growing. Maybe someday we'll even have our own Trader Joe's.
Is that what you really want?
Or maybe just the convenience and perceived discounts of online shopping?
I'm not delusional. I know Amazon and e-books are here to stay. But Amazon is fighting a losing battle with respect to the collection of sales taxes. (I still say Arizona will be the last state on board the sales tax train, but it will happen, sooner not later.) And e-books are not quite the overwhelming book publishing success experts claimed they would be, accounting for only 7 percent of dollars and 14 percent of units of books sold in 2011.
I recently came across two quotes about the future of books and bookstores. The first is by Tim Waterstone, founder of Waterstones, Europe's largest bookstore chain, from his article How We Lost Bookshops Thanks to Amazon and Publishers:
"It's actually as simple as this. New authors, building their customer base, need physical bookshops. Physical bookshops are lovely tactile, friendly, expert, welcoming places. Physical books, which can only be seen and handled in physical bookshops, are lovely, tactile things. Destroy those bookshops, and the very commercial and cultural base to the book industry is destroyed. Once and for all. Like Humpty Dumpty, it can never be put together again."
The other quotation is from a forthcoming book by legendary columnist and essayist, Joe Queenan, One for the Books:
"People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, not merely an electronic version, are in some sense mystics. We believe that the objects themselves are sacred, not just the stories they tell. We believe that books possess the power to transubstantiate, to turn darkness into light, to make being out of nothingness. We do not want the experience of reading to be stripped of this transcendent component and become rote and mechanical. That would spoil everything.
"...other people...are free to download (books) onto their e-readers.... But by doing so, by refusing to patronize bookstores and libraries, by refusing to expose themselves to the music of chance, they have purged all the authentic, non-electronic magic and mystery from their lives.
They have rolled over and surrendered to the machines.
"Certain things are perfect the way they are and need no improvement. The sky, the Pacific ocean, procreation ... and books .... Books that we can touch; books that we can smell; books that we can depend on."
Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)