Bestselling author James Patterson announced Tuesday that he will donate $1 million to independent bookstores — news that is both exciting, and, if you sit and think about it for a sec, a bit worrying for indie bookstore lovers like me (and probably you).
The past two decades have been tough for independent bookstores. In the 1990s, mega-store Barnes & Noble gave them Goliath-sized competition with its huge selection and discounted rates. Then, the rise of Amazon, with its online convenience and cheap prices, dealt neighborhood booksellers another blow. And in the past few years, e-books' ascendency has only accelerated the trend of buying books elsewhere.
Those independent bookstores still remaining have resorted to crowdfunding in order to keep their doors open, according to a New York Times article published last month. For example, San Francisco's Adobe Books and Manhattan's Books of Wonder both used online campaigns to raise $60,000 and $50,000, respectively.
Patterson's generosity is good for bookstores, therefore, because they clearly need it. However, it's also a saddening sign of the times if an author, someone who makes money from bookstores sales, hypothetically, needs to pour his money back into them.