Last week one of my favorite mystery writers made a few rare book signing appearances beginning in Phoenix, then on to Houston and other cities after that. I live in Austin and Mr Charles Finch wasn’t stopping in Austin, but his Houston signing was on a Monday and I love booksignings, so I decided to take a mini road trip.
I coerced a book-loving friend to accompany my madness and off we drove down hwy 71 to hwy 10, speeding a little to get to the signing by 6:30. Charles Finch writes a great mystery series set in victorian London called “the Charles Lenox mysteries”, and has written 10 or 11 (or 12) books. He’s won awards and critical acclaim and can boast a large and significant fan base. You can even buy his books translated into German or Russian.
So you might think his publishers would position his book signings in big book stores like Barnes and Noble in the River Oaks Shopping Center, but you would be wrong. To quote Mr. Finch, “I can’t imagine better starting spots than The Poisoned Pen Bookstore (in Phoenix) and Murder by the Book (in Houston) – two of the stores that every writer in the whisper network knows are truly special homes for readers and book lovers.”
Charles Finch chose small, independent book stores for his book signings, and this can be seen as an important turning point for printed books. Not so long ago prophets were predicting the demise of the small, independent book store.
First the big box stores opened with cheap books and coffee bars, then Amazon opened for business. The number of independent booksellers fell 40 percent in five years as people chose to shop online rather than visit a physical store. Then the Kindle arrived and many analysts were saying it was the end of the printed book.
But something unexpected happened—from 2009 till today, we’ve seen an almost 40 percent increase in small, independent book stores. The truth is, if you are a reader or a book lover, there is nothing more satisfying than wandering aimlessly through a cozy bookstore handling actual books, finding yourself drawn to a cover, or a first paragraph, or a fat leather arm chair in the corner of a shop, or standing in a the check out line talking about your newest find.
As Charles Finch reminds us, we readers are always on the look out for our special ‘homes‘, and there is nothing more gratifying than knowing the retail book industry is stronger than ever.