Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Bookstore Strikes Back




The Bookstore Strikes Back

Two years ago, when Nashville lost its only in-town bookstores, the novelist Ann Patchett decided to step into the breach. Parnassus Books, which Patchett and two veteran booksellers envisioned, designed, financed, and manage, is now open for business and enjoying the ride.
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In late February I am in my basement, which is really a very nice part of my house that is not done justice by the word basement. For the purposes of this story, let’s call it the Parnassus Fulfillment Center. I have hauled 533 boxed-up hardback copies of my latest novel, State of Wonder, from Parnassus, the bookstore I co-own in Nashville, into my car; driven them across town (three trips there and three trips back); and then lugged them down here to the Parnassus Fulfillment Center. Along with the hardbacks, I have brought in countless paperback copies of my backlist books as well. I sign all these books and stack them up on one enormous and extremely sturdy table. Then I call for backup: Patrik and Niki from the store, my friend Judy, my mother. Together we form an assembly line, taking orders off the bookstore’s Web site, addressing mailing labels, writing tiny thank-you notes to tuck inside the signed copies, then bubble-wrapping, taping, and packing them up to mail. We get a rhythm going, we have a system, and it’s pretty smooth, except for removing the orders from the Web site. What I don’t understand is why, no matter how many orders I delete from the list, the list does not get shorter. We are all work and no progress, and I’m sure something serious must be going wrong. After all, we’ve had this Web site for only a week, and who’s to say we know what we’re doing? “We know what we’re doing,” Niki says, and Patrik, who set up the Web site in the first place, confirms this. They explain to me that the reason the list isn’t getting any shorter is that orders are still coming in.
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