UPDATE!! On 9/18/2013 the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission voted to designate Marcus Books as a historic landmark! Wow! Read more at their Book Look Social Activity Page!
Original post: 9/1/2013 @ 2pm:
Booklooker Marcus Books has been bringing a lot of noise to the cause of saving the nation’s oldest Black bookstore. The bookstore and its supporters have rallied, petitioned, and spread their messages all across social media. Will Marcus Books be saved? Or will we soon be writing their obituary as we have with countless other Black bookstores across the country? Think we’re exaggerating? AALBC’s Troy Johnson put the issue in black and white for us last year, and it was not pretty.
And more recently, Bowker Market Research released a report indicating that for the book industry as a whole, this trend is not slowing down. Online book retail, including ebooks and print books sold online, accounted for 44% of all spending by consumers on books in the U.S. in 2012. Ebook spending itself is about 11% of all books sold up from 7% in 2011. We are quickly approaching a point where HALF of all books are SOLD online. And as that old saying goes, “when America catches a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.” So how do you think this statistic is impacting Black bookstores?
Here at The Book Look, we wish Marcus Books all the best. Bookstores are still an important part of our community, some would argue they are the lifeblood of our community. Of course this may mean that they will need to change with the times, augmenting their traditional print book offerings with literature in various formats, food and culture that we have yet to imagine. We also have online Black bookstores emerging, like MahoganyBooks.com, co-owned by past Booklooker of the Month Ramunda Lark Young, focusing on books by and about Black folks. It is exclusively online. Another example is the historic and indomitable Hue-man Bookstore that may have closed its doors in Harlem, but continues as a force in online books.
Whether the 21st century Black bookstore survives online, on the corner or both, they will certainly have to be fierce and creative, as retail conglomerates like Amazon and Walmart fix their appetites to continue to try to eat traditional and smaller online stores for lunch. But that’s a blog for another day!
Looking for a Black bookstore? Try this handy database!