Leaving A Mark

To the Editor,

As I'm sure you're already well aware, the corporate chains have done it again: They're forcing another local independent store out of business, this time the wonderful local bookstore The Book Mark. It saddens me that this eclectic local store is losing the war to the huge conglomerate chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders. The giant stores that combine books, music departments, and indoor cafes seem to have more drawing power than the loyal, locally owned indie stores.

Mailbag I, for one, miss the Haunted Bookshop, which was a lovely and fun adventure to hunt for books throughout the large two-story structure, and I will also miss the large Gay and Lesbian and also Wiccan/Pagan book selections the Book Mark has to offer.

Tucson has not yet become as bad as Phoenix, in that all the giant chains have not yet run all the locals out, but we're an enticing target for the national chains. Local markets can hardly compete with superstores that have all your shopping in one location, including clothing, food, music, and a pharmacy to boot!

I remember fondly a local Chinese-owned convenience mart on the west side that finally closed after years of competing with the chain convenience stores. Neighborhood support just wasn't enough.

I'm glad to see you tackle the thorny issues of corporate greed and how Tucson demolished its own history by wiping out the old downtown and vestiges of old Chinatown, something that would have been a quaint and beautiful echo of older days in this city. I've seen how your paper reports about many subjects we would never otherwise hear about, covered time after time, and hopefully, some of us will give a damn that the local stores are being ground under the corporate heel of the Almighty Dollar.

I for one will continue to support the independent stores like Antigone's and Zia's and Zips, and let the big boys suck their money from someone else's paycheck. I may only be one person, but I can vote with my money. And I think we have a chance to stand up and stop the incursion of the corporate monsters before it's too late. (Don't get me wrong, the chain stores are big and well-built, but they don't have the local charm of the mom-and-pop businesses.)

--Andrew Brooks

To the Editor,

As a bibliophile who reads, and purchases, dozens of books a year from many sources, and one who visited The Book Mark for the first time recently and made a purchase during its close-out sale, I feel I must respond to the articles in The Weekly and elsewhere that have covered the store's demise.

First, although I don't doubt that the superstores and their discounts have made inroads into The Book Mark's revenues, I believe there's more to the story than that. Press reports indicate the store's revenues actually increased from the previous year, when the first two superstores opened. Also, the deaths of two key people in the store's operations probably created gaps that were hard to fill, especially the buyer slot. When I visited the store in the midst of its close-out sale, when prices where already discounted below the superstore level, the shelves were still glutted with works. That tells me that much of the inventory was of very limited interest or too arcane.

Second, it had a too large, in my opinion, assortment of new paperback versions of books that had been in circulation for many years. Bibliophiles in Tucson know that if the public or college libraries don't have it, Bookman's does, and it offers these kinds of literature for $2-$3 apiece, and then you can trade them. (Note: I donate mine to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base library instead.)

Finally, much is made in The Weekly's article about how the media conglomerates will eliminate and restrict the public's choices. Yet as you exit the store, there's a sign asking patrons to support a proposed municipal ordinance that would limit the number of chain stores in a given city, which would also restrict the public's choices. Though other cities have apparently passed such laws, as a strong First Amendment type I believe they're unconstitutional in addition to being wrong-headed, and I hope the appellate courts strike them down. Furthermore, what would be the next step? Restrictions on the number of used bookstores in town? Restrictions on the number of libraries and what they can buy? Why not? They hurt indie sales, too.

There're inescapable economic realities at work in America and in a low-wage city like Tucson, price is always going to be a key factor. When you add in people's busy lives and the escalating traffic problems, location and parking become very important, too. When I was young, there were family-owned grocery and drug stores. Most are gone now, and those that survived discovered niches that they could profitably fill, and changed direction accordingly. That's the prescription for survival of indie bookstores.

--Brian S. Churchill

Recommended Reading

To the Editor,

This is not a fan letter; I'm too old for hero worship. But I've been enjoying Jeff Smith's column for years and it's time to tell him so. The last column I read, "Resolved: Get Out More" (January 6), about his needing to make the effort to be "in the company of people this year," struck home.

By happy chance I came across a remarkable book of essays at the library the day after I read Smith's column. He'd be amazed to see how many things the author has in common with him: he's in a wheelchair as a result of an accident, he's a divorced father, writing is his vocation, he likes sports and guns, he drives a car, he knows he can indulge in self-pity and not be destroyed, and he's learned to live as independently as possible.

I'm telling you all this first because there is a slight chance that he hasn't read his latest book, and if he hasn't I want him to want to. The book is Meditations from a Movable Chair by Andre Dubus. It's at the library. It's amazing.

So thanks for the columns. I hardly ever get down to Patagonia, but if I did, I'd look up Table 8 and tell Smith in person.

--Bonnie Richman

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