END IS NEAR:.
Louise Parkinson of The Bookcase stands surrounded by her inventory that she hopes to sell within the next few months before she has to close her store, possibly as early as the end of May.
HUNTSVILLE - Remember the old hit song Video Killed the Radio Star?
If you ask Louise Parkinson of The Bookcase, her situation is more a case of technology killed the small-town bookstore.
“Yes, definitely,” she said.
After 42 years, local landmark, The Bookcase, is slated to close its doors at the end of May. Parkinson, who has owned the store for the past four years, blames heavy discounting from big box stores, e-readers and online shopping for the store’s demise. “It’s a very sad day,” said Parkinson, “for myself, for the town and for books. There was never a day that I did not look forward to going to work,” she says. “There is nothing more interesting and exciting than being surrounded by books all day. It really was a wonderful way to make a living.”
The Bookcase was started by Jean Reynolds in 1970 and had two other owners, Judith Ruan and Anne Smith, before Parkinson took over in 2008. “In the beginning it was great,” recalls Parkinson. “Everything changed, however, in 2010. The recession hit, e-readers took off, Amazon came into Canada and the big box stores started a price war on books. If it was just the recession, I could ride it out, but the book industry has permanently changed and I have to accept that and move on.”
She said it has been just too hard to compete against the big discounters.
“There’s so much discounting now of books that people don’t expect to pay the full price anymore. Unfortunately, it devalues the art form and the intellectual property of the book.”
The other issue is ebooks. According to Parkinson, 28 per cent of consumers in North America now own an e-reading device.
“What we thought would be a bit of a fad, has become the new normal … and unfortunately selling e-books is not particularly profitable so it makes no sense to be part of it.”
She is not the only person who shares sad feelings about the impending demise of the longtime business. Customer Mike Pearce said for him, Huntsville would not be the same.
“It’s just so sad to see a piece of Huntsville history become history, particularly a place so charming and unique.”
The Day the Falls Stood Still author Cathy Buchanan is nervous about the changes.
“I’m a little terrified of all the upheaval in the industry myself, and do see much of what I love about books disappearing, the physical book and the neighbourhood bookstore being two prime examples. It is disheartening to hear that this lovely, well-regarded store isn’t viable.”
Parkinson said the store’s closure is just another sign the world is changing.
“People want things quick and easy and cheap. They don’t want the hassle of having to walk a block to have a unique experience. And they think saving a dollar or two on a book is more important than keeping their local community alive. In the past couple of weeks I have had so many people come into my store and tell me how terrible it is that I am closing, and I look at them and think, who are you? In four years I have not seen you in my store. They don’t see the connection between their buying habits and the demise of their local community.”
She adds that with the changing times, her biggest concern is for the quality and integrity of the written word.
“Independent stores champion and sell books that they love, not just the ones on the bestseller list. We are huge readers in the business because we love reading. Who’s going to be there to promote the new authors and the authors who challenge the status quo? It’s scary to think that the monopolies in the industry are going to control what we read.”
Still, Parkinson said while she is not bitter about the demise of The Bookcase she does think if people don’t support locally owned, independent stores then they will close and local communities will die.
But the death of the company may not come in late May. Parkinson said that she has sold the building, which houses the business and is in the midst of negotiating a short-term lease with the new owners to keep the store open over the summer in order to sell more of her stock.
“I might rent it back from them for a few months.”
— With files courtesy from Louise Parkinson.