Independent bookseller and local-business advocate Andrew Laties believes we should pay to live in the kind of world we want. In Rebel Bookseller, he draws on experiences from his 30 years in the industry to illustrate the need for consumer activism and awareness.
Laties, who speaks here on Monday, dismisses the excuse of generous savings from chain stores as an alternative to investing in one's community.
"If you can pay $10 to see a movie for two hours, you can go to your local bookstore and consider the hour you spend browsing as part of the cost," says Laties, by phone, from New York. "Let's stop judging purchases based on how much money we save, and instead, let's judge based on the quality of life that is represented by these local businesses."
Laties currently manages the Eric Carle Museum Bookshop in Amherst, Mass. He insists that the "sadomasochistic" relationship between chain booksellers and publishers creates higher prices for consumers, based primarily on the amount of product these stores demand to keep their shelves full.
The result: Chains place exorbitant orders, on credit, that yield massive returns of unsold books. That costs the publishers revenue, a loss they pass on to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Now, big-box stores are declining; witness the recent collapse of Borders. That makes Laties optimistic about the possibility for independent bookstores to rebound -- even in the shadow of online mega-retailers, like Amazon.
"If it's true that Borders has closed down, Walden[books] and Dalton are out of business, and all that's left standing is Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, then it should be easier for publishers to stand up to companies and make room for the indie seller again," he says.
If big boxes aren't overordering stock, Laties says, publishers should be able to reduce their prices. If that happens, the discounts offered by online retailers won't warrant a week's wait to read a book. He suggests consumers make small efforts to put their money back into the community, however unaffordable it may seem.
"If, for the time being, you want to be a freeloader and buy what's cheap, that's fine," he says. "But plan to contribute to a world where independent businesses can survive, and hopefully thrive."
Laties signs books and lends his voice to a free panel discussion on buying local, at 6-8 p.m. Mon., Oct. 3, at Copacetic Comics.
Other panelists include Jovon Higgins, from 720 Music, Clothing & Café; Frank Otero, from Eljay's Used Books; and Copacetic's Bill Boichel.
Copacetic Comics (412-251-5451) is located at 3138 Dobson St., Polish Hill.