Sad news last week. Our beloved neighbourhood bookstore, The Book Mark, is being forced to close. The oldest remaining independent bookstore in Toronto will cease to do business at the end of January after 47 years in the west end Kingsway area.
In spite of the competition from the large-scale chains and online retailers, The Book Mark was managing to hold on and continue offering the personal, informed service readers truly appreciate. Loyal customers showed their appreciation through four decades, often one generation following another.
With a quiet but inviting and warm atmosphere, this is a store staffed with intelligent, avid readers who know the books they sell. There was always someone who could answer your questions and provide reliable advice. You don’t find that too often any more. Sue Houghting, her assistant manager Sarah Pietrosky, and their incredibly personable staff will be missed .
I am personally enormously grateful to The Book Mark. When my debut novel, The Bridge Club, was first published in the fall of 2010. I took a deep breath and asked if they would consider putting it on their shelf. Unfailingly polite, they offered to have some of their staff read it and get back to me. I was
so pleased unbelievably thrilled and excited … no kidding … when they called to ask me to bring in a supply. For the past 14 months they have restocked The Bridge Club on a regular basis and sold more copies than any of us had imagined. I can’t thank The Book Mark enough for their vote of confidence in my writing and the enthusiastic support they have consistently offered.
It was heartbreaking to drop by the shop to say thank you and farewell. A constant flow of customers has been expressing sadness and frustration with the situation and gratitude for all the years this was a special shop to visit.
Oh, and the reason they are closing? The city taxes are bad enough but their landlord is asking for a 26% rent increase! Ask me who is one very unpopular person in the Toronto area right now? I have just made a note of the name I will use for the next villain I create in my writing.
Now let’s temper this bitter local news with some sweetness from Walk Off The Earth, local (well, Burlington, Ontario is just outside Toronto) musicians whose AWE-mazing video has been viewed by over
four million – OMG, now it’s almost nine million! – just this week and rocketed them into the kind of visibility they deserve.
Check out their Facebook page where they have posted this message which might well apply to indie writers too. WE CAN RELATE!
“To all the independent musicians out there. I hope this shows that you can make a name for your band with no help from record labels and management and next to no money. Stay true to your dreams and your passions, whether they be music related or not. Don’t wait for people to help you because they never will. The only time the music industry will want to help you is when you have done all the work yourself!”
Way to go Walk Off The Earth! Here’s to continued success!
Are you still fortunate to have an indie bookstore near you? As much as e-books are a big part of authors’ lives these days, bookstores still provide a special service and I am sad to see them close. How do you feel about this? Many say it is inevitable and part of the changing times in which we live.
And then … how about Walk Off The Earth’s video? Cool or what?
Naomi Bulger says
First of all, wow! to that song. The Gotye & Kimbra version was my favourite track of 2011, and it’s incredible what these guys have done in the video. Love it.
As for your bookshop closing, this makes me so sad. Where will it end? And I don’t have the answer. I love the experience of bookstores: the sense of exploration, the smell of the books, the individual service, the many literary events… and yet I’m on a budget like everyone else, and can’t afford to maintain my level of book habit on $29.95 for a paperback when I can order it from Amazon for $7.95. And that’s not even entering the e-book conversation. I can’t expect bookstore owners to become charities for me just because I love their spaces, but I wish there was some way I could save them. Or open my own and discover that holy grail of how to make a living from it.
As soon as I read your reply I was reminded of you having the Gotye video on your blog last year so I went back and looked at it. These kids did a great cover, didn’t they?
The bookshop issue is a tough one as there are few of us these days who don’t download most of our literature. Yet the experience of spending time in a good bookshop is hard to replicate. Progress is often difficult …
Natalie Hartford says
Love the band! Wow – gonna check out their FB page.
I share Naomi’s sentiments. It’s so very sad but at the same time…I struggle with supporting them when the cost difference is so great. But at the same time, I wish there was a way we could have it both ways. We still have a couple indie bookstores here and I hope they survive!!
It’s a tough situation, that’s for sure, and there is no easy answer. Even the big book stores appear to be struggling.
Julie Farrar says
I wish I could personally save every indie bookstore out there. There’s just a limit to how many books I can read in a year. It’s sad news every time I here about another closing.
Indie authors and indie musicians are such treasures. Wish I could wave a wand and get them the audiences they deserve.
Wish you could too, Julie!
Tameri Etherton says
Bittersweet is right. What a loss for your community ~ and you. To find a bookstore where there is personal service is truly a wonder. We have a few indie bookstores here and they are wonderful for finding all the crazy books I ask for. I might have to wait a little longer, but it’s worth it to keep them in business. Besides, I have a huge TBR pile, so it’s not like there’s a huge rush, right? It just makes me sad to see your little bookstore close. It’s adorable!
I’m loving that band. I went and checked them out on FB (read this post in the car while the Kid was at piano). Their message is perfect ~ something we can all take with us and hold true. Thanks for the intro, Patricia.
Since I’m an eternal optimist, I’m hoping the landlord changes his mind on the bookstore and you will still have that fixture in your community.
Tameri, you are indeed the eternal optimist and that’s just one of the many reasons we all love you.
Karen McFarland says
This reminds me of “You’ve Got Mail.” “Then Little Shop Around the Corner.”
It’s sad isn’t it? I don’t like it. Sometimes change sucks.
But I’m optimistic Patricia! 🙂
On we go …
jennifer tanner says
I’m with Karen. Your bookstore’s closing reminds me of “You’ve Got Mail”, a movie I’ve watched at least ten times.
I’m not a fan of the bookstore superstores selling coffee, music and stuffed toys. A bookstore is like a library, a sacred place where I can quietly peruse books.
There’s a used bookstore with creaky wooden floors in our neighborhood and another indie bookstore in a shopping district a couple miles away. I’d be very sad if they closed.
I bought a Kindle recently and though it’s convenient for reading in bed, I prefer holding a book in my hands.
LOL – we all seem to be fans of that movie. It’s just hard to adapt to this kind of change but it is today’s reality. I have to admit I am a Kindle convert though so feel like a bit of a traitor every time I use it … and love it!
Very sad news indeed. I lived in TO in the early 80s and remember the store. There’s gotta be a formula for keeping these fine establishments alive. Think think think…
If only we knew that formula!
I think it’s just sad that they can’t hang on in most cities. There is one near me and I’m not sure how well they’re doing. We are a 2 college town, so that probably helps.
Love the band! I shared their video on FB and Twitter and followed them on Twitter. 5 musicians and one guitar and what a sound!
Elisabeth Kinsey says
This is such a travesty! I worked in our West Side Books for three years and try to bandy around its name to keep people visiting. (32nd and Lowell in Denver, CO) I think her key to success is to own the building you’re in. Boohoo!
Oh yes, what a bonus if you own your building! That can certainly make a difference. What a shame that this landlord does not see the value in his current tenant. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens to the new tenant because this neighbourhood is very community oriented and I can see folks boycotting it!
I hope your shops manage to hang in. The video is so clever, isn’t it? You should look up the original video by Goyte … it’s also brilliant.
Heartbreaking, the decline in indy bookstores – and yet I admit, I’m part of the problem. I have largely switched to e-books (moving & having to shift 23 XL crates of books up a flight of stairs was a big incentive) and primarily buy dead tree books at author book signings. Though I love books, I don’t spend enough $$ in indy bookstores to help them survive.
I do patronize indy music though, and thanks to you, have bought this single and one of their albums. Wonderfu video, thanks for sharing.
I confess to contributing to the decline of book sales as well. There is a lot to be said for the benefit of e-books and I’m seriously thinking of only publishing in e-format from now on. Still, it’s difficult to let go of our past traditions.
SO glad to hear you have supported WOTE. They deserve it!
Thanks for stopping by!
It is sad to see a bookshop like this close, to see old traditions making way for the more profitable new, sad that there wasn’t a business angel out there that could have helped rescue it.
Thanks for the music clip, what a blast, LOVE them! And a fabulous inspiring message too. Thanks Patricia, likewise, wonderful to connect with you, so hope to see you back here too!
Yes, it’s a sad sign of the times and a global issue. The wonderful English Bookstore in Antibes carried The Bridge Club through the summer while I was there. It was such fun to have the book on the shelf there and the staff became dear friends. In the end I wouldn’t take any percentage of the sales … it was just a small way I could help but they were struggling just like our indies here.
It was such fun to share the video!
Jess Witkins says
Hi Patricia! Sad to hear about The Book Mark’s closing. I visited Toronto this past summer and would’ve loved to check it out. I love local bookstores because they do promote local writers and events! We have a local bookstore downtown that primarily sells used books, but they do showcase newer titles, journals, lots of gift cards, local art and it is connected to a total townie coffee shop. I don’t know how the bookstore stays open, cause it’s never very busy inside, but the coffee shop is packed morning to night. Lots of college kids and downtown residents I believe. I visit all the coffee shops, but this one does have these amazing cookies with a chocolate cream inside…dipped in an amaretto latte and I’m in heaven!
Hey Jess, you’ll have to let me know if you visit Toronto again. Coffee shops are certainly doing a much better business than the indie bookshops. How times have changed! An amaretto latte would be go down quite nicely right about now though. Thanks for stopping by.
Bridgette Booth says
Just a few minutes ago I read a plea from a friend to help out our local bookstore that is struggling to survive a recent rent increase. It is an incredible store – not one like it for hundreds of miles – so it would be terrible to lose it.
Thanks for the reminder of how crucial support is for these shops!
Oh Bridgette, darn! The problem is rampant! Fight with all you can muster and good luck!
Laura Best says
I recently blogged about the little bookstore that helped me launch my debut novel in 2009. They closed at the end of December. What a sad day that was…
It’s such a loss. To have the confidence of booksellers whose standards are so high, is such an honour for a new author. We were among the fortunate ones, Laura. Thanks for stopping by!
Elena Aitken says
I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your bookstore. It’s sad for sure, and a definite sign of the times. I wish I had the answer too, because while I love sitting in a book store, surrounded by books. I love my Kindle too.
No easy answers.
I’m a Kindle convert too. No question. Progress is often not easy.