Author Ann Patchett has a piece in the newest issue of The Atlantic explaining why and how she opened up a bookstore in Nashville, Tenn. after the two bookstores in the city shuttered its doors. Patchett says her bookstore has found success because it offers something that websites like Amazon lack: a community—a place where children can come to learn and play, where writers can give talks, sign books and give recommendations (Patchett herself recommends lots of books to customers), and where people feel like they’re at home (the store has two dogs, and a piano).
I’m sure the success of the store also has a lot to do with Patchett’s celebrity (for many of the same reasons Nora Roberts’s local businesses have found success). Patchett was able to open her checkbook to get her bookstore funded, and because she’s who she is, she was invited on The Colbert Report to talk about her bookstore, was able to ask Jonathan Franzen and other writers to come to the store, and the bookstore’s opening made the A1 section of The New York Times. She acknowledges all of this, and understands that she’s lucky, but if the brick and mortar independent bookstore were truly dying, no amount of celebrity could bring it back to life. It’s also nice to know that Amazon isn’t holding all of the cards.