In case you haven’t noticed, the independent bookstores in this country are a highly endangered species. They’re threatened by the digital revolution, a public that’s narrowing its attention span to 140 bytes, and a certain retailer who shall go unmentioned but whose name rhymes with woebegone. From where I sit, this trend is not just sad but represents a looming cultural disaster. A good indie bookstore isn’t just a place to go and buy books. It’s a place to go to discuss books, to meet other people interested in books, and to hear authors talk about their craft. In short, it’s a literary incubator that promotes human interaction, communication, and collaboration of the best kind.
Buying books on line may save some money, but the process is barren by comparison.
You won’t be surprised, then, that when I received an invitation to read from and sign copies of my new book, Dead Float, at the Bookloft in the small town of Enterprise, Oregon, I jumped at the chance. Okay, I admit that I also got in a good day of fly fishing on the nearby Imnaha River, but catching native trout in a pristine river was just frosting on the cake. Nestled in the stunningly beautiful Wallowa Valley, Enterprise and its sister city, Joseph, have a strong affinity for the arts, with everything from writing to foundry casting, and just about everything in between. Owned by the affable Mary Swanson, The Bookloft is a bustling cultural center, offering not just new and used books, but jewelry, pottery, paintings, and photography from local artists. There is a real loft, too, and it’s stocked with all manner of books for kids.
Mary told me that she’d had a pretty good spring and summer and that the fall was shaping up okay. I was glad to hear that. I can’t imagine what the beautiful town of Enterprise would be like without a gathering place like the Bookloft. I’d like to believe that the independent book shops in small towns across the country are better positioned to withstand the onslaught of the digital age. After all, there’s the loyalty factor and the fact that the move to buy locally extends beyond just food. However, as we left town early the next morning, I struck up a conversation with the woman making my double cappuccino. She said she liked mysteries, so I told her about Dead Float and mentioned there were signed copies at the Bookloft. She replied, “Thanks. I’ll check your book out, but I love my Kindle.”