It was a quiet afternoon for a book signing, as steadily-falling snow kept many people off the streets, but it made for a very pleasant atmosphere as we watched the big snowflakes come down, and everyone who came in from the sidewalk took a moment to shake off a coating of wet snow inside the door. A young lady sat down at the piano and played for fifteen or twenty minutes, bringing a smile to everyone's face. It was a rare afternoon when books, music, and the beauty of a Canadian December reminded us that bookstores such as Collected Works occupy a very important place in our culture.
Lately the news for independent bookstores in Ottawa has not been very good. In October the Ottawa Citizen reported that Books on Beechwood, an independent that has operated in the city for 18 years, will be closing its doors at the end of January 2013. While a neighbourhood fire had an adverse effect on business in the area, owner Jean Barton said that "declining book sales, the emergence of e-books and more people ordering books online" were also contributing factors in the closing of the store. As she said to reporter Tony Lofaro, "I think bookstores are probably going to go the way of record stores, eventually.”
As the quiet afternoon passed in what is normally a very busy time of year, I couldn't help but worry that Collected Works would soon suffer the same fate as Books on Beechwood, Nicholas Hoare Books, and Mother Tongue, which also closed their doors in 2012. While I'm not a person who believes that large corporations are malevolent or evil by their very nature, I'm convinced just the same that as consumers we have a role to play in ensuring that independent businesses can not only make their rent each month, pay their employees and even turn a bit of a profit, but also keep their doors open so that we can all enjoy alternative sources of culture, literary and popular. When it comes to books, think independent first, because when it comes to local authors and their books, you're very likely to find them in an independent bookstore such as Collected Works.
website and on Twitter, and keeping the mood light thanks to his thirteen cups of coffee and indomitable spirit. I asked him to try to look studious and business-like for this picture, and he almost made it.
Thanks very much for everyone who came in yesterday and stopped at my table to chat, and special thanks to those who bought a copy of one of my books, because you contributed not only to the efforts of this local independent author but also to those of a worthy local independent bookseller!