Get ‘Em While They’re Young

I don’t know how I missed this earlier this month (ok, maybe I do):

Paperback Dreams, a new documentary by San Francisco filmmaker Alex Beckstead, chronicles the history of Bay Area bookstores Cody’s Books and Kepler’s Books and Magazines, and in doing so, it offers a microcosm of the struggles faced by many independent booksellers over the past 50 years. . . .

A native of Salt Lake City, Beckstead grew up shopping at the King’s English Bookshop, Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore and the now-defunct Waking Owl. After he moved to San Francisco, Beckstead became a fan of Kepler’s and Cody’s. “I worked in Menlo Park on documentaries and bought a lot of my books for research at Kepler’s,” Beckstead said. “When I heard Kepler’s was closing [briefly in 2005], I was shocked: it’s in one of the most affluent, educated cities in America—just 15 minutes from Stanford University—and it made me realize that if an independent bookstore couldn’t survive there, there must be a larger story.”

I’m glad that we are partially responsible for the existence of this documentary; once you go indie, you never go back! The Paperback Dreams website is fantastic, except for the part where it tells me that I missed an advance screening at BEA. Sigh. I suppose it was unavoidable that I miss things… I’ll just have to watch it when it airs on PBS in November.

I’m marking my calendar right now; if anything deserves a documentary, it’s independent bookstores. In fact, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that we deserve our own reality TV show. Don’t you think? If plumbers can get on TV (and is it just me, or is Mike Rowe irresistible even when covered in coal dust? I have to admit right now, though, that it frightens me that the Discovery Channel is now on the Hot or Not? bandwagon…) then booksellers definitely deserve their 15 minutes. Agents/producers, if you’re interested you know where to find me!

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