Exclusive Article: What’s Really Happening to Black Bookstores Closing Down!

According to Disilgold insiders, the economy’s recession has forced many businesses, namely black bookstores out of prime areas due to fluctuation in taxes, electricity and even water usage expenses. Prime realtors looking to buy out bookstores to build large chain stores also, close out bookstores with mediocre traffic. Just think of your regular fashion boutique with crowds of customers all day. Most bookstores have a sparingly amount of visitors that trickle in to buy texts, novels and books, leaving end of the month expenses and rent for space unfulfilled.

Yes, bookstores could rent a cheap cubicle office in any trendy state-of- the art loft in Manhattan to look large and in charge for only $600 books with a business partner, but unfortunately, you couldn’t fit the inventory a bookstore carries in a small cubicle with employees facing the wall. That just isn’t happening and this is worse than these tiny and narrow brownstones in Harlem turning into gift and novelty shops that you’re afraid to turn around in without breaking something. Cutesy, but bookstores need space and lots of it for signings, events, and to attractively display books that may be of vast interest to booklovers. It obviously takes money to make money, but there is only one problem, most black bookstores are behind in the expenses and inventory, inadequately staffed and just can’t handle the strain of too many book returns.  Perhaps, non of these reasons are why Karibu Bookstores closed down.  Sometimes, owners wish to take their profits and bail out when they see a down trend in the market.

Bookstores may be at fault for nurturing hype and feeding their customers tons of it making them crave more of the junk like a Pavlov experiment gone bad. Well, as the saying goes, what you sow is what you reap. You give kids candy, they’ll want more, but if you give readers garbage, whether it stinks or not, you’re guilty of conditioning their senses to think they need it from gossip and tabloids to severe hype and sexploitation of celebrities. However, once readers know they have been fooled, they grow less trusting of buying books.

 With 3/4 of the nation in debt and many companies resorting to increasing interest rates, the average African American family can no longer afford books as a luxury. More and more families are looking to resources with information which leave out novels that fulfill the last heirarchy of needs of human beings and that is  ENTERTAINMENT.

Even Blockbuster stores closed down in New York when Tivo television became a growing and cheaper trend for movie watchers. So it was inevitable that stores  for other less interest forms of entertainment globally would begin to take a dip in profits.  With the computer age, people are resorting to e-books and seem to be glued to the computer every day leaving less time to get to the bookstores.

Finally,  even with top novelists attracting reluctant readers into bookstores, not enough book fans are filtering into stores. Many booklovers resort to swapping books, waiting for discounts and even visiting author’s websites for discounted books. Diehard booklovers may buy books like eyecandy that attract the eye with tempting bookcovers, but just as many return books to purchase new books. This is creating major paper work for bookstores with high inventory who otherwise may have dealt with individual self-publishers, but rather working with larger distributors. It doesn’t help that many self-published authors don’t have enough book inventory to supply the demand of fans, so very often the books just aren’t available in bookstores.

Regardless, of why Karibu closed with hints featured in the Washington Post, it is evident that many bookstore owners are now sweating bullets as they try to figure out if they are the next big meltdown. My only solution when this kindof crisis arises is for forums, bookclubs and book lovers to get online and encourage booklovers to visit their local store and support their books. There isn’t a single black owned bookstore I have visited that can’t say Heather Covington never purchased a truckload of books. Like Mary J. Blige old jam goes, I TRY, but everyone’s got to get their ass up and go to the bookstore or we may all lose out. Don’t think this is just a problem for authors. You simply won’t find the variety of African American books anywhere else than in a black bookstore.

Heather Covington is a celebrity photojournalist, entertainment critic and book reviewer for Disilgold Soul Magazine as featured at www.Disilgold.com.  Her articles, press releases, reviews and photos have been featured in many major publications. In April 2008, she launches her first urban novel, TEKILA NIKA: THE FORBIDDEN BRONX VIDEO DIARIES and GOD’s 24 HOUR MAKE-OVER among several former titles now available from Disilgold Publishing like The Disilgold Way: Countdown 101 From Writer to Self-Publisher. (www.Heather-Covington.com)


4 comments on “Exclusive Article: What’s Really Happening to Black Bookstores Closing Down!

  1. Hi Eugene,

    I know you had to type this in a little box , but your point is well taken and understood as is. Thank you for sharing. Collectible art books are a treasure for gift giving needs. I have found mail order catalogs to be the most advantageous for stores with rare items as well as sites like CushCity.com that sale rare items. A simple high gloss spread with detailed descriptions, actual size information so consumers know what they are getting along with some kind of membership registration for others to sell items through your catalog may benefit your business while trying to gain more in house customers. I would certainly host classy events at a store of such, have designers come in to auction a few and real art collectors host events at your establishment. I know this all gets away from straight selling, but this is my best advice to make constant streams of revenue doing something you enjoy. The most I have spent on any art is a few hundred because I simply like real lithographs and nothing that a 5th grader could make or swirl around with paint. If you sell art on line, it’s got to be extremely well represented so already you are talking about investing in presentation of your product which I applaud you. I never used any business loans, but if you can get investors who can back you with reciprocation of space for events that bring a return on investment, you may have a winner on your hands. ART AND HIGH QUALITY BOOKS are back! I even bought 50 Cent’s Scrap book. That book is the most expensive coffee table book out there and top notch. Take care. Check us out on http://www.Disilgold.com

  2. your article addresses alot of business paradigms and shows the importance of change and adaptability as key components in the figh for competitive dollars. i have been a seller of high end collectiable african am art books for 30yrs and though the interet has made my special skill of locating materials easier i embrace the technology as an opportunity to expand on my expertise. small book stores may become like the ice cream trucks of our youth but our culture will never become obsolete and the importance of a book will become a gold mine for the person who understands how to convey that transferences to the new and expanding mkt of our youth

  3. You’re so right. I guess we don’t appreciate great things in our communities until they are gone. I believe I have a rare photos sitting on the podium for one of the Book Expo events the store sponsored so I will try to post here shortly to symbolize their marketing strengths for the memories of this great store in another dimension.

  4. Pretty interesting take on the situation. However, black bookstores aren’t the only type of book retailers who face problems with rising costs. Bookstores of all types typically don’t garner high profit margins in comparison to other retail outlets. My experience is that it is usually poor management, innovation, & lack of marketing that puts black owned bookstores in a bad position.

    One of the many great the things about Karibu is that from a business perspective it proved that the black bookstore model is very viable.


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