A big week for the printed word is coming up. Next week will see the release of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol; Sen. Edward Kennedy’s memoir, entitled True Compass; and John Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory: The Odessy of Pat Tillman about the NFL-start-turned-warrior/patriot.
But local booksellers remain a bit tepid about the blockbuster releases. Powell’s City of Books on Burnside isn’t planning on staying open late so readers can snag copies of The Lost Symbol early Tuesday morning. Neither is Murder by the Book, says owner Barbara Tom, adding that most of her clients probably wouldn’t stay up much past nine at night.
“New books for us are still a depressed area of the marketplace,” says Gerry Donaghy, new book purchasing supervisor with Powell’s. He said asking customers to shell $25 to $30 for a new hardcover book might be difficult for some readers to swallow.
“Our customer counts are still good, but but they’re being a lot more frugal on how they spend their money,” Donaghy says. With Kennedy’s memoirs, he says he’s concerned people will just flip through the book looking for the juicy parts, then leave without a copy in tow.
Roberta Dyer, owner of Broadway Books, says her store will be carrying the new Brown book, but she’s not expecting it to be a huge draw for her neighborhood store. “That kind of blockbuster really belongs to the mass marketers,” Dyer says. Her store isn’t even discounting the title. “We’re an independent bookstore and we can’t afford it.”
But are blockbuster titles getting people to read more? Donaghy is skeptical, calling books like The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series “cultural currency” and doubting many people read the books all the way through, instead doing just enough to engage in water cooler conversation.
“You don’t want to be left out of the conversation,” Donaghy says.
But Dyer is more optimistic. “A whole generation of non-reading kids read [the Harry Potter] books and then came back and asked ‘What else do you have’?” she says.