Wordsworth Books in Harvard Square was one of the first bookstores I remember getting lost in. Just wandering aimlessly through the stacks and aisles picking up books, flipping through them, reading a page or two here and there.
There is no price you can put on a bookstore, especially ones as wonderful as Wordsworth’s.
Wordsmith Books, in Decatur, GA is in danger of closing its doors unless it gets help from book lovers the world over. Though the store in Georgia isn’t connected to the one in Harvard Square by any means they are connected through their love of the written word. I shudder to think what would happen if the store closes and teenagers in that area aren’t allowed to browse books, to smell their binding glue, to thumb the yellowed pages of literature’s greats.
Imagine a world were only the innocuous and stale Borders, Amazon or Barnes & Noble are the only places you can buy books? That’s not a world I want to live in.
The store is one week into their efforts to raise the necessary funds to stay in business. This Friday they are holding a fundraiser, in conjunction with Baby Got Books and Paste Magazine, along with other events throughout the weekend.
Owned by Zack Steele, the plight of losing a community bookstore has made national news and pleas from authors. The central question in all of this is whether or not a for-profit business should ask for donations to stay in business. Steele has done his best to answer those questions. One answer struck me the most, in which he describe the donations as more of a loan.
“In that regard these donations can be viewed as either short-term loans or purchases into current business programs. I don?t want anybody who donates money now to get nothing out of it. Because I am the way I am, if the business fails, then I?ll just keep paying back each individual person until every $10 and $20 (or more) is paid back,” Steele said.
“My call for help was not arbitrary, nor do I take the immense outpouring of support lightly. The alternative to giving back product or cash is to create an investment group based on the total number of dollars raised and make each and every donor a member of that group. The benefit then would be long-term, but it would exist. That is something that I am very interested in looking at, but cannot possibly put a percentage to until we?ve rounded out our drive. If that is what the donors would like, then that is the direction I wil go. I?m not asking for a freebie hand out. Just help to get things sorted out.”
The long answer to all of these questions is an examination of capitalism and free enterprise, but the short answer is yes a business like this should not be under scrutiny or justify asking for microloans from its patrons and others.
Especially when a business is vital to a community or makes a community better. There is no price you can put on something like this. The fabric that sows our communities together, whether it’s a park or the fire department or the recreation department or a Boys & Girls Club, a library or a bookstore, a movie theater, et cetera are places that are above the free enterprise economic model.
Their purpose is higher and grander and more essential than most people realize. I weep at the thought of Portland losing Powell’s or any of it’s other smaller, but no less important, book purveyors.