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Two Southern California bookstores call it quits


Village Books in Pacific Palisades and Laguna Beach's Latitude 33 each announced this week that they'll be closing their doors. Village Books, which opened in 1997, will close on June 30. The 15-year-old Latitude 33 may stay open longer but plans to be closed before the end of August.

Katie O'Laughlin, owner of Village Books, explained in a letter to the Palisadian-Post that the store wasn't able to keep up with changes in the book business.

Village Books has struggled financially for the past 10 years, but I was able to somehow make it work. Unfortunately, recent changes in the book business have made it impossible to continue operating the store in its present form.

In the last quarter of 2010, we tightened up our inventory and staff and, in recognition of the impact electronic books might have, stepped up our efforts to think of Village Books as a 'book space' as much as a book store. We started our popular memoir-writing class, launched our first literary road trip (to Ventura) and planned our summer camp. We partnered with one of our distributors to expand our Web site and offered discounts and free shipping to encourage you to shop online there; soon you will be able to download electronic books from our site to your iPads and other devices.

Yet despite these efforts, we have been forced to face a harsh reality: since January, our sales have dropped dramatically.

Though O'Laughlin may search for a way to continue on as a bookseller, Tom Ahern, the owner of Latitude 33, will not. He explains his slightly different predicament on the store's website.

The last two years, however, have been difficult for us. Sales declined significantly, from a combination of the recession across the country; an even deeper local recession in Laguna Beach due to declines in tourism and art gallery sales (gallery owners and staff, as well as artists, have traditionally bought lots of books, especially art books); and competition from Amazon.com, with its strategy of predatory pricing and selling the Kindle and ebooks below cost to gain market share. Despite cutting costs to the absolute minimum, I have had to put in over $100,000 during the past two years to keep the doors open. The lease was expiring, and I would have to lock myself in to run the store for several more years to stay in the space.

At the same time, more and more I felt the need to retire for personal reasons.

I tried hard to find a buyer for the store, to keep a good bookstore in Laguna. Several newspapers ran articles on the search for a buyer, and I placed an ad in the classified section of Bookselling This Week, the enewsletter of the American Booksellers Association. Nineteen parties expressed interest, but none came through with an offer.

As writer and journalist Scott Martelle wrote, losing physical bookstores means we become more insular as readers. Although Publishers Weekly reported this week that things are looking up for independent bookstores, it's clear from this week's announcement that the future is not so bright across Southern California.


Equator Books and Village Books look for help

Tom Hanks steps in for Village Books

Bookstore of the week: Village Books

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Floor inset at Village Books in Pacific Palisades. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (9)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Physical Book Stores face a variety of competitors as sellers of information. The physical book as a hard cover demands a high publisher price and due to economies of volume loose out to the big box and internet sales. Hard cover books are in a sense an anachronism, it's durability of value mostly only to libraries and collectors.

Increasing regulations and taxes almost prohibit brick and mortar establishments. All business is vulnerable to government dictates, especially small business.

The Dark Ages have returned.

I really hate hearing about bookstores closing.

It is sad to see bookstores go. I love browsing books and reading book jackets. I must admit, however, I hardly buy books from a physical bookstore. After I browse books and know what I want to buy, I order those books from Amazon, purely because of the price. I know I should support my local bookstores, but when I have to watch every penny I spend and buying books is a small luxury, ordering from Amazon using its free shipping makes sense (financially).

Add to your list The Book Works in Del Mar, closing later this summer.

Books will never fully go away.
For some content the book is still better than the e-book.
What is the first printing of the Harry Potter book worth? $2oK
The first e-book printing? Worthless, you can't legally transfer it to
someone else, you only "license" it. When they finally do start allowing
transfers it will only have the same value as the version since it can replicated
infinitely by the publisher with no way to tell the difference.

The market is, sadly, shrinking, but as long as people like to have something
real in their hands as well as having the ability to browse before buying, there
will still be a need for the real thing.

Little things like book signings will no doubt keep certain people engaged
and collecting too.

Aeneas: You are the reason bookstores are closing. They don't pay for books, employees, electricity, rent, so you can use it as amazon's showroom.

Stella - are you paying for reading this web site? If not, you are the reason newspapers are following bookstores into history.

realist: Yes I am, as a matter of fact. I am Paper subscriber to the LA Times and a digital subscriber to the NY Times.


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