In the summer of 2013, bestselling thriller and mystery writer James Patterson published ads in Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Times Book Review that posed the following critical questions: “Who will save our books? Our bookstores? Our libraries?… If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature? Who will discover and mentor new writers? Who will publish our important books? What will happen if there are no more books like these?” The author continues: “The Federal Government has stepped in to save banks, and the automobile industry, but where are they on the important subject of books? Or, if the answer is state and local government, where are they? Is any state doing anything? Why are there no impassioned editorials in influential newspapers or magazines?”
Patterson, who has sold more than 300 million books and is worth an estimated $91 million dollars, appeared on the CBS show “This Morning” on September 16, 2013 to announce that he would be stepping in to help save independent bookstores. Specifically, Patterson pledged $1 million of his own money — doled out in grants ranging from $2,000 to $15,000, beginning in 2014 — to independent bookstores that have a children’s section and are actively trying to engage young readers. “We’re making this big transition right now to ebooks,” explained Patterson, “and that’s fine and good and terrific and wonderful. But we’re not doing it in an organized, sane, civilized way. So what’s happening right now is a lot of bookstores are disappearing; a lot of libraries are disappearing or they’re not being funded. School libraries are not being funded as well. This is not a good thing.”
In February 2014, Patterson distributed the first group of grants totaling $268,000 to 55 bookstores across the country. In May, he announced the second set of grants totaling $268,000 to 43 bookstores. One of the recipients was the family-run Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley, California located near UC Berkeley. The store was founded in 1959 by Moe and Barbara Moskowitz during the crucible of the Free Speech Movement; more than four decades later, the bookstore is a beloved landmark institution — and with an inventory of more than 200,000 new, used, and rare books, it is a bibliophile’s paradise. Owner (and Moe’s daughter) Doris Moskowitz was delighted to be awarded a $7,000 grant. “We feel so good about [the grant],” she said. “We need support from our community and [Patterson] is a part of our community. At first I thought community meant the neighborhood around us. He cares about literacy. He cares about independent bookstores. That means a lot.”
For independent bookstore owners across America, James Patterson now has a new title: Patron Saint of Bookstores.
For further reading: www.bookweb.org/news/james-patterson-pledges-1-million-indie-bookstores