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Support Your Local Bookstore This Saturday

book cover paperback dreams

In New York on a five-city tour, documentary filmmaker, Alex Beckstead screened “Paperback Dreams” in Soho last week. His new film follows two landmark Bay Area independent bookstores — Cody’s Books in Berkeley and Kepler’s Books in San Mateo — and their struggle to survive in a rapidly changing media landscape. Both stores played a central role in the free speech movement and the culture of the 1960’s because of their proximity to college campuses. The film tells a compelling and cautionary tale about the ups and downs of running great bookstores and the value they bring to their communities.

During a question and answer period after the film a few New York booksellers weighed in on the state of independents in the city. Gotham Book Mart and Coliseum Books were two New York landmarks that could not survive in the current market (on a positive note, Archivia has reopened — and Idlewild, specializing in travel books, recently opened near Union Square). Cultural landmarks like Cody’s or Gotham, can be seen as a permanent part of the landscape, but the book-loving public often fails to realize how big a struggle it is for stores to survive. It is important for people to be aware of where books are bought and to understand that these transactions are connected to the shape of their communities and quality of life. When a bookstore is thriving, it can be an integral part of the intellectual and cultural life of a community.

The “Paperback Dreams” program was sponsored by the Independent Booksellers of New York and McNally Jackson Books.