Foothill readers keep bookstores alive

Michael Kay, The Union Democrat

The release of Apple's iPad this weekend added one more competitor for already beleaguered independent bookstores.

There's Amazon's Kindle. There are Borders and Barnes and Noble. And most prominently, there's the Internet.

Small bookstores across the country are closing up shop as people choose to buy online.

Berkeley, arguably one of California's most bookish cities, has

seen nearly half a dozen bookstores close in recent years, largely due

to competition from the Internet.

But the trend appears to have largely bypassed the Mother Lode.

Both Tuolumne and Calaveras counties support more bookstores than their populations might imply.

Murphys has two bookstores to serve its 2,000 residents. Angels

Camp, population 3,500, has one general bookstore, one Christian

bookstore and multiple thrift stores with abundant selections. Sonora

has two to four stores, depending on how you count them, along with the

well-traveled book nook at Wal-Mart, for its 8,900 residents.

There is no consensus among owners of these stores why the two

counties, whose combined population is short of 100,000 or about the

same as Berkeley's, support this many book sellers.

"We happen to be blessed with a lot of people who do enjoy

reading," said Geri Graham, who recently sold her Angels Camp shop,

Books and More, to her son.

"I am completely lost without a book. We have so many people in the area that are the same way," she said.

Nevertheless, her store makes more than half its revenue from

renting videos. And her son, who she calls a "computer geek," has told

her: "They won't be publishing books much longer."

Graham is not so sure. People want a book in their hand, not another gadget, she says.

Susan Shoaff, owner of Sustenance Books in Murphys, figures the

persistence of the area's bookstores is at least in part due to the

nature of the owners.

"You've got people willing to make a very little bit of money," she said.

She figures the area's large population of heavy-reading Bay Area retirees also keeps business up.

The newly introduced iPad may actually help the situation, as it

may force Amazon to adjust its pricing structure on the Kindle. Plus,

she notes, there are still relatively few books available on either

virtual platform.

On the other hand, with margins tight and business suppressed already, the impact could go the other way.

"It could break us," she said.

Some sellers say the Internet, which has been a bookstore slayer in so many other communities, has actually helped.

"I can get books at a fairly decent price," said Floyd Oydegaard, who owns Columbia Booksellers & Stationers.

He tried selling online, but it didn't work. His specialties -

Columbia, Gold Rush history and the 19th century - are "not one of the

most popular topics on the Internet," he said.

Others say it just doesn't have an impact.

"I really like to shop on the Internet too, but sometimes it's

better to have it in your hand right away," said Robbin Coane, owner of

Sonora Used Books.

Local competition is also less than it might appear, as most shops

have their own niche. In Sonora, for example, Wal-Mart sells mass

market new books, Mountain Bookshop tends toward smaller run new books,

Legends sells predominantly used hardbacks and Coane handles used


"For me, because I'm a used bookstore, I need other bookstores to kind of keep me going," she said.

The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Tuesday February 28, 2017

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
McClintock town hall draws large, divided crowd


There was patriotic singing, chanting and sign waving inside the packed 569-seat ... more

Diverse views outside McClintock Town Hall


They came with signs and flags and at least one mask, expressing ... more

Weather takes a swipe at Groveland business


Recent road damage, rockfall, slides and Merced River flooding in January have ... more

County appoints working group on marijuana regulations


What do two county supervisors, a former California Highway Patrol commander, a ... more