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A big independent bookstore — in Dallas?!

by Jerome Weeks 10 Apr 2008 8:33 AM

Actually, in Plano. But still, we do mean big — it’s the biggest independent to open anywhere in years. Fireworks and dancing in the streets will be considered for later. The developer of the six-year-old Shops at Legacy had wanted a bookstore, couldn’t get Borders for the deal, but found Terri Tanner instead — a veteran […]


The Shops at Legacy

Actually, in Plano. But still, we do mean big — it’s the biggest independent to open anywhere in years.

Fireworks and dancing in the streets will be considered for later.

The developer of the six-year-old Shops at Legacy had wanted a bookstore, couldn’t get Borders for the deal, but found Terri Tanner instead — a veteran of both Borders and Barnes & Noble. Ms. Tanner is taking over a three-level, 24,000-square-foot space in the shopping center on the corner of the Dallas North Tollway and Legacy Drive, with the building to be designed by architect Morrison Seifert Murphy. Ms. Tanner is modeling Legacy Books on several of the classic successes among independent booksellers in the country, such as BookPeople in Austin and Elliott Bay in Seattle.

The opening will be in late summer.

For those who think, big deal, I get my books on Amazon and aren’t e-books the real future?

1) Amazon sells only about 10 percent of the total books purchased in America. Collectively, Wal-Mart, Costco and other discount warehouses are a much bigger factor (and actually a bigger threat to healthy independents). 2) For now (and the foreseeable future), Salman Rushdie doesn’t come to your town for a reading and a signing because you bought an e-book copy of his latest novel. When major authors tour Texas, they go to Austin’s BookPeople and maybe Houston’s Brazos Bookstore — and that’s it. They generally don’t come to Dallas-Fort Worth, even though the metroplex is actually the largest book market in the region. I wanted to interview Martin Amis and Julian Barnes for nearly 10 years as they produced novel after novel and toured the U.S. on four occasions. They made it to Austin several times; never got close to North Texas except, perhaps, to change planes at DFW. The only factor that has offset this fact has been Arts & Letters Live and other local literary series, which I maintain have succeeded precisely because the area is regularly neglected by authors and publishers.

Publishers send authors to major independent bookstores much more often than to chain stores because major independents can deliver an audience for them. Publishers are terrified of sending authors to an empty bookstore. As you might imagine, authors hate the experience. It makes them start thinking that maybe the publisher isn’t really supporting or marketing their books — and maybe they should get another publisher.

Major independents have developed devoted followings, they have tied themselves to the local reading community through the kind of “hand selling” (personal recommendations) and social events that online retailers can’t. An independent like the late, lamented Black Images Book Bazaar has even been a significant cultural factor in the community, bringing in speakers, providing a meeting site for local groups.

Even as webheads (and others with career investments in the web) keep chanting that digital is the future — the only future, all else must die — people (and companies) continually try to find ways to gather comfortably, sit, chat, read, listen to music, sip. This may not sound like the hip, zappy, dancefloor, speed-freak-crazy, sleep-with-sexy-strangers experience that advertisers love to shout about to twenty-somethings. And the bookstore of the future may well have a digital machine onsite that prints and then handsomely (or cheaply) binds books on demand, right there at the checkout counter for you.

But humans will remain social animals, sharing favorite authors with others will be a natural aspect of reading and sometimes just getting the hell out of the house for someplace quiet will remain a need.  Basically, we pay a little more for books at a bookstore — more than we might online or at the always cozy and quietly stimulating Wal-Mart — for that pleasurable experience

That, and for knowledgeable staff members who can find books and recommend other authors for us.

  • Amen to everything you said in your blog — especially the last sentence. It would be beyond WONDERFUL if they have knowledgeable staff to find and recommend. I’m very hopeful.

    (Also have a couple of book clubs who would love to meet in the Legacy area! We already do a film club that meets at the Angelika Legacy!)

  • I worked at a Mom and Pop bookstore. We were able to offer book smarts and great personal service. But we could also buy books at Wal Mart cheaper than we could get them from our distributor. What this newbie must know is that customers will get their bread and butter mainstream best sellers at the big places, and come to them for all the problem orders. Good luck. It’s a terrible business to make a profit in.

  • Karry Myars

    SOUNDS GREAT! I have been looking for a store like this for over 10 years!

    • Dallas author Clay Reynolds sent this comment to my book/daddy blog, where a version of this item was also posted. He makes a very smart point I neglected in my haste:

      “One of the biggest problems many writers, particularly local or regional writers who often publish with regional or university presses face, is that people who want their books cannot find them in the big box bookstores. Borders and B&N will usually not carry these, and if they do, they only carry them in very small numbers and seldom or never feature them or even display them in a way they can be found. Of course, such titles can be ordered on line, but book buyers are notoriously impulsive in their selections, and quite often, they prefer to hold and handle their selections, leaf through them, and consider them carefully before buying.

      One feature an independent shop could offer would be a section of local and regional authors’ (legitimate press publications) books, perhaps displaying them in an area so labled. (Before it’s disappearance, the mall shops of B. Dalton and Waldenbooks did this, and the famous Dallas shop, Taylor Books, did this very well.) If desired–and it may not be–the Legacy shop could easily arrange for readings, signings, workshops, lectures, and other events that are featured prominently in independent bookshops in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles and San Francisco regularly. If properly publicized (which B&N and Borders never do when they stage such “events”), these could become an attractive regular feature. It wouldn’t be hard to assemble a reasonable list of authors who are in the area and whose public appearances around the Metroplex or even the whole state or region have stimulated an interest in their works on the part of potential customers. There are several individuals in the area (not necessarily writers, themselves) who could provide an attractive list of individual writers (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, even plays and books on visual and performing arts and film) who will be delighted by the presence of an independent bookstore and eager to contribute to its success, particularly if it meant that they could direct their patrons, students, and even casual contacts to someplace that would actually have their work in stock.

      Just an idea.”

  • Zelda Rose

    That Dallas has no indy book stores is shocking and disappointing. Even though it’d be a major inconvenience to drive to Plano, I would be willing to do it for a good book store. Bravo to Terri Tanner and the developer who is willing to take a risk.