West Hollywood’s Book Soup has joined a campaign by the American Booksellers Association to call attention to the risks faced today by independent book stores — citing both COVID-19 and Amazon as the major threats.
“When these independent bookstores close Covid will be listed as the cause of death, but the pre-existing condition for many may be listed as Amazon,” says an announcement of the “Boxed Out” campaign. “The brown boxes that have become ubiquitous in building lobbies and on porches are ‘boxing out’ bookstores and other small businesses all across the country, resulting in the loss of local jobs, local sales tax, community, and support.”
Book Soup, located at 8818 Sunset Blvd. is one of only two bookstores in West Hollywood. The other, Mystery Pier, is located nearby at 8826 Sunset.
To demonstrate its support for the campaign, Book Soup has posted cardboard signs in its windows that say “Don’t Accept Amazon’s Brave New World” and “We’re About Putting Smiles on People’s Faces, Not Cardboard Boxes.”
In the announcement, Allison Hill, the former CEO of Book Soup and also the CEO of the ABA, said: “People may not realize the cost and consequences of ‘convenience’ shopping until it’s too late. More than one indie bookstore a week has closed since the Covid-19 crisis began. At the same time, a report forecasts that Amazon will generate $10 billion in revenue on October 13 and 14 during its Prime Day promotion. Connecting these dots, it’s clear to see convenience has a cost and a consequence. Closed indie bookstores represent the loss of local jobs and local tax dollars; the loss of community centers; and the loss of opportunities for readers to discover books and connect with other readers in a meaningful face-to-face way.”
As of 2019, Amazon had 50% of the U.S. print book market and 75% of ebook sales.
The Boxed Out campaign’s cardboard window installations are located in New York at McNally Jackson in Manhattan and Café con Libros, Community Bookstore, and Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn; in Washington, D.C. at Solid State bookstore, in addition to West Hollywood’s Book Soup. Other indie bookstores participating in the campaign via social media include Skylight Books in Los Angeles.
Book Soup was founded by the late Glenn Goldman in 1975. It was acquired almost 10 years ago by Vroman’s, the Pasadena book store founded in 1894 of which Hill is former CEO.
In an interview with Michael Jortner published by WEHOville in 2017, Hill said that the two bookstores hosted as many as 700 events a year, with many of them featuring readings by famous authors. Today Book Soup is hosting virtual events, with 11 on its October calendar.
“Less than 1% of my business is online,” Hill said in her 2017 interview with Jortner when she was still CEO of Book Soup. “I say we don’t compete with Amazon because we don’t. I can’t compete on price. And they can’t compete with me on the things that we offer.”
Book Soup is open by appointment and for curbside pickup of books purchased there. One can buy books on its website, www.booksoup.com, and also make an appointment to enter the store or to pick up a book at the curb.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story identified Allison Hill as the owner and CEO of Book Soup and CEO of Vroman’s. In fact, Hill is the former CEO of Book Soup and Vroman’s. The story has been corrected.