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Thursday, May 11, 2006
Books... vs Safety?

...Last night I was staying up way too late stitching and I happened to hear a disturbing clip about an upcoming news story. A Berkeley instituation, nay, a San Francisco Bay Area landmark, is closing.

Cody's Books, on Telegraph, is shutting its doors in July. I think I need to try and make one more visit there before they go poof and show my girls all that is wonderful inside Cody's. The official reasons that Cody's is going to shutter is because of chain bookstores and internet sales - deep discounts that Cody's can't provide because they are a small family owned chain. Yes, there are two other stores, one small one in Berkeley and one small one in San Francisco, but this is the big flagship Cody's that's closing. The one that everyone knows about and visits.

This is the third large well known independant to close it's doors in the last 10 years; the second to do so in the last year. A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books is long gone in the Bay Area - they were the first to go. Kepler's closed down late last fall, and now Cody's. What's next, Hickabees? They're a well known children's book store in San Jose, and they had JK Rowling in for a book signing for the first Harry Potter book - before anyone knew who she was.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that part of the reason that Cody's is closing it's doors isn't just because of the internet or deep discount chains but also because of the rise of audiobooks. Almost anything you want is coming out as an audiobook and many folks are just loading them into thier iPod's or whatever other mp3 player they've got. I won't begrudge those with long commutes or strict exercise routines thier chance to have an audiobook running while they run, or drive, or even while someone knits and stitches, but if that becomes the *only* way one consumes a book, then it makes perfect sense that the bookstores are dying. But I'm digressing.

One of the unofficial reasons Cody's is closing is the atmosphere of the street that they're on. Telegraph Avenue is one of the funkier streets in Berkeley. There's always been a contingent of homeless or otherwise wierd crunchy people hanging about there, but it's definitely changed over time. According to a news story I just listened to, instead of just a couple of homeless here and there on parts of the street, Telegraph has become a 'living room by day and bedroom by night', folks are smoking mind-altering substances that makes a few people think they're walking in downtown Santa Cruz instead of Berkeley, and the amount of foot traffic has decreased considerably.

Would that be because crime is on the rise there? No, apparently crimes against people on Telegraph is *down*, but the foot traffic decreases anyway and all the stores on Telegraph are feeling it, not just Cody's. It isn't safe to walk down there anymore, especially at night - which was the best time to head into Cody's because they often had a good lecturer speaking, or some interesting acoustic musical artist of local flavor there. I miss the days of my freshman and sophmore years when I would head into Berkeley (usually to do research at the Boldt library) and I'd stop off at Cody's. *sigh*

Either way, be it the increasing internet sales and discounts at chains or the safety issue of the business patrons, Cody's is closing and it's a damn shame. So go support your local independant bookstore if you can. Many of us have them - that cute little bookstore around the corner that's always so well put together (or charmingly messy) that you love to browse in, but you never buy anything because it's cheaper at the chain store or its easier to listen to it on the iPod...

...and that's the problem. Pick up that book and buy it.