Ann Patchett is once again speaking out in support of local booksellers, this time in the Wall Street Journal, where she reminds U.S. president, bestselling author, and recent Amazon warehouse visitor Barack Obama of the role those indies have played in his career.
New authors can change the world. Fortunately there were plenty of real bookstores around in 1995—the very year Amazon swung open its online doors—to promote a new memoirist named Barack Obama. That author broke through, big time, and many think that he, like Winston Churchill and Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy before him, owes a great deal of his political life to the successes of his literary one.
(Fun fact—Teddy Roosevelt was the founding vice president of the Authors League in 1913, as the Guild was originally called.)
In her piece (which is behind the WSJ paywall), Patchett notes that the Nashville bookstore she co-owns, Parnassus Books, is a scenic two hour drive from Amazon’s Chattanooga, TN warehouse, where Obama on Tuesday delivered a jobs speech and praised the company’s employee tuition reimbursement program.
“Amazon is a great example of what’s possible,” Obama said. “if they’ve got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it. That’s the kind of approach that we need from America’s businesses.”
Patchett acknowledges that she has sold a lot of books through Amazon, but says independent bookstores are essential for helping new authors find an audience. It’s a message she’s repeated often in the past few years, using her media platform as a bestselling author to spread the word, including on the Colbert Report and in a lengthy piece in the Atlantic, The Bookstore Strikes Back.
On Monday, members of the ABA wrote an open letter calling Obama’s Amazon visit “greatly misguided” and asking the president to meet with independent booksellers. Patchett extended her own invitation.
“The next time Mr. Obama is in Tennessee, the staff at Parnassus hopes he’ll find the time to visit. We’ve got some books we’d like him to sign.”