Meet Your Merchant: Local Bookshelf book stores hang on despite digital dangers

Jason ShuehSierra Sun
Jason Shueh / Sierra SunTruckee and Tahoe City bookstore owner Deborah Lane, left, and store manager Lydia Sparksworthy stand in the Truckee Bookshelf store Wednesday.

TRUCKEE, Calif. andamp;#8212; What’s the worth of a book store? What’s the worth of touching a cover page or hearing the ruffle of pages?These are questions the publishing and book industry have been grappling with ever since the Internet burst onto the scene with its free or heavily discounted content andamp;#8212; most recently compounded with new e-book readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook reader and Apple’s iPad 2.Big Box companies like Barnes and Noble have felt the pinch and are aiming their focus toward digital books, while other chains like Borders are now out of business.Deborah Lane feels the digital sway more than most. Lane, owner of Bookshelf, the only book stores in Truckee and Tahoe City, said she hopes she’ll be able to continue to provide books to locals andamp;#8212; but with competition like Amazon, she doesn’t know if it’s possible.andamp;#8220;I may not even be here in 10 years; maybe someone else will be here in 10 years,andamp;#8221; said Lane.A large tip jar on the counter echoes this sentiment. On the jar’s curved face, a note reads andamp;#8220;Due to the $400 rent increase, we are now accepting $1 donations. Anything will help! Please help keep our beloved book store alive!andamp;#8221;Lane, who opened the book store in Truckee in 1992 after she moved from working at Toadstool Bookshop in Petersborough, N.H., said she didn’t think independent book stores would disappear altogether; however, they may take on a very different look.andamp;#8220;The trend might be for smaller, more nimble independent book stores,andamp;#8221; Lane said.Truckee store Manager Lydia Sparksworthy andamp;#8212; also a board member at Friends of the Truckee Library andamp;#8212; said her customers are worried.andamp;#8220;A lot of customers have voiced concerns that we may pack up or move,andamp;#8221; she said. andamp;#8220;It concerns them because they want the convenience of being able to come into our store here and to be able to talk to a live human being … rather than throwing money into the ethernet.andamp;#8221;Lane said it’s impossible for local book stores to compete against digital and mass online sales. And while she empathizes with readers searching for cheaper deals, Lane said there is a hidden cost the Amazon customer doesn’t see andamp;#8212; the cost to the community.The Bookshelf regularly donates extra books to the school district and local charities. It supports the Truckee Library Book Club. It supports local authors. It hosts book events and author signings. It pays local and state taxes.These are things, Lane said, that big online book sellers currently do not.As the last book store in Truckee, Lane said some customers see this community cost, but wonders if the public will truly notice only when they have to drive to Reno or Sacramento for their books.andamp;#8220;The reason I’ve stayed in the business is because there’s nothing like finding the right book for a person or for a child,andamp;#8221; Lane said. andamp;#8220;For me it’s working with people, that individual taste.andamp;#8221;Sparksworthy agrees.andamp;#8220;It’s another opportunity to be connected with other human beings instead of being distanced and isolated,andamp;#8221; Sparksworthy said.Moving into the future, Lane said she intends, like some book sellers have done, to begin selling her own online digital books for all e-readers except the Amazon Kindle.She also wonders if she’ll have to downsize and move to another location; she’ll be gauging her customers through a survey to come out soon on the Bookshelf website and in paper form at the store.In the meantime, Lane said she will continue to do her best to serve customers as she’s done now for nearly 20 years and trying to instill the value of the written word through her local advocacy of literacy and her sheer love of good books. andamp;#8220;You can’t have an educated-thinking public if they can’t read and think for themselves … and there’s nothing like being able to page back and forth through a book and talk about it,andamp;#8221; Lane said andamp;#8220;I think it’s worth every penny.andamp;#8221;

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.