Forward: Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller
Column: Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller
Owner of Shaman Drum: “This is our darkest hour”
BY KARL POHRTFEBRUARY 17, 2009
Karl Pohrt, owner of Shaman Drum Bookshop.
This fall and winter Shaman Drum Bookshop went into a steep financial decline. Textbook sales declined $510K from last year. We managed to cut our payroll and other operating expenses by $80K, but that didn’t begin to cover our losses.
There was some good news. Our trade (general interest) book sales on the first floor were actually up in December from last year by 10%, which is extraordinary given what many other retailers were reporting. And trades sales in January were up 15%. Still, this hardly compensates for our losses in textbook sales.
The evaporation of our position has been astonishingly swift. We had been holding relatively even financially until September. Suddenly we’ve moved into the red.
I sort of saw this coming.
In July, 2004, the National Endowment for the Arts published “Reading At Risk,” a report detailing the decline of literary reading in America. This was followed by a second report in November, 2007, “To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence,” chronicling “recent declines in voluntary reading and test scores alike, exposing trends that have severe consequences for American society.”