Monday, August 4, 2008

Acres of Books: May It Rest in Peace

Another bookstore has died.

Long Beach residents and many customers far beyond the city’s limits are mourning the loss of an old friend, one that has been around more than seventy-four years.

The deceased is Acres of Books, founded by Bertrand Smith in 1934. The giant bookstore was aptly named. Before the arrival of massive chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble, Acres of Books was a one of the largest book emporiums anywhere. It once boasted more than a million volumes.

In this era of trendy stores that offers coffee, pastries, other edibles and drinkables, along with spacious reading sections, Acres of Books may have signed its own death warrant. The huge, stuffy building had no air conditioning, no computer filing system, no place to sit, and no Starbucks on the premise.

How could it compete?

The Smith family business simply offered stack upon cluttered stacks of books. Not genteel enough for today’s fancy readers.

As with most independents, Acres was no match for the online booksellers with their fast delivery and downloadable books. Long Beach redevelopment provided a way out for the family.

Owners Phil and Jackie Smith sold the building to the city for $2.8 million. They plan to retire and travel, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

The Smiths said nothing about reading.

4 comments:

Keni said...

Sad to see an independent go under. One bookseller making a strong stand is Vromans in Pasadena. They have the air, they have the coffee shop and they have the comfortable chairs. They also are one of the premier spots for author signings. Most importantly, they have the books. They even support local visual artists with their 'Art On the Staircase'. I showed there several years ago.

Regarding the painting you commented on, it is a small 6"x9" painting of New York street at Paramount Studios. Glad you like it.

Connie Akpan said...

My condolences to the passing of another book store. I agree it is evident of our society that’s hunger y for comfort, speed, and convenience. This slow and sometimes quick deaths are occurring all over the country. Gone are the days of brick and mortar and now are the days wifi, click and scroll and sips on your latte while surrounded by the Emo’s. Well it use to be the alternative was a library- remember how it use to be, the soft conversation, the librarian shushing anything above a whisper-while looking over those tiny reading glasses. Oh boy, fast forward. Libraries have evolved into day care centers. Parents simply drop off lil’ Joey, Jaquan, and Jackie with a reminder to stay inside till she comes back…at closing!!! Oh the joy of a little old dusty bookstore, that lacks lattes, piped in music, and Feng shui! Or a quiet library where one can simply get lost in a book forever-because while there time stood still.

Vision Publishing said...

Hi Keni. I finally learned to reply to your comment. Funny, I had no problem on the first one I received. Let me know if you get this. Thanks for updating me on Vromans. I was wondering how they were doing. Apparently, they are holding their own. Someday I'll come by and look around, and then write a piece on my blog.

By the way, are we still supposed to meet, even though you apparently are not interested in simply showing your paintings again at City Hall?

Hello to Peggi/

Stanley

Vision Publishing said...

Hi Connie,

I love your comments. Thanks so much for responding. Let's hope we don't see libraries going by the boards like our local independent bookstores. I hate to see most independent businesses fail. Every time it happens we lose a little more of the American landscape to the large, impersonal corporate giants. The big chains offer a myriad of conveniences, and they do represent progress, but progress at what cost? These large corporations -- often conglomerates -- concentrate American business more and into the hands of fewer and fewer people. If they control bookstores, and the large media outlets, it's a small leap to controlling what we read -- or not read.

Stanley