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The Country Bookseller receives grant from bestselling author James Patterson

by Thomas Beeler
Editor of The Granite State News

KAREN BAKER, owner of The Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro, stands in the current children's book area. The young adult section is right behind her as well. She will be using the grant from bestselling author James Patterson to expand both areas in the coming months. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
June 05, 2014
WOLFEBORO — Bestselling author James Patterson has always been a strong supporter of independent booksellers. This year he decided to do something himself to help keep independent bookselling alive in America: he has committed to granting $1 million to independents by the end of the year, and earlier this year he gave $267,000 to 55 booksellers.

At the annual booksellers convention in New York last week Patterson announced a second round of grants totaling $268,000 to 43 booksellers, including Wolfeboro's own The Country Bookseller, located in the Durgin Stable complex on North Main Street.

Owner Karen Baker had written Patterson to request a grant, but in her mind it was a long shot, so she was both surprised and delighted to learn that she would be one of stores chosen for the second round of grants.

In her letter of application to Patterson, who personally selects the grant recipients, Baker wrote, "We are currently in the process of re-evaluating our space and resource allocations by bookstore section based upon last year's sales. It is apparent that we need to dedicate more floor space and more event-energy to our Children and Young Adult sections. Any moneys we would receive would go to that purpose, i.e., the physical arrangement of the store and the dedication of time and resources to increase our children's event calendar."

According to the Patterson website (www.jamespatterson.com/booksellers/) there are two basic requirements for receiving a grant: that "a store must be viable (meaning they are already and successfully in business) and they must have a children's book section."

The Country Bookseller is certainly a viable business, having been Wolfeboro's main bookstore since 1994. It also has an extensive children's book section and Baker's plan to expand both her children's and young adult sections must have appealed to Patterson when he was making his final choices.

"I just want to get people more aware and involved in what is going on here, which is that, with the advent of e-books, we either have a great opportunity or a great problem," Patterson said last February, when he announced his first recipients. "Our bookstores in America are at risk. Publishing and publishers as we've known them are at stake. To some extent the future of American literature is at stake."

Patterson has been an outspoken critic of Amazon, which has become the largest customer of most book publishers. His own publisher, the Hachette Group, is currently at odds with Amazon over the pricing of e-book editions of its books and Amazon has lately limited access to Hachette titles and advised online shoppers to buy them elsewhere.

While the collapse of Borders Books and store closings at Barnes & Noble have lessened the retail pressure on independent booksellers like The Country Bookseller, stores like Baker's have to prove their value to readers looking for books either for themselves or their children.

The Country Bookseller carries 14,000 titles, with a heavy concentration on books that readers prefer to see and touch before buying most especially children's books and books of local interest. "It's not the same thing to browse online," Baker says. "Most avid readers want to hold and handle a book before buying."

Readers young and old alike will find plenty to hold and handle at The Country Bookseller, and once Baker is able to reconfigure her store and provide more space for children and young adult titles, the opportunities to find the perfect book will be greater for young readers and their parents.

For more information about The Country Bookseller, check out the website www.thecountrybookseller.com, call 569-6030, or, better yet, stop by the store at 23 North Main St. and enjoy coffee, pastries and gelato in The Book Nook Cafe. Store hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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