The Los Angeles Book Festival: Really Guys? Did You Think This Through?

For the past several years I’ve joyfully attended the Los Angels Times Book Festival. For many years it was held on the campus of UCLA but a few years ago it moved to USC. It was a weekend devoted to books, publishing, meeting authors, and just soaking up literary wisdom.

Also for the past few years I’ve gone there on a bus trip sponsored by my favorite bookstore, Warwicks here in La Jolla. A few weeks ago I learned, to my dismay, that Warwicks is cancelling the bus trip. My dismay isn’t that they are cancelling it, but why.

If you click on the “authors and performers” tab on the Book Festival page it takes you to a page that lists authors who will attend part of the festival. And then next to their name is a button to order their books through Amazon (I’m not hotlinking them. You’ll have to find them on your own). Yep, you heard it right. You can, with the click of a button, completely undercut the efforts made by Warwicks and hundreds of other independent bookstores.

I’m sure the festival will get a cut of books purchased through Amazon, and I’m sure this was a business decision. But so much of the flavor of the book festival surrounds independent bookstores and publishing houses, exactly the places Amazon is trying to kill. The festival should be promoting independents, not hastening their demise.

In fairness they later added a link to IndieBound which does benefit independent bookstores, but that still doesn’t level the field. If you click on the IndieBound tab it takes you to a page where it asks for your zipcode and gives you a list of independent bookstores in your area. If you click on Amazon it takes you to their webpage where you can order it at a deep discount and have it shipped. While it may not be the right thing to do, it is certainly the cheapest. The book I’m reading now, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin retails for $40.00 (and is worth every penny). You can buy it from Amazon for $22.60.

I won’t return to the festival until or unless they change this. I hope it’s not long.

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