Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative, the progressive bookshop at 426 W. Gilman St., needs to offset an "unanticipated operating loss" by raising $30,000, according to an appeal sent Thursday. "We need to get through the next year," the message says. "The Coop welcomes all donations."
Rainbow cites changes in the bookselling industry at large, including big-box and online retailing, as well as the growing popularity of ebooks. And there is another factor: "The UW has implemented requirements for professors to post course books online. The result is a student exodus from the local brick and mortar stores like Rainbow."
The news comes just a few weeks after representatives of A Room of One's Own, the feminist bookshop at 317 W. Johnson St., announced that the store must sell five more books per day this year before they will feel confident in renewing the 36-year-old outlet's lease. The news also comes just a few weeks after big-box book retailer Borders announced that it will close the store at 3750 University Ave.
Thanks to the Borders closing alone, Madison's bookselling landscape is changing dramatically. And these pleas from local independent bookshops also are dramatic.
It's true that Internet prices for books are hard to beat. But bookstores do more than sell books. Readers gather at them to browse, to meet authors, to publicly demonstrate their commitment to books. Where would they do that if there weren't any bookstores?