Your article on the future of bookselling in Madison ("Small Is Big," 3/9/2012) reinforced many of our perceptions after almost a year operating Arcadia Books in Spring Green. Since we opened in May 2011, we have been continually heartened by the (sometimes literal) way we have been embraced not just here in the Wisconsin River Valley, but by book lovers from Madison and beyond. One of the singular joys of bookselling is the opportunity it offers to contribute to the literary and cultural life of our community, and we are grateful to all of our customers for giving us that chance.
John Christensen, Spring Green
Back when I went to college, State Street was a haven for the book nut, of which I am one. Most of them are gone now. Anybody remember Pic-A-Book? Brown's Book Store? Blue Dog Comics? Probably not, but Paul's Books is still around. Or was a couple of weeks ago.
So you do an article on the hope for bookstores in Madison and interview exactly four people, only one of whom actually runs a bookstore. The other three are a couple who are toying with the idea of opening one somewhere but apparently aren't all that sure about it and some rep from the UW Press, who would be happy to see somebody else do it.
And the only bookstore owner you talked to runs A Room of One's Own, a specialty bookstore off State Street. Not on State or exactly mainstream, but probably has a good clientele just because Barnes & Noble doesn't stock what she sells. I trust and hope she does well, but working in a niche market does not make her a good spokesperson/analyst regarding the more general market potentials.
A low-profit-margin store, such as a general bookseller, simply cannot function well in the current rarefied and high-taxed atmosphere of downtown Madison.
D.W. Marohl, Sun Prairie
Shop till you drop
Shopbop a "neighborhood revitalizer" that endeavors to become "the kind of old-school, pillar-of-the-community business that likes to give back" ("Fashion Conscious," 3/9/2012)? Really? I'm sorry, but I worked at Shopbop, and far from donating money to Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure and Second Harvest, I was struggling to pay my bills on the meager $9.75 an hour minus benefits/regular hours (varying from 0 to 60 a week - usually under 20) that constituted my salary.
These are not "interesting jobs with opportunities for advancement." They do, in fact, consist wholly of tedious, simple tasks, such as standing by a conveyor belt for 10 hours at a pop and packing $200 thongs neatly into boxes for rich brats overseas, with absolutely no opportunities for advancement. And if Shopbop didn't lay off one employee when the market tanked in '08, it might've had something to do with the fact that they hire the vast majority of their warehouse personnel through a temp agency called Life Style Staffing, and far from having to lay us off and pay unemployment, they can simply stop requesting our services.
How's about Shopbop flex their "good-citizen muscle" and pay their warehouse employees a living wage?