In April, Dark Horse Books will be part of World Book Night. In the United States, a half million books will be given away by volunteer book lovers. In Teton Valley, three individuals have volunteered to give away some of their favorite books. These volunteers will be picking up these books from Dark Horse Books and distributing them at different locations. The purpose of this event is sharing the love of the printed word with non-readers. Angela Daft of Big Hole Music will be sharing a favorite book, The Poisonwood Bible. Alta Olesen will be passing out copies of Zeitoun. Debi Morley shall hand out copies of Q is for Quarry.
Reading is vital to our individual and collective selves. “Reading develops a capacity for focused attention and imaginative growth that enriches both private and public life. The decline in reading among every segment of the adult population reflects a general collapse in advanced literacy.  Or as one of my favorite writers wrote: The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
For the past two years, I have enjoyed the privilege and pain of managing Dark Horse Books. In the tradition of the original owners, Jeanne and Peter Anderson, Dark Horse Books had continued the tradition of being a community-meeting place. There has been 24 author signings, Banned Book Week Events, Children Story time, including a visit from Curious George, National Novel Writing Month write-ins, raffles, and lectures from community members from a wide range of topics of Irish writers to astrology to couple counseling.
With great sadness, I am announcing that Dark Horse Books will be moving from its current location at the end of April. Whether or not, Dark Horse Books continues at another location in the valley really depends on the community. Since January 2010, the bookstore has been hit hard by the recession, the loss of population in the valley, e-books, and the unhealthy and destructive spell of Amazon. Unfortunately, the 2011 Driggs street and sidewalk project impact on the store was even more destructive than I anticipated. The impact on the store sales was immediate and dramatic. Even worst, the sales numbers did not improve after the construction finished in October.
Despite the financial hardships, I have tried to keep the bookstore a part of this community. The independent bookstore is more important than ever. While Amazon may seize 50% of all books sales in all forms this year, bear in mind that Amazon sells a lesser variety of books than the two thousand remaining independent bookstores. So while Earle Layser’s latest book, Green Fire, might be available at Amazon, Dark Horse Books has most assuredly sold more copies than Amazon. Likewise, the independent bookstores of Idaho sell more books on Idaho history, hiking, and camping than Amazon sells. If Amazon continues to dominate the book market, readers can expect a smaller and smaller variety of books as publishers respond to the demands of Amazon. Furthermore, independent bookstores such as Dark Horse Books have contributed much more money to local charities than Amazon. In fact, local businesses will contribute double the amount of national corporations to local charities.
After considering the different options for keeping the store alive, including a Chapter 11 debt reorganization and the sale of the business, I have concluded that converting the store into a non-profit co-operative would create the best opportunity for the bookstore’s continued presence in this community. By creating a bookstore co-op, there is an opportunity to pay off the store’s current debt and raise some capital to invest in a much needed inventory system, including a new register and computer. Also, it would be nice to pump up the more popular sections of the store, including the children’s section and the Idaho section. More importantly, the financial and time investment would spread out among more people.
Initially, I am considering the co-operative having 12 to 20 voting members. These members would buying into the co-op. Monetary payment would depend on the amount of labor contributed. Some members would pay a larger sum of money and donate no labor. However, if someone has special talents to contribute such specialized knowledge of children’s literature or bookkeeping, but did not have the money, I would try to find funding for their share through Kickstarter.
Once we had sufficient members, there would be a members meeting to allocate management duties. Once the store re-opens, the store would sell non-voting annual memberships. These members would receive a discount on books. I would commit to continue to work full-time with the new members full-time through the end of summer. I would continue to work at least 8 hours per week. While I think that this is a marvelous method to keep the bookstore in community, I need to know whether there is anyone interested in this project. I would like to know by the end of April. Please contact me and I will provide greater detail.
Whether or not the store remains in this community depends on this community.
The store will be opened in April. Please come in shop. Don’t wait for a fire sale. There won’t be one. However, check darkhorsebooks.wordpress.com for sales this month. The store needs support from the community. Perhaps it is not reasonable to expect sales to reflect pre-recession 2009 numbers, but it should at least go back to pre-road construction numbers. So if you want the bookstore to remain in the Valley, please come buy some books. Thank you,