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Troy

The Real Truth as to Why Black Book Stores are so Few

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The following is a conversation I've been having with some on my blog under the post Only 54 Black Owned Bookstores Remain in America. It is one of my post popular posts. If you have not read it check it out and share it with others :).  Recently someone made the following statement in reaction to my article:

 

“The individual who wrote this article did a disservice to the real truth as to why black book stores are so few and far between - it is simply the fact that over 80% of blacks do not read books as much as their contemporaries...whites and Asians. If you do a study which has been done, blacks are the less likely to have a library card, a newspaper subscription - whether online or a physical paper, and blacks are less inclined to have a private library of books in their home.” —Daren Williams

 

That comment led to the exchange shown below.  I've invited Daren to carry on this conversation here.  He seems to have the right temperament, opinionated, articulate, and not afraid to have his ideas challenged.  

 

  • Thanks Daren please share a link to the study you referenced–thanks!

     

    • Daren Williams

      I will find the study and forward it to you. Dr. Thomas Sowell has the study in one for his books. I need to research my library of the book. But here is a story this year that illustrates what I’m saying.

      http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/06/05/75-of-black-california-boys-dont-meet-state-reading-standards/

       

      • Hi Daren I’m familiar with Sowell’s work. All of his books are on this site: https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Thomas+Sowell I’ve read two or three myself. But I don’t recall him drawing any conclusions about the dearth of Black owned bookstores.

         

        Still, do you think Black people are reading fewer books than we did just 15 years ago when the number of Black owned bookstores numbered in the hundreds? Can you not think any other exogenous factors that might contribute reduction in the number of independently owned bookstores?

         

        • Daren Williams

          Sowell doesn’t make the conclusion of the death of Black owned bookstores is due to blacks not reading…I make the conclusion. Education and reading is not a top priority for blacks in general. Sports is more of a priority to blacks….entertainment by way of rapping and dancing….social activism is more of a priority to blacks than education and reading. Though education and reading will move blacks and anyone closer to their goals a lot quicker.

          Give you a great example to ponder. Name me five black scientist or inventors of the late 20th, 21st century…but you can name me 20-50 black NFL and NBA players off the bat.
           

          The Black owned bookstores have of course been in predominately black areas…if those black areas are not reading then the book stores have no customers to sell to in the immediate area.
           

        • Sure there are some in the Black community do not view education as a priority. However this is not condition limited only to Black people; it is a function of culture and class.
           

          I bet if you asked anyone to name 5 NBA players and five scientists they would find it easier to name the professional athletes, but our culture celebrates athletes for it a lot easier for corporations to profit off them.
           

          Poor people could work their way out of poverty with a good education, but they are the one denied this opportunity for the schools in the neighborhoods are often terrible. Sure the parents should compensate for bad schools, but they are often ill-educated themselves and are too busy trying to survive to to be of much assistance.
           

          As a bookseller I know first hand people have been trained, for example, to buy books from Amazon. I offer can autographed copy of a book priced less than what Amazon sells an autographed copy for and people will still buy from Amazon. Plus the fact that Amazon can sell books at a loss while indie bookseller much generate profit is also a major factor.
           

          The issues are more complex than you have portrayed them. However I will grant you that if reading valued more, or at least as much as swiping through a social media feed, there probably would be more viable bookstores and we’d be richer culturally.
           

        • Daren Williams

          Troy if you live in the Washington DC metro area we should meet for coffee…I have completely different views about blacks in America than say 90%-95% of most people. As you and many others would like to see blacks as inferior, subconsciously of course, I view blacks as being completely able to compete with all their contemporaries; white, Asian, Hispanic, and other wise.

           

          It is the embracing of the “black culture” (which was made up out of the 1960’s) and the rejection of “American culture” that has caused blacks to be in this current state of failure as a group….whites or institutions have nothing to do with the Negro problem going on right now. Every group of people that comes to America and embraces the American culture, within 5 to 10 years, progresses forward in education, and financial prosperity. Blacks fail to do so because they dont want to follow the order of American traditions.

           

          Of course current day blacks will attempt to state the reason for their shortcomings is slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. But I would turn every living black Americans’ attention to Booker T. Washington, who did more in his short life with insurmountable odds against him than most blacks will ever do with all the luxuries and creature comforts at their fingertips. And Professor Washington is not a one-off…there are countless examples of blacks in the past that have accomplished great and mighty things under slavery, JC, and segregation. So there is absolutely no excuse for current day blacks. Institutional racism existed back then, but there is no institutional racism or racism period that can keep a black from being whatever they desire in life….Barack Hussein Obama being the best example. If there was institutional racism, Obama would have never been elected – for whites are 73 percent of the American population…blacks are too small of a voting pool to elect anyone in or out of office. Racism is just an excuse blacks use for their complacency and laziness.

           

          And about corporations profiting off of athletes…do you think John Hopkins profited off the great neurological doctor Ben Carson? Or are publishing houses profiting off of Dr. Sowell’s and Condoleezza Rice’s books? Just a thought.

           

          Blacks can make all the excuses in the world as to their current plight, but this will only keep them in their situation forever.

 

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I don't think Daren's views are so unique, it is just that most folks, especially Black folks, who share this perspective are not inclined to make it widely known.

 

Of course, I don't see Black people are inferior to white folks; subconsciously or otherwise.

 

I don't see why embracing Black culture implies or means rejecting American culture.  Black culture, here in America, is part of American culture--the two are inextricably linked.

 

Now there are things I find wrong with American culture, that need to be fixed.  But there are things that are wrong with myself that need to be fixed. So I'm not rejecting American culture any more than I reject myself; both need work.

 

To dismiss the legacy of slavery as having an adverse impact on Black people is tantamount to putting one's head in the sand.  There are always exceptional people who succeed despite the odds, but are just that "exceptional."  Exceptional people are great role models, but they cannot be used as proof that we can all achieve in the way they have, because the vast majority of us are not exceptional.

 

I don't have the numbers but I'm quite sure Dr. Sowells books don't generate as much profit a Bruno Mars download or as much as a professional athlete ("entertainer").

 

 

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Guest Daren Williams

Del, what system, and how do you define success? If the system you are talking about is socialism, communism, and totalitarianism...then yes, they are designed for only a few to succeed. Yet if you are talking about capitalism...then no, you are absolutely wrong. Capitalism is the perfect system that eliminates racism, prejudice, bigotry, and all other evils because you are purely judged on your ability to "capitalize" on your God given talents. And we all have a special talent(s) that we can capitalize on that America's system would benefit from.

 

And success is defined in many different ways by many different people. Owning a local book store in a small hometown can be considered a success to some. Or owning a NFL team or major software company could be labeled a success.

 

Del, I hate to say that your statement, "The system is designed to have only a few successes." illustrates a defeatist mentality.

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10 hours ago, Troy said:

 

To dismiss the legacy of slavery as having an adverse impact on Black people is tantamount to putting one's head in the sand.


33% of white America compared to 23% of black America has a post-secondary academic degree  according to  U.S. Census and National Center of Education Statistics.  Therefore, a strong argument would be the majority of America is not interested in education...except books sales don't support that argument.  

We can get our books from so many different outlets now that some bookstores selling traditional ways are going to take a hit.  But assigning  behavioral traits to a group of people and attributing it to the demise of black booksellers is irrational.  It's like saying people are no longer interested in wearing clothes so that's why Macy's had to close 100 of its stores. 

 

Btw,  I still believe that book stores have to become inventive to get us back into the stores.

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@Mel Hopkins, I visited two successful Black owned bookstores this year.  One in Oakland (Marcus Books) and the other in Sacramento (Underground Books).  (FYI: this is based upon outward appearances, I have not looked at either store's financials). I previously visited Eso Won in Los Angeles  They are simply bookstores, no cappuccino machines, no tables filled with people using free WiFi, no Shea butter--just books. All are iconic institutions in their communities and surrounding area.  I point this out to say is that I don't think you have to be all that inventive to have a viable bookstore.

 

I think our biggest weakness is that Black people probably buy a higher percentage of books from Amazon than any other group.  I don't have data to support this but I'm just seeing Amazon grow increasingly stronger while and places that sell Black book are drying up.  

 

Speaking of Amazon a future advertiser on my site, just  today told me that they could not run an ad on my site unless I only provided the book for sale via Amazon!  I could not believe it but the author provided documentation to the effect. Of course I accommodated the request.

 

We actually don't not have that many options to buy books, certainly not as many as we used to have, as evidenced the dearth of Black owned independent brick and mortar and web based bookstores; the closure of Borders; and the contraction of B&N.  Even Walmart and Target don't carry as many Black books as they used to...

 

The first physical Amazon book store I visited in NYC did not have very many book written by Black people (I looked hard trust me). Amazon's store actually does do something "inventive" you check prices and buy the books on your cell phone.  The data they collect is just amazing--how longer you were in the store, what book interested you enough to check the price, etc.

 

I agree 100% with everything else you wrote.

 

Daren thanks for joining us.  Please create an account so that I don't have to approve your comments.  Also make sure you share information about your book too!

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59 minutes ago, Troy said:

a future advertiser on my site, just  today told me that they could not run an ad on my site unless I only provided the book for sale via Amazon!  I could not believe it but the author provided documentation to the effect. Of course I accommodated the request

@Troy  

 

Now that's down right creepy AND seems to violate antitrust laws even if the advertiser agreed to it in a contract.   You can't contractually agree to something that violates the law. 


I'm not a trade attorney or any type of attorney but reading is fundamental - and breaking the law is just that -

There was a case in 2013 that had non-compete terms and Federal Trade Commission struck it down... Your advertiser could be at risk of losing money and you too... (well not you because you don't sell books anymore but if your advertiser does than s/he may have a case because no establishment can force you to lose money.  I'd consult with an IP attorney if I were her or him- 

 

 

Found a section pn the FTC site that sounds like what you've posted

Refusal to Deal

 
 

In general, any business — even a monopolist — may choose its business partners. However, under certain circumstances, there may be limits on this freedom for a firm with market power. As courts attempt to define those limited situations when a firm with market power may violate antitrust law by refusing to do business with other firms, the focus is on how the refusal to deal helps the monopolist maintain its monopoly, or allows the monopolist to use its monopoly in one market to attempt to monopolize another market.

Sometimes the refusal to deal is with customers or suppliers, with the effect of preventing them from dealing with a rival: "I refuse to deal with you if you deal with my competitor." 

Edited by Mel Hopkins
Add information from FTC website

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10 hours ago, Del said:

The system is designed to have only a few successes

 

@Del  yep that's the problem with capitalism as it's practiced here in the United Systems - The laws enacted restrict freedom of movement making it impossible for most to operate freely.  

Case-in-point - the shenanigans that Amazon is pulling to prevent advertisers to operate in their own interest.    If not checked, this advertiser leaves money on the table every time.   

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So I only want to initially work with a select group of people. 

 

I am member of several astrological groups on Facebook. Which in total have several thousand members.  There are three that are predominantly indigenous/black. Out of that there are about maybe ten Astrologers that are either knowledgeable or are serous about their craft. 

I probably spebd a minimum of 100 hours a year on my craft. Although there have been months where i have spent a minimum of 2 - 5 hours a day on my craft. Which means i am not going ti work with people that don't have that type of dedication. 

I am willing to bet you Pioneer that i have or will have read someone from one of my  cities you lived in.

 

I hope you and like minded brethren have success with your approach. While I tend ti my "garden"

36 minutes ago, Mel Hopkins said:

 

@Del  yep that's the problem with capitalism as it's practiced here in the United Systems - The laws enacted restrict freedom of movement making it impossible for most to operate freely.  

Case-in-point - the shenanigans that Amazon is pulling to prevent advertisers to operate in their own interest.    If not checked, this advertiser leaves money on the table every time.   

Some people may dream of wanting more but they don't act that way.

 

When I was at U Mass Boston. The Boston Blacks said the Haitians and the Africans didn't interact with them. Which was interesting because i hung with the Nigerians and was seeing a Nigerian princess. So i asked a Haitian. He said he came across the world to get an education and the Boston blacks seemed to being missing something. He didn't know what it was but he didn't want to catch it.

Successful people surround themselves with succesful or at least driven people. 

 

In closing i work with people who can think have drive or have a big heart. But they have ro be motivated by their vision to effect  a change and invest in themselves rather than a dope pair of kicks. 

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Yeah Mel I don't know what Amazon where trying to accomplish.  Basically this was for a Kindle eBook, which was not aware could be sold via a platform other than Amazon.  This seems to be an effort to prevent the same electronic book being sold via Itunes, B&N or even the universal .pdf format.

 

The author also said they tried other formats, but Amazon resulted if far more sales.  This does not come a surprise as Amazon dominates all book sales and effectively owns Black book sales.

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39 minutes ago, Troy said:

Basically this was for a Kindle eBook, which was not aware could be sold via a platform other than Amazon.


@Troy,  Oh yes, I know of that program  - I never signed with it - but the book is only available on kindle period.   I thought it was a print book.    It's good the person is advertising - the more effort s/he puts into selling her/his book - the less dependent they will be on amazon in the future.  

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Guest Darren

Take some notes so when you start working in the Real World of capitalism so you don't lose your head.

 

Socialism and communism are economic in addition to social and a political organisational structure.

 

Before i left Uni i worked in every type of organisation, not for profit, governmental and corporate. 

 

My first job i worked in Wall Street my job in 1987 was to count $2 billion. I worked with a guy who was in his 40's and who had a female assitant in her 20's. Both ended up with cocaine habits. We had one guy that had a staff of young women. 

Regulatory Department didnt restrict Michael Milliken because he created junk bonds and he made a lot of money for the firm. His bonus was 550 mil in 1986. So the firm made multiples of that. 

It wasn't the utopia you mention. However it was better than some places because if you delivered you got paid. In 1986 across the board bonus was 40%

Do your homework , get a job or take off your roses colored googles. 

I worked in places that were legendary. Read up on Drexel Burnham, Lehman Brothers American Express, Wang Labs. 

Do some legwork before you say I'm wrong. Junior. 

@Guest Darren.

I liked what you posted with Troy. Either you're in University or institutional racism doesn't effect you. Because you are assuming your situation is universal. You are a well meaning white guy.

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