Cody’s Books to Close

DL Goines' Cody's posterAnnouncement from Cody’s:

After 52 years, Cody’s Books will shut its doors effective June 20, 2008. The Berkeley bookstore has been a beacon to readers and writers throughout the nation and across the world. Founded by Fred and Pat Cody in 1956, Cody’s has been a Berkeley institution and a pioneer in the book business, helping to establish such innovations as quality paperbacks and in-store author readings. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Cody’s was a landmark of the Free Speech movement and was a home away from home for innumerable authors, poets and readers.

The Board of Directors of Cody’s Books made this difficult decision after years of financial distress and declining sales.

According to Cody’s president, Hiroshi Kagawa, “[It] is a heartbreaking moment…in the spring of 2005 when I learned about the financial crisis facing Cody’s, I was excited to save the store from bankruptcy. Unfortunately, my current business is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody’s. Of course, the store has been suffering from low sales and the deficit exceeds our ability to service it.”

I’m not surprised — I found their new location had a very odd collection and layout, as if they had brought with them mostly the books that hadn’t sold in their Fourth Street store.

Shortly before he sold the store, I heard Andy Ross, in an interview, say that Cody’s had deliberately shifted its collection toward more hardcover books. A big mistake: those are the books where Amazon offers the most significant savings, and the ones people are least likely to buy on impulse.

The last time I was in Washington, DC, I stopped in at what was one of my favorite bookstores when I lived there 1979-81, Kramer’s Books and Afterwards. It was packed with people, and the cash register was never silent. Kramer’s has a terrific cafe and a great location (Dupont Circle), but they also had a fantastic collection shoe-horned into a small space. I saw older books I had read and loved, and others I had been meaning to read, and yet others that looked interesting, along with new books.

Favorite old books, I realized, were an effective mechanism for selling me new books: remembering my enjoyment of those books, I was inclined to buy more. And the large numbers of books I knew were good gave me (rightly or wrongly) the impression that this store stocked “good” books, and I could trust that unfamiliar books that I discovered there would be enjoyable, too.

In contrast, in the new Cody’s I wandered among a lot of books I had never heard of, and had no interest in, and couldn’t find the one new book I had read a review of and come looking to buy.

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