Urban Think! Bookstore in downtown has an exclamation point after the “think” in its name. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be exclaiming in a headline over the closing of yet another independend bookstore. Yes, the nine-year-old indie in downtown Orlando — specifically, Thornton Park — will pack up shop the end of this month. I heard the news from friends over the weekend, and the e-mail to the store’s customers came today.
The owners cite the financial difficulties of operating in these current economic times, as well as the challenge to brick-and-mortar stores by the way in which people buy and read books in today’s technological climate. To be sure, chain bookstores and CostCos have pushed out many indies over the years, but on-line sales have become the real enemy, even as the stores have fought back with customer service, cafes, book readings, art shows and storytimes. Urban Think!, like many other indies, has succeeded as a convivial neighborhood gathering spot but couldn’t compete with the deep discounts and the ease of point-click sale and delivery.
It’s a sad story being repeated across the country, and I share part of the blame. I always enjoyed going to Urban Think! store events and usually picked up a book or two but not as many as I have ordered over the internet. I did this, even though as an author I know that booksellers, especially independents, are a writer’s best friends.
Caroline Cousins, my other identity, would never have sold as many books if not for locally owned bookstores who hosted book signings and hand-sold multiple copies to customers. Urban Think! joins the increasingly long list of indies who supported Caroline Cousins the last seven years and are no longer in places like Greenville and Aiken, S.C.; Wilmington, N.C.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Gainesville and Mt. Dora, Fl.
Meanwhile, Urban Think! is having a clearance sale. I’ll try to assauge some of my guilt over its closing by opening my wallet. Too little, too late, I know.