September 27, 2017

San Francisco bookstore closes thanks to tech money; tech money opens its own bookstores in DC and Austin


Owen, Aardvark”s mascot, naps on some stock

As the great wheel of fortune turns, it seems to keep landing with Silicon Valley on top, and local business at the bottom.

Case in point: As a result of Big Tech’s ongoing takeover of San Francisco, another bookstore, Aardvark Books, is likely closing. As John McMurtrie reports for the San Francisco Chronicle, the store, which has sold new and used books since 1978, will close at year’s end if its owner, John Hadreas, succeeds in selling the building it inhabits. If the past can be trusted—and I think here it can—a new set of condos should be appearing shortly.

A clerk named Michael Jacomella told McMurtrie that the store hasn’t been generating profit for a while. McMurtrie sees Aardvark’s closure as part of a sad pattern:

Dog Eared Books Castro, at 489 Castro St., and Whatever…, which sells comics at 548 Castro St., are the only bookstores in the nearby Castro District. Books Inc., the independent chain, closed its 21-year-old store, at 2275 Market St., last year. A Different Light Bookstore, a gay-oriented store, shut its doors in 2011.

Jacomella assures us that Owen, the store’s beloved live-in tabby cat, will not find himself on the streets should the sale go through.

But give the wheel another spin, and it lands, again, in favor of tech money — this time in the form of two new Amazon bookstores slated to appear in DC and Austin next year. They will join the likes of the mega-retailer’s brick and mortar operations in Chicago, New York, and nine other locations. As Jim Milliot reports for Publishers Weekly, there will be at least fifteen such stores by the end of 2018.

Make no mistake about it: these seemingly separate stories are part of a single, seismic change to retail in this country, and it’s being driven by tech giants under the leadership of their their goblin king, Amazon.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.