James Patterson, the best-selling author of thrillers and romance and young adult novels, has pledged to give away $1 million of his personal fortune to independent booksellers around the country. Today, he announced the names of the dozens of booksellers who are receiving grants in the first round of his big giveaway.
The money is heading toward smaller bookstores, which are under pressure from competitors like Amazon and e-books. Patterson's own books are big sellers everywhere — he doesn't depend on small bookstores to succeed. But his giveaway is driven by a broader concern.
"We're in a juncture right now where bookstores as we have known them are at risk," Patterson tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "Libraries as we've known them are at risk, publishers are at risk, American literature is at risk, as we've known it, and getting kids reading is at risk."
Each individual bookstore will receive up to $15,000 from Patterson, who places no limits on how they use that money. "It ranges from Andover Bookstore, where a son and daughter wrote and their father hadn't had a raise since 1988. ... Children's Bookstore in Baltimore, they give books to schools and they want the kids to be able to keep the books. Book Passage out in California will do more book fairs with it. Little Shop of Stories down in Decatur, Ga., they're buying a bookmobile."
More importantly, Patterson says, he hopes to bring attention to the situation faced by independent booksellers. "The government has stepped in to help banks, automobiles, anything where money is concerned, but nobody seems to care about books and our bookstores," he says. "And I'm telling you, American literature is in jeopardy."
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
A bestselling author of thrillers, romance and young adult novels is showing how much he values independent bookstores. James Patterson has pledged to give away $1 million to booksellers around the country, most of which are under pressure from competitors like Amazon and e-books. This morning, James Patterson is announcing the names of the dozens of booksellers who are getting the grants in the first round of his big giveaway.
He joined us to talk about it from our studio in New York. Good morning.
JAMES PATTERSON: Hi.
MONTAGNE: Now, your books sell big everywhere. You're even Costco, so you don't depend on smaller bookstores. What moved you to give away so much of your own money.
PATTERSON: Well, I think one of the booksellers actually said it best when he said that this is really going to help our store. But even more importantly, it's shining a light on the situation. And that's the bigger thing here. Because we're in a juncture right now where bookstores, as we have known them, are at risk. Libraries, as we have known them, are at risk. Publishers are at risk. American literature is at risk, as we've known it. And kids - getting kids reading is at risk.
MONTAGNE: Each store will get, by itself, a few thousand dollars. And, you know, not enough...
PATTERSON: Well, up to 15,000.
MONTAGNE: Probably not enough to keep it afloat if it's in real trouble. But what do you hope they'll be doing with the money?
PATTERSON: Whatever they want to do with the money. And it ranges from Andover Bookstore, where the son and daughter wrote and their father hadn't had a raise since 1988.
PATTERSON: So that was a piece of it. Children's Bookstore in Baltimore, they give books to schools and they wanted to kids to be able to keep the books. Book Passage, out in California, will do more book fairs with it. Little Shop of Stories, down in Decatur, Georgia, they're buying a bookmobile.
So it's a lot of cool stuff. And more than anything else, it's - look, we do a lot of things with the troops too - sending books over there. And they just like to know that somebody is paying attention. Somebody cares. Somebody is listening. Somebody is aware of their situation and that's a big thing. I mean the psychological piece of this is huge.
MONTAGNE: OK, and then there's more to come after this group.
PATTERSON: Yeah. And the news is the big thing. I mean that's the other thing, just shining the light on what's going on here. I mean the government has stepped into, you know, to help banks and automobiles(ph) - anything where money is concerned. But nobody seems to care about our books and our bookstores.
And I'm telling you, American literature is in some jeopardy.
MONTAGNE: Thank you so much for talking to us about this.
PATTERSON: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: That's author James Patterson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.