The Valley Advocate's annual "Best of the Valley" issue has once again come out with no category for used bookstores. Used records/CDs? Yes. Independent (new) bookstores? Yes. Comic book stores? Yes. Specifically ADULT bookstores? Yes. Used clothing stores? Yes. But no category for used bookstores. And you know what? I'm kind of pissed off about it.
No category for used bookstores in an area whose used/rare bookstores have been singled out twice by the New York Times and which has its own chapter in the current edition of the Lonely Planet New England Trips devoted solely to its (guess what?) wealth of unique, vibrant used/rare bookstores. These are hard times for small businesses, and bookstores especially are on tight budgets these days. Most of us keep going for the love of books, and this is why the Valley continues to have so many remarkable bookstores as a resource and a source of pride.
I wouldn't care that much about the recommendations of a giveaway newspaper, except for the fact that people actually read the Advocate and take the Advocate's advice. There is a constant flow of newcomers to the Valley and the Advocate is often the first thing they pick up. It's free and it's full of entertainment listings and area events. And advertising; let's not forget the advertising.
By the way, there used to be a used bookstores category, back in the days when a few of the Valley bookstores did run ads. But the cost of an ad campaign in the Advocate is incredibly expensive for a bookstore on a budget. I know I can't afford it, what with such fripperies as mortgage and utility bills to take care of, and many of my bookselling compatriots can't afford it either.
For a while, though, the Advocate sent ad reps even to me, the humblest of booksellers. The last Advocate ad rep who came in I actually challenged about the curious correlation between their advertisers and the businesses that wound up in the "Best of the Valley" results year after year. She vehemently denied any such hanky panky, a look of utter horror on her face.
For some reason, the ad reps eventually stopped coming. And "Used Bookstores" ended as a category in the "Best of the Valley" issues around the same time.
In an era when reading should be encouraged and books cherished, used bookstores offer not only good value for money but out-of-print books that can be found nowhere else (not even via Kindle download). Each used bookstore in the Valley has its own personality and its own spirit. Used bookstores offer endless adventures for curious minds. Too bad the Advocate does not consider any of us worthy of "Best of the Valley" consideration.