'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cody's Books on Telegraph Closing 

For those of us who love the experience of shopping for books in a real, bricks and mortar location, it is a sad day.

Cody's Books, the venerable independent bookstore that has served generations of UC Berkeley students, has announced that it will close its flagship store on the south side of campus because of declining sales and competition from chain stores and the Internet.

The store, on Telegraph Avenue, will close its doors on July 10 after 43 years. "We have lost over $1 million attempting to keep the store open,'' said owner Andy Ross. "As a family business, we cannot continue to afford these ruinous losses.''

Ross said the store had been losing money for 15 years and that pressure from chain stores and the Internet had contributed to an "economic concentration in bookselling'' that was forcing out independent stores like Cody's.

"We leave Telegraph with great sadness but with a sense of honor that we have served our customers and community with distinction,'' Ross said.

I never attended UC Berkeley, but I visited Cody's frequently, and bought many books there, often before or after I watched a film over at the nearby Pacific Film Archive. For example, just last week, I found a rarity, a recently released English translation of Fumiko Hayashi's 1951 novel, Floating Clouds, subsequently made into one of the great Japanese films by Mikio Naruse, just before going over to the Archive to watch the next to last screening of the San Francisco International Film Festival, Bashing.

Of course, it is easy to find and purchase these books over the Internet as Ross observes. But, for me, there just isn't the same delight of discovery. I still recall the excitement of finding Ronald Fraser's riveting oral history of the Spanish Civil War, Blood of Spain, there in the late 1980s. Likewise, as a fan of the prodigal son of the New German Cinema, Thomas Elsaesser's essential Fassbinder's Germany. I could go through my library, and probably identify at least a third of my books as having been purchased at Cody's on Telegraph. A magical collection of novels, histories, biographies and social works that one almost never encounters at Borders and Barnes and Noble. July 10th is the last day of business.

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