James Patterson, the prolific American novelist, announced Monday that as part of his “Saving Bookstores, Saving Lives” campaign, he has donated $473,000 to eighty-one independent bookstores. This brings the sum of his donations to $1,008,300, of which 178 independent bookstores all across the country are the beneficiaries.
Patterson made this million-dollar pledge back in February of this year. True to his word, the author met this mark in a mere ten months.
Patterson is currently the highest earning author in the world and he will probably go down in history as one of the most successful writers of all time. Forbes estimated that he made over $90 million in 2013 alone. Since his writing career began in 1976, he has written ninety-five novels. Seventy-six of those have earned the distinction of “bestselling hardcover fiction title,” which is a New York Times record. His books have sold approximately 300-million copies worldwide.
It is impressive that an author who publishes an average of ten books every year still has time to focus on philanthropy, but just calling him a philanthropist would be selling Patterson short. Anybody can write a few checks to a non-profit organization and be considered a philanthropist. Patterson is more like a crusader. He has launched a campaign to petition President Obama to draw attention to the importance of reading. He has partnered with the Library of Congress to create student reading programs and funded over 400 teacher scholarships.
There are no ulterior, self-serving motives behind Patterson’s generous donation of over $1 million to independent American bookstores. Such an extremely popular author has no need to worry about promoting himself.
The novelist is acting out of deep concern for the future of the book selling industry. Local stores have struggled in recent years to compete with superstore chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders, but perhaps the biggest enemy facing the independent stores is Amazon.com. Patterson is among the most outspoken critics of this website, which is the most powerful force in the industry, controlling some forty percent of the market. Patterson’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, recently won a battle against Amazon which ensures that publishers, not Amazon, will set their own prices for e-books. This was critical in preventing Amazon from monopolizing the book market, but it does not change the fact that the website continues to dominate it.
In an interview with NPR in February, Patterson expressed his fears for the future of books in American society saying, “We’re in a juncture right now where bookstores as we have known them are at risk, publishers are at risk…and getting kids reading is at risk, ” He went on to explain that if he does not step in to lend a hand and bring attention to the plight of the modern bookstore, it is unlikely that anybody else will. He observed that while the government has bailed out banks and automobile manufacturers, “nobody seems to care about books and our bookstores. And I’m telling you, American literature is in jeopardy.”
One More Page Books in Arlington, VA is one of the recipients on the list of 178 independent bookstores that Patterson has donated to. Owner Eilen McGervey wishes to put the $9,000 grant towards fulfilling her vision of a bookmobile. She wishes to retrofit a vehicle with shelves full of children’s books and drive it to neighborhoods where children might not otherwise have the ability to buy or even look at books. Although he donated to bookstores without specifying how the money should be used, Patterson would surely improve of using it to steer children into bookstores and away from the internet.
By Dac Collins
Photo by Patrick Cumby – Flickr License