On the same weekend Austin, Tex., played host to a pair of annual book festivals—the Texas Book Festival and the Austin Jewish Book Festival—the city’s venerable BookWoman bookstore announced it will close unless it is able to raise $50,000 before mid-December. The store, which opened in December 1974, is one of the last dozen remaining feminist bookstores in the country.
“We need the money to cover existing debt and to pay for the down payment and build-out for a new store,” said Susan Post. “Our lease is up in January, and though we only need 1,100 to 1,200 square feet, Austin’s booming economy has put most retail locations in the city center out of reach.”
The store launched a fund-raising campaign at www.savebookwoman.com and was selling T-shirts with the site address on the back at the Texas Book Festival. “We had so many friends and well-wishers stop by our booth at the Book Festival that I was encouraged,” said Post. “Sales of shirts and books at the festival were great—these are often the best days of book sales we have each year.”
“Little angels have fallen out of the sky to help me along the way,” she said, adding that the store has already raised a “quarter” of its goal.
Elsewhere at the Texas Book Festival, a roster of more than 209 authors, scholars and musicians entertained the crowds.
Festival literary director Clay Smith told PW that this year the festival, which is known for having heavy-hitting political panels and speakers, had this year opted to emphasize fun and humor. Stars appearing included first daughter Jenna Bush—a graduate of the local University of Texas—who read from her new children’s book, Ana’s Story; homegrown hero Marcus Luttrell, whose Lone Survivor topped this summer’s nonfiction bestseller list, who appeared on a panel; and NPR personality and writer Roy Blount Jr., who gave numerous talks.
“We were initially concerned that since we didn’t have a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton, fewer people might come,” said Smith. “But the numbers look to be about the same as last year—which was more than 40,000 people—and book sales appear to be about the same.”
In previous years, Barnes & Noble had shared responsibility for book sales with Borders, but this year was the sole official bookseller. Sales at the festival routinely top $100,000, with a portion returned to the festival and subsequently donated to Texas public libraries. Other retailers on hand included Amarillo-based Hastings (which has no store in Austin, but four in surrounding towns), and Intellectual Property bookstore, which is owned by Follett.
The Austin Jewish Book Festival, which lasts through November 11, kicked off with a presentation by a freshly shaved A.J. Jacobs, who discussed his latest experiment as a human guinea pig, The Year of Living Biblically.