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."