Borders Closure a “Body Blow” to Pagan Publishers

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 2, 2011 — 150 Comments

On July 22nd the bookstore chain Borders started the process of closing its 399 remaining locations. This move was long predicted by industry watchers as the once-mighty chain wobbled in the face of’s rise (a company it once outsourced to) and costly missteps in non-book merchandise. The last few weeks of media coverage has featured a mixture of fond reminiscences, 20/20 hindsight analysis,  and predictions for the future of the book-selling industry. Many of the predictions haven’t been too cheery, for example, the investment site The Motley Fool predicts that Barnes & Noble will ultimately suffer the same fate, noting that “just because B&N will be the last one standing doesn’t mean that it will be standing for long.” Even if the Borders closure is the last domino to topple as the retail book market restructures itself for a post-ebook and post-Amazon world, that development alone could have far-reaching and possibly disastrous consequences for businesses that cater to modern Pagans.

The Borders Closure and Pagan Publishers

One of the most obvious ramifications of the Borders closure is the elimination of bricks-and-mortar booksellers willing to carry Pagan, occult, and metaphysical titles. At the beginning of 2010 Borders operated 508 superstores in the United States, plus several more “Borders Express” and Waldenbooks outlets in malls and airports. As more than one reporter has pointed out, in some areas Borders was the only significant bookstore within driving distance. Or as a recent NPR report put it, “an entire arm of book sales has been amputated.” No matter how healthy or solvent a publishing business is, that much reduction in retail space is going to hurt. Worse still, at the time of the Borders bankruptcy filing they owed nearly 300 million to its creditors. One of those creditors was Llewellyn Worldwide, the largest publisher of Pagan and metaphysical books. In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing Borders revealed that it owes Llewellyn over half a million dollars.

As large as Llewellyn may be to the Pagan community, it’s still relatively tiny compared to the larger publishing houses, and losing that much money has to hit hard. I contacted Llewellyn for comment, but there has been no official response. However, I was able to speak with author Donald Michael Kraig, who has worked extensively with Llewellyn, and speaking solely as an individual, offered his take on what some of the ramification of the Borders closure may be.

“As an author, I don’t get paid until my publishers are paid. I probably won’t directly see the loss in “take backs,” although my royalties will undoubtedly be smaller. Those who self-publish may have a different experience and to them (and small publishers) I hope your losses, at best, are small. My guess, however, is that this will hurt the “bottom line” of some publishers and may have a worse effect on a few very small publishers. This is what happens in business.”

The second-largest Pagan and metaphysical publisher, Red Wheel / Weiser, is also owed money by Borders. Though less than Llewellyn, it is still over $200,000. Again, not insignificant for a company their size.

Jan Johnson, Publisher at Red Wheel / Weiser, responding to my questions via email, says that little should change at their company due to the closing of Borders.

“We’ll, of course, miss the stores and the sales from the books they’ve been carrying. Borders supported many of our titles. We don’t expect it to have a direct affect on the number of titles or authors we sign. Borders closure is another indication of the changing way people find and buy books. In order to succeed as publishers, we need to communicate even more with our reader communities.”

A third Pagan publishing company, BBI Media, which produces the popular magazines Witches & Pagans, SageWoman, and Crone, has also been hard-hit by the Borders liquidation. Publisher and editor Anne Newkirk Niven bluntly explained to me how hundreds of outlets disappearing directly impacts the company’s bottom line.

“The cataclysmic news of the final bankruptcy and liquidation of the Borders bookstore chain (resulting in an immediate and pressing gap in our cashflow) rocked me back on my heels just as I was setting down to write the editorial for the 25th anniversary issue of SageWoman. In an additional irony, just as Borders was announcing its liquidation, copies of the current issue of Witches&Pagans were rolling off the presses — thousands of which are now sitting on the dock at our printer, with nowhere to go.

The immediate loss — due to the six-to-ninth month gap between distribution and payment of newsstand copies — caused by the Borders collapse is likely to come in between $18,000 and $30,000. Like many other independent titles, this is a clear and immediate threat to our continued existence. Our plan — identical to the one we rolled out in 1997 when magazine distributor Fine Print went bankrupt owing us a similar amount — is to go directly to our readers, and ask them to donate enough to get us over the hump. In 1997, our readers generously donated to keep SageWoman going, and we hope that when we roll out a full-scale fundraising effort in September, our readers will respond again.”

Niven called this event a “body blow” but seemed optimistic that readers and supporters would rally to help save periodicals like SageWoman, which have become an institution to many in the Pagan community. The company also sounded a hopeful note in their recent initiative to branch out into digital editions of their magazines. The Wild Hunt will be following up on BBI Media’s fundraising initiative, checking back in with Anne Newkirk Niven once it launches.

Assuming that the two largest publishers of Pagan-oriented books, and the largest publisher of Pagan periodicals, are able to weather this storm and come out largely unscathed, there are some troubling forecasts ahead. Science fiction and horror author K.W. Jeter recently pointed out that the prevailing lesson some are taking from the Borders closure may be that it carried too many books, and spent too much time catering to the “long tail” that the Internet thrives in accommodating. This is echoed by another genre writer, J. A. Konrath, who predicts that the “midlist is going the way of the dodo.” For those not up on the publishing-world lingo, “midlist” books are titles that are not bestsellers but are strong enough to economically justify their publication. Should Barnes & Noble decide to cut back on its midlist in a post-Borders book market, that could mean metaphysical/New Age sections that are dominated by titles like “The Secret” and  Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth,” and little else. For many Barnes & Noble stores, this is already nearly the case.

Can Independent Stores Bridge the Gap?

While some are mournfully singing eulogies for Borders, others point out that it wasn’t too long ago that the chain was seen as a villain that many wished doom upon. During their ascent in the 1990s book superstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble put many small independent bookstores out of business, and many more nearly so, by offering convenience, big selections, and oftentimes deep discounts the smaller (often niche) stores couldn’t match (illustrator/cartoonist Alison Bechdel famously fictionalized this process in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For”). Now that Borders is closing, many are wondering if independent booksellers will benefit, or even grow, in this environment. Jan Johnson at Weiser, when asked about the future of the esoteric bookselling market, said that  “we love it that there are still independent shops who specialize in selling esoteric books, and we’ll continue to support them. We also really like getting feedback and ideas from them.” Will we see independent Pagan and esoteric bookstores rise to fill the gap(s)?

I asked David Wiegleb, current owner of Fields Book Store in San Francisco, an esoteric bookstore that’s been a fixture in the Bay Area since 1932, for his perspective on how the Borders closure will affect business.

“In the short term, we’re seeing some new customers as well as customers returning who we may not have seen in a while. In San Francisco, not only are the Borders stores now closed, but there are no longer any Barnes and Noble stores. This recent uptick for us is certainly welcome, but because of the larger economic and cultural effects our business is still down from prior years. Our challenges are by no means past. There is an opportunity for us to market ourselves to the larger neighborhood as a place people can special order books in any subject and get them usually in only two days. We already carry the Bay Area Bestsellers, and a fair number of customers use us as their “special order” store now. In the medium term, I’m concerned about the ripple effects on publishers and distributors. I’m sure the losses they have incurred with the Borders closing will hit many of them hard, some perhaps fatally, and will impact past and future title availability, as well as pricing. Amazon has already driven list prices up with their demands for deep discounts. This will certainly impact what we can offer.”

Wiegleb also expressed concern that the “next generation will lose the basic cultural experience of browsing in a brick and mortar bookstore,” noting that “more than 1200 Borders and Waldenbooks” have been closing since 2003. Wiegleb’s experience of a recent increase in customers isn’t isolated, other news reports have noted this experience from independent bookshops across the United States. Linda Bubon, an owner at Women and Children First in Chicago, admitted to having “a little happy bookseller who’s jumping up and down” now that “we have this behemoth off our backs.” However, the concerns brought up by Wiegleb are also present. A recent Sacramento Bee report zeroed onto the challenges of growing independent bookstores as more and more people turn to and ebooks,  quoting Mike Barnard, board president of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, who pointed out that “stores that are still left are stressed,” and that “the down economy affects everybody.” Indeed, many reports on metaphysical bookshops I’ve read in recent years have focused on shops trying to stay afloat in a tough economy, in addition to the challenges of the modern bookseller.

One additional issue for those looking to independent Pagan-friendly shops picking up the slack in a post-Borders world is that there aren’t that many robust Pagan/occult/metaphysical bookshops around. The vast majority of Pagan-owned shops carry only a small selection of books, often bought directly from Llewellyn, fewer still carry Pagan magazines. Books are a high-overhead item, and don’t turn the profit that statues, jewelry, stones, herbs, or consignment items often do. I’ve witnessed first-hand how even a single bookshelf full of books can become a fiscal liability for a shop that is barely making ends meet. High-quality esoteric bookshops like Fields Book Store in San Francisco, or independent booksellers like Powell’s in Oregon that are large enough to have a metaphysical/Pagan section, aren’t as common as anyone would like. Creating a new network of esoteric and occult bookstores, along with bigger independents willing to cater to our communities, will take work and commitment from booksellers, publishers, and consumers.

The Bottom Line

The best case scenario here is that some of our largest Pagan-oriented businesses are able to withstand this massive shift, hold out, and recover; that the larger publishing/book-selling world largely stabilizes, and independent booksellers thrive in a post-Borders world, ultimately creating a more diverse and unique marketplace. A worst case scenario would mean that many of the institutions that have  helped define us and support us would cease to be, or exist as a ghost of their former selves. A situation like this would ripple out, hurting many other interconnected Pagan businesses. Economies, especially those that cater to smaller targeted audiences, are like webs. Pull the wrong strands, and the whole thing could collapse. I’m hoping that isn’t the case, and that something approaching the best case scenario wins out. For that to happen, a renewed and concerted effort to invest our time and money in Pagan-owned and Pagan-friendly business should be a top priority.

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be returning to this story, for it’s an issue that’s far larger than I can encapsulate here. I want to touch on ebooks, and epublishers, strategies that Pagan businesses are pursuing to survive and thrive, and how these changes might affect other sectors of the Pagan economy.


Because I was not able to fully quote the statements of everyone I talked to for this piece, I’m attaching them here as PDF downloads so you can read them for yourself in their original contexts. Statement by Anne Newkirk NivenStatement by Jan JohnsonStatement by David WieglebStatement by Donald Michael Kraig.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • As sorry as I am to see Borders close its stores, I hope that the business will flow to indie bookshops. The three notable independents in my area are doing pretty well and I support them almost exclusively now when I buy books. I was recently in Miami, FL for an event at a Coral Gables bookstore and was floored by how busy and popular it was (that’s Books&Books, which has a couple of locations in south FL). I hope it and others can continue to sustain what makes them so great–personalized service, local interest titles, niche topics, etc. I’ve almost always been able to find pagan-related titles I want in such stores, and when I can’t, they are happy to order them in.

  • RMF

    I would love to support indie bookstores in my area, but none of them are interested in my business. I live in a pretty conservative area and they have made it clear that they have no desire to stock or even order books I would be interested in — Pagan books, GLBT books, etc. The loss of Borders and, before them MediaPlay, has been rough for my town and now almost all of my book purchases will come from Amazon. I will miss the brick and mortar experience.

    • Ellen Francik

      Please note that many independent bookstores do have online presences and do ship, reaching areas just like yours. Our store (Fields) has customers worldwide; we’ve helped many an overseas book lover build their library.

      – Ellen Francik, co-owner, Fields Book Store

  • This is one of the best articles I have read all year. I am very grateful you take the time to research and write posts like this. The fact that someone takes the time to write about issues that matter to the community like this lifts my spirits. You’re an inspiration, M’Colleague!

    I am a lover of bookstores and their decline is breaking my heart. I don’t want a Kindle. I don’t want Amazon. I want to touch and small a book before I bring it into my home. I want to chat with store staff and find a jewel of a book I would have never looked for or considered had it not been on a shelf I happened to be browsing. I like picking up my Pagan magazines in a store alongside Newsweek and Woman’s Day.

    Having physical Pagan books in my community and at my local bookstore has a huge impact on me. Maybe it’s not Stonehenge, but it’s the sense of physical presence Brendan Myers talks about in “Revelation and Loneliness.” It’s a clear sign that “We Are Here.”

    • TheLibraryWitch

      Star, I’m glad I’m not alone in not wanting an e-reader. The whole experience of touching and smelling a new book is part of what makes the experience of going to a brick and mortar book store a fun experience.

      In my small town, the indie bookstore shut it’s door a few months before Borders announced its closing. Now all we have left is a Christain bookstore, which means if I want any pagan related material I’ll have to buy on-line or drive 30 miles to B&N.

      • It’s impersonal. You don’t own something palpable with character, but an electronic copy of something soul-less. How do you size-up a person if you can’t see their bookshelves?

        I’m trying really hard to not buy online, but having the time to drive to shop is getting harder. Having a local shop would likely result in my buying more books, even if I don’t read more.

        • Norse Alchemist

          I’m with you two. I’ve even resisted getting the kindle ap for my pc, even though I read a lot of stuff online, simply because I don’t like the ereaders. I like my books.

        • Norse Alchemist

          I’m with you two. I’ve even resisted getting the kindle ap for my pc, even though I read a lot of stuff online, simply because I don’t like the ereaders. I like my books.

        • Not only do I completely agree that e-readers are soul-less, they also alter a key aesthetic element that’s essential to book culture… the visual element. As much as we don’t like to admit it, people do judge a book by its cover. Covers sell books, not just in the store itself, but the cover continues to sell the book long after its purchased.

          As a former New Yorker, my literary interests were almost always spurned by what I saw other people reading on the subway. I would get on a train and see people and books. I’d sit down and a flashy book cover would catch my eye and I would strain my eyes to see what the person across the aisle was reading. I’d scribble down the name of the book, knowing nothing of it but its cover and/or intriguing title. And that’s how I learned about new and/or interesting books most of the time. Not through Oprah, or the New York Times, but through what people around me were reading. And I know I’m not the only one… I picked up that habit from friends.

          When I went back to the city a few months ago, I get on that same train and everyone has a Kindle or a Nook. They’re all reading something, but I don’t know what it is. (Which does have its separate value in terms of privacy, but that’s a different topic.) No book covers. Everyone with a little black tablet, just as absorbed, but dammit what’s absorbing them? At that moment I truly felt that something pivotal had been lost…in my opinion, the soul-lessness effect of the e-reader extends far beyond the mechanics of the device itself.

          • SimonB75

            “And that’s how I learned about new and/or interesting books most of the time. Not through Oprah, or the New York Times, but through what people around me were reading. And I know I’m not the only one… I picked up that habit from friends.”

            Glad to know I’m not the only one who does it 🙂

        • “How do you size-up a person if you can’t see their bookshelves?” hahaha

        • Sagekatt

          If you size up a person solely by their bookshelves then you are surely missing out on wonderful friendships. I am very electronic readers and I am also a writer. The reason a use a nook is for several reason here are only a couple. First I am a proud military spouse and we have to pick up and move every couple of years and we have to meet a weight control allowance or be charge and large fee in thousand of dollars for being over weight. The culprit that hits first of course is the weight of books. While i treasure any autogragh-book and will not get rid of them for any reason, I also have several from author friends that I cherish and their places are also secured. But, there comes that time when decisions have to be made and one has to clean out those books and before you know it your the books are gone. (Sign deep depression of loss). Second, I have loaned a book out that i use all the time, as reference material, guidance material, being a High Priestess, I am alway helping other learn their path and assisting in any way i can and if they need to borrow a book i would not hesitate to lend i lend it out. Sadly many times, I never seem to get it back and I have to go out and re-buy the book. Which is not the same. The original copy had my nergy in it, my notes my life already in it. Where with my Nook, the same book, would have my energy, my notes, I had made on each page, carried my energy with it amd I col dloan it out for 14 days and at the endof the 2 weeks the books would come back to me unless my friend sent me a request asking to re-borrow it again. It gives me control of precious books. Third I can get copied oa any book i see read a chapter and if I findit was not what i wanted simple send it back by hitting canceled and will not be charged. No driving back to the book store, wasting gas, having to get a refund for a book I was not enjoying. Simply ` minute on my reader and its done. You say e-reader are not personal and highly disagree I arrange my bookshelves to meet my needs. They are arranged my book titles and authors , Pagan books first, then the classics, then my hobbies and etc. I have all the covers in color and i receive magazines. Most importantly I suffer from RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy) and while I cannot hold anything more than 5 lbs as it begins to cracks the bones in my body, i can hold the Nook and read, listen to music enjoy my picture and it helps me enjoy my life. The minute I turn it on I have a library at my finger tips of 345 books and 4 magazine subscriptions at all times. It is the most wonderful way to keep your books with you and safe!! I apologize for this getting so long. I wish more authors used ebooks publishing there are alot of handicap persons, military included who need to access books and cannot just get in a car and drive to a bookstore esp when those Pagan bookstores carry say 10 books. Its so much easier to go t the list that I have where you can download hundred of books and have them there as a great reading pleasure and resource. BTW there is a new spray out called “Old Books” you can spray in your room or car to give you that old book smell if you miss ir that much while reading 🙂 I apologize for the rant, I am one of the ones on the other side hoping for more eboook publising I cannot hold a book in my hand, as its likely it will evidently kill me and I love to read. Thank you for so patient with my response.

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      I fully agree as well–no e-readers for me, ever.

      One of my favorite bits in the early seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was Giles’ encomium for books, when Jenny Calendar challenged him on why he doesn’t like computers, and he said “the smell,” to which she replied “But computers don’t smell,” and he said, “Yes, and that’s the problem,” and then went on to talk about how smell is the sense most connected to memory, and thus a musty old book or bookshop or library is perfect if you want to actually remember what you read. And, I find that completely true–I try to read as few books or PDF articles online as possible, because I remember them better if I have them in my hands, or have even a photocopy of them to mark up and makes notes on as I go…

      • I have to admit that I used to feel the same way…. until I got a Kindle and I absolutely love it. I also just don’t get the same sensory experience from books that I used to. I don’t know if its just a matter of changes in the methods and materials in making books but they just don’t smell the same as I remember them. There’s also the issue that my personal library is over 5,000 books and has completely outgrown the entire room I’ve given over to them, so having new books stored on a device instead of taking up more space in my house is just practical for me.

        • I agree. Personally, for me, practicality and portability win over smell and feel almost every time. Like you, I have lots of books and not much space. Also, if I have a big, clunky book, and a smaller lighter book, I’m more likely to finish the latter. When I do buy print books, I’m more likely to buy paperback than hardcover for this reason, as well as to save on space.

        • fyreflye

          I’m also going to challenge the anti e-reader bias – not because I don’t prefer “real ” books, not because I don’t love browsing “real” bookstores – but because the real reality is that buying books online and buying (or pirating) e-books is what we’re going to have to do to keep getting the information and inspiration we’ll still be needing long after the paper book has become history. I too have no space left to store my books, and buy Kindle copies (read on my computer with the *free* reader Amazon offers as a download for Windows and Macs) and e-pubs whenever I can. Publishers are going to have to adjust to the new reality and offer downloadable books along with their new paper titles. I don’t like it, but I’m not going to let it stop me from continuing to learn and enjoy with the printed word.


          • Wendi Bragg

            I can store a lot more books electronically than I can physically. I love having my ebooks; they’re more portable, and I can keep an entire reference library essentially in my pocket. That being said, nothing will ever replace the physical sensuality of curling up with a dead tree version, a blanket, and a cup of fresh hot coffee.

        • If I bought too many more physical books, my house might fall down. I don’t get rid of books once I buy them. It was either get a nook or throw a kid out so I could use their room for more book storage…

      • Anonymous

        You’re dreaming. Unless something radically changes in book publishing, you’re not going to have a choice in the matter if you want to read anything other than used books.

        P. Sufenas Virius Lupus wrote:

        “I fully agree as well–no e-readers for me, ever.”

        • He still has the choice to stop reading, and given my experiences with e-readers, I’d seriously consider it.

    • Thank you Star! Yes, that’s exactly what ‘revelation’ is.

      but by the way, the book is called “Loneliness and Revelation”, not “Revelation and Loneliness”. 🙂

      • My apologies! Regardless, it’s a good book whether read on paper or e-reader.

    • I was a bookseller at Borders for two years in the late 90’s.My co-workers were great, we were a community with a purpose, and oddly that purpose was not to sell books but to expand who we were. I loved the vibe and energy of the store, especially on the weekends, when we were mobbed. People would come in droves, drink coffee and sit in the corners reading. The place was alive. I loved handling the books themselves, they were something nearly sacred because they contained the thoughts of others and were portals to other worlds.

      I don’t like e-readers. They are sterile and in the end you have nothing. I like going back to my books time and again. It’s like visiting with old friends.

    • Anonymous

      I got the Kindle software for one and only one reason: legal, free downloads of old public-domain books, so I could have something to read on long trips without packing a half-dozen actual books (which take up more space, and yes, I have been known to read that many books in one vacation). At home, I want to read an actual book, for the same reasons you’ve described here.

    • Anonymous

      I got a Nook for my birthday last year — I’d never have bought one for myself. I love it for certain things, especially travel and that I can dowload out-of-print books. There is a lot of out-of-print P.G Wodehouse on my Nook! But I still love books, so my bookshelves remain jammed even with an e-reader in the house.

  • I spent a great amount of my late teens and early twenties in Borders. I played Magic, DnD, poker, and attended all sorts of Meetups. These palces were an oasis of people watching on a boring weekday night, and I’ve had more than a few dates begin in the shelves. During undergrad I would hike the 2 miles to a Barnes and Nobles while waiting between classes. There was something wonderful about having a place to sit, read, enjoy the smells of coffee, the aroma of books, and learn. I was a regualr book buyer and being a memeber of a Border’s Book Club was the only club I was happy to be a part of. Sadly, all this enjoyment ended when I moved to a more rurla area for grad school. Amazon became my source for books both for school and pleasure. I tired to frequent the lola shops but unless I wanted to read ” A Country Woman finds love, Christ, and Happiness in her struggle to photograph Appalachia’s Covered Bridges” I was SOL. I hope that this shift in the market allows for locally run shops to develop and grow and I hope it is a wake up call to all book sellers to keep a tight reign on thier business practices.

    • Janette Oke is the bane of my existence, and her style of novels infects what few local bookstores we have in my neck of Appalachia like a plague.

      • I just wiki’d her and think the “Love’s (x) (x)” titles sound like Warhammer 40K or Halo styled starships. “USS Love’s Resounding Courage” fits right in!

        • Grimmorrigan

          Thought of the Day: Poor fiction leads to heretics. Read for the Emperor!

    • “I spent a great amount of my late teens and early twenties in Borders. I played Magic, DnD, poker, and attended all sorts of Meetups.”

      This touches upon one of the still-unreported aspects of Borders closing: How many Pagan (and other) groups just lost their only viable site for holding public meet-ups? My oqn Grove has now had our coffee socials displaced twice in the past years from Borders closings, and the current coffee shop, nice as it is, isn’t as welcoming as Borders was.

      • There’s a group here in Atlanta that had met at Border’s for years and is now scrambling to find a new place to meet up.

        • Rabbit Matthews

          Sometimes, local yoga studios will allow groups to do a karma yoga exchange and use the space in trade for cleaning it up, doing small repairs, etc. I pray for this group, and others like it who might now be struggling to find a meeting place: may they land in a place far better than the one they had or the one they expected to find!

      • Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tearoom has been very welcoming to us. Their occult shelves are much better stocked than I’ve ever found at Borders (or B&N), and they’ve space available for socializing. We’ve had a few folks get referred to us for various services through the people that work there and know us well, and we’ve been introduced to some great people in turn. Well worth the effort to get to downtown Ann Arbor, in my opinion…

        The problem with relying on chain stores is you end up reliant on chain stores. Local industry can only survive if we support it with our business and our presence.

        I won’t miss Borders. I’ll miss the jobs they brought to the local economy, and the money they generated, but they haven’t treated me as anything beyond a walking pocketbook in a very long time. I’ll stick with the local store, where they know my name and my reading habits, and value me as a person as well as a customer.

        • We considered Crazy Wisdom as a location, and after one of our officers stopped by and saw the (and I quote her here) “caterwauling woman who was allegedly performing a concert”, we decided against. The machinery at Sweetwaters is a little noisy, but not that noisy.

          • If Saline isn’t too far away (I don’t know how needful public transit accessibility is for you lot), you might check out Brewed Awakenings Cafe. They’re on 12 @ State (so, barely, Saline, really). They may not have books, but the folks that run the shop have been nothing but welcoming and I think one of the staff are Pagan. Mind, they’re starting up an open mic on Saturday evenings, but I don’t know when your group meets.

            As for Crazy Wisdom, they do have some musicians in there I would rather avoid from time to time, but the back room has doors and can be closed off from the performance area. It needs to be booked in advance, but I think it’s not terribly expensive… plus, if it’s *not* booked, you can just sit in there and chat.

      • Anonymous

        People go to bookstores to MEET people? I always went to bookstores for books so I could avoid having to talk to people.

        Except the Pagan/occult/metaphysical stores, of course. But I never saw those as stores, so much as communities. (Blame Books, Beans, & Candles.)

  • WarriorPrincessDanu

    One of my favorite books stores is Half Price Books. They have the best metaphysics section of any mainstream book store I’ve ever seen. The majority of their stock is used, so it’s less expensive and better for the environment. Of course, that does mean that their selection is dependent on what people bring in. But that also means that books that are rare, out of print, or hard to find at larger books stores often show up. Whenever I need to buy books for school I go to Half Price first, and I only turn to Amazon after several unsuccessful trips to each of the locations in my area. I almost never go to Barnes & Noble now.

    • We had a store like that called Kudzu books. It’s metaphysical section was a motley crew of leftovers and closeouts from other stores. I found the most amazing books there until they closed.

  • It sucks that Border’s is gone, because I always liked them more than B&N. The vibe was less pretentious and stuffy, and more casual and appealing to the less than academic crowd – Joes and Janes who may only read one or two books a year, if that. Getting /them/ into bookstores is always a struggle and one that should be applauded, though granted not that financially practical.

    I’m on the other end of the spectrum as a record producer. It feels like we don’t have anywhere to sell our titles, and even Best Buy is steadily shrinking its music department. So, we stick to the DIY route by trading CDs or selling up front (wholesale) with other labels, making us all mobile record stores via distribution, and doing the bulk of the retail sales ourselves. But it seems, a larger and larger portion of our sales is via MP3 format, and I suspect the same goes for books these days.

    When I put out my first book this spring, I figured since I already knew the in’s and out’s from the other side of the coin (record producing), I would go ahead and release it myself – through a branch of the label. I already knew how to advertise and promote, I knew how to contact stores, and I knew about overhead. (And the hubster knew about doing layouts.) I purposely went with Print On Demand (POD) publishing, since I already have an apartment full of CDs and didn’t want to add to that. I also made sure to jump on the eBook scene for obvious reasons.

    Both methods are much greener than traditional publishing, and for me, the overhead was little of nothing. I’m proud to say my one little book turned a net profit within its first month and has been getting me steady royalties ever since – even if it’s not paying off any major bills or anything. And, because we’ve already learned our lesson about sending stuff out without getting paid for it up front, I chose not to go with traditional types of distribution. Indie bookstores come and sadly go, and consignments are hard to get paid out on/returned. Distributors go bankrupt, and inventory gets wadded up in liquidation – especially when bad bookkeeping was a culprit. So yeah, while I probably could have gotten more recognition by hitting up bunch of traditionally modeled book publishers, I felt better about placing the safer bet and going DIY on the matter.

    We’re in the middle of major global game changes, and it’s painful. Everything’s going online, jobs are virtually shipped to the lowest bidders in third world countries, and everyone’s watching their budgets much more closely, only buying the necessities. Books (and music) are considered entertainment items by many and therefore easy to knock off the budget. And let’s be honest too, the Internet is chock full of thieves and people who don’t believe they have to pay for “entertainment”. Even the porn industry is feeling the pressure. (No pun intended.) It’s part of the reason why I purposely have most of my book online in blog format, though it’s the original, unedited stuff. I figured it’s like how our bands put their music up in streaming format as an advertising tool; if you like it, you just might buy it. Sure, there are some unscrupulous people out there copying and pasting, instead of even linking, and they probably aren’t crediting me, but at least I made it hard for them. (And, if they’re /blindly/ copying and pasting, they’re taking with it my typos, which are good identifiers.)

    That’s my take on the topic. I’ll quit rambling, go back into my corner and actually get some work done this morning.

    • Judith Laura

      There’s a website,, that can help you find out if anyone is plaigarizing your stuff.

    • Anonymous

      “It sucks that Border’s is gone, because I always liked them more than B&N. The vibe was less pretentious and stuffy, and more casual and appealing to the less than academic crowd – Joes and Janes who may only read one or two books a year, if that. Getting /them/ into bookstores is always a struggle and one that should be applauded, though granted not that financially practical.”

      This is why I paid $20/year, every year, just to be part of the BAM discount club–Books-A-Million has that same informal vibe. B&N always makes me feel like a loser for buying sci-fi/fantasy novels or manga–I feel like I ought to be buying big, leather volumes of the classics, then reading them while sipping tea from a china cup with my pinky out.

      Problem with BAM’s discount club is, you have to buy at LEAST a couple dozen books a year for it to be worth the annual fee. My bookshelves and budget can’t support that anymore, lol.

  • Kelly NicDruegan

    With the incredibly fast rising popularity of e-readers I have to wonder about the future of “hard copy” books and magazines of all stripes. The number of Pagan books being offered for the Kindle and the Nook is truly impressive. Not only are most new releases being offered in digital format, but a significant number of older, out of print books are as well. You can download the Key of Solomon onto the Kindle for as little a $1.99! Even many of the text books used by Cherry Hill Seminary are available in e-book format, and Circle magazine is offering both current and past editions for the Kindle.

    That both Amazon and Barns & Noble are offering their software as free downloads for the PC, Apple, and Android powered devices for free means that you don’t even have to buy a Kindle or Nook to read e-books. All you need is a computer, tablet, smart phone, or Ipod.

    I have always been an avid reader and in the past I have spent many a pleasant afternoon wandering in my local bookstore, or curled up on the porch swing flying with dragons, casting spells with powerful mages, and exploring the depths of space of powerful star ships. I love physical books as much as the next person.

    That said, I also live in a very small 2-bedroom, 160 year old antique home. The space I have for books is extremely limited so until I got my kindle I found myself having to pick and choose between what books I could afford the space to keep and which I would have to reluctantly find new homes for. Now that I have my Kindle “pride of place” on my few bookshelves can go to the older books that don’t have a digital version. I don’t have to choose selected articles from my magazines because I don’t have the room store back issues. And speaking as someone who served in the military and had to balance a love of reading with a very small room in the barracks, an e-reader can be a god-send.

    Yes, I love the feel and even the smell of physical books and bookstores. But I also believe the future all books, not just Pagan ones, lies in the digital world. Physical books… I have enough room in my home to keep maybe 150-200 books. On my Kindle I can have up to 3000. On my computer with its 1TB (so far) of storage the number is unlimited.

    Like them or not, e-books and e-readers are the future of publishing. If Pagan publishers fail it will be because of a failure to embrace the digital future, not because of a loss of brick and mortar reseller outlets.

    • Vivienne Moss

      I agrre with all you have said here. I was reluctant to buying a Kindle because I love hard copy books so much. I am very happy with my Kindle and now have plenty of room for my books.

      • Leea

        I don’t E-reader yet, but I’m afraid that time is quickly coming. At 54, I seem to have developed arthrites in my wrists, which is making it hard to get through George R.R. Martins latest. For some strange reason, I am also having to wear reading glasses on top of my reading glasses. I guess aging is another reason to go digital,,,

        • Anonymous

          Well, e-readers DO allow you to change the displayed font size…and I’m sure a lot of books are really hard to find in large print.

    • Thank you for pointing out the other side of e-readers. They’re not just soulless unscented unpapery copies. They’re spacesavers for those of us whose library has overrun their living space. Maybe I don’t NEED so many books, but there’s nothing I love more than them, and they enrich my life. I have four bookshelves in a 2 room apartment currently, and more books in closets, on windowsills, and stacked on the floor.

      My kindle lessens the fear that I’m going to die someday crushed by a landslide of books! (*chuckle*)

      • Anonymous

        I just moved out of my parents’ place myself. I bought a big, 6-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide bookcase. I brought my boxes of books in, assembled the bookcase, started filling the shelves…

        And my books do not fit in my bookcase. Even when I doubled-up on one of the shelves. I think it’s high time I found new homes for some of my old manga, and maybe donated some old novels to the library.

    • Thank you for pointing out the other side of e-readers. They’re not just soulless unscented unpapery copies. They’re spacesavers for those of us whose library has overrun their living space. Maybe I don’t NEED so many books, but there’s nothing I love more than them, and they enrich my life. I have four bookshelves in a 2 room apartment currently, and more books in closets, on windowsills, and stacked on the floor.

      My kindle lessens the fear that I’m going to die someday crushed by a landslide of books! (*chuckle*)

    • Grimmorrigan

      The idea of a hardcopy free world is not going to happen anytime soon. Archives and libraries have tried to go paperless and most of them have failed. We will have hardcopy books and publishers who offer them around for awhile. THe price of paper books may increase but hard copies are a nessecity and will not disappear anytime soon.

    • Robert

      Agreed! And thank you for this viewpoint. Physical books have an intrinsic value to them that an e-reader cannot replace. However, e-readers have intrinsic value to them as well, and what they offer is not something that a physical book can do as well.

      I own a Nook, and love it. There are many advantages to it that a physical book cannot match. That said, I buy many physical books for the advantages they give that an e-reader does not.

    • Anonymous

      Quick caveat about e-readers: You DON’T want to buy poetry books on them. For some reason the lines go all wonky, especially on iDevices and low-res netbooks.

      And one reason I go to brick-and-mortar stores for Pagan books is because I can pay CASH. There is no electronic record that I bought that book. (Am I too paranoid?)

  • Anonymous

    I will shed no tears for Borders. They, along with B&N and Amazon, are the reason there are so few independent alternative bookstores around. It sucks that Lewellyn is getting the shaft from this bankruptcy, but there are other publishers who got screwed in a bad way by these giant box stores & distributors, even when they were solvent. I used to own a little bookstore here in Eugene, specializing in the weird stuff you couldn’t find at mainstream stores. We carried alot of stuff from the Loompanics catalog, Paladin Press, Falcon Publishing, etc.

    There was a small publisher nearby, Subco if I recall the name, that we used to order from directly, until they signed a contract with B&N for distribution. B&N ordered several thousand books from Subco, which was huge business that they couldn’t afford to turn down, even though it required them to drop all their other customers and dedicate all their printing runs to fill it. Then, months after filling the order and seeing no money from B&N or any other customers, Subco was hurting bad, needing the cash to keep afloat. Eventually, B&N returned all but a few books from their order, paying only for the few copies they had sold, but by then it was too late, and Subco went out of business.

    This is standard practice with big publishers, but for a small outfit like Subco, it’s death. B&N was the culprit in this particular instance, but Borders and Amazon & Ingrahm (a major distributor, not retailer) all follow the same business model. In the space of a few years, Eugene went from having five independent bookstores to having one left now, I think. My own store closed, leaving me & my ex with debt that took the next five years to pay down.

    • Anonymous

      From the other side of the equation: I had never once set foot in any kind of bookstore until a Waldenbooks opened up on the far end of the county from where I lived in 1997. All the books I’d seen before then were library books, textbooks, my parents’ old books, and books that out-of-town relatives had bought me as presents. And cheap editions of Dr. Seuss books from that old mail-order club. I had gotten the impression that the only ways to get books were libraries and mail-order.

      There just weren’t any bookstores around at the time. And good luck finding decent books of any sort at Wal-Mart!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Jason, thanks for producing this overview of an important event and its sequalae. And for the shout-out to Alison Bechdel; “Dykes to Watch Out For” became my favorite strip after “Calvin and Hobbes” shut down.

    • Thriceraven

      I also wanted to point out my appreciation for the Alison Bechdel. If you haven’t read her memoir ‘Fun Home’ it’s a fascinating and deep look at coming to terms with your own identity and those family secrets that no one talks about.

      • Thriceraven

        I meant the Alison Bechdel shout-out. Proofreading fail.

      • Grimmorrigan

        Fun Home is amazing. I spent an entire class going back and forth with a professor about Bechdel’s father’s sexuality and his role as a tragic hero. One of the best grad classes I ever had.

  • This topic does beg the question: Which do you prefer, old book smell or new book smell?

    Personally, I prefer old book. 🙂

    • I am allergic to dust, so I vote new book smell. However, I love the old things you find in old books. Old bookmarks and letters and notes.

    • I’m like Star and allergic to dust. I’m also a masochist though and looooooove old book smell.

      • Any trip to the library requires advanced planning and Claritin. But I love that library smell…

        • Don’t forget Visine! I tend to do the same, plus carry a handkerchief.

    • Anonymous

      Old book all the way.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      New books (and cards) sometimes smell really funny. You have to let them air out.

      (I’d have to hope that surely big business can’t be the only way to decide which way things are going, what succeeds and what fails….)

    • Leea

      books! old, new, middle-aged, they’re all beautiful to me!

    • Nicole Youngman

      Old book with old-incense-smell from its store or previous owner. As long as it’s not cig smoke–UGH.

    • Anonymous

      To me, both old and new books smell awesome! Especially ones you buy from Pagan stores, they smell of sage. :3

  • I’ve never liked Borders. Granted I live in NYC where there are quite a few B&Ns but Borders was strictly a Long Island institution until a couple of years ago. The few times I had been into one (the Penn Station huge one notwithstanding, for some reason that was the only place that stocked Locus magazine) they seemed pretty haphazardly organized. I never got that comfy vibe I got from B&N. You’d think here we’d have esoteric bookstores coming out of our bum but we really don’t have any. The best source of esoteric books I’ve found has been the Strand bookstore but even those are older print books.

    I am sad to see the decline of bookstores in general. While I love my Nook (small apartment + bibliophile = literally tripping over books everywhere so I tend to buy all my books on there except for my Pagan ones, those I buy a hard copy of since I will flip through them for reference) for the fact that it allows me to buy lots of books in a small holder, nothing will compare to the experience of going into a bookstore, glancing at the covers and taking one and sitting down to read for a bit. I don’t think bookstores will completely go the way of the dodo but I think they’ll definitely be downsized with maybe only big cities getting huge ones for author events and whatnot. It’s unfortunate for that many folks in rural communities they are officially without any bookstore. For myself, I’ve been lately buying my books direct from the publishers (HOLLA Ankhie!) or from the author themselves if possible.

    I hope Llewellyn, Weiser & BBI Media are able to somehow recoup their losses.

    • Anonymous

      The Penn Station Borders is one of my hang-outs, as is the Union Square B&N.

      I’m the guy in the cafe section with the huge pile of books or magazines and the notebook taking notes because I can’t afford to buy them and I’m too old to be swiping things.

      I’d bring my laptop and a scanner but the management gets testy about that.

      • Guest

        Have you ever heard of a library, Man?
        That’s just rude.

        • Anonymous

          Someone obviously needs a sense of humor transplant, and/or an emergency stickoutofassectomy.

          If I can get something at the library, I do. But frequently they just don’t have what I want. I have more time than money. It’s easier to to take notes than to buy something, take it home, scan it and then return it.

      • Guest

        For the price of the coffee, you don’t need to be using brand new books for sale that you don’t plan to buy.

        • Anonymous

          I have other interests besides Pagan research, so that site wouldn’t do me much good for 90% of my reading.

  • Ursyl

    If B&N reduces their Metaphysical section to just stuff like “The Secret,” they’re going to lose even more business.

    We shall see.

    Much as I love the look and feel of a real book, old or new, love the look of a room lined with shelves full of books, and love being able to browse until I see something that appeals in that moment, there’s only so much room even in a house!

    • Same here. No room!! It’s part of the reason I resell most of the books I buy. I can’t justify the real estate for everything, so I only keep the ones I will definitely have use for again. I wish I could keep them all, to where I even get jealous of Spongebob’s library. 😉

      • Anonymous

        I have always been envious of my grandmother for one reason: She had wall-to-wall bookshelves installed in one of the bedrooms of her house. By my late uncle, so she got it done for free.

        Man, if I had that kind of space, I would buy sooooo many books….*wistful sigh*

  • Anonymous

    I am fairly lucky in that being right next to a university, there are a number of small bookstores, plus the excellent library system – with how tight money is, we usually go to the library instead of buying. (shrug) There are a couple of pagans who work at our local library, so there is always a pretty good selection there.

    • I concur. I am a doctoral student, and keeping within my budget is critical. I’d *love* to buy all my textbooks, but being able to find most of my books at the library (interlibrary loan, I love you!) means I can continue classes. That, and used books at for those textbooks I simply cannot live without, still means I’m struggling for space. *sigh* I don’t want to — I loathe the idea that, say, can simply erase a book off my reader — but I think I may have to go with some sort of e-reader soon. Not looking forward to having to do the research on which reader to buy so my books remain *mine*, either.

      • Laughing Collie

        Crudpuppies. Apologies to the unwitting linkage in the previous comment — not my intention. Blog author Jason, please feel free to remove those if you wish.

  • There are no indie bookstores in my area, and now there are no major bookstores in my area T_T

    • Anonymous

      But there are libraries in every town!

      • Anonymous

        For now, anyway. Many libraries are closing due to lack of funding. Along with indy book stores, I think we really need to be supporting our public libraries.

      • _

        Do you keep up with the news? Budget cuts are affecting nearly every state to the point towns and cities are closing down libraries or shortening hours. Don’t expect the states to be bailed out any time soon either, because of the recent dept ceiling agreement.

      • Anonymous

        Not if we don’t donate books and money, there won’t be. My county recently had to decide whether to close down libraries in poorer areas, or have unpaid furlough days a couple times a year and stop having any locations open on Sunday. Fortunately, the people voted for the latter. I’d rather have libraries open fewer days than not have any libraries at all.

  • In my area, all the Borders closed down ages ago. I think there’s one Waldenbooks left that will now close and that’s it. We still have Barnes & Nobles aplenty, but their Pagan book offerings (usually shoved into “New Age”) have always disappointed me.

    I already buy most of my Pagan-oriented books online anyways. There’s the Bibliotheca Alexandrina project which I both participate in and support, that publishes devotionals for various deities: And there’s a wealth of high quality independent authors in this age of self-publishing, like Sannion over at House of Vines:

    But I will miss stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble (should they follow), for the “instant gratification” book-buying experience. As an artist, I can generally count on them having in stock any book or magazine I might need. And even if they don’t offer many Pagan books, they do carry a few of their magazines. In their absence, I’d be left solely with Amazon/Createspace, who luckily can find my middle-of-nowhere address when others can’t.

    As for e-readers… when I bought my iPad, I had visions of converting my sizable library to e-format to save space. But like many others have found, I like the feel of an actual book in my hands, the scent of the paper and glue, etc. Plus the prices for e-format aren’t much cheaper than a hard copy, so I really couldn’t afford to re-buy all the titles I own. My iPad contains some books that are public domain & no-longer-in-print, but I can’t see giving up on hard-copy books entirely. My iPad is used mostly for the apps, very rarely for actual book reading.

    I’m definitely interested in digital magazines however, as my back issues of those are threatening to bury me!

    • Anonymous

      Waldenbooks is owned by Borders, and has been for ages. (At least since 2005, when I got a Borders membership card at a Waldenbooks.)

  • There is really no other book store in my area that I can go to and buy a book after Borders closes. There used to be one in our mall, but that was bought and made into a Waldens a few years ago. The only other actual book store is Bereans and that’s a Christian book store. As sad as big-chain stores can be in some neighborhoods, Borders was really the only one our area had.

  • Leea

    Thanks for writing about the Borders closing. I loved the chain and will miss it. As much as I DO order online, to me there’s nothing like going into a “bricks and mortor” store, perusing the titles, leafing through them and having the satisfaction of sitting down to read my new treasure while knowing it is a book I want and can use.

    I have indeed notices fewer metaphysical/pagan titles in the other book stores near me-B&N and Books-A-Million. The titles they do have seem Wicca dominated and very shallow in content and scholarship.

    I hope there will be an answer for those of us who love bookstores and metaphysical stores that have also suffered in this economy.

  • Leea

    Thanks for writing about the Borders closing. I loved the chain and will miss it. As much as I DO order online, to me there’s nothing like going into a “bricks and mortor” store, perusing the titles, leafing through them and having the satisfaction of sitting down to read my new treasure while knowing it is a book I want and can use.

    I have indeed notices fewer metaphysical/pagan titles in the other book stores near me-B&N and Books-A-Million. The titles they do have seem Wicca dominated and very shallow in content and scholarship.

    I hope there will be an answer for those of us who love bookstores and metaphysical stores that have also suffered in this economy.

  • Leea

    Thanks for writing about the Borders closing. I loved the chain and will miss it. As much as I DO order online, to me there’s nothing like going into a “bricks and mortor” store, perusing the titles, leafing through them and having the satisfaction of sitting down to read my new treasure while knowing it is a book I want and can use.

    I have indeed notices fewer metaphysical/pagan titles in the other book stores near me-B&N and Books-A-Million. The titles they do have seem Wicca dominated and very shallow in content and scholarship.

    I hope there will be an answer for those of us who love bookstores and metaphysical stores that have also suffered in this economy.

  • Norse Alchemist

    Borders closing has to be one of the saddest things. I can’t even count how many hours I would escape down to the local store and just sit there with a pile of manga and read for hours on end (being flat broke). It’s also been one of my biggest resources for occult and esoteric knowledge as well, not to mention the source of my Dresden files addiction. Going in the store was always something that has made me happy.

    Sadly, I know all to well how this is going to end for the niche stores. If Borders and B&N can’t compete with Amazon, then I don’t see much of a way for smaller stores to do any better. They can’t buy/rent the prime locations like the big chains and since half of getting people in the door is them actually seeing the store, smaller stores are out of luck, since they tend to be on side streets with smaller signs. I would be surprised if the used book stores start taking hits at well. After all, how many books have any of us bought on impulse by just picking it up in a store and thinking it looked cool? And if we don’t have those impulse buys, were’ going to have fewer used books going into the local markets.

    As for the Pagan stores, I don’t they’ll pick up the slack either. I freelance rune readings in a local shop and they’ve got a pitifully small book section, and literally none of the books appeal to me. You’re as likely to find book in them that match the shop owner’s pov as you are an open minded selection of books.

    And on a larger note, I worry about the chances of aspiring authors. Borders was willing to field books that weren’t best sellers, which gave authors a chance to be read that would be unavailable in a store that sells only best sellers. And as for flipping through Amazon, well, see above my comments on the impulse buys done picking up a physical book. Harder to do that online.

  • Anonymous

    Folks want information. Somehow, they will acquire the information that they want.

    I think that is the situation facing Pagan authors, publishers, readers right now. And the vector of the collective adaptation. Pagan information is not going to disappear entirely. But how we end up getting it may be different–even very different–from how we are used to getting it.

    It looks to me like devices and e-formats will be much involved in any future adaptation, because electronic distribution networks are already vigorous in Pagan affairs and communications. So like it or don’t, we will have E-readers of E-books of Shadows and the like. (Even if, issues of digital rights management and privacy loom large in Pagan awareness and use of such devices and files.)

    But we may also find various sorts of printed material made available through novel and innovative outlets that do not resemble familiar stores as much as, for instance, physically mobile and episodic ones. Think book-mobiles and food trucks. Or special events like festivals or conventions where e-orders are taken and product shipped centrally.

    Clearly, the book world is going through a big change. The Pagan advantage is that we are accustomed to working with and through change.

  • Storm Faerywolf

    As an owner of a Pagan themed book and supply store I have seen a “bump” in recent months in favor of book sales. While the profit-margin on books is not as high as jewelry, statuary, and other items, book sales represent a significant percentage of our overall sales and so it’s been nice to see a return of interest toward real paper books of late.

    Many of our customers have expressed opposition to the e-book trend, citing many of the reasons stated in previous comments; preferring the look and feel (and smell!) of paper, and feeling that the digital format detracts from the overall experience. While a prevalent opinion among those customers who have cared to share theirs with me, this can hardly be seen as universal; many enjoy e-readers and use them for travel or to house (and search!) reference books and the like.

    I think that the current shift in the industry can be a good thing in the long run, if we are able to weather the economic storm and see it through to the other side. In the absence of the behemoth book stores, we may yet begin to see a comeback of the “Mom & Pop” stores carrying smaller-run and print-on-demand titles in addition to non-book items specific to their particular niche. It may require smaller businesses to also find ways to offer titles in digital format as well as in paper. Whatever happens, we need to keep our eyes open toward the future; lamenting what is lost will only keep us in the past, a bad business model to be certain.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I’m overjoyed to hear from a small-bookstore owner who’s feeling optimistic and putting together strategies for the future. Best of fortune.

  • Rabbit

    Half Price Books is the single best source for out-of-print as well as newer titles in my area. As the co-owner of a local, independent metaphysical store, I haven’t stepped foot in Borders OR B & N in over two years. It’s all about helping pull this lumbering overlord of an unsustainable “bubble” economy down, so that small businesses that are supported by smaller, more modest, more sustainable local economies can rise in its wake. I, for one, think some of the larger publishers have put out a lot of crap that has errors, typos, questionable research, and slim magical relevance in the past few years. I welcome the coming surge of small indie presses printing on a dime without all the slick marketing, print-on-demand resources like Concrescent Press, and online resources as a tripartite approach to keeping pagan publishing alive.

    What did we do before Llewellyn? I know. When I was 16 years old, my first witchcraft teacher gave me a mimeographed copy of a Book of Shadows by a notable author that had never been “published,” but had made the rounds as a training manual among many covens. It was, and remains, extremely valuable to me.

    Perhaps the gods are trying to tell us something. Perhaps we’re not actually supposed to waste trees and paper resources by publishing every thought, new trend, or “Mystery” that we learn. Perhaps we SHOULD have to work a little harder to a) find the info we want and/or b) get our own words out there. Less money in the market means fewer books getting published and printed, it’s true. So let’s make sure they really count, eh? And let’s try to keep some things, as they should be, secrets that are passed by words of power and oral tradition, or by hand-copying a BoS, or even in underground zines, that are local/regional in scope and flavor.

    I see all of this as part of a bigger trend toward scaling back from the troubling glamour of “having a book to my name somehow legitimizes my witchcraft.” I have to say: your witchcraft, practiced from the heart, respectful of the Mysteries, and shared person-to-person, is every bit as legitimate (if not more so) than the latest glossy title with fancy marketing from a “famous” witch. Whether by book, blog, or Kindle, you have powerful things to say. Be equitable, judicious and discerning about where and to whom you communicate them. Apply this same level of thoughtfulness to where you put your dollars, supporting small, independent ventures. And by doing so, mindfully, you will already be part of the solution on a greater scale than this Borders situation can reflect.

  • Cam

    Glad to be in Canada. I’ve never seen a bookstore not have a sizable Pagan selection.

    • RivaWitch

      Has nothing to do with Canada vs. US It has to do with location. The Borders & B & N in New England (atleast where I live) Have so many Pagan books you could choke on.

  • Nicole Youngman

    I worked at a Bunns & Noodle (h/t Bechdel :)) in Alabama for 3+ years in the mid-90s. At the time, it was a very, very big deal to have someplace that was smack in the middle of the local mall–and BIG!!–where people (especially teens) could easily get info on Paganism (and anything else the local fundies didn’t particularly like, for that matter). We had a lot of “goth” type teenagers who hung out in the store on Fri & Sat nights and I got the impression it was a sort of “safe space” for them where no one would hassle them and they could read whatever the hell they wanted and play Magic etc until we closed at 11. This was back when people were first starting to get online en masse, back when AOL first got big, etc, so having real shelves with real books available was still a very big deal. As much as I really do prefer indy/used bookstores, and as much as the internet has met that need for information and community networking, I think that feeling of being able to go someplace *in public* where it was no big deal to pull those books off the shelves and sit there and read them won’t be easy to replicate for the people in not-so-progressive parts of the country who really need it. So many of us came to Paganism through books, and so many of us didn’t even know it existed until then–even with Google, you can’t find what you need unless you have some key words–with physical stores you can go in and look around and find stuff you had no idea was even out there.

    • Anonymous

      A huge B&N in Alabama in the mid-90’s? The Summit location near Birmingham, by any chance?

      • Nicole Youngman

        Nope, down in Mobile, sorry! 🙂 That location’s gone the way of Borders, too, ironically enough. Apparently they’re turning the site into a Michael’s craft store now.

  • Erynn Rowan Laurie

    While Llewelly and Weiser/Red Wheel are certain to feel this badly, small publishers have only rarely been able to get into the big box stores, and they’ve often suffered for it when they did manage to get in, due to large orders and nearly-as-large returns, often with the covers of paperbacks ripped off so that they couldn’t even re-sell the books when they got them back. I think, ultimately, this is going to help smaller independent occult publishers and change the market considerably as the book business restructures itself.

    I’m still encouraging people to NOT buy my books at Amazon because of the way they are continuing to treat small print-on-demand publishers. Please, please, if you value the authors in your community, buy from Pagan/occult bookshops or from the publishers or the authors themselves. You’ll be doing everyone in the community a huge favor and helping keep publishers and writers in business.

    • Anonymous

      The only paid e-books I’ve bothered with have been through iBooks, even though it means I can only read them on my iTouch. My Kindle software is for free public-domain books only.

  • PJ

    Excellent original reporting, Jason! This is a serious issue for a spiritual community that lives and breaths books. I would be devastated if there were no more physical bookstores to browse. And thanks, also, for a reminder to resubscribe to W&P.

  • Daniel Kestral

    Oh, Borders, how I shall miss thee. I used to frequent B. Daltons before they were bought out by Barnes & Nobles. It had a much more warm, personal feel to it. I got books there all the time in Elementary and Junior High. After B. Dalton’s was bought out, I went to book store even less. However, I looooved Walden’s, and the workers and I became very good friends. Alas, Walden’s closed in the Northtown Mall, which had co-existed with B. Dalton’s peaceably. Since Barnes & Nobles came into the NT Mall, it, too closed.

    Then, of course, was the Valley location of Barnes and Nobles near the Valley Mall. Walden’s, which performed very well (in the top 10 in the US), was closed because the CEO’s wanted more profit. Hence, my friends lost their jobs and were given no severance pay.

    So, as well, the only Borders in this part of Washington State has now closed. This store performed within the top 5 saleswise throughout all 400 of their stores across the United States. To see the coffee shop where I visited with my friend these last 5 years or so, has become heartbreaking. The workers were my friends, too. And now everything is 20-40 percent discount, and I can’t help but think another store with a wonderful Pagan section is out of business, but my friends, who loved their jobs, were so kind, warm, and friendly, are casualities of our economic situation, which has still failed to prosecute any CEO in the Banking Industries or the “Barons” on Wallstreet.

    I am also one of those who will continue to buy books that are hard copies. No Kindle or I Pad for me. I love having my personal Library of Wisdom full and the the brim of my book shelves. That is where the Magic happens that electronic staples cannot get near to touching.

    ~Daniel Kestral

    • Kelly NicDruegan

      Maybe I’m just too much a cyberwitch, but I find magic even in computers and e-readers. Even my physical Book of Shadows relies on the multitude of magical fonts I have available at the touch of a keyboard, and has a digital back-up copy on my home server. To limit myself and my ability to find magic in just one format is something I don’t think I could possibly do.

      Finding information in an e-book is just as quick and easy for me with a keyword search as thumbing through a book’s index, the built in dictionary is perfect for looking up words whose meaning I am unfamiliar with, and all my highlights and personal notes are totally searchable. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to take my entire library wherever I go simply by slipping my Kindle into my purse. I also love that I can download samples (usually the first chapter) for free and take my time before deciding to buy.

      As I mentioned earlier, I love paper books just as much as the next person, and there are some I have that I will never get rid of, but e-readers have a LOT of great points to recommend them, not the least of which is storage capacity and the fact that my Kindle weighs the same 8.5 oz whether it has 1 book on it or 1000.

      Finally, in this economy many e-books *are* less expensive than their paper counterparts. For example “Exploring the Pagan Path: Wisdom From the Elders” sells on Amazon for $18.99 (+ shipping) for the paper book but only $9.99 for the e-book version (free wireless delivery). So if I have only $20 to spend on a new book I can either get a single paper copy of this book, or I can get the e-book version AND “Magic of the Celtic Otherworld: Irish History, Lore & Rituals” (also $9.99 for the Kindle) as well. Two e-books for the price of one paper book. For me that’s no contest.

      I know there are those who will never adopt e-books or e-readers because of their personal preference for physical book, and in spite of how it may sound I am not trying to talk anyone into getting an e-reader. But don’t sell e-books and readers short, either. Magic is everywhere and in everything if we choose to look for it.

      • I’m tagging on just to add to your comments, with which I largely agree. I have started writing my BoS using Scrivener for Mac, and find that it’s REALLY useful for something like that, since it organizes things in chapters and sections instead of one long document or having numerous files to keep track of. PLUS it has the capability to export to epub, mobi, pdf… basically all the e-reader formats for those who want it. Really neat!

        Also, echoing your comments re: cost and adding this: When the e-readers first became the Hot New Thing, people raised a fuss about the cost of the digital formats being higher-priced, and it looks like the publishers (or distributors, maybe?) actually heard the complaints and adjusted accordingly. So some people are still arguing that it costs more, but you guys need to look again, because it’s changed since you last looked. Honest.

        I don’t think I’ll ever go 100% e-reader; I have a large book collection that I’m not willing to part with (much to my husband’s distress), but a lot of it is used stuff, or fancy schmancy editions I was convinced I needed to have. But I’m gradually working out how the Nook that I was given works for me, in that I make a determination each time I want to buy a book, as to whether I want it in paper or digital format in that instance. I’m just not an all or nothing kinda gal. 😉

      • Anonymous

        I use a computer for my BoS too! However, for me it’s mostly for tweaking ritual text so I can hand-write the final version more neatly.

      • Daniel Kestral

        Indeed! Magic is all around us! And I can see how, in the long run, getting a Kindle and buying e-books saves both money and space on one’s bookshelves. And backup files, of course, protect the loss of information. Plus, the whole multitude of electronic and technological applications that are also magical and wonderful in their own right.

        In addition, I think we haven’t seen such a huge leap forward regarding information’s presentation since Gutenburg’s press, where the abundance and proliferation of information arising therefrom, became such a paramount feature via technological leaps and a means of its perpetuity to the masses, IMHO.

        However, when it comes to reading and/or creating a Book of Shadows/Moonlight, nothing can ever truely replace, to me, the joy I get out of reading a book page-by-page, or, from my own hand, creating a page of artwork with my traditional incantations and Magical lore. Just like the scribes in the ancient world, the time, love, and devotion it takes to create and maintain a book by my own hand and my own imagination–that Magical feeling is very primal to me. And, in time perhaps, I may indeed become a Cyber Witch, but, for the meantime, the tried and true sense of Magic I get by having a huge book shelf, my own Library of Wisdom, and keeping my own Book of Wisdom, will be one I maintain by my own hand and Magical imagination. Thank you for your wise advice, Kelly. 🙂

        Faoi Bhrat Bride Sinn! (May you be under Brigit’s Mantle)

        ~Daniel Kestral

    • Anonymous


      Waldenbooks is a part of Borders Group, so they’re history as well.

  • Kindle and Nook save precious trees, as well.

    • Grimmorrigan

      Yup because they are made of non-renewable minerals and plastics.

      • _

        Which is why consumers must demand those companies that make these items start using recycled materials, and implement recycling programs for used ebook readers.

      • Um, plastics ARE recyclable, as are other components of old computers. Outmoded computers and TVs are collected by companies who do just that. They’re made into new computers, car parts, fiberglass insulation, copper piping and wires, and plastic fencing. Prisoners are often used to do the work of separating the materials, which gives ’em something positive to do while incarcerated. The smelting and plastics extrusion is done right here in America. Check with your local computer store, recycling center, or county extension office / county agent for locations to get rid of old computers and parts.

  • Kilmrnock

    i too will greatly miss borders as well , besides carrying pagan books . this is where more than a few pagan meetups are held , the coffee shop areas were open for meet up groups to use . the managment didn’t care that we were pagan , encouraged us even . for they knew a pagan couldn’t leave a store w/ pagan books and magazines empty handed.i will miss our local borders , was a nice place and around here there aren’t any pagan or new age book stores . maybe if we’re lucky barnes and noble will pick up the slack . we are a niche market, but a loyal one that has a particular proclivity for the written word .we’ll see . Kilm

  • I would love to see a rise in local independent book stores, occult themed or otherwise. Another publishing model to look into would be the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Skinner and Beacon press. If Pagan/occult publishers teamed up with Pagan Organization of any/all tradition to sell directly to groups maybe hold book fairs at events, that might be another option. Or maybe writers might seek to publish with Beacon press…

  • Kilmrnock

    i do have to agree an old book has a magical feel , a few yrs ago a good freind got me an antique copy , over 100 yrs old , of rabby burns material …..all of it , short stories , love letters etc , tis a wonderful book smells .and feels great in your hands . but even a new book is what i prefer , not sure i’ll ever own an ereader.there is something about the writen word and you own it forever . kilm

  • Curucahm

    Borders downfall was not that it carried too many books. Borders started to go down hill when they started carrying music and videos, which left less room for books.

    • RivaWitch

      What killed Boarders was not the Kindle (BTW I own and love mine) Sorry Books are WAY overpriced. I depend on Amazon and used book shops. I will admit when it comes to Pagan books I like to have the physical book or any type of reference books. But for paper back fiction that clutters the shelves. It’s much better to have them on a pdf.

    • Lori F – MN

      that may have been, but that’s where i discovered Lorena McKennett. they were the only place to find new age music.

      But Borders was where I could pick up Pagan magazines and books. B&N never had a decent selection.

      But just wait, some yahoo Christian extremist will claim they caused the closure for selling so much non-Christian materials…

      • Grimmorrigan

        Let us know and we cna point at laugh that the person.

      • Anonymous

        Not necessarily. Since most genre-specific readers will tend to only care about the location of their favorite genre, a lot of Christians probably don’t know Borders ever sold Pagan books. Again, I didn’t know any mainstream bookstores sold occult books until I started reading Pagan blogs and listening to Pagan podcasts.

  • Anonymous

    i am really sad that borders is closing, it was the only store i could find anything pagan i needed without having to order it online. we also have a barnes and noble, but the people there are rude and they have half a bookshelf i am not saying a whole bookshelf i mean half of a shelf, and numerous times me and others in my community have asked if they could stock more so we can have more of a choice. they always say no they can’t and don’t give us a reason. we do have a small pagan store in our community but she doesn’t stock to many books. i am just going to see if she can special order for us when we need a new book so we can help keep her afloat in this bad economy.

  • I’m really saddened to hear what a drubbing the publishers are taking in this mess. I’m also saddened by what the loss of these jobs is going to do. By the same token… I have a great deal of hope that our independent booksellers are going to be able to go back to the levels of business they had before these big box book stores cropped up and put so many wonderful shops out of business.

    As Ellen Francik pointed out, there are indie Pagan-oriented booksellers that will ship you whatever you like. They’ll also order it in from the publisher, if possible, I know my local shop does… and not just books, either.

    … as for Amazon… they have only as much power to over-run indie booksellers as we give them by voting for them with our shopping habits. Don’t have an indie bookseller near you? Ring up Ellen at Fields, or Rachel at Crazy Wisdom, or whomever at wherever is closest to you and ask them if they’ll ship you what you’re looking for. Plus, talking to a human being about what sort of books you’re looking for, even if only on the phone, is a great way to get awesome recommendations for things you might not have found on your own!

  • Stef

    Books are holy. Bookstores and libraries are temples. Patronize your local temples. 🙂

    Stay strong out there, People of the Books…don’t give in to the Digital Revolution!

    • _

      I’d say if you care about libraries then demand the rich get taxed. I’ll be surprised if any of the libraries around where I live manage to still be around in a few years, patronizing them simply isn’t enough, especially with even more limited hours.

      don’t give in to the Digital Revolution!

      This is not an either/or situation, and ebook readers can be very useful for people with physical disabilities.

      • Grimmorrigan

        “This is not an either/or situation, and ebook readers can be very useful for people with physical disabilities.”

        Books are not going anywhere anytime soon. E-readers ( and I love mine regardless of what the luddites say) are simply a new tool in accessing information. Those who work with information on a daily basis have seen teh failed attempts to go to a totally digital format for libraries and schools. Books will continue to exist for a looooooong time due to the nature of information prservation. Which I’ll add will be in a much better state if we start taxing the rich again.

    • Hallelujah and Amen, sister!

      I think the best thing for people to do is to get thee to your local Pagan/New-Agey bookstore and buy at least one book published by Llewellyn and one by Weiser/Red-Wheel.

      The new(ish) “Weiser Concise Guide to Aleister Crowley” is only $12.95. That’s about one six-pack of beer and lunch at McD’s (less than that if it’s good beer).

      And for just a little more you could get Llewellyn’s “Secrets and Practices of the Freemasons”, by Aurum Solis Grand Master Jean-Louis de Biasi, weighing in at $19.95.

      Don’t mourn: patronize.

  • Just the other day I said to my partner “I feel like wandering around a book store”. I buy most of my books for my ereader, but sometimes I really like to get my hands on a book. It will be interesting to see how smaller book shops do now.

  • This is an excellent report, Jason. Thank you.

    A friend of mine in New Zealand wrote her Masters’ thesis on pagan publishing, and some of her work may be of interest to you as well. Here’s a link to a summary of her work, as she posted it to her blog:


  • Krystal H.

    I’m quite torn on this issue. As a disabled person, I absolutely adore my Kobo eReader. I’m the sort of person who sometimes reads more than two books at a time and who goes through books at the speed of light. I don’t want to have to carry around two books at a time when I can carry one hundred books in my pocket.

    At the same time, I like the feel of print books, and it’s much easier to flip back and look for a detail I might have missed. I’m also a librarian-to-be, so of course I’m going to promote print books and libraries in general, but libraries themselves are also changing to accommodate new technologies. I don’t think we need to view technology as the enemy or teh ebils. I like both formats for different reasons.

  • Just thought of something. I’m reading a lot of people saying “Order from your local pagan bookstore” but my question is, can bookstores order just ONE book from a publisher or do they have to wait until there is a significant amount of people wanting that particular book?

    Also does Treadwell’s in London ship overseas?

    • Most publishers have a mixed-book minimum from a publisher Every publisher is a little different, but 10 or 20 minimums are common. This means you could order 20 different titles, or any mix of any number. The only exception I’ve seen are university presses, or print-on-demand self-published authors, which often have a 5 or 10 copy minimum. We can also buy from book distributors, and thus buy across any number of publishers, provided those distributors have the books in stock (some distributors aren’t as good at keeping our kinds of books in stock). Our store orders at least once a week from distributors, and every couple of weeks from various publishers.

      • Ah thank you for the explanation Jane!

    • David Wiegleb

      At Fields Book Store, much of our ordering is done through distributors with only certain specialty books coming directly from the publisher. We order twice a week (Sundays and Wednesdays) from our main distributor, which means most books arrive in 2 days, and the rest from 7-10 days if from our distributor.

  • Anonymous

    When Amazon is the only bookseller I will stop reading books.

  • Verac1ty

    I will be glad to see customers move toward smaller independent bookstores, but I am always sad to see any bookstore close. I have read electronic versions of books, but it’s just not the same; even with my favorite authors, I just don’t enjoy the books as much as when I can hold them in my hands.

    In the same way, browsing somewhere online like Amazon is just not the same as browsing in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. In the town I used to live in, there was a wonderful store called the Book Loft, a place with all sorts of cubby holes and nooks and crannies, several different sets of stairs with an amazing number of subjects and you could literally get lost in it. I never got tired of browsing there. I hope the end of this trend is not going to eliminate bookstores altogether; it would take a great deal of pleasure out of my life.

  • As the co-owner of a growing Metaphysical book and supply store in Minneapolis, I do want to balance out the gloom and doom out there about books. Books are not dodo’s. Evolution is not all or nothing. There are still dragonflies. You can still buy Vinyl Records today, even though it isn’t the dominant media for music. It has definite advantages (being analog) over digital. So do paper books. Our store will always carry a selection of books, and not just best-sellers. My first full-time job, over 20 years ago now, was at a Waldenbooks. Remember them? They were too ‘small’ to survive. Now, the tables are turned. You’ve got the giant Amazon and all us Indies.

    Guess who decides whether we will have diversity in books and thought and venues in the future? Us. Support your independent bookseller. If you don’t have one, find one online and buy from them. You might pay more, but then, the author will earn more, because their royalties aren’t based on cover price, but on wholesale price. There may even be an independent store near you that you’ve never heard of. Check out

    • Lori F – MN

      Thanks for the link! I didn’t realize there were so many indie stores near me.

  • Well, I’ve certainly been guilty of hitting the local Borders or B&N rather than going over to the pagan bookstore that’s farther away. I’ll make a more concerted effort to do so in the future. The question is, will more pagans do that, or just go to Amazon out of sheer convenience (and in search of discounts)?

  • Anonymous

    Just a few comments:

    1. I’m honestly surprised that the third major book chain, Books-A-Million, wasn’t even mentioned once. Is this chain not going through the same rough times as the other two, or is it small enough to be considered “not worth mentioning?” I’ve been a member of BAM’s discount club for years, and have yet to hear of any financial problems being faced by this chain.

    2. Might sales of Barnes & Noble’s e-reader, the Nook, help to keep them afloat? I’d hate for any area of the country to be without decent bookstores–more books sold also means more books donated to libraries, so having bookstores around is good even for people who can’t afford to buy a lot of books.

    3. I can only think of one decent Pagan-related book that I was ever able to find at the New Age section of a mainstream bookstore: Cunningham’s “The Truth About Witchcraft Today.” Most of the titles available there are poorly-researched and hokey, and practically scream “fluffy bunny author.” The vast majority of my Pagan/occult-related books come from two places: the metaphysical bookstore in downtown Birmingham (which I now know is HUGE for such an establishment), and another metaphysical shop in Ft. Lauderdale.

    4. I discovered Paganism in general through an Asatruar friend who brought me to the aforementioned metaphysical bookstore. I honestly did not know that mainstream bookstores even carried anything remotely occult-related (except for fiction) until about a year later when I found Pagan sites mocking the New Age section.

    • BAM has 181 superstores, making it a far smaller chain than Borders was, or B&N is (they have over 700 superstores). In addition, the chain is centered mainly in the South (but is branching out into the Midwest and Northeast). While BAM has taken advantage of the Borders shutdown to take over a few stores, a bigger deal to take over 30 stores recently fell through.

      I would assume that BAM is weathering the same storms that every book chain is in this economy, though they are happy to take advantage of uptick in customers caused by the Borders closures.

      • There’s a Books-A-Million right outside my area (it’s actually the only bookstore close to me), but I rarely go there because they have a terrible selection and a very obvious Christian bias. I actually had to look around for the Pagan/ occult/ metaphysical books since they weren’t in the religion section. Turns out their very small selection of those types of books was hidden away at the exact opposite end of the store in the back.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Sounds like how many secular bookstores handle their erotica.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Sounds like how many secular bookstores handle their erotica.

  • Karantha

    I never really used the chain bookstores, as they were too far from me. The one Borders that opened, was only there for maybe 4-5 years, and now they are closing.

    I found a gem of a place called The Book Barn in Niantic CT, that deals in second hand books, and we go there once or twice a year to stock up. 20+ years ago, I bought a first U.S. edition copy (1954?) of Gerald Gardners Witchcraft Today, off the shelf for less than $10, and have been going back ever since. They have gotten so big, they had to expand and have all their occult books at the site in downtown Niantic, and have many occult books I otherwise never would have been able to get. I also like that they don’t give you “that look” when you want to buy them, either!

    Like other people here, my collection is taking over my bedroom, and I’m running out of space! This would be the only reason I would turn to an e-reader, but even then, if I really liked a book, I would probably wind up buying a paper copy, anyway!! They are easier to find info in if you need to reference something!

    • RivaWitch

      I have to say this to those complaining about giving into the Digital Revolution! Ahh Hello you all are typing your complaints on a COMPUTER!

  • Adam Thomas001

    cute blog….Books on business finance …
    Buy Online Books

  • Anne Newkirk Niven

    Our company is substrate-agnostic, and we offer our titles (Witches&Pagans, SageWoman, and Crone) both in classic paper and as downloadable PDFs (readable on all major readers as well as desktops, netbooks, and laptops). Personally, however, I don’t read magazines in digital form. My entire work life (about 12 hours a day right now) revolves around a screen and when I read for pleasure, it’s a good old-fashioned paper magazine. (I’m partial to Weird Tales, for one.) I also think there’s an unstated classist bias in the argument for “e-media” since accessing it requires purchases of disposable (oh, you don’t think you’ll be using that Kindle in 2015, do you?) electronic gizmos beyond the reach of many (most?) working people.