After 33 years, Boulder's Left Hand Books is closing its doors. Since it was founded in 1979, the bookstore has offered alternative books and periodicals by such noted authors such as Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky.
According to Louise Knapp, a member of the bookstore collective, closing the store became inevitable after the members looked for alternatives. "We really didn't have a lot of options and really felt like the only thing we had to do is close," she says. "Our sales have been going down; the book business is changing so drastically it's not really sustainable."
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Knapp sent out the bad news in an e-mail last night, and after that the news got worse. A couple of hours after she sent the announcement, Knapp got word that one of the store's primary founders, Jim Zarichny, had passed away.
"He was in his nineties; he's been deteriorating," she says. "He was really the original impetus behind the store, and provided funding and organized a group of people in Boulder, but he's been declining in recent months."
Over the past year, store volunteers searched for ways to keep the place open. One possible scenario was that someone would come along with both the time and money to keep Left Hand Books open, but no such person appeared, Knapp says.
Left Hand Books is not the first bookstore to close in Boulder -- but the announcement indicates what could be the next stage in the changing book business. Larger stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble have been forced to either shut down or consolidate in order to compete with companies such as Amazon and Walmart over the past few years, but many smaller stores, with their niche offerings and local connections, have managed to withstand the economic pressure. Until now.
"The nature of the book business is changing so drastically," Knapp says. "It started changing in the '90s with the expansion of the chain bookstores, and it's changed even more with Amazon.com, then it changed even more with availability of electronic books -- If you want to find out about current events, there's all kinds of stuff available online and less of a reliance on books and periodicals to inform yourself."
The day the decision was made to close Left Hand was a disappointing one for Knapp, other volunteers and loyal patrons. "The world is changing," Knapp says. "I think that sort of says it all."
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There are no plans to move the store online, and the physical doors will officially close on April 15. In the meantime, watch for updates on the store's Facebook page.