Readersforum's Blog

November 30, 2012

Writer Ann Patchett’s bookstore thrives in digital age

By Bob Minzesheimer

When novelist Ann Patchett opened a bookstore here in her hometown a year ago, she wondered if she was “opening an ice shop in the age of Frigidaire.”

One year later, Parnassus Books is thriving in an age of e-books when ordering and reading is a click away and browsing takes on a new digital meaning.

As the store celebrates its first anniversary this month, Patchett says, “People might not use ice to refrigerate anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still want some ice in their scotch and in their tea. There is still a real place for ice. And when the power is out, we are mighty grateful for a bag of the stuff.”

Parnassus doesn’t sell ice. It does sell books, $2 million worth in the past year. Most were the old-fashioned kind, paper and ink.

Ask Patchett, 48, if she’s bucking a trend, and she defiantly says, “We are the trend.”

Until early last year, she had been busy enough just writing novels. Six in all, including her 1992 debut, The Patron Saint of Liars, set at a home for unwed mothers, and Bel Canto starring an American opera singer held hostage by Latin American terrorists, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2001.

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