Staying Power Keeps Bookseller in Fondren
In film and literature, Lemuria is a lost continent. In Fondren, Lemuria is found, and indeed a “find” – a unique 35 year old treasure. The once “counter culture” bookseller is now facing an uprising again, this time stemming the tide against technology. Sixty year old John Evans is the Jackson revolutionary at the helm, building a community bookstore, even in the face of the iPad, Kindle and like devices. On a busy pre-Christmas afternoon, Evans said big box booksellers are now marketing technology, not so much traditional paper books. And he believes they face a ‘time will tell’ battle of their own. That is, when it’s all said and done, do the devices have staying power? Evans believes, in actuality, they’ll be good for Lemuria in the long run. “People will want to learn more about their favorite authors,’ he told us, “and want to talk to a human about the books they read.”
That’s where his store comes in, with a host of signings and readings, and employees who know their books. Evans believes online sellers’ ‘one size fits all’ recommendations system has already worn out its welcome. Readers, he said, are becoming more sophisticated and the best seller list is tired. On this afternoon, we asked for titles for a history lover, a sports enthusiast, and an eager first grade reader. All requests were handily filled. And in a way the big box stores could never compete with. Evans says though chain retailers have been tough on him, he believes he is providing a service the community is asking for. “I hope I’ve made a difference, helping writers express their creativity.
When the ‘indies’ dry up,” Evans added “I feel the community loses something. We make a contribution. And that’s what ‘shop local’ is about.” The passionate reader (he says he’s ‘read a few in his life’ with a chuckle) is also passionate about Fondren — but with a well placed caveat. Evans said he believes businesses here should earn business and not expect it because they are local. “If a chain is doing a better job,” he told us, “they deserve your dollars. If I add value to your life, then ‘shop local’ makes sense. We take pride in what we do, and I hope you’ll let me stick around and do it for a long time.”