Decatur shop wins gift from author Patterson

Last September, multi-million-selling author James Patterson announced he would give away $1 million to independent bookstores.

He has begun distributing that cash, and one of the recipients is the Little Shop of Stories bookstore in Decatur.

“The check is in our hot little hands,” said co-owner Diane Capriola, who plans to use the gift to purchase a used school bus that she and her partners will turn into a bookmobile.

Patterson stipulated that the money would go to stores that cater to children, and Little Shop of Stories fits the bill, calling itself the best children’s bookstore in “the observable universe.” The store applied for the grant last fall, with a one-page description of its plans. “It was very informal,” Capriola said.

She said the bookmobile will be useful in the store’s expanding book fair business, but also will help the store reach communities with no neighborhood bookstore.

And the neighborhood store may be an endangered species, she said. That’s a trend that Patterson is trying to reverse.

“It’s great what he’s doing,” Capriola said. “The larger issue is, he’s really raising awareness of what is happening to independent bookstores.” Buffeted by competition from online booksellers such as Amazon.com, by e-books and by large chains, the independent bookseller has a challenging path.

In an interview in February, Patterson told “CBS This Morning,” “I don’t think we’re saving any stores, but we’re helping them.” In a recent interview with Publishers Weekly, Patterson said the bigger challenge is the drop in the number of readers, especially young readers.

“The future of books in America is at risk,” Patterson told the publication. “Bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books.” The prolific Patterson writes books for adults, teens and children and has sold 275 million books, earning him more than Stephen King and J.K. Rowling combined.

Capriola wouldn't say how large the gift from Patterson was, but said it should cover the cost of buying a used bus. The American Booksellers Association said the first 55 grants were between $2,000 and $15,000 each. Patterson has said he would like more bookstores to apply for help, and includes a link on his website at www.jamespatterson.com for those interested in more information.

The Decatur bookstore, which is celebrating its ninth birthday this year, plans to give the bus a distinctive paint job, with the help of the community, and have it ready to be parked at the AJC Decatur Book Festival this fall.