This Sucks: Vertigo Books Is Closing

This Sucks: Vertigo Books Is Closing was originally published on City Desk on Apr. 10, 2009, at 4:31 pm

Vertigo Books has just announced that it is closing. Very sad news as the bookstore had an awesome staff, offered a great selection, and produced interesting readings each month from well-known authors and should-be-well-known authors. They championed African-American literature in particular and had close ties with the DC-area community. They defined the independent bookstore. In an e-mail sent out this afternoon, the shop’s owners write:


After seventeen and half years, the time has come. Curtains down and goodbye–in two weeks Vertigo Books will close.

EVERYTHING IN THE STORE IS 20% OFF. If you’ve been eyeing that special something, come in and grab it now, before someone else does. And our new rules for the next couple weeks: no checks, no returns and no exchanges. Please note: we will be closed Easter Sunday, April 12, our usual hours will resume Monday.

Why are we closing? There are many reasons, but basically, not enough people buy books here.

We have many loyal customers, just not enough of them, and our cloning experiments have not yielded satisfactory results. And way too many people (not you, but someone you know) are buying their books at Amazon. We’ll spare you the inside baseball stuff about the near monopolistic force Amazon has become in the industry. You can also skip to the party info at the end if you like.”

Vertigo merited a nod in our recent best of issue. We’ve highlighted their book picks in the past as well. Just sad news. The owners go on to write in their e-mail:

Connecting the Dots

As we have said before, your shopping dollars help create the community you want to live in. For every $10 you spend at locally-owned businesses, $4.50 stays in our community. The math is simple and compelling:
Vertigo Books $4.50
Barnes & Noble/Borders/Costco $1.30
Amazon $0.00
The money you spend with locally-owned businesses continues to circulate as we pay employees, buy supplies and pay taxes that are used to provide basic services to residents.

Our local economies are key to a successful recovery from the current financial crisis. Amazon and many online retailers contribute nothing financially to our state and local economies, yet suck up an enormous amount of Maryland’s shopping dollars and compete heavily with small natural foods stores, hardware stores, bookstores and specialty stores of all kinds.

While Amazon may have made their name selling books, they want you to buy a DVD player, organic foods, power tools and pick up the latest John Grisham title when you visit their site. They actively fight any attempt to force them to collect sales taxeven in those states where they have a physical presence. Maryland Senate Bill 1071 will allow us to join other states, such as New York and Kansas, that are now collecting sales tax for online sales and using the revenue for education and public safety.

Building Community as You Shop
Building community is an ongoing process, the result of small choices made everyday. We know you understand this, but are very busy and shopping online is seductive. We sympathize and have many of the same worries. But independents live in and serve your community and make many intangible contributions. What does Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, do for our community? We are:

  • working for quality public schools
  • advocating for smart growth and sustainable development
  • pushing for comprehensive planning and public transit
  • serving on local boards and committees
  • supporting your causes
  • and operating a business that recycles, reuses and donates.

And, except for that last item, we’ll continue to do these things.

Please take a fresh look around your community, temporarily ditch the iPod, stop Facebooking and tweeting for a moment and explore your neighborhood’s businesses. Use one of the coupons below to visit new locally-owned businesses that need your support. If you want a small business to offer something else or do something differently, let them know and help them improve. If we want more than chains in the area, we need to start by supporting the local businesses we already have.

Any Excuse for a Party: Join us Saturday, April 18 5 pm-??
One of us grew up Irish Catholic and, under these circumstances, a wake is required. Bring a dish or something to drink and join us for a free form wake and potluck on Saturday, April 18 from 5 pm-?? If you shopped, read or worked here, we want to see you.

We hope Vertigo Books has served as a thoughtful literary and political gathering place, community and author resource, provided challenging, interesting conversation along with some laughter, and generally served, as one customer put it, as “an intellectual oasis on Route 1″ (and previously at Dupont Circle).

Please stay in touch by sending us a note at We were never good about photographing and documenting the store’s activities. If you have event calendars, photos or memorabilia to share, please send them on. A computer with archived materials was stolen last summer, so your contributions would be much appreciated.

We owe an enormous thank you to the friends and family who made this adventure possible. We thank the many authors who so enriched these years, and our sales reps, publicists, event partners, publishers and our outstanding customers for their friendship and encouragement.

Thanks for your support over the years,
Todd Stewart, Bridget Warren &
The Staff of Vertigo Books”

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