News flash—the economy is in the dumps and Christmas is in a month. This year there might not be so much a "Black" Friday, as a "Red" Friday. Before you panic, though, realize that there are still plenty of ways for you to get your Christmas shopping done without hurting your wallet too much. Vested interests aside, it's my personal belief that books can be a far more personal gift than most other things. When you give a book (or perhaps a gift subscription to Hayden's Ferry Review, free with your purchase of a year subscription available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org) you are offering hours of intellectual diversion. If you get the right book, you'll strike a heart string that resonates far more loudly and profoundly than jewelry, perfume/cologne, or silk could ever do. The right book says, "I understand you." For really a very small amount of cash you can give a loved one the assurance she needs that she doesn't live in this world alone because you, at least, see her and care about what makes her happy.
And apparently, I'm not the only one pushing that point this year. Random House has launched a marketing campaign "books=gifts." Barnes&Noble has added a "holiday station" to their Barnes&Noble Studio online that plays holiday classics, such as a dramatization of A Christmas Carol. And virtually every other bookseller and publisher has been coming up with similar holiday marketing ventures. The last couple of months (that is, since the stock market's 1929-esque plummet) have seen continued unpromising sales numbers and more and more lay-offs and resignations in the publishing and bookselling industry. This after one of the worst summers in book sales recent history. Despite the bad news, there have even been several independent book sellers opening their doors across the country. Given the economic state in general and the state of the book industry in particular, these entrepreneurs are either extremely courageous or extremely dense. In either case, more power to them. Get out there and go buy their books!
But what you need are some clues as to what to do for Christmas gifts this year. First of all, avoid the chain stores at all costs. Stores like Barnes&Noble and Borders are wonderfully spacious and good-smelling from the cafe strategically placed within doors, but they are also far more expensive than your local independent booksellers. Also, they will survive this economic downturn, your average New&Used might not. The more patronage that goes to them the better. Besides which, every now and then you can find absolute treasures from those independent book sellers, like out of print books or first editions. Second, consider subscriptions. Find the magazine or journal that your loved one reads the most and cover the next year or two for them. As a random example, if you buy a year subscription with Hayden's Ferry Review (send your requests to email@example.com!) you'll receive a free gift subscription to give away this holiday season! (Did we mention that already? Mention what? The free gift subscription with every year subscription? Oh, yes, that!). Finally, ask for books. You don't have to be the only person sustaining the book industry. Others can do it for you!
(P.S. If you're living in the Tempe area and frequent Changing Hands Bookstore, mention your favorite Arizona school and 20% of the profit from your purchase will go there!)