The Washington Post reported online today (the article will run in the paper’s print edition tomorrow) that the literary and cultural landmark of the nation’s capital, Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeeshop, is for sale. The bookstore, which opened in 1984 in the leafy, suburban-like Forest Hills neighborhood of Washington, DC, has operated continually for the past 26 years, expanding over time to a larger space that created room for a children’s department and coffee shop (which is run independent from the bookstore).Politics & Prose manages several unique programs, including a membership program that boasts members in forty-five states (including far flung states like Hawai’i) and, of course, the District; a book-a-month program; several public book groups; and an enormously popular events calendar of author readings, which include former appearances by President Bill Clinton, Man Book Prize-winning author Yann Martel, Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, and Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Richard Russo, and Junot Diaz, among others.
According to the Post , at 74, the store’s owners, Barbara Meade and Carla Cohen, are ready to release the reins of the store they founded, and that remains intact, through a lot of community support. They emphasized that they are not seeking to sell the store due to financial reasons. Meade is quoted in the article as saying, “There are no financial problems here. We make a good profit.”An independent bookstore that has survived the birth and death of other independent and corporate bookstores in DC, the future of Politics & Prose reflects the uncertain future of brick and mortar bookstores everywhere. As folks reach for their iPads and Kindles instead of traditional books, the book publishing industry’s fears that books will go the way of music and movies by moving digital and online, usually for less or free, has expanded into a concern about the future of reading in general.
Meade and Cohen expressly stated that whoever buys their bookstore should expect to continue their legacy which is closely tied to their role in the community of DC literati.