A Message From P and P's New Owners
Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine

June 17, 2011

Today marks the end of one of the most storied runs in American bookselling and the beginning of what we hope will be a vibrant new future for Politics and Prose. With the formal signing this morning of the purchase agreement for the store, we officially became P&P’s new owners. We’re delighted to be in this exciting new role and want to convey our gratitude to the many people in and out of the store who have embraced us with warmth, encouragement and ideas since the sale was announced in March.

We have spent many hours in the past few months meeting with staff, chatting with customers and getting to know publishers, suppliers, community partners and others integral to the store’s operation. (You might even have seen one of us manning the cash register now and then.) These experiences have only deepened our appreciation of the store and reinforced our feelings of optimism about its future. Politics and Prose has an unparalleled and exceptional staff, a fiercely devoted and loyal clientele and an industry of booksellers, writers, editors and publishers across the country who are not only supportive but deeply invested in P&P’s success and longevity.

A bookstore is a precious thing, ever more precious in this age of the Internet, when the space for healthy discourse and debate too often gives way to high-volume hyperbole. But it is our belief that Politics and Prose will become an even more essential part of our Washington landscape, building on its foundation not simply as a bookstore but as a community forum and marketplace of ideas.

At the same time, we cannot let our optimism obscure the realities of the book industry—particularly the twin challenges of online sales of physical books and the downloading of ebooks—that have eroded the revenues of many stores and increasingly threaten the future of brick-and-mortar establishments. Already in the past two decades, the independents have seen their ranks thinned by about two-thirds. And even the big chains are tottering, with Borders in bankruptcy and Barnes and Noble up for sale.

Nonetheless, we remain convinced that independents can and will survive, and few are better positioned to succeed than Politics and Prose. Our list of author events is the envy of the business, featuring the country’s best-selling writers. Our staff offers expert advice and personal assistance that customers cannot find on the Internet. Our relaxed surroundings provide a treasured place for browsing, conversing, communing or sipping a green tea or cappuccino.

Indeed, as with many of the best independent stores in the country, Politics and Prose thrives first and foremost because of a deep connection to community. Our business is not just selling books but building community. A book can be bought anywhere; community can’t be. P&P’s special ethos must be nurtured and preserved with care, and we’re committed to doing so. But we also will be counting on our loyal customers—and hopefully many new ones—to help sustain the important institution that P&P has become.

Around every successful independent bookstore, there are readers and writers engaged in thoughtful conversation and debate about important issues. It is our hope—indeed, a primary goal—to maintain P&P’s great tradition as a forum for discussion addressing the salient ideas of the day.

We are fortunate to be able to continue to rely on our terrific staff and the former owners to provide advice and contributions. Barbara Meade has agreed to stay on part-time, during which she will still be ordering books for the store and writing for its publications. David Cohen will go on introducing speakers and contributing to newsletters. Additionally, to honor Carla Cohen’s memory, we have joined with David and the Cohen family to establish two prizes in Carla’s name, one for fiction, the other for non-fiction, intended to recognize accomplished writers who have not received the recognition they deserve. More details will be provided in the coming year.

In the months ahead, we hope to elicit ideas and generate feedback from our customers. To that end, we will schedule a series of small focus groups at the store. We also encourage all of you to contact us directly with ideas or suggestions for things that need improvement. Carla always said that change is essential to any organization, and some changes will be necessary in the future. But they will be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and aimed at modernizing the institution without compromising its character, integrity, and special place in our community.

We look forward to greeting you personally in the store and beginning what we hope will be a long, engaging and productive dialogue.

- Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine