The Karibu Books chain comes to an end

January 23, 2008 3:13:18 PM PST
The Karibu Books chain, based in the Washington, D.C., area and one of the few remaining retailers to specialize in black books, is closing after 15 years.

"We sincerely thank each and every one of you for your patronage and support," Karibu CEO Simba Sana wrote in an e-mail to customers. "We are optimistic that our mission to empower and educate through a comprehensive selection of books by and about people of African descent will continue to resonate within the communities we proudly served."

Karibu has five stores, one of which has already closed. All will be shut down by Feb. 10.

Like other specialty retailers, including gay and feminist bookstores, black bookstores have suffered in the past 10 years, partly because of the rise of superstore chains and Internet sales, but also because of the growing popularity of black authors. With superstores and online retailers now offering large selections of black books, at lower prices, black stores have had a hard time competing and many have closed.

Until recently, Karibu had been regarded as one of the few still thriving.

"I was shocked to hear the news," said Zane, the best-selling author who lives in suburban Maryland. Zane, known for such erotic novels as "Afterburn" and "Addicted," said that Karibu had stocked her books when no one else would and had been the first store where she appeared for a signing. She had made it a tradition to begin each of her author tours with a signing at one of the Karibu stores.

"I had been talking to them about my next book and knew there was something wrong because they couldn't schedule me," she told the AP. "Karibu was such an important store for me and authors looking for a chance to break through."

Among the remaining black stores are the Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe, in Harlem, and Eso Won Books, a Los Angeles-based store that has also fought to stay in business.

"It was such sad news," Eso Won owner James Fugate said Wednesday. "I really like Simba and to hear they are closing is a great lost to book selling. African American stores are just going down. So many of us look as if we are on the margins even when we're open."

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