A series of photographic portraits of booksellers in their domains…
Lots more at
A series of photographic portraits of booksellers in their domains…
Lots more at
This from a piece in The Observer by Anna Baddeley, who opened her own online page at myindependentbookshop.com only to find her nearest independent bookshop was not participationg.
"I was appalled by My Independent Bookshop," its owner, Jo De Guia, tells me. "It’s a cynical attempt by a multinational to appear soft and fluffy." She’s not a luddite (she tweets and her husband, who helps run the shop, is a computer programmer); her opposition is financial. If existing customers buy online at a discounted price, it will eat into her margins.
It would be interesting to hear other independent booksellers’ views on this.
I am glad I got to glimpse the legendary booksellers from this splendid generation. They were beginning to thin out even as I arrived. The Argosy Book Store and the Strand are still operating, but most of the rest are gone, felled not by the Internet, but merely by scoundrel time. Here is a brief honor roll of bookshops now vanished: the Seven Gables Bookshop; House of Books Ltd.; Scribner’s; the Gotham Book Mart; the Carnegie Book Shop; Dauber & Pine; the Eberstadt Brothers; University Place Book Shop; House of El Dieff; and Parnassus Books.
I was only in this Elysium for two days in 1965, but I was drawn back many, many times since and still go back, though now I feel as if I am visiting a city of ghosts.
My Independent Bookshop is a new initiative in the UK that allows any reader to set up their shop with twelve books at a time on their shelves—changing the display as often as they choose by season, genre or simply their mood. The owners of the shelf can earn a 8% commission from their favorite indie bookstore. Today the service gets out of beta and over 400 bookshops are opening in the UK.
The ‘bookshops’ opening today, following a month-long invite-only beta period, include several high-profile authors and book lovers from Irvine Welsh to Simon Mayo to Carys Bray, many of the UK’s independent bookshops from South London stalwart Dulwich Books to the UK’s smallest island bookshop, Hayling Island Books, and hundreds of specially selected VIP readers.
Jason Diamond, for Flavorwire, sees indie bookstores getting things right in five distinctive ways. The full article, linked to below, has a longish, intro, but here are his main five points…
1. Like snowflakes, no two indie bookstores are alike
I’ve been to dozens of bookstores all over the country, and the one thing that strikes me is that every single one of them has it own, individual feel. There’s the cozy used bookshop in Boston with a cat that sits on the leather couch, and there are cathedrals to books like The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. While I’ve seen countless coffee shops trying to use Starbucks as their template — only to close up immediately because customers don’t want another corporate-feeling place to sip their lattes — there is an undeniable feeling that, in this world where so much is prepackaged for us, indie bookstores just feel real and right.
2. The secret ingredient is love
The explanation for #2 is simple: people don’t open bookstores because they think they’re going to strike it rich slinging paperbacks; they do it because they genuinely love it. There’s always the chance to expand (like one of Kachka and Stein’s examples, McNally Jackson, is planning to do this year by opening a second location in Brooklyn), but of all the store owners I’ve met, I’ve never walked away with the impression that they’re looking become millionaires. It sounds simple because it is, but so many people strike out on their own with the intention of striking it rich that they lose sight of what’s important.
3. The focus on community
Events, working with local businesses, and getting people from outside the store involved in different ways all serve to strengthen the relationship between a bookstore and the community it serves. In Brooklyn especially, I’ve seen WORD in Greenpoint (now with a second location in New Jersey) work with all the other stores around their neighborhood. Community in Park Slope does a big reading series with the local synagogue that has brought readers like Donna Tartt and Malcolm Gladwell into a borough they used to ignore. It all shows that indie bookstore owners don’t open up shop with the hope of becoming the biggest bookstore in the country: they see themselves as local businesses that engage and care about the community. If you care about where you live, the people who live around you will care back.
4. Local bookstores understand social media
Are you one of the 15,000+ people who follow Washington DC’s Politics & Prose on Twitter? Did you realize that 18,000+ follow Book People in Austin, Texas? Or maybe you’re one of the 90,000+ who Powell’s in Portland. Whatever the case, despite all the money big brands (like this week’s punchline, U.S. Airways) throw at social media “gurus,” indie bookstores understand Twitter (and Facebook, and Tumblr) better than almost any business.
5. Indie booksellers empower their employees
I’m not saying they offer a career path with fringe benefits and a retirement program, but I’ve known the people behind the registers at some stores for years. In a place like New York City, where new faces come in and out of your life every hour, that says something. It says that the owners push their employees to take pride in their identity as booksellers. It sometimes feels a little like the corny Whole Foods “team member” jargon, but it actually works. People who work in bookstores care a great deal about what they’re doing.
Before you published your first book in 1977, you were a bookseller. What do you think about what is happening to bookshops now?
With the book trade, if anyone tells you they know what’s going on, they’re lying. Everyone is winging it, and it changes from month to month. It’s quite alarming. Bookshops are closing every week because Amazon and the wholesalers are deliberately squeezing them out. If you’re notreviewed in the nationals and on the front table in Waterstone’s, you may as well set fire to your books. I think soon there will be a few big-name authors at the front [of the average bookshop] and cookbooks and art books at the back. I’m depressing myself now. Maybe one ought to get a proper job.
You have magnificent facial hair. How did that come about?
At the age of 19, I inherited an electric shaver which gave me a terrible rash. I decided to stop inflicting this pain on myself. The amazing question is not "Why do you have a beard?" but "Why do 99% of the male population shave every day?" It is quite unnatural.
“The delicate machine which brings poetry books into the hands of children is in desperate need of repair,” reckons Mandy Coe…
No one doubts that a market for children’s poetry exists. Children relish it, parents appreciate its accessibility and infinite re-readability, and teachers who’ve unlocked its potential in the classroom swear by it. In 2011, children’s fiction and poetry editor Kate Paice summed up the dilemma of publishers when she told the Bookseller: “A lot of bookshops seem quite scared of poetry. They don’t know how to shelve it or how to sell it, and if we can’t reach our market through bookshops then we can’t sell to our market.”
The fight back began in 2008, when an alliance of publishers, booksellers, educationalists and poetry organisations founded the Children’s Poetry Summit. Now the writing school at Manchester Metropolitan University and Carol Ann Duffy’s Manchester children’s book festival have created an international children’s poetry prize worth £2,000. Philip Gross and Imtiaz Dharker have joined me on a judging panel, sifting through more than 2,500 poems to create an illustrated anthology for readers aged five to 12, to be launched during the festival at the end of June. All we need now is booksellers brave enough to stock it.
The number of independent bookshops in the UK has fallen below 1,000 for the first time since records began. According to the Booksellers Association’s annual membership figures, 67 indies closed in 2013 and 26 opened, leaving the overall number of indies on the high street at 987, down from 1,028 in February 2013.
The net decline of independent bookshops is 41—shallower than in recent years (there was a net loss of 66 indies in 2012, 65 in 2011, and 93 in 2010), but it means that over a third of independent bookshops have been wiped out in the past nine years: in 2005, there were 1,535 in the UK.
Kennebooks, an independent bookstore in Maine that has been open for just four years is to close…
After more than four years in business, Kennebooks will be closing its doors later this winter.
“I have given the bookstore the best of my ideas, inspiration and time and we still do not sell enough books in three good months to carry us through the nine months of operating in the ‘red,'” said owner Trish Koch. “I have worked without pay and have operated on a rotating staff of three part-time employees and two lovely students for the summer, and there is really nothing left to take out of the budget.”
COAST TO COAST: BEST KIDS’ BOOKSTORES
WHERE TO REPLENISH YOUR SUPPLY OF BEDTIME STORIES, FROM DALLAS TO D.C.
3 examples from the 17 stores listed/recommended
Hooray for Books, 1555 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia
Little Shop of Stories, 133a East Court Square, Decatur, Georgia
Books and Cookies, 2230 Main Street, Santa Monica, California