Monday, May 29, 2006

Link-Mad Monday: Indie Booksellers In the News

I've been so impressed with the level of discourse in your comments on my "Blogs, Books, and Anti-Indie Backlash" post -- your passion and the different perspectives you bring (bookseller, publisher, consumer, etc.) are truly illuminating. Please feel free to keep the conversation going, and I'll try to post a recap of your insights at some point.

In the meantime, here's some food for thought, some of which relates directly to the issues under discussion.

Former Brooklyn boy Robert Greene of Book People in Moscow, Idaho (not to be confused with the Book People in Austin, or with any of the other American Moscows) writes that "various
groups in moscow have been fighting big box stores much to the ire of the local newspapers, chamber of commerce, city councils etc." More power to them -- click on their website to give the good folks at Book People some love.

Laura Miller, she of the book RELUCTANT CAPITALISTS which is sparking some of this debate, has a piece on the blog of the University of Chicago Press which encapsulates some of the arguments in her book. How cool that she (or U. Chicago) is using the blog world to extend the conversation; read it for a taste of what the book's about.

The Village Voice has a wonderfully nuanced article titled "Chain Reaction : Do Bookstore Have A Future?" The piece quotes Laura Miller (of course), Mitchell Kaplan (Florida bookstore owner and ABA president whom I got to listen to at BEA), revolutionary bookselling thinker Andrew Laties (author of REBEL BOOKSELLER and one of the commentators on this blog), and my own boss Sarah McNally, who happens to be running a very successful independent bookstore. The article actually gets at the cause and effect and ebb and flow of indie vs. chain competition throughout its history, and comes out surprisingly optimistic.

Apparently the U.S. isn't the only place where the indie bookstore strives to create community and find a place to exist alongside the internet; the International Herald Tribune has this article, "Bookstores offer a personal touch the net can't match," about English language bookstores in Europe. Parisian ex-pat David Sedaris is quoted, but my favorite quote is from his local bookseller, Odile Heiler of Village Voice Bookstore (no relation) in Paris: "My fear is that while the machine society that we live in is very functional, very practical, and allows for a certain communication, it is a linear communication that closes the mind.... People are solicited everywhere except by books, and when they do read it is in relation to their work, or to learn about something that they want to know - facts. But in reading fiction, you enter someone else's world, you open yourself to someone else, to his imagination, and this is extremely precious for the mind." Anyone want to buy me a ticket to Paris? (Thanks to the ALP for the link.)

Talk about your enterprising indie booksellers: The Guide To Atypical Usage And Lack of Style has a link to an article, also from the International Herald Tribune, about a street bookseller in New Delhi named Dhiraj Kumar who sells books to people in cars during the 92 seconds they're stuck at a traffic light. He's definitely mastered the art of quickly matching books with customers -- though not the extra perk of being a booklover, since he can't read. Next time I think about complaining about my bookseller salary, I'm thinking of this guy.

Also check out TGTAUALOS's piece on Sessalee Hensley, perhaps the single most powerful person in American literary publishing: she's the fiction buyer for Barnes & Noble. Interesting to think about the face behind the homogenization.

And it's almost too late to participate, but if you have a litblog you've just barely got time to weigh in on the Book of the Day blog's alternative list to the New York Times' Top American Fiction of the Last 25 Years. I don't know that this list will have any more legitimacy than the Times', but it will certainly be different, and it's fun to get your two cents in. I'm voting right now.

Oh, there's so much more, but it's a holiday and I have some serious lazing around to do. Enjoy reading, and I'll be back with another post on Wednesday.