Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday miscellany: Make your plans...

Read through for some random interesting links, or scroll to the end for a special invitation for NYC booksellers...

* The L.A. Times has a cool article on the future of physical/electronic books, from the perspective of some rare books librarians, with some ideas after my own heart:

"Our library is very heavily used," said director Judith Nadler. "The digital and the print-based will continue to coexist. We don't want the electronic instead of the book. We want the electronic and the book."

* The New York Observer has taken on the ambitious task of picking the Brooklyn Literary 100: the most important figures in the Brooklyn literary community, including authors, publishers, editors, etc. (What I like about the map is that it also points out the bookish places in Brooklyn, including bookstores and coffee shops). It's obviously a tad arbitrary, but not enough so for New York Magazine, which has taken the Observer's list and edited it down to the top 50, 25, and ultimately 1.

My take: This list is probably going to both obsess and annoy people, but I feel the best response is to peruse it curiously and take it with a large helping of salt. It's arbitrary (see the comments for lots who got left out), and the very idea of a Brooklyn community of writers seems antithetical to the idea of picking the important ones. Still, I admit I did delight in calculating how many of these folks are in my email archives, or one degree removed -- I could tap into the literary power of Brooklyn with a few keystrokes, mwa ha ha! Anyway, lots of ideas for the Brooklyn Lit Life series...

* On a much more serious note, the PEN American Center, which advocates for international literature in various ways, is using the approaching Olympics to launch the We Are Ready campaign, calling on China to release writers imprisoned for their writings. (There seems to be some hope that this sort of thing is working.) It's easy to sign the petition, which I did (Tom Stoppard's complex take on "moral exhibitionism" in Rock 'N' Roll, which I've just read, notwithstanding.)

And next week, PEN launches its amazing annual World Voices Festival, with six days of incredible readings, films, discussions, etc. by writers from all over the world. McNally Robinson will be selling books at some of these events, so if you're local, peruse the schedule and make plans to attend one or two.

* And finally, another item just for locals. Below is the email we sent to over 50 indie booksellers in the city; if you didn't get yours, consider this your official invitation. All of the city's indie booksellers in a room -- what an exciting possibility!

April 22, 2008

Dear Bookseller,

As independent booksellers in the five boroughs of New York City, we face unique challenges, as well as unique opportunities. Though you may sometimes feel isolated in your struggle to compete with online book sales, chain stores, and New York rents, there are over 75 other independent bookstores in our city facing the same problems, and finding new solutions.

We think we have something to offer each other as independent bookstores in New York: community, idea sharing, the possibility of making our collective voice heard. How these things might be accomplished, and what other goals we might set and achieve, is up to all of us together.

We'd like to invite you to a meeting of New York independent booksellers, to discuss and explore the possibility of forming a trade alliance/coalition/association of independent bookstores in the five boroughs of NYC. Here are the details:

When & Where:
Wednesday, May 21st, 10:30 am
Ralph Ellison Room
14th Floor of the Random House Building
1745 Broadway

We hope you will join us! We have some specific ideas that we will share, and we look forward to hearing yours too. Please consider sending a representative (or two) from your bookstore to this historic meeting, to help all of us help each other, and ourselves.

Please RSVP by May 10th with your bookstore name and the names of booksellers attending to Kelly Amabile at or (212) 865-1588. (Please note that for building security reasons, we must have your name on a list in advance of the meeting date if you plan on attending.)

We did our best to gather emails for as many independent bookshops in the five boroughs as we could. But we know this initial email announcement may not reach everyone, so please help us spread the word, and forward to other booksellers we may have missed, or whom you think may be interested.

Let's take the great tradition of bookselling in New York City into the future! We look forward to seeing you on May 21.


Chris Doeblin, Annie Shapiro and Kelly Amabile, Book Culture
Sarah McNally and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, McNally Robinson Booksellers