Monday, March 19, 2007

Link-Mad Monday: Crazy Delicious!

I'm a little lightheaded after last night's Emerging Leaders Night Out, Booksellers Only (hosted by the ever-generous Toby at Three Lives - thanks, T!), which turned into a very exciting discussion about potential alliances between New York City bookstores (with quite a few beers downed to refresh during the heated discussion). You'll be hearing more about what we came up with, but in the meantime, I've also collected a lot of links to share with ya this week. You'll just have to forgive my loopiness.

- First, I would like to trumpet the opening of not one, but TWO new bookstores in the borough of Brooklyn! The first I heard about is Pranga Bookstore, a mostly used shop in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood. They don't seem to have their own website yet, but the link will take you to a picture on a local Brooklyn blog that's quite delighted by their presence. Hooray!

The second I found out because the owner, Christine Onorati, attended our get-together last night, and I'm thrilled to have her in our NYC bookseller community! Former owner of a small bookstore on Long Island, Christine opened Word Books in Greenpoint last Wednesday -- and it's been a great week for the store so far! Her shop looks so beautiful on the website -- can't wait to get on the G train and visit.

- Folks have been very nice about sending me links this week -- good thing all of you are reading for me! London friend and reader Sue Harris sent me this decisive article from the Observer about the continuing success of venerable London indie bookstore Foyles, even as chains like Borders and Ottokar's are pulling in their stakes. Kudos to the newspaper for reporting another happy story in the ongoing saga of independent bookstores. For more British indie bookstore delights, check out this section in the Observer, which gathered readers' votes for favorite bookstores and organized them by region for permanent reference. What a great idea for highlighting the best bookstores (almost 100% indies, of course) -- could we do that here?...

- Another sharp-eyed reader, commentor Gursky, sent this post from the blog of British writer Jenny Diski, which I mostly enjoyed for the first few paragraphs about eccentric book shelving strategies, since as you know I'm fascinated by the infinite options for how to arrange and categorize books. I used to house-sit for a serious reader (and bookstore customer) who shelved her fiction in the same gender-divided categories -- it led to lots of interesting speculation about men and women writing and thinking about books, though I don't know that I'd consider adopting it in my future bookstore.

- Another great link from Gursky was this piece by scifi author/internet royalty Cory Doctorow, co-host of the fabulous gathering of weirdness Boing Boing. I don't always agree with Doctorow's take on the intersections of print and internet, but this piece makes some great points about the multi-tasking (i.e. not novel-length-concentration) way that readers tend to read online, and what that implies for e-books. Here are the best bits (and I know Cory won't mind me quoting liberally):

"There's a persistent fantasy/nightmare in the publishing world of the advent of very sharp, very portable computer screens. In the fantasy version, this creates an infinite new market for electronic books, and we all get to sell the rights to our work all over again. In the nightmare version, this leads to runaway piracy, and no one ever gets to sell a novel again.

I think they're both wrong... A super-sharp, super-portable screen would be used to read all day long, but most of us won't spend most of our time reading anything recognizable as a book on them....Electronic books are a wonderful adjunct to print books....But the numbers tell their own story — people who read off of screens all day long buy lots of print books and read them primarily on paper."

Agree or disagree, dear readers? Wait, I'm not done. Fellow prospective bookseller David del Vecchio sent me this quote, from Jason Epstein's 2001 (print) book Book Business:

"It is less clear how new technologies will transform retail bookselling as the chains in their oversaturated marketplace face competition from Internet booksellers and the prospect of limitless virtual inventories available on demand in electronic or printed form at random locations. Nonetheless, a civilization without retail booksellers is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifacts of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience, linking writer to reader. But to compete with the World Wide Web, bookstores of the future will be different from the mass-oriented superstores that now dominate the retail marketplace. Tomorrow's stores will have to be what the Web cannot be: tangible, intimate, and local; communal shrines, perhaps with coffee bars offering pleasure and wisdom in the company of others who share one's interests, where the book one wants can always be found and surprises and temptations spring from every shelf."

- In that vein, consider one thing that the brick-and-mortar bookstore will always have over electronic "equivalents": the space itself. On April 15, McNally Robinson will be host to a NAIBAhood Gathering discussion on the subject of store design, and its growing importance in the contemporary retail environment. And we'll be joined by author and "brand image creator" Marc Gobe, who was quoted in Shelf Awareness as wondering why bookstores don't do more to emphasis the strengths and joys of books in their design. The indefatigable NAIBA secretary Eileen Dengler invited Gobe to come to a store that has put a lot of thought into design, and join the conversation with booksellers about what we're doing right and what we could do better. If you're a bookseller and you can possibly be in New York on Tax Day, don't miss this one; it promises to be a seriously compelling discussion. You don't have to be a NAIBA member to attend; find out more and contact Eileen to RSVP by clicking here.

More book reviews later this week. Happy traveling, happy thinking and typing, and happy reading!