Thursday, September 22, 2011

Supporting Small Presses: How to Do It, Why We Do It

The other day the American Bookseller's Association's Karen Schechner contacted the store to do an interview with us about our small press promotions. As many of you know, for the past six months we have been bringing in small presses en masse here at the store and trying to turn people on to the breadth of great literature found on them. We have no plans to stop this program whatsoever. At a time when too many people talk about e-books, we thought we'd go the other route: standing by the presses we love, putting books into people's hands. Karen's write up can be found here: http://news.bookweb.org/news/farley%E2%80%99s-bookshop-goes-big-small-presses

Below is the unexpurgated interview. Any bookseller should feel free to contact us with questions about the program. We hope that other bookshops follow this model and find great indie presses to support. Contact your other favorite bookstore or your favorite small press, show them the interview and help to get a movement started. It's time we created a new model of bookselling together.

Farley's Bookshop c/o William Hastings

Interview with the ABA's Karen Schechner about small press displays

9-20-2011



1: How did Farley’s get into selling indie press titles?


Our interest in indie presses began by reading their books. It has long been known that the best literature in the country is often found on the indie presses. Because indie presses do not pay taxes on unsold stock, since many of them are non-profits, we found that some of our favorite writers were being kept in print because of this. Then, as the world economy tanked in 2008, we noticed that the major publishing houses were forced to cut great, but smaller selling writers from their lists. Those writers ended up in the indie presses and have stayed there. It's not that we had a problem with the major publishing houses' title selection, it's just that the more we looked the more we liked the cutting-edge, eclectic, profound, beautiful, well-constructed literature that kept surprising us in the indie presses. We started hand selling a lot of it because our customers kept asking for recommendations and many of us were reading indie press titles alongside other work. Around this time we became the official bookseller for NoirCon, a multi-day noir/crime fiction convention here in Philadelphia. In order to stock a great selection of books for the event we did some deep research into the noir/crime fiction community and found an incredible selection of indie presses there. Once we were at NoirCon writers and fans told us about even more. We also began subscribing to The American Book Review and The Bloomsbury Review, in our opinion the two finest reviewing papers in the country. While they review books from the major publishing houses, they devote much space to the indies, something we noticed the metropolitan newspaper review sections were not doing. This turned us on to some great books. Some of our employees also subscribe to hosts of the literary quarterlies, which are other great avenues to discover indie press books. All of this got us thinking that we should be me forthright in highlighting these presses in the store. But, as with anything, money is an issue. How to stock these presses in depth without sacrificing stocking the other presses that we love? We had heard about some publishers offering better purchasing/returns terms in exchange for special displays. This lead us to create our idea: a consignment-style set-up in exchange for face out displays and prominent in-store location. We wrote a proposal and reached out to presses we loved that weren't using major distributors that we had reps for. After all, we didn't want to hurt our relationships there either. And we are more than open to having bookstores contact us for help in getting this started, or if they have any questions about what we've done.


2: How are they displayed? In a separate section?


Each press has its own section of the front of the store. Above each section we have a sign naming the press. Each book is face-out, with a shelf talker written by a staff member. When you walk into the store the firs thing you see are hundreds of book covers looking right at you. The project has expanded so much that we've had to place some of the presses in our main display area in the center of the store because we have run out of room up front. Soon we will be removing a compact disc display section, moving it to another part of the store, and using that space to display literary quarterlies or another press that will be coming in soon.


3: How are sales?


Sales are excellent. Every single press has told us that we have sold more titles of theirs than any other bookstore they work with. We're hesitant to give out exact dollar amounts, but we can safely say that in six months we moved close to three hundred indie press titles.

4: You sell them on consignment?


The set-up works like this: in exchange for net-90 terms and the standard 40% discount we offer the presses their own section of the store, face-out displays with shelf talkers for each book and extensive advertising. The presses cover shipping to us, if we return books to the presses we cover shipping back. It is a fairly straight forward consignment set-up. If the books don't sell, they don't sell at no risk to us and little risk to the publisher. So far no publisher has wanted a return from us, they've just asked that we keep the titles and then shipped new/different ones to us. We're more than happy to do that. Given enough time, they'll sell. And they have.


5: How do you market them?


We market them in a variety of ways. First, we have a small press book club that meets once a month. Unlike our other book club, the small press book club does not limit itself to fiction. This allows us to rotate through the publishers, since many of them are poetry houses, and to guarantee sales of at a minimum ten copies for that month of a single title. Often in the month that we are reading a book we'll sell more because our customers ask what's being read even though they can't make the book club. Beyond that we highlight the books constantly on our Twitter and Facebook pages. We stay in close contact with the publishers and they get word out regularly about our store and its offerings. We do write-ups in our newsletter of the titles, or sometimes, an entire press' offerings. But like any good independent bookstore, hand-selling them is our bread and butter. Lastly, we have spent much time and effort educating our customers that book buying can be like record buying in many ways. You can still find great music just because you trust whatever certain labels are putting out. Likewise books. By showing our customers that each press is very different and has different outlooks, specialties, goals, we have shown our customers they can find a press that matches their style and tastes. We've shown them that while they may not have heard the author's name before, they can trust the quality of the book just because of the press it's on.


6: Do you have any events involving indie press titles?


We have done quite a few events with the indie presses. Most importantly, some of the writers whose books we have contacted us very early in the experiment to thank us and to offer themselves in some form or another to the store. What we ended up creating with them was a series of ongoing free creative writing workshops. Writers come to the store (we've had them come from as far away as Mississippi) and at the beginning of their workshop they read from their book. That gives the class a common denominator for discussion as well as spotlights the writer's book. We offer classes in all genres. The writers then stay for signing afterword. Beyond the workshops we have offered poetry readings, sidewalk signings, in-store signings, events at local bars. There's always something going on here at the store and much of it has grown out of our work with the indie presses.


7: Is this something you’d recommend to other booksellers?


We cannot recommend this more highly to other bookstores. Regardless of what the news media tells us about bookselling in this country, independent bookstores are the front lines of keeping literature alive in this country. The collapse of Borders has proven that brick and mortar bookstores offer something unique and important to this literary world. The more independent bookstores diversify their stock, the larger a patchwork quilt of literature is built into the fabric of our communities across this country. Reach out to local and regional presses so your store can stock books only found where you live and can help to keep alive great, though overlooked, writing. Reach out to every indie press you can think of. You'll be able to greatly increase stock and offer wonderful books your customers may not have heard of. Stay in close contact with the presses and build tight relationships with them: it helps them and it helps you. Subscribe to the literary quarterlies and The American Book Review and The Bloomsbury Review (which has a special program that allows you to give away free copies of The Bloomsbury Review to your customers) to help you learn about all the great literature that is happening in this country. Many of these indie presses do not put their titles into e-book formats because they are incredibly conscientious of their graphic design and the special magic of holding a book in your hands. Supporting these presses distributes both knowledge and power across a larger base, instead of consolidating it in the hands of the few.


8: Anything else you’d like to add?

We have not sold a single e-book at our store. In fact, we haven't had a single customer ask us about it. Instead, what we have seen is an increasing amount of people coming into the store looking for books they can't find anywhere else and asking for recommendations from the staff. In some cases, we have had to re-stock our small presses three times over because we can't keep the books on the shelves. We have had customers drive upwards of three hours to get to our store just because they heard we now stock a deep selection of their favorite press. What has happened in the past few months, since we started this project, is we've realized just how important a bookstore can be to a community. Bookstores can help out restaurants and bars by hosting readings in them or by having the restaurant set up tables in the cookbook section and give away free food to customers. Offer free writing workshops and help out local writers. A bookstore has the ability to link into the schools and help educators offer books to their students that may help to turn students onto reading and a love of literature. Unlike the rewards programs established by some educator book distributors for teachers, bookstores are not recommending books to schools or students because they will receive a financial reward from the distributor. Yes, we make money off of book sales, but we make money off of helping our community to build lifelong readers. In doing so we can support the artists that we love, the presses that remind us of the possibilities of literature and the local bars, museums, theaters, restaurants and galleries that provide spaces for public celebration of literature in all its forms. At a time when a horrible economy threatens so much, brick and mortar stores have the ability to revitalize the economy. After all, over half of the workforce in this country is employed by family run businesses. And, as a study in Michigan showed, if a half-million people switched ten percent of their spending to buying locally, over one hundred and thirty million dollars of new job revenue would be created. Saving our communities and our country begins at the local level. It begins by buying locally and supporting local stores. It begins with bookstores extending themselves outward into the community to help educate and inform people about literature and its joys, to connect with other local businesses to offer things to people they hadn't realized they wanted. It begins with bookstores all across this country offering a diverse and regionally unique selection of books to their customers to create a vats array of places where readers and travelers can find incredible work. We're called brick and mortar for a reason we feel too many have forgotten: we're the foundation of it all. What will stand after the trends die out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poetry Is Nothing To Be Scared Of

At lunch, high in the northern Lebanese mountains, our cab driver and I waited for my friend to come out of the bathroom before continuing on to Khalil Gibran's grave. Next to our table the windows were open. Clear mountain air touched with spring and water came at us. It was cold, crisp and a relief from the dust choked air I had been living with in Kuwait City. Our cab driver turned his head toward the breeze, closed his eyes and began reciting a poem. When he finished he opened his eyes and smiled.

“You like poetry?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said. “I can't imagine life without it.”

Testing a hunch, I asked him when he graduated college.

He laughed.

“I stopped going to school when I was fourteen.”

The Lebanese, especially Beirutis, are a well read people. Surprised as I was, I figured it to be a part of the culture there and this miraculous discovery could not be replicated back in the slums of Kuwait City where I lived.

I was wrong.

Two weeks after wandering around Khalil Gibran's hometown, I was back in Kuwait City, smoking sheesha at my local cafe well past midnight. I got into a game of dominoes with a group of Egyptian construction workers that I sometimes played with.

“What are you reading,” Samah asked me. I was negotiating my next move.

“Salah Al-Hamdani,” I said. The Iraqi poet.

“Oh he's good,” Samah said, “maybe great. But have you read Abdul Rahman Yusuf?”

“Wallah. Yusuf? He should be reading Aziz Abaza,” another man cut in.

For the next three hours a heated debate, one that threatened to derail the domino game entirely, raged about modern Arab poetry. Recommendations were passed my way, arguments turned to silences between friends. It is still one of the finest literary conversations I have ever had and I was the only man in the group with an education above the eleventh grade. And I was nearly shamed with my ignorance of some of the poets mentioned.

I wonder why Americans do not read more poetry. Why is it that the best conversations I have had about poetry---wild conversations that raged with love and honor and passion about poems---have usually been in foreign countries? And usually with people whom we would deem uneducated? Certainly I have had similar conversations here in the United States, but they are usually with poets, and they happen much less frequently than when I have lived abroad.

Prior to Islam, prior to oil, before American daisy cutter bombs, the Bedouin that roamed the Rub al-Khali judged the quality of a warrior on his ability to do three things: ride a horse, shoot a bow and arrow and speak in poetry.

Jimmy Carter wrote a book of poetry.

After World War I the French veterans that took to the road carried Paul Eluard's Capital of Pain around in their backpacks.

Remember that there was a time in this country when Jack Kerouac could appear on the Steve Allen show and perform with Allen riffing the blues on a piano along with him.

Why in America are poetry books so feared by the general reading public?

Part of it has to do with education. I was an English teacher for almost six years, both in public and private schools in the United States and abroad. In all that time, amongst all the different faculties that I worked with, there were only two other teachers that I worked with who actively read poetry. And yet, all of those teachers were required to teach it. I repeatedly witnessed students bemoaning the study of poetry in my own classes when I began my poetry units. I took this lack of enthusiasm to stem from bad experiences with poetry in the past. Seeing what my other coworkers were doing with poetry in their classes it is no wonder so many students learn to hate it. Between providing them with antiquated poems that they do not have the linguistic capability to understand, to having them check off accent marks above the words in a line, to reading them poems with a dull, slapdash enthusiasm born from their own lack of reading, English teachers across the country are murdering poetry.

Don't misunderstand what I am saying here. Classics should be taught and taught rigorously. Verse should be taught side by side with the techniques of prosody so that a reader can see more deeply what is happening within the poetic line. But, considering the decline in reading amongst students in general, these things should come after a student has been given the opportunity to simply enjoy poetry, to see it for all that it can be. If poetry were more a part of our daily lives it would make sense to touch the classics and prosody early in a student's education. After all, they would be getting the rest elsewhere. But they are not. And because poetry has been killed for their parents, or it is deemed too inaccessible, poetry is seen as something difficult or not worth their time, a sentiment passed down often unknowingly from one generation to the next.

There are other reasons for poetry's lack of love in America: badly written criticism, or good criticism in places of which the general public is unaware. A lack of public discourse on poetry in our media.

How sad life is without poetry.

For a short story writer or a novelist, reading poetry greatly helps expand the awareness of the possibility of words. The compression and intensification of experience that a poem requires is essential to understand when writing fiction: how else will you deliver an emotional punch to your reader without a compression and intensification of experience?

For the musician reading poetry will only deepen what can happen in a song, what can happen with rhythm. Check out the complete Chess recordings of Chuck Berry between 1964 and 1969. During this time he recorded multiple sides of his own poems. Berry has said in interviews that poetry is essential to him. Had Chuck Berry never fallen in love with poetry we wouldn't have had rock and roll. Imagine a world without “Maybelline” or “Johnny B. Good” or “Thirty Days.” I wouldn't want to live in it.

But for everyone else poetry has a special magic, something that is equally valuable for their lives. It will make you a better thinker, a better believer, a better lover. Not necessarily in the physical act, but in the overall sense of the word.

We shouldn't have to read because it will do something for us. Too often we expect some type of gain on our investment. Sometimes reading just for the pleasure of it is enough. And yet, with good poetry as with good music, art or fiction, there is always a return. There is always something gained. It is difficult to describe but it is always there. You can feel it.

And remember (to paraphrase Jarrell): poetry is written by a human being alone in front of a blank page.

That means it comes from a human being and is filled with love and anger and emptiness and the hard won memories of lives well lived. It is filled with joy and sadness, completion and stumbling. It is a very human art and because of that, critics and teachers are not necessary to understand it. If you have ever lived, if you have ever felt, poetry is accessible to you. Just take your time with it and remember that those very human things within it are carried to you rhythmically and with sound. Much like music.

I like the idea that the warrior was judged on his ability to speak in poems. There is a romanticism to it that expands the possibility of living. But then I recall the bar room toasters that were once so much a part of the night life here. I recall the cowboy poets riding their way across the plains. The sea shanties that were improvised as whalers took themselves across the world. The outlaw ballads that became bluegrass and country music. The blues born of field hollers and mule skinner work songs. Poetry has always been a part of us and it's time we stop letting people scare us away from it.

By: William Hastings


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kindles Still Aren't Books: Humanity in a Time of Robots

Tara's reply to our “Kindles Aren't Books” post: I LOVE my kindle. I am and always have been a voracious reader, reading anything I can get my hands on. The kindle has made it so much easier for me to indulge in my love of the written word. I can now carry thousands of books with me all at once. As a writer having any reference material I want at my fingertips where ever I am is invaluable. As a reader the ability to read a book review then buy that book an instant later is a joy. Will I still buy paperbacks? Of course. I still browse book stores and make impulse buys, and it is still exciting to stumble across that gem you didn't even know existed, but my kindle never leaves my side. The facts are that Kindle editions of books are now out selling hardcover editions, and it probably won't be long until they are out selling paperbacks. The kindle will do for publishing what the ipod has done for the music industry. It is the future, there is no point standing in the past.


We apologize for having been gone so long. But, as you know, the book industry is changing and we've been devoting much of our time to staying ahead of the curve. However, Tara's comments got us thinking and we thought we should make our voices heard once more.

You should know that it never once occurred to us to not publish what Tara wrote. Doing so would have been censorship, and as booksellers we are completely, for what should be obvious reasons, opposed to that. However, since Tara posted her comments as a reply, we will exercise our rights to comment back, especially since it would appear that we have been charged with "standing in the past."

Amazon was more than clever to name their e-reader the Kindle. Not because the name in and of itself is clever, or has a certain meaning, but because nowhere in mentioning the name in the manner that Tara did, would you equate the Kindle with Amazon. By itself, the name becomes a cache. A trend, but we'll deal with that later on. The Kindle is most certainly an Amazon product, so we should first understand how that product effects the local community. That is, how the local community that people like to "browse book stores and make impulse buys" in survives in a Kindle world.

Here's the hard facts:

  • Small business accounts for 75% of all new jobs.

  • When you spend $100 at an independent business, $68 returns to the local community. Spend that same amount at a national chain and it drops to $43.

  • For every square foot a local firm occupies, the local economy gains $179 vs. $105 for a chain store.

  • Locally-owned businesses reinvest in the local economy at a 60% higher rate than chains and Internet retailers.

  • Small businesses employ just over half all U.S. workers.

  • Small businesses create more than half the non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).

  • Locally-owned and operated businesses create higher-paying jobs for you and your neighbors.

(these facts are from: U.S. Chamber of Commerce – Small Business Nation; Civic Economics – Andersonville Study of Retail Economics. Civic Economics – San Francisco Report on Retail Diversity. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Buy Local Berkeley via Independent We Stand)


So, with every e-book you buy from Kindle you are taking away from the the local economy, your neighbors, your friends. The vacation places you like to go visit. You have created or sustained no new business enterprises, nor helped to sustain over half of the American working class.

Beyond facts however, we found a fault with Tara's logic.

We too are voracious readers. It's a bad joke, but we make it constantly: we feel that working in a bookstore is like the old company store model, where on pay day we lose more than half of what we earn right back to the bosses. Working at a bookstore certainly helps us to "indulge in [our] love of the written word." But we indulged before we worked here, too. Erasmus, in what is now a coffee mug quote, said that, "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes." Voracious reading and the continual indulging of the habit is nothing new, and having a bookstore close by, or even within an hour's commute, makes it easy to buy as much as we please. It's even more convenient on rainy days when fewer people are out and about: the place is all yours. The Kindle hasn't changed that, though it has made the speed with which you have instant access to a purchase quicker, certainly. However, if I want a book and the store doesn't have it in stock, then I order it and buy another book in the meantime. After all, there are more books than I have time in my life to read them, so it's not like I am being deprived by not having what I came to the store for in that moment. And, if I know that what I am looking for may not be in stock (since I go to the bookstore regularly enough to have a general idea of what is or is not there--just building a good relationship with a local store) then I can order it ahead of time so that it is there when I absolutely need it. Or, I can ask about its availability and then order ahead of time.

Some people though appear to want to "carry thousands of books with [them] all at once." But, when do you need thousands of books at the same time? Even this writer, who reads four to five books simultaneously, would never think to carry "thousands with [him] all at once." There's just no need. Even when, as this writer experienced, you live in a place like Kuwait, where there are far and few English language bookstores and shipping to that country is massively expensive. Living like that just means I choose the books that I need to carry with me more wisely.

In a culture where we are too used to jumping from one channel to the next or putting our iPods on shuffle and losing the value of listening to a whole album, there is something to be said for only having a few books, or just one damn good one, with you at a given moment. It means that you sustain yourself through close, slow, deep reading. It is an art that is both continually rewarding and necessary in our short attention span culture. Certain books written in antiquity are read today because their truths still hold. They will be read generations from now because they will still reveal new truths. That would imply that certain books have infinite depth and can benefit from multiple readings. It would seem much more practical then to carry one, or a half dozen, of such a book, rather than "thousands" of mediocre one-reads.

As a writer, having "any reference material [that] I want at my fingertips where ever [spelling mistake is not ours] I am is invaluable." What's important here is that without the Kindle I, as a writer [and I am, and by that I mean publishers pay me for what I write], have all that I need whenever I want it. I always have. That's what a good library or library system is for, as well as an independent bookstore. Good libraries and independents will even have what I didn't know I needed, and that's really what this is all about.

Going into a bookstore, a good one, not a chain whose employees don't know their stock, is an invitation to have an employee tell you about a great book that you have never heard of. Likewise, in a good library. It is a personal review, one made face to face--in the best cases, through building a close relationship with your bookseller (like we used to do with our butchers, tailors and farmers). The problem with internet reviewing, especially on a place like Amazon, is that many of those reviews are not made honestly and they are impersonal. There are companies out there where authors can buy reviews--this happens frequently with the self-published books offered on Amazon. It wouldn't surprise us if others used this as well. Also, what is to prevent an author's friends from going on to Amazon--or that author's publicist, agent, publisher, lawyer--and flooding it with positive reviews from multiple email accounts, for the sake of sales? Certainly, the case could be made that jacket blurbs operate the same way, or in the use of advertising dollars in newspaper book review sections, but this is all eliminated by asking for a recommendation from your bookseller. Yes, we want to sell books. We don't work on commission and books are priced fairly evenly, so I do not have to sell you the most expensive one to give you a good read. I can sell you any number of great books priced comparatively to all the crap that is out there without having to lose face. It is in the longevity of the store's interest for me to give you a great, honest, recommendation. It makes repeat customers. You can still walk into a bookstore and "stumble across that gem you didn't even know existed," but you can also eliminate much stumbling by asking for help.

Likewise, with a book recommendation you can still get a review of the book--from the bookseller--and buy that book instantly. It's in my hands, I'm recommending it to you. And if it's not...well, that has already been gone over.

The sheer volume of good literature out there makes it impossible to not always be reading. It makes it impossible to not be able to find something.

This face to face interaction is what sustains communities and builds discourse. Debating and recommending books in person allows other people to overhear those debates and recommendations and discover the conversation's core for themselves. Yes, you can recommend a book you read on the Kindle to someone, but you can't pull it out of your back pocket, push it into their hands and say, "Now. You must." You can't, after your lover leaves the bookstore, sneak back in and buy the book for them that they wanted but maybe couldn't afford in that moment, and then slip it into their coat pocket as a surprise. With Kindles you can't "stumble" into a bookstore on vacation and get into a conversation with a total stranger about a "gem" you never knew of and buy it and enjoy it in ways you never thought possible.

Kindles make book buying a solitary pursuit, when in its best scenario it is an interaction, a discussion between people and communities.

Take the recent events in Egypt for example. As soon as the revolution broke, we moved Naguib Mahfouz and Alaa Al-Aswany's books up to the register. We made a little display with blurbs we wrote about the books and the writers. We've sold out of their books twice over now and they're still selling. People that had been following the events came in and saw books they weren't looking for but were perfect for the moment, and what's more, were the Egyptian people speaking for themselves. I doubt Amazon or the Kindle did that. For that reason alone you could argue that independent bookstores stand on the intellectual front lines of culture.

It should be said that recommending books is not just a one-way conversation from bookseller to customer. We get just as many great recommendations from customers as we give to them. As a bookseller, this is one of the great joys of work.

Tara, as a "writer," would know the lonely, late-night solitary discipline of writing. How, when a year into the writing of a novel, or a month into the third draft of a short story, you've been locked in your head for so long that talking, human contact, is both nice and necessary on a regular basis. But it's not just that. Perhaps because writing is so solitary we seek to have it published, to have other people hear what we've lived and thought and sweated and struggled over for so long. By its nature writing is an act of personal communication. It is Homer talking to us about wanderlust and loss (“Tramping about the world—there's nothing worse for a man”); it is Dante talking to us about a mid-life crisis ("Midway upon the journey of our life/ I found myself within a forest dark,/ For the straightforward pathway had been lost"). By increasing the amount of personal communication that we have over books (an independent bookstore is a wonderful place to do this) we increase our interaction with the great books of the world. Beyond that, we extend the lives of those books into the next generation. Literary history has shown us that "Moby-Dick," arguably the American Novel, was virtually ignored in its time. It wasn't until the Melville revival of the 1920s that its virtues and gifts were truly brought to the forefront. That could not have happened without the "hand selling" of that book from writer to writer, friend to friend, professor to student, customer to employee. Likewise Franz Kafka, Emily Dickinson, John Kennedy Toole. Even today, we see this: recall Stuart O'Nan's plea for a greater readership of Richard Yates in the Boston Review.

This same idea--that neglected writers can be resurrected later through word of mouth tactics--applies to sales figures as well. Sales figures are not any indication of a book's aesthetic value. The 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass--the first book to be voiced in American English, not British English--sold horribly. So, an argument that because e-book editions sell more than hardback or paperback books is not any indication of the quality of the e-book. That's just volume, and volume for those who can afford a Kindle. Inner city libraries and public schools, already horribly underfunded, can't afford them in quantity. They, like the poor in this country, need books all the more, amongst other things. To argue that because e-books sell in such a volume that makes it an indicator of what should be done, is just arguing that whatever sells the most---whatever is the most popular---is what is right. It argues that whatever is a trend is what should be done, irregardless of what has worked for so long. And as history has shown us, not all trends are right. Especially when they threaten the longevity of literature and damage our local communities.

The iPod, as Jon Bon Jovi has so rightly pointed out, has ruined human interaction with music. It has cut out your ability to read liner notes, thus seeing who played what on an album to get another good recommendation for music (what else have they played on? I liked this...). The iPod has cut out buyer's interaction with local music stores, separating the customer from recommendations and good local music scenes. If this is what the Kindle is destined to do, then we want no part of it Imagine a world without book signings, readings where you can have the writer sign the copy of the book they just read to you, where trade shows become simply hand-outs of posters. A world without bookmarks.

Rather, we want to support small presses who have taken in the writers major publishers cut in this recession because they didn't sell as many books as Stephen King (whose work we love, too). We want those presses to stick around and continue to put high quality materials into books. We want books with great dust jackets (since they are so much a part of a good book and help to support artists and photographers); we want to still be able to give face to face recommendations that have not been bought out by "pay to review" schemes and nepotism.

We don't have to stay in the past, either. In fact, any good independent book store has seen that the industry is changing and in order to survive we have to change, too. But that doesn't mean we have to get on the e-reader train. Instead, it just means that independent booksellers and the publishers have to come up with different models of buying, paying, shipping and stocking. Why not extend the 30 day billing period to 90 and give us more time to read and then hand sell the books? Why not encourage consignment-style arrangements in order to increase volume, and thus increase the ability for "gems" to pop up? Changing the model in a new market, not to a new market, ensures independent bookstore success. Tara was right in her implication that there is "no point standing in the past." We change the model and we'll still be around. But if the future only holds Kindles and e-books, then we'll proudly stand in the past defending not only what's right, but the people's jobs and lives that were spent building the book industry: everyone from the typesetter, to the janitor in the printing plant, to the lonely writer staving off madness and poverty trying to top "Moby-Dick."

We'll change the model and we won't stand in the past. But we won't move into the future if it only has Kindles. If the Kindle "is the future" then the future is robotic and we'd rather remain human.


By: William Hastings