Monday, June 25, 2007

Bookselling not entirely dead in Boston

Have you heard about this 1001 Book Project, sponsored by Back Pages Books, in Waltham, Mass.? The Boston Globe wrote it up, Shelf Awareness mentioned it today in their daily email, and Grub Street had put it in their "Rag" a month or so ago, because the author is one of their own.

This independent bookstore, Back Pages Books, is trying to sell out the first full print run of a new novel by local author Jon Papernick, called Who By Fire, Who By Blood, which is being published by something called Exile Editions (a Canadian publisher of "fine literature"). While it's a rather ambitious endeavor, I like the bookseller's attitude. The Globe article ends thus:

Green hopes the innovative effort will also inspire other independent bookstore owners not to give up in the face of Internet retailers such as

"We've got absolutely nothing to lose," he said.

(The article has some other interesting publishing notes in it, btw.)

We can only hope more independent booksellers have such strength of conviction and support voices they like. Of course, there's more to it then that, as customers have to agree with the bookseller's opinion...

Booksellers need to team up with independent publishers when possible to get books out there, but if they focus too much on obscure titles by small houses that look or even are self-published, they run the risk of scaring off customers. I can appreciate that. There are enough independent presses, as well as university presses, offering well-produced books that too often get overlooked by mainstream media and big box stores. And it's always nice to see independents get behind those books and turn a book that could easily disappear into a strong seller.

In the mix, a bookseller can include books self-published or published by such small houses that cannot afford to produce their books quite up to bigger house standards (shiny cover, awkward font, amateurish design, etc). That's not for every customer, but it's good to have as an option for the open-minded ones that want to read something that's not as common, maybe before the author becomes the Next Big Thing.

I admire the 1001 Book Project and hope more booksellers take notice and consider what they can do to both support new voices while also supporting their own store. I know it ain't easy for these folks...

1 comment:

Alex Green said...

Well, I couldn't agree with you more. There's a real balancing act involved in choosing books. I figure that for every 10 books in the Frontlist of the store, I'd be greedy to expect that more than one of them will be a small, obscure pick by me. There's a give and take. If a customer respects the general selection I carry then they might just take a chance on something a little more out there. Now that I have such an established repoir with such a large base of customers, I feel like I can venture out there with The 1001 Book Project and take this to a new level.