Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of Unicorns, Easter Bunnies and Independent Bookstores

The National Post was channeling The Onion the other day. I love reading interviews with people who make Truthers seem cogent and thoughtful.

When I was reading the interview, I swear that Santa, the Tooth Fairy and even Bunny McEaster stopped by to add their two cents to the wonderfully concocted fantasy reality constructed therein.

Why I even found myself interjecting from time to time!

I thought I might note down a re-cap of the event:

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I think that the shift and trend towards digital positions independent booksellers as more important than ever. After all, it’s one thing to find something to read, it’s quite another to find something good to read. More is not necessarily better. You can get to the world’s largest buffet but you might need help determining which of the dishes to sample, otherwise you fill your plate with a lot but enjoy little of it.

Moi: You're so right, Mark. The internet is just a bad dream, book bloggers are a figment of the imagination, and I always trust desperate sales staff to consider my wants and needs when buttering me up for a sale.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: It makes sense that an online company that is all about the Internet and the virtual IS going to see huge successes in the digital/virtual realm.

Moi: I totally see why they made you the manager of a bookstore in Hamilton - You're a smart fella. A company with a market cap of $85 billion, with warehouses around the world, and 33,000 flesh and blood employees totally is all about the virtual.

Alana Wilcox: Most e-tailers offer only a Top 50 or theNew York Times bestsellers — useful if you already know what you’re looking for. But most of my best book finds have been accidental meetings on bookstore shelves, which is nearly [im]possible in the ebook world if you don’t have a search term.

Moi: You tell it! It absolutely is so much easier to discover new writers from disparate parts of the globe in a cramped little bookshop at the corner of Somewhere St. and Out-of-the-Way Dr. than through an e-tailer with worldwide publishing and distribution connections.

Alana Wilcox: We send books out to stores and never know whose bookshelves they end up on. But regular chats with our indie bookselling friends let us know who’s buying our books and why.

Moi: You make a solid point, Alana, Otherwise, how else in the world would a small, indie publishing house that specializes in experimental poetry and fiction know that their work generally appeals to a small group of well educated urbanites with an interest in the avant garde. Lacking this input, you probably would have spent countless hours loading copies of Eunoia on to the book racks at Shopper's Drug Mart.

Becky Toyne: I think indie bookstores will evolve...Daunt’s in London, England, has already started its own publishing imprint to capitalize on its brand. I don’t expect it to be the last to do so.

Moi: La la la! Can't hear you because my fingers are in my ears! Look, Becky, if you're just going to sit there and talk sense, we're not going to listen to you.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Even though the bookstore at McMaster has had the ability to print books on demand since 2008 with our Espresso Book Machine, I’ve never thought of Titles bookstore as a publisher – in my mind it has always been about selling books.

Moi: Don't beat yourself up about it, Mark. Absolutely anyone who spent every day for three years staring at the means through which they could profit greatly by cutting out the middle man, and controlling the production and distribution of a product they know intimately would be hard pressed to connect the dots.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I think there are huge opportunities for creative collaboration between publishers and booksellers in which both of them discover new wins and new successes.

Moi: And, to add to your point, when publishers soon start shipping books via unicorn, in baskets carefully packed by elves, publishers and booksellers will the see themselves as equals, holding hands, united in purpose, boldly walking forward into a future of harmony and co-prosperity.

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