“The value of indie bookstores is the value of the humane.” Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
Hey! Next Monday is the beginning of the first Independent Bookstore Week. And heads up: Shakespeare & Co. is an independent bookstore, and one of the Independent Bookstores of New York City. Hoo-rah for us and for Brooklyn.
Last night I went to the kick-off party at powerHouse Arena, which is half bookstore, half Roman Colosseum and skate park. I've been there a couple times before. It's a wild and very pretty space, though mostly a frontlist-only store. Also enormous. It was neat event; I snarfed up sandwiches and beer and pocketed a couple Vertigo galleys. I'm pretty excited about the Peter Milligan one, The Bronx Kill.
Michael Greenberg gave a shout-out to Shakespeare & Co., and the other speakers were fine too. I have to say I sometimes feel a disconnect with some "indie bookstore" people, a few of whom sound to me less interested in making sales and running a store than in curating a collection of books they like, to ultimately like-minded people. There are good arguments for indie bookstores, but a lot of the language I heard last night was pretty abstract lovey-dovey stuff, like you usually hear from people with very obscure hobbies, yacht enthusiasts for example. There were also many wistful reminisces about "that old indie bookstore on ____ street" (usually followed by "that went out of business in ____").
Not to disparage our bookselling comrades in arms!--there is a very real sense in which we are all in the same tiny, tiny boat. Although when a speaker mentioned that most big-box bookseller chains were no longer expanding and were in fact planning to close more and more of their stores, a little cheer went up and I thought, "Why are people cheering the idea that this business is shrinking like Colorforms? None of these corporations are closing stores because independent booksellers are kicking their keisters."
I grooved on the Q&A with John Sargent (yeesh, that Wiki article stinks), CEO of Macmillan Publishers, because his was the most direct, straightforward and unsentimental attitude towards the subject. When asked if he would get get tough with retailers like Amazon.com and B&N , whose predatory pricing wars indie booksellers could never hope to match, he basically replied, "Those companies make us buckets of money. We're in the business of selling books." POW. Which should be a no-brainer, right?, but is hilarious as a "tell it like it is" statement--which is what I think it was taken as by some folks--at what was basically a TRADE CONVENTION.