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Books Tue Mar 06 2012

Some Thoughts on Small Book Sellers

Plenty of small booksellers across the country are likely in the midst of a period of recovery in the wake of notoriously slow January and February sales. Crunched numbers probably tell numerous stories about the impact of ebooks, or the allure of Amazon convenience, but whatever those narratives suggest, publisher of Black Ocean, Janaka Stucky is hopeful. In an essay published by the Poetry Foundation in January, Stucky responded to two heated arguments, one published by The New York Times and another in Slate. Those articles were answers to an Amazon promotion that had shoppers scanning bar codes on their cell phones to find out what better deals they might get by choosing to purchase on Amazon versus the store in which they were browsing.

Janaka's central argument is worth taking a look at for those of us concerned with the longevity of independent booksellers. He argues, that readers of poetry, few though they may be, might be the saviors of the small shops because their interests are satisfied by the act of browsing, their fascinations especially small and seldom glorified. Of course, we can all work to ensure the identity of the small book store as a gathering center for small communities does not fade into the past, poetry fans or not. Adult hardback sales were down almost 21 percent as of this past November. It's hard to say what that number means for the rest of the industry, but it's not difficult to see that things are changing.

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Anonymous / March 6, 2012 10:57 PM

Readers of poetry as saviors? Poetry accounts for a slim (read negligent) percentage of any bookseller's gross sales. The bookstore will evolve, there are models that can work, but poetry? In what way? Certainly not by the latest from the A List poets, which will be bought online, and the rest have sales numbers so small they cannot support themselves let alone booksellers. I am optimistic that centers for the literary arts will thrive as but not on books alone, but by events, fine art and fine bindings, blockbuster appearances, letterpress, limited editions, rare books, and wine. Wine is essential.

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