Category Archives: Future of Books

Pop Up Bookstores?!

By Melanie Yarbrough

One of the squares near my house – Central Square – has been undergoing some serious revisions as of late. They’re not all good revisions; they’re major changes and emptying out of local businesses and staples. I lived there almost two years ago, and it no longer feels like home the way it used to. One of the most dreary parts about Central now are all of the empty sites with “For Lease” signs hanging in the windows. So when I read Karen the Small Press Librarian‘s announcement of a traveling bookstore that’s planning to pop-up in a recently closed Borders in Pittsburgh, I thought, “Aha!” Just what Central Square needs. But that’s not where the goodness of this story ends.

The bookstore, Fleeting Pages, seeks books by indie presses and self-publishers from all over, and even have a Submit section on their website. Get more information on the project and how you can get involved here.

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Foursquare with a purpose: ElectricLit’s Broadcastr Announcement

Electric Literature had some exciting news up their sleeves yesterday at the eBook Summit in New York City: Broadcastr, “a storytelling app that will let people record audio versions of location-specific stories around the globe.” GalleyCat likened the new platform to Foursquare, but all I can think about is how right I was to stubbornly not believe my AP American History teacher that oral tradition was dying, if not dead. So, for Ms. Greene, and the rest of us tireless storytellers, Electric Lit presents Broadcastr:

– M

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Why Google and Amazon Don’t Change a Thing

By Shane Solar-Doherty

In the early 90s, Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores were popping up everywhere. I was young, so I don’t really know what it was like to see that happening. But there must have been a lot of people who said to their friends at dinner parties and such, There’s no way you’ll ever catch me step foot in one of those stores. And they stayed loyal to the owner of the bookstore down the street who had character and a unique business model. Occasionally they would travel away from home and, for lack of other options, they’d go into a chain store and perhaps purchase a book to read on the flight back home, promising over and over to themselves that for every book purchased at a chain store, they’d purchase ten at their local indie. And they would follow through on that. Not a mile away from where they lived there would be a Barnes & Noble or a Borders, where the selection was bigger and the prices a little cheaper, but they would not stray. It became second nature, and they passed it on.

Readers like the ones I’m describing understand this one simple concept: no matter where you buy the book from, the content within the book will not change; your purchase, however, will have an impact on the business that you’re buying it from and the people who run the business.

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A Follow-Up to Greg Schutz’s Bookstore Love Letter

By Melanie Yarbrough

This past weekend I visited my sister in Virginia, where I spent two very short days playing with my nieces and nephew, cooking, eating and watching TV. Over the years of visiting and an increasing child to adult ratio, I’ve learned to stop packing multiple books (I was an optimistic youngster). Now I just bring some stories or a Ray LaMontagne playlist for the short plane ride there and back. This past weekend, in my TV-induced withdrawals from my daily dose of literature, I was caught vulnerable by multiple Nook color commercials. In one fell swoop I caved and decided I want a Nook. I began daydreaming about all of the literary mags I could read, the diminishing piles of papers and folded magazines on my floor and on my bookshelves. No longer would I be a potential candidate for Hoarders!

It was this unexpected dive into sudden want for an electronic device I have so adamantly declared I would never need that caused a bit of introspection. And this morning, I was reminded that I do still, and will always, save the biggest part of my heart for bookstores.
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Publish or Perish #2: Is Richard Nash Our Guy for Pub3.0?

By Shane Solar-Doherty

Richard Nash is an intelligent dude. There’s no other way of putting it. The guy played a major role in revitalizing Soft Skull Press, which had been “weeks from liquidation” before it merged with Counterpoint. At the time that he decided to resign from his posts and embark upon his own ventures in early 2009, Nash was Editorial Director of Soft Skull Press and Executive Director of Counterpoint. During his tenure, which began in 2001, Nash had witnessed Soft Skull in its days of greatest hardship, as well as in its flourishing times, and surely learned the intricacies and obstacles of the publishing industry in that span.

Since leaving both entities in March 2009, Nash has caused a big stir in publishing. With his creation of Cursor, he’s challenged not only what publishers have known for decades about creating and selling books, but also what publishers are just now adapting to and learning. He’s seen Publishing 1.0 (print) lose its grip, knows that Publishing 2.0 (e-books) isn’t the be-all-end-all, and is already on his way to leading the Publishing 3.0 revolution: tight-knit communities, centered around publishing imprints, where writers and readers can engage in dialogue with one another.

Ask me and I’ll tell you that Nash is on to something. It’s easy for me because I’m not working in the book industry, I’m just writing about it on a blog, so nothing for me is at stake. Like Nash, I’m eager to anticipate what’s coming next, or as he puts it, to forecast “where the puck is going two years from now.” Only I imagine it must be just a tad more difficult for Nash, who is actually trying to bring his ideas to fruition.

It’s clear that Nash has deep ties in publishing; he used to be in theatre, but left the stage for the page because he felt he could be more influential in publishing by “facilitating the spread of ideas” and “lubricating a conversation.” And to that effect he has been very influential, and it doesn’t seem like that will change. But as much as I admire Nash’s enthusiasm and innovative qualities, the businessman in him doesn’t sit well with me.

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You’re Reading Too Fast: Drum Mag & The Slow Reading Movement

By Melanie Yarbrough

For anyone who’s ever listened to David Sedaris or watched David Foster Wallace read his own work, you know that hearing the author reading his own work transforms it. I attend author readings to get a different, more personalized, perspective of the literature I’ve fallen in love with. It takes interaction to a whole new level, brings new meaning to sections or lines I may have read a hundred times.

So when I heard about a literary magazine allowing that intimacy between author and reader and stories, I knew I had to share it. Continue reading

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Publish or Perish #1: Electric Literature Leads Us Forward

By Shane Solar-Doherty

This is the first entry in a series that I’m dubbing Publish or Perish. Each Friday Here and there, I’ll reflect upon an update or two that’s shaking things up in publishing. This one’s about Electric Literature and the crucial steps they’re taking to usher literature forward into a new phase of publishing.

I remember the first time I learned about Electric Literature. It was the spring of 2009 and I was flipping through the pages of the newest issue of Poets & Writers. Then there was this ad: A young woman, decked out in a hospital gown and puffing on a fat cigar, holding onto an IV pole, glaring at me like I’d made a distasteful remark about pissing into a bedpan. The caption read, “Reading That’s Bad For You”. I remember thinking, holy shit, and then immediately jumping online and going to their website. I remember both the doubts that were raised and the excitement I felt that this was the beginning, that the shift was being embraced, and the embrace was carried out not by a veteran publication, but by a fresh lit mag that hadn’t even yet published its first issue. To me, it sounded promising. Somehow I was rest assured, by the punkass gaze that the woman in the hospital gown was giving me, that this was going to work.

On Monday, Andy Hunter, co-founder of Electric Literature, wrote an absolutely incredible article for Publishers Weekly about how Electric Literature has adopted a model that is supported by, rather than struggling against, the changes in publishing, and how other publishers, lit mags, and authors can follow their lead and embrace the new publishing era. Hunter says that Electric Literature is “taking on iBooks and Kindle in a bootstrap revolution we believe could grow into a takeover of digital publishing.” That’s an encouraging sign for the future of the distribution of quality literature. I’ve plucked some of my other favorite quotes out from the article to share with you.

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Where We Go From Here: Some Ideas for the Indie Bookstore

By Shane Solar-Doherty

In August 2005, just three months after celebrating their 50th anniversary, Kepler’s Books, an independent bookstore and beacon for cultural progress in Menlo Park, CA, closed their doors. With anniversary banners and advertisements for upcoming events that could be seen from El Camino Real still hanging inside the store, it may have seemed like a crude practical joke, like the lights would be turned back on the next day, that it would be business as usual. But the next day, the store remained dark.

The store’s loyal customers and employees were dismayed by the sudden shutdown. Gerry Masteller, former co-owner of Printer’s Inc., an indie bookstore in Palo Alto that closed it’s doors four years before Kepler’s followed in suit, found it “embarrassing” that such an established intellectual community couldn’t support this hub for progressive thought and dialogue.

And then, a little over a month later, the store reopened, as if it all really had been a practical joke. In reality there was nothing funny about it. The store had cited a number of reasons for its closure, including a significant drop in book sales and steep rent costs. But Kepler’s was able to make its expeditious recovery because of monetary support and sound business advice from individuals who cherished the bookstore’s rich tradition. With the help of a concerned community and local investors, Kepler’s was once again in business, with a whole new business model structured by volunteers and more than $500,000 from new shareholders.

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Paperback Dreams

In doing a little research for a post that I’m writing, I came across this trailer for Paperback Dreams, a documentary about two independent bookstores in California, Cody’s and Kepler’s, their rise as literary hubs, and their struggle to stay afloat in today’s market.

Check out the trailer, watch the doc on public television, and stay tuned for my forthcoming post.

— S

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