Thursday, February 5, 2009

A room without books is like a body without a soul

In our most recent monthly e-mail I discussed, briefly, the onslaught against actual printed books and our response to that trend. Believe me, I have the utmost respect and regard for old-school stuff like letterpress, broadsides and hand-stitched book arts. But that is exactly what they are--forms of art. And a new world, if not a brave one, has already arrived and is constantly changing the face of what we booksellers must do if we want to survive.

So we get asked a lot: "How do you intend to deal with e-books, Kindle, e-readers..." Electronica, in all its forms, has become a steady and insistent form in our lives. I, and we at Micawber's and all other indie stores across the land, woul
d be fools not to acknowledge that simple fact. So things must change--but maybe only a little. Because, maybe, if you allow me to think a bit on the screen--that which endangers us can also make us stronger. 

As consumers become more aware and able to purchase books in different forms it also gives publishers and booksellers the chance to offer the old and tired book in new and different ways. Here are some recent examples: "Firmin" by Sam Savage is a novel about a rat living in a bookstore that eats other books. The trick here is that the cover has portions of its paper 'eaten' out if it. It was a brilliant decision to market the book this way and will catch the eyes of many readers--who see the actual book.

Second is a book entitled, "I Live Here" edited by Mia Kirshner(among others). There are four 84 page booklets encased in an old record album s
tyle binding. The book itself contains lots of important essays and ideas--but, again, it is the package itself which will grab most people in stores.

"Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat" by Lynne Jonell is a YA novel that has images running up and down each page that create a visual image to accompany the text from page to page.

"State by State" edited by Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey is an essay collection with one piece done for each state has endpapers done in a fantastic motif. 

There are now several books out with braille on the covers and within the books. Book jackets are, increasingly, becoming more textured and multi-faceted to fit the particular book. McSweeney's, always cutting-edge, in both design and content have lots of books with die-cuts, woodcuts and other imaginative design.

All of this encapsulates the importance of the book as physical object. Something to be held and touched and gazed upon/at. So will the book die? I don't have an answer for that with 100% certainty. For now--even with bombastic and unforeseen technology--it seems unlikely.

The Kindle apparently increased sales 300% over the past year. That means a few things: one, that there is an audience for this kind of thing. Two, not that many sold the year previous. And three, that we as people who love real and actual books, must continue to find new and improved ways to sell an old thing.

For now we're holding strong to old traditions at Micawber's. We aren't selling books on-line(because that can be done faster, cheaper, etc) at a million places. Second, that we sell books to people who want to read them. We'll continue to do this as best we can for as long as we can.

As always, feel free to let us know about your opinions either here or via e-mail at or even via phone at 651.646.5506

until next...

p.s. subject line is from cicero

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