Rebel Bookseller: Why Indie Bookstores Represent Everything You Want to Fight for from Free Speech to Buying Local to Building Communities
I think I should add "Rebel Bookseller" to my business cards. I'm more serious that you might think. It's long been a philosophy of mine that a book being on a bestseller list is a mark against my reading it. Not because of some "I'm better than the masses" snobbery, but simply because it doesn't need my help. Many people tout the wide selection of the chains, Amazon and now e-books. Ironically, when the numbers are crunched, their effect has been to reduce the variety of books people are reading. If you want your potential readers to find a particular book amongst all the others on the shelf (or the site), it has to be featured in some way. The megastores can't feature all the books, because that just puts everyone back at square one. So publishers put the majority of their money behind those few titles with mass appeal. The average reader, overwhelmed by the selection in the back of the store, clings to the bestseller lists, which become self-perpetuating. Of course, the problem of how to promote books is not a new one. The trouble comes when the choice of which to promote is put into hands and minds of only a few people, and those few are hoping to please as many as possible (ie: their choices will veer away from anything controversial). Independent bookstores put more hands in the pot, allowing exponentially more chances for a given book to be discovered by someone who has the power to get it onto a particular store's shelves -- and hopefully out the door again. Laties book came out just before another piece of news rocked readers. Laties reminds us on his blog that independent bookstores have a hidden strength. One thing to remember in the shock of the Borders bankruptcy is that there were individual stores that were successfully pulling a profit, but were pulled down by the weight of the chain around them (pun intended). Had each Borders store been independent of the others, the effect on the reading public would not have been so catastrophic. I wish could make Rebel Bookseller required reading for all the authors, both published and not-yet-published, and all the dedicated readers in my realm of influence. Laties gets a bit vitriolic at times, but I can't bring myself to disagree with him. Oh, and I'm buying a lot more of my groceries from independents now, too.