In Part I one of Book Patrol’s Bookseller Manifesto we talked about the shifting landscape of bookselling and the challenges that both the new book and non-new book industry face. We also talked about the need for new definitions for the various guises of bookselling.In Part II we offer some thoughts and ideas on what needs to be done for bookselling to prosper in the 21st Century.
Our first order of business is to accept the fact that independent bookselling as we know it is on its death bed. Period. The model has been severely disturbed by the changes of the last 10 years and will no longer work.There is no need to read on until this Step is understood.
We need to let go of the term "independent" once and for all. To remain independent in the new landscape will almost certainly guarantee failure. Yes, the trade is swarming with independent, unique individuals that add so much flavor to the trade but most healthy organisms must exhibit some dependent behavior or they do not survive. It should be no different for booksellers. We need to create bookshops that are unique in their complexity.
The barriers that separate the different forms of bookselling must be torn down. A bookseller must be willing to sell new, used, rare and out-of-print books. They must be willing to sell books by small presses, fine presses and book artists. Hand-made and machine-made, limited and unlimited editions.
One must embrace the rich world of the book, in all its forms, to succeed. Each bookshop becomes a book center where all the book needs of the community can be met.
Yes, you can put a used copy of a book next to a new copy, next to the DVD of the filmed version, and you can have the first edition and a fine press edition available too!
Be creative with your space and stay open-minded. If you have enough space-sell the booze and the coffee and let the community use the hell out of it -readings, music, spoken word, storytime for kids, storytime for adults, etc. If there is enough action it is a 24/7 experience.
There is no way, at least initially, that the chains and the internet retailers can offer such a rich and varied experience. We must never; however, lose sight of the fact that that they will always be in our rear view mirror trying to run us over.
The bookselling industry remains completely fragmented, both within the various segments (new, resale, book arts, etc.) of the industry and within the industry as a whole.
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At minimum, the leadership of these trade organizations must unite their resources and begin a concerted effort to work together. They should also reach out to the various Book Arts Guilds and Centers for the Book throughout the country. We need to build book epicenters in our communities not independent outposts. We do not want to, or need to, be survivors.
In Part III of the Bookseller Manifesto we will discuss additional ways in which the non-corporate book world can pool their resources to create vibrant book destinations.