Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cyberflanerie: Bookstores, Happening & Not

C'est moi, C.M. Mayo, with Uli Quetzalpugtl
visiting Prairie Lights in Iowa City
Recently as I breezed through Iowa City, of course-- but of course-- I stopped in at Prairie Lights, the book lover's midwestern Mecca, which I last visited in (uyyy) 1990. In tow: puglet Uli Quetzalpugtl, my new writing assistant. Right now, Uli Q. has two speeds: wiggly-wiggly and dead asleep. Anyway, Prairie Lights, I am delighted to report, remains a handsome space, its vast inventory a pleasure cruise of discovery. Oh, the contrast to your average airport bookstore or Barnes & Noble, with its paid-for displays, was RE-FRESH-ING. As Uli Q. might say, like a wiggly loll on the grass.

More about bookstores:

A profile of Joyce Meskis, owner of Denver's iconic Tattered Cover Book Store. (Fun factoid: I am slated to introduce her at this year's Women Writing West conference in Golden, Colorado.)

And here is my recent Women Writing the West listserv comment in response to a writer who shared her experience marketing to bookshops and specialty shops in the tourist town where her several books are set (what she had to say was most interesting, but these listervs are private, so I only quote myself):
Re: marketing to a specific place... I went through some similar things with my book on Mexico's Baja California peninsula, Miraculous Air. One would think that it would find a good market with US and Canadian and other visitors to Los Cabos and yonder (there are, literally, millions, flying & driving & sailing in) and it got rave reviews, including in the Los Angeles Times, but-- though I hasten to add that a few bookstores such as El Tecolote in Todos Santos and Baja Book & Maps were quick to carry it-- the sad thing is, most people, and that includes many gift shop owners, don't care about books. They just don't. They don't get it and they won't get it. And they are overwhelmed with dealing with inventory and paperwork as it is. 
This is why I am thrilled with on-line booksellers such as amazon-- which I know isn't perfect, I know it's been a nightmare for independent bookstores--- because the people who actually do read, who actually would care to read a literary travel memoir such as Miraculous Air, can google it up, or surf on in from my webpage and get a copy lickety split. With a wifi connection, they can even download the Kindle and start reading right there, on the plane or on the beach-- and I am happy to report, a good number do. Better yet, I actually get paid for those Kindles-- which in my experience as a literary magazine editor, is rarely the case for books left on consignment. 
That said, I have heard of some authors doing splendidly well with just the right store for their books. Thank you, [name], for sharing your experience with this, and I for one hope to hear more. The book business has always been a bit of a mystery to me and certainly it is changing fast. 
PS I also think retail itself is changing fast-- that's another subject.

And Gregory Gibson, an author and owner of Ten Pound Island, has some interesting things to say about how the used and antiquarian books business has changed, on his blog: 

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Ye olde ode to bookshoppes of yore (Red Room)
Why Aren't There More Readers? A Note on Curiosity, Creativity, and Courage
Top 10 Books Read 2013
The future of bookstores (guest post for Carmen Amato)
My shop (yeah!)

COMMENTS always welcome