Friday, February 10, 2012

Shouldn't It Be About The Books?

I read an interesting article yesterday from an editor at BookRiot.

She (Bethane Kelly Patrick, Executive Editor) was conflicted regarding a book she had in her "review" pile. It was a book that she adored.  Here's a quote from her article . . .

"I picked up another book from my stack, simply because I liked the title and jacket design. Just a few pages in, I knew it was love. The voice was individual and authentic, the prose was snappy, and the plot was odd but maintained its own internal logic.

However, I didn’t want to share which book it was, because…Oh, dear. How can I put this delicately? Because I finally looked at this book’s spine and there saw something to make my heart stop for a moment: It was from Amazon Crossing."

- From The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name: An Editor's Dilemna (Bethane Patrick - @justbethane)

I, having a bit of a track record for actively speaking up against Amazon's behaviour and tactics, can easily emphasize with her dilemma.  I'm leery of any one single player dominating the book industry. So I'm not dismissing her conundrum nor the gut response she has. She actually does a great job of explaining why she has this reaction and talking about the concept of imprints vs authors, etc.

In all, it is a great, and offers good fruit for discussion. It runs parallel, of course, with the announced boycott of Amazon published books by so many booksellers around the world. I'm impressed with the solidarity I see among booksellers, where chains and indies are standing together - something I've long thought they should try to do.

But . . .

. . . part of me, even as I'm agreeing with her, wonders if it shouldn't just be about the book, shouldn't just be about the author.

Photo of Read Across America program - via Bookshelfporn
I've had some great discussions with bookseller colleagues who agree that people often don't buy books based on who the publisher is, but rather, who the author is, and what the story is. Think about it for a moment? When you go looking for that next great read, most of the time you're looking for a good book, not a particular publisher. Yes, this applies more to fiction, as there are some branded non-fiction books, reference material, that have a strong brand-publisher association. But for the most part, you're focusing on the story, on the book content, on the author.

So, shouldn't it be about the books?

There are certainly publishers that have done things I don't agree with - heck, there are great publishers that do things I disagree with, but that has never stopped me from enjoying a book that they released nor their author's work. That has never stopped me from actively hand-selling one of their titles when I felt it was just the right thing for a customer.

I, in fact, have participating in printing, selling and distributing books with my own bookstore's logo on it.  When I was at McMaster, operating the Espresso Book Machine, we created many books using the Titles on Demand imprint. I had a great relationship selling books to fellow booksellers and a relationship where we and the author all profited by making local author's books available through great print on demand technology. In fact, I likely sold more units of a particular book through Bryan Prince Bookseller (just down the street from my own bookstore at McMaster) than I did through my store. And it made me, my fellow booksellers down the street, and the customers, very happy to be able to enjoy a great book by a local author.

So, why, then, should that change just because the spine of the book says Amazon?

A book has been published, it is made available. An author's work is presented to be purchased and read.

Shouldn't it be about the book? Shouldn't it be about the writer and reader communicating?

As a bookseller, shouldn't my main concern be with connecting writers and readers? With introducing great new reading experiences to readers? With sharing my love for an author's latest work?

I mean, that's what drew me to become a bookseller in the first place -- that brilliant and beautiful connection I can help make when I link writer and reader together. When it happens correctly, you're part bookseller, part cupid.

So, shouldn't it be about that?

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