Thursday, July 31, 2014

Indie Booksellers: 'Indispensible Players in Community Life'

Shelf Awareness

"It may seem like the e-book behemoth is taking over the publishing industry, but a trip to North Carolina proves that local bookshops have become indispensible players in community life," the Daily Beast noted in the sub-head for author Bill Morris's piece headlined "Amazon Won't Kill the Indie Bookstore."

Bill Morris reading at Scuppernong Books
Bill Morris reading at Scuppernong Books
One of the bookstores Morris read at on his recent tour for Motor City Burning was Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, which "didn't exist when I started writing my novel.... Indeed, the crowd at my reading was attentive, inquisitive--and willing to spend money on printed books. This intimate contact is vital to both readers and writers--and it's something that can't be replicated online. For readers, it's a chance to get inside the process of how books get made. For writers, who spend years in solitude putting words on a page, it's an invaluable chance to connect with their audience."

Scuppernong co-owner Brian Lampkin said, "For me and the six people who work here, it was something that was missing from our lives--a place where ideas and conversation matter. When you walk in the door, you feel like you're among human beings. The gratitude we got from the community was shocking. We're not going to get rich, but we're paying people well and giving them a sweet life. It's great for downtown. Independent bookstores are intellectual centers of a city."

As for Amazon, Lampkin observed: "I would like to say there's room in the world for everyone--if Amazon felt that way. When I worked at a bookstore in Seattle, the company was revered as part of the growing internet economy. But now I see them as the giant vampire squid, the enemy of the independent bookstore. I do have a sense that I must resist, but I can also see how they're good for writers."

Morris also read at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, where co-owner Tom Campbell told him: "What we've done to respond to all that is to still be people who are interested in books and can have a conversation. Books are intimate things, and we can provide something that Amazon can't. People still like to walk into a physical place and pick up books and talk to people. It's almost retro in today's environment, like vinyl....

"People don't have as much time as they used to have. They don't read as many book reviews. We can guide people to books that we or someone in the business feels strongly about--and that helps. People need more guidance now."

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