Friday, September 16, 2011

"Where Do You Buy Your Books?"

“Where do you buy your books?” Sweeney was asking this in the context of a longer rant about the state of publishing. This post is accompanied by a photograph of Sweeney taken on “the happiest day of my life,” in June 2010 at the bar at the Land’s End, in Homer, Alaska. Sweeney had just read his story “Over the Mountains” to a highly supportive and enthusiastic crowd at the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference. By the way I strongly recommend Sweeney’s book, The List, available from the publisher :

It will set you back to the amount of about three glasses of Fairweather IPA, and is, actually, more satisfying (which, if you know how much I like Fairweather IPA, is saying a lot).

Anyway, his question is a good one and, though I claim to prefer independent booksellers, is that really how it boils down, in practice? So going back to my last post about summer reading, I am tracking here the scenes of purchase for those titles.

The Atlantic Summer Fiction issue: Barnes & Noble, Anchorage (the only place I could think of to get it).

Jim Harrison, The Farmer’s Daughter: Tidal Wave Books, Anchorage. This is my go-to bookstore. The place I most wish to stay a vibrant business forever.

Dan Simmons, Drood: Mecosta Book Gallery, Mecosta Michigan, about midway between Mt. Pleasant and Big Rapids on M-20. A shockingly awesome used bookstore in the middle of nowhere. I would have bought more books, even had the titles picked-- but would have had to ship them home—too much of hassle.

Fermor, A Time of Gifts: B&N, Grand Rapids, MI. Surprised to see it, had been searching.

Woman In White, Wilkie Collins A generic bargain books joint in a dying Grand Rapids mall. Saw a lot of remaindered books, more than a few I had paid full price for in years past (always the way!).

The Herzog and the Japanese graphic novel came from Amazon, where I had a massive coupon.

The Roskelly and Murch/Ondaatje came from independent booksellers through Amazon.

The first edition Teton Guide by Leigh Ortenburger came from Tidal Wave.

What does all this mean, besides the fact that I have an out-of-control book buying jones?

I’m not sure.

I want all these places to keep doing business—even Barnes and Noble. I actually miss Borders—which happened to be the nearest bookstore to my current home. And I want writers to continue to be able to get their work published, and I want publishers to keep publishing. What’s the best way to operate to ensure all those ends?

Wish I knew.

I don’t think anyone does know the answer to that question.

I’d buy every book I could directly from the author selling it out of the trunk of her Ford LTD, if I could. If the hypothetical she could. But most of us, whether consumer of books or writer, can’t operate this way. Although, now that I think of it, the aforementioned Sweeney has given it one hell of shot.

Next: a couple cases about publishing: BlazeVOX & the curious case of Kiana Davenport and the Big 6.

Photo disclaimer: Sweeney actually looks a lot less goofy in real life than he does in attached photo. Sorry about that , Jim!

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