Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An Homage To Bookstores

Independent bookstores are undergoing a happy resurgence and yet they are precariously endangered.  There’s a book that serves as a celebration of independent bookstores everywhere and for all those who love books:  Footnotes From the World’s Greatest Bookstores by Bob Eckstein.

The introduction from Eckstern says it all:

“Bookstores are emotional places both for their patrons and for the employees.  They are built on the sweat and tears of hardworking people, each bookshelf lined with the life work of hundreds of artists.  Each of those books represent endless hours of grind and toil.  Often the bookstore owner and employees are also writers.  Is there a space with more fulfilled or unfulfilled dreams?

“The bookstore is also a hangout, a place of solace, a community center, and a venue for cultural entertainment.  There are many who absolutely live for bookstores and even those who aspire to live in a bookstore, with some bookstores providing a place to sleep in exchange for work.  What other type of store does that?  The relationship between bookstores and their customers is give-and-take, reliant on loyalty and generosity.  Customers work on the honor system and should be applauded-bookstores can be taken advantage of, dispensing free expertise and human contact only to have their place of business used as a catalog for online shopping, or a library, or simply a restroom.  Bookshop owners and employees are a very patient group.”

Eckstein, a New Yorker cartoonist, gathered the untold stories from 75 of the world’s most renowned bookstores – past and present – and provided evocative color illustrations of each shop.  He literally shows a portrait of our lifelong love affair with books and the indie bookshops that sell them to us.  His renderings cherish these sanctuaries for learning, dreaming, escaping – each one a unique, character-filled home to the community it serves.

Some of the stores featured include:
·         Scribner’s Bookstore, NYC, 1913-1989.
·         Strand Book Store, NYC, 1927-Present.
·         Brattle Book Shop, Boston, 1925-Present.
·         Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Cambridge, MA, 1927-Present.
·         Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon, 1971-Present.
·         Moracan Book Shop, Bethlehem, PA, 1745-Present.
·         Books & Books, South Florida, 1982-Present.
·         Giovanni’s Room, Philadelphia, 1973-Present.

“The real problem with the book business is that smart people have gotten too busy to read,” wrote Garrison Keillor in the foreword.  “You know it’s true.  When my bookstores goes under,  I will at last have time to pick up a book, sit down, and read it for hour after hour.  That’s the good life.  I’ll walk into your bookstore, dear reader, and stand over the fiction table and glance at the waves, read the first paragraphs and the jacket flaps of fifteen novels, pick two, go to the counter, commiserate with you about the sad state of the world, and go home and read.  I look forward to that.”

Book Factoids

·         L. Ron Hubbard is the most published author in history, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.  He released 1,084 books, 29 of which were novels.

·         Is book publishing the domain of women?  An AP survey found that nearly 80% of the novels purchased are by women.  The majority of literary agents, and book editors are women as well. 

·         Robert Byrne, in his 1968 book, Writing Rackets, claimed only 560 of the 182,505 fiction manuscripts submitted to US publishers each year in the late 1960s were accepted.  That’s one out of every 364.

·         A little over 70 years ago – in – 1947 – Doubleday became the largest U.S. Publisher, selling more than 30 million copies annually. Penguin Random House is the largest book publisher today.

·         Authors with 100 million-plus copies sold include James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Jeffrey Archer, Mary Higgins Clark, Nora Roberts, Anne Rice, Janet Dailey, and E.L. James, among others.

·         There are many one-hit wonders, writers who penned amazing breakthrough books that garnered critical acclaim and great sales figures, but who would never come close to that success again.  Coming to mind are James Redfield (Celestine Prophesy), Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain), James Walter (Bridges of Madison County), and Xavier Hollander (The Happy Hooker).  Why didn’t they repeat their success?

Source:  An Insider’s Guide to Publishing:  Historical Perspectives on the Publishing Business by David Comfort (Writer’s Digest:  2013).


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.”

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