I’m awake in the middle of the night in New York City – not in the Maritime Hotel, where I’d like to be soaking my heat stroked body in a cool Gin & Stormy, but stone sober in my bed reflecting on my day today, and steeling myself for tomorrow’s meetings with Gotham’s bigger publishers.
Ostensibly, we’re here to pitch our more than 200 event per year reading series to their publicity departments so that they’ll send their authors to St. Louis in general, and us in particular. The reality is that we’re selling the idea that publishers, authors and readers still need bookstores.
Sometimes the act of selling and reselling this idea to other people, especially the publishers (who have found themselves somewhat paddle-less in this dammed up creek of an industry), is invigorating. Language isn’t just powerful between the covers of a book, it’s just as powerful in naming your own fate. In fact, that’s how the purveyors of the notion that the Kindle is Christ returned have succeeded in convincing us that we need to follow, lock step, into the Amazonian future – and that anyone who rejects that notion just doesn’t get it because they’re a luddite or are delusional. They simply control the conversation. They spout statistics about the increase in e-Book consumption and seamlessly equate that with Amazon.
Above every conversation involving books, e-books, publishing, writing or reading hangs the specter of the apparently inevitable world domination of one e-tailer. Even if that’s not what we’re talking about – that’s what we’re talking about.
Yeah, I could go on and on about how they do this – from tax evasion to the DOJ’s bogus anti-trust lawsuit against anyone else trying to sell e-books to the simultaneous no-bid contract with the United States government to buy Kindles.
But what I’m really thinking about tonight is my woodworking shop in my garage at home, and my bicycle that’s waiting for me to ride it, and my son who just got his first tattoo, and the stack of 6 books on my nightstand waiting patiently to be read, and the friendship and respect I feel for the co-workers who surround me every day. A word from our sponsors – This life was brought to you by an independent bookstore.
I guess this is why I’m up in the middle of the night doing our payroll and paying Simon & Schuster before we meet with them tomorrow. Because as invigorating as changing the conversation is, as necessary as it is to name our own fate, it is also endless and stressful. Many times too much so. I can think of a few booksellers who’ve moved on because of it.
But to badly paraphrase Tom Hanks, there’s no crying in bookselling. So I will close with this, wake up tomorrow, tilt at a windmill or two, and count myself lucky.
Then I might go have a drink.