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Lending a Hand to the Little Guy

posted January 11, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books independent


Let’s say you’re a small, independent bookseller that unfortunately happens to be down the street from some giant megastore chain that offers deep discounts on the same books you’re trying to sell at full retail price. You’re probably out of luck and better off opening a hot dog stand, right? Well, maybe not. I just read an article about such a case in England.

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People Like Us: The Merge Model

posted October 14, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in independent publishing



Back in July Merge Records celebrated its 20th anniversary as an independent record label. Harper Studio noted the occasion and suggested that book publishers might learn something from Merge’s success. Here’s the background on this remarkable indie project, as given by NPR.

Merge was founded in 1989 in Chapell Hill, North Carolina, by Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance (of the band Superchunk) with the purpose of documenting and making more broadly available the fruits of their own vibrant local music scene.

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Keeping up with the E-Joneses

posted September 16, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling E-books books independent publishing

Village Books
Image by brewbooks via Flickr

Every day it seems another independent bookseller goes out of business. You can blame the economy,, the Internet, or maybe your neighbor, but the facts remain—stores are closing, and people aren’t buying as many books as they used to.

Some booksellers, however, are putting up a fight. Village Books, an independent bookseller in Bellingham, Washington, has embraced technology and plans to offer customers high-tech options in addition to traditional paper books. The store has partnered with Symtio to provide audiobooks and ebooks. Customers will purchase a book in the form of a product card at the store; the card then allows them to download the book wherever they have an Internet connection.

Village Books will also be home to an Espresso Book Machine. The EBM is a print-on-demand book-making machine. Not only can customers purchase, print, and bind out-of-print books but they can also create self-published books. Village Books is banking on the belief that there will be demand for out-of-print local books. There are only a handful of EBMs in retail stores across the nation.

So Long, Quartet Press, Sassy Publisher of Romance Novels

posted September 11, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in E-books independent publishing

Who doesn’t get seduced by the Internet? Always on, always clothed in beautiful colors, always full of stories to tell. It almost seems real, like something’s alive, like something’s there. Though admittedly from an aerial view, we all must seem a bit pathetic staring at our illuminated screens.

Wednesday night I had nothing better to do than to eat a light dinner—Gouda with cumin, mâche with tomato—and to read a short book I just bought, Insoupçonnable (Beyond Suspicion) by Tanguy Viel, a thriller about family deceit in the south of France. But before doing that, it seemed like a good idea to shut off my illuminating little seducer.

That’s when I saw the news, a bleak tweet stuffed in its 140-character jacket.

quartet2 QuartetPress  I truly hate being the bearer of bad news, but it has to be announced: Quartet Press has disbanded. 1 hour ago from TweetDeck


How can I explain my reaction? It was something like a heavy object and a thud. And suddenly gone were all thoughts of family intrigue in the south of France. I had a real death to consider.

There was, however, one problem.

I didn’t know anyone personally at Quartet Press. I just thought I did, sort of, in an Internet way. Quartet Press was an ebook publisher recently started with great fanfare and confidence, its little Windows-like flag flying bravely into the new world of publishing. But it didn’t last long enough to publish a single book.

So why did I care?

Quartet Press was to publish romance novels, a project far from our own. They were going to focus on ebooks, while we will be offering both paper and electronic options. But I admired the enthusiasm of its site, its clear desire to do something new, its courage. And, I guess, in the mysterious way the Internet, or a book, makes you believe in what you can’t see, I was seduced by the drama of another new publisher.

Only yesterday morning did I learn the cause of death: higher than expected editorial and technological costs. Kat Meyer, one of the quartet heading the press, said, “The financial risk was increased beyond what our financial backer was able to accept, and the only options we had were to close or to regroup and go forward without financing,”

So adieu, Quartet Press, onetime maker of digitized, illuminated colors on my screen. I’ll miss you, whoever you were.

Why Does France Have More Independent Bookstores?

posted July 21, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in Bookselling books independent

Not long ago I went to the Festival du Livre in Nice. Set in a park two minutes from the sea, the book festival featured scores of writers, all lined up at tables with their books. As it was summer and the sky was blue, it was blissful to meander from one table to another, talking to writers and buying books.

But no need to imagine. Here is a video of the Nice book festival, including scenes of the sea, a market, writers signing books, even a socialist union demonstration. It was filmed by Valérie Bonnier, a French actress turned novelist. 

How is the book business in France? Well, consider these numbers. France, with a population of 65 million people, has 3,500 independent bookstores. The United States, with 300 million people, has 2,200. France not only has more independent bookstores but, per capita, tops the United States seven to one.

Why? One reason might be France’s “prix unique du livre,” which allows publishers (or in the case of foreign books, importers) to set book prices. Thus, an independent bookstore in a small street in Paris has the same prices as A maximum 5 percent discount is allowed.

France is not alone. Twelve other countries in Europe have fixed book prices. Switzerland, which had abandoned fixed prices, took the first step toward reinstating them this year.

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