Poets & Writers starts the new year with a new series of interviews with bookselling entrepreneurs, Inside Indie Bookstores. The first installment visits with Richard Howorth of Square Books: “It’s a very difficult business. But in many ways, I like the fact that it’s a difficult business. Otherwise, people who want to make money–by selling crap–would be trying to get into the book business. [Laughter.]”
Looking to the digital reckoning, he says: “I think bookstores offer an experience to book consumers that is unique. To be able to go into a place physically, to experience a sensation that is the precise opposite of all that is digital, and to talk to people about books in a business that has as one of its objectives a curatorial function and the presentation of literature as another–that is, I believe, irreplaceable. Of course, the question we all recognize is how the development of technology, in reducing the industry that creates the physical book, will change bookselling. Because there won’t be as many of these [books], and therefore the cost will go up.”
And he notes, “We’re selling more children’s books than ever. The level of enthusiasm and excitement about books from toddlers to first readers to adolescents and teens…if you go in there and hang around for a few hours, you would never even think that there might be such a thing as a digital book.”
The books he enjoyed selling the most in 2009 were Lark and Termite by Jayne Anne Phillips, A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore, The Missing by Tim Gautreaux, and Waveland by Frederick Barthelme. Books he’s excited about for 2010 already are: Jim Harrison’s new book, The Farmer’s Daughter; The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova; and Brad Watson’s new book of short stories, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives, “which has one of the best stories I’ve read in years, ‘Vacuum.'”
As reported on Friday afternoon, all 45 Borders UK and Books Etc. stores will close to the public on December 22 and be emptied out by December 24, when the entire staff of approximately 1,100 people will lose their jobs. With no buyer for the business, administrators MCR are still trying to sell off individual store leases and other assets. They have promised employees that they will be paid what they are owed.