Bookshop Independence

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A Blogversation between Matt Kubus and Yolana Wassersug:

Matt:

We all know that had it not been for Gonzalo, who ‘furnished [Prospero] from [his] own library with volumes that [he] prized,’ Prospero would have been marooned on the island without the ability to perform any magic. He couldn’t have enslaved Caliban, freed Ariel, or instructed his daughter. In a sense, The Tempest, as a narrative, could not have existed. It was his library of books that, for Prospero, was a ‘dukedom large enough’.

Yolana:

Many of our bookshop patrons share Prospero’s love of books. And many of those patrons come back and visit us again and again, happy to return to the familiar look and smell of our little bookshop. We are certainly not the only independent bookseller to be blessed with such a loyal following. Take, for instance, the much loved Flying Dragon Bookshop (an indepedent shop located in the Lakeside neighborhood of Toronto, Canada). Only one week after winning the Speciality Bookseller of the Year Award from the Canadian Booksellers Association, they have been forced to announce that they are closing their doors this June. This sad story, and so many others like it, reveal that even popular, well-loved independent booksellers don’t always survive our harsh economic climate.

Matt:

I think that it’s possible that there is an even greater problem at work. I’m concerned about the book industry in general. It seems that books as material objects are becoming a thing of the past with the invention of the e-reader, etc. There is something about the tangible product, the smell of a brand new book that is so very tantalizing to me. But, before I digress too much, I would agree with you that there should be mass concern about the welfare of specialist independent bookshops. Our shop is one of the best in our particular specialisation, and it would be a disastrous day if we were no longer able to do business because of the service that we provide to our loyal customers. Unlike most shops in Stratford, we are one that does not survive solely on the tourist market, but on the students and lovers of Shakespeare from all over the world who keep coming back again and again.

Yolana:

You’re absolutely right. Like many independent shops that partipate in community-building initiatives, our bookshop does more than just sell books. We’re here to educate. Because we are part of the Birthplace Trust, we fit under their motto “leading in the world’s enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s Life and Times”. Our contribution to that mission statement is to add to the understanding of this subject by selling books on Shakespeare that are suitable to any reader, be they children, scholars, or people who want to start reading Shakespeare but never have before.

Matt:

So, I suppose what we’re trying to say is to support your favourite local, independent bookshop! Leave a comment and tell us which shops around the world are your favourites! Then, come in and chat with us where we’ve always been: our lovely location at 39 Henley Street, just across from Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LVUJIGS66KPT3TC7B7KCR6AWWQ Robbie

    The Drama Book Shop in midtown Manhattan is a wonderful resource for anyone associated with theatre.  Occupying two floors, the store offers texts, periodicals, and memorabilia for actors, writers, and those who simply love to read about the performing arts.  In addition, the shop also hosts play readings and performances of new works that are offered for free or for a very reasonable fee.  One never knows who they will see browsing through the titles and it is not unusual to see a Broadway or film star or a famous playwright spending some quiet time walking through the stacks.  It is a lovely respite in an otherwise busy neighborhood.  I do recommend a visit to anyone coming to New York City.

  • Anonymous

    We should, indeed, all be concerned – but I think it is not really about the ‘materiality’ of books versus the ‘virtuality’ of e-books..If it were, it would be the same as arguing that seeing Shakespeare played was morally better than reading the words, or  similar modal comparison.
    Your delightful bookshop, along with the Trust, is developing ‘enjoyment and knowledge’ through myriad formats and channels. That would seem to me to be the ideal..Goose, ganders sauce etc. Established lovers of books, learning, poetry, theatre, stories etc will always find ways of sharing and enthusing. and hopefully be creative and innovative (like you) all the time, not grumpy and curmudgeonly, like…****
    The real worry is surely one of economics and who controls cultural hegemony. Technology has the potential to enable us to engage with each other more freely, as we are doing here, but that is the teflon of the electronic revolution – a convenient byproduct. Take the Google book settlement (luckily unsettled still), technology here is part of a powerful global juggernaut where ‘their’ bottom line certainly does not benefit those at the bottom.. ie authors, writers and other classes of people who have only their individual time and talent to ‘sell’.
    My house is already held up by piles of books (I love the smell of foxing in the morning), my family literally and metaphorically would not have a roof over their heads without the concreteness of books. But we are, for all our heady brainpower, pathetically subject to a market which is lowering contract rates and eroding  residual rights (which take us above minimum wage) as fast as any 19th century industrialist.
    Places like your bookshop hopefully can survive as physical gathering places as well as repositories for books – the physical manifestations of our thoughts- Let us get together, whether with books or kindles, we have nothing to lose but our brains.

  • Anonymous

    We should, indeed, all be concerned – but I think it is not really about the ‘materiality’ of books versus the ‘virtuality’ of e-books..If it were, it would be the same as arguing that seeing Shakespeare played was morally better than reading the words, or  similar modal comparison.
    Your delightful bookshop, along with the Trust, is developing ‘enjoyment and knowledge’ through myriad formats and channels. That would seem to me to be the ideal..Goose, ganders sauce etc. Established lovers of books, learning, poetry, theatre, stories etc will always find ways of sharing and enthusing. and hopefully be creative and innovative (like you) all the time, not grumpy and curmudgeonly, like…****
    The real worry is surely one of economics and who controls cultural hegemony. Technology has the potential to enable us to engage with each other more freely, as we are doing here, but that is the teflon of the electronic revolution – a convenient byproduct. Take the Google book settlement (luckily unsettled still), technology here is part of a powerful global juggernaut where ‘their’ bottom line certainly does not benefit those at the bottom.. ie authors, writers and other classes of people who have only their individual time and talent to ‘sell’.
    My house is already held up by piles of books (I love the smell of foxing in the morning), my family literally and metaphorically would not have a roof over their heads without the concreteness of books. But we are, for all our heady brainpower, pathetically subject to a market which is lowering contract rates and eroding  residual rights (which take us above minimum wage) as fast as any 19th century industrialist.
    Places like your bookshop hopefully can survive as physical gathering places as well as repositories for books – the physical manifestations of our thoughts- Let us get together, whether with books or kindles, we have nothing to lose but our brains.

  • Anonymous

    There’s something very special about books as objects that can’t be replaced by e-books, convenient as they are. A bookshop like the Shakespeare Bookshop gives customers the opportunity to browse before buying, and the staff are helpful and knowledgeable.

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