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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore

The Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive EssaysThe Care and Feeding of an Independent Bookstore: Three Instructive Essays by Ann Patchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge, MN, as part of Independent Bookstore Day. It's a short book but a good one. In this age of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores still thrive. Why is that?

The author, Ann Pratchett, owns Parnassus Books in Nashville. It consists of three essays about her experience. When the last independent bookstore, as well as Borders, in Nashville closed, she was approached about starting a new one. She was originally cool to the idea, but eventually she decided to go for it. As one person described her, she was like a chef who wanted to open a new restaurant. Mount Parnassus in Greek mythology is the home for poetry, music, and learning. In some traditions, it was also the home of the Muses. An appropriate name for a bookstore.

The bookstore went well, and is still going today. It got a big boost when the author was on The Colbert Report talking about her book. She describes her experiences with the bookstore, like employees, and dogs. She doesn't have a café, because she allows dogs to come into the store. (So does Scout & Morgan. They have two dogs on their logo.) There is also a list at the end of books she recommends. She encourages anyone who wants to open a bookstore to do so, provided you can get the money.

I like both types of bookstores. I will admit to getting books from Amazon that I can't get anywhere else. I also get a lot of Amazon gift cards. I will also admit to spending lots of time in Barnes & Noble. My first experience with Barnes & Noble was at Country Club Plaza in Kansas City. Three floors of books, all available for me, provided I had the money. I was in heaven. And yet, I do like the independent bookstores like Scout & Morgan. It's easier to talk to people, especially the owners. It feels more relaxing. I can sit an enjoy a potential new purchase. There's a café next door, so it's easy to get a drink and relax. The other night, our local bookstore sponsored Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove, in Cambridge, MN. He came from Sweden to be with us. That took a lot of work, and was a good event. I will have a separate post on my blog later about that.

I also like the different attitudes on book signings. I've gone to Mall of America book signings. There, you stand in line with your book, which is usually a celebrity autobiography. You get your book signed, a picture with the celebrity, and then you go on. It's like an assembly line. At Scout & Morgan, and at the event last night, the author interacts with the audience, and gets to know them. As an author myself Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident(Operation Mermaid: The Project Kraken Incident, available on Amazon), I like the second type better, although I wouldn't mind being in the Rotunda of Mall of America with a huge line to sign books.

All in all, this is a good little book. It was just for independent booksellers, and just for the one day. It does make me appreciate them more. While I'm mentioning independent bookstores, I'd like to give a shoutout to some other independent bookstores I've been to over the years. Paperbacks & Pieces and Book Shelf in Winona, MN, and Book People in Sioux City, IA.

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