About a year ago, I heard one of my favorite independent publishers, Milkweed Editions, was opening an independent bookstore focusing primarily on small press titles. Milkweed is based in Minneapolis and I wished such a bookstore was closer to home.
This past summer, I got a taste of what a small press-only bookstore might be like when I attended a literary festival where most of the purveyors of books were from independent publishers. The books are edgier, riskier, and more subversive and unique than what you'd find in your typical chain bookstore. It was abundantly clear that, for these publishers, the books are chosen because there are hardcore readers in charge who love them, not because they're what the publishing industry has deemed easy to sell.
While the festival had to pack up and move on, my wish for an indie bookstore geared toward small press titles in my city came true last week when Two Dollar Radio opened their retail space at 1124 Parsons Ave. in Columbus, OH.
In addition to books, they also have coffee, booze, and a vegan lunch counter with a mean eggplant burger. Take my money; take it all.
On top of already being excited that a new indie bookstore just opened in my city, I was THRILLED to see Two Dollar Radio Headquarters packed out when I arrived. Clearly, other people are just as excited as I am!
There's people in the nonfiction section.
And there's people in the fiction section.
Did I mention that I own an absurd amount of the books on these shelves? You're looking at about a third of my library.
Even with it being pretty packed and books flying off the shelves (seriously! there was bare shelf space within an hour of the opening!) I managed to buy 4 books:
- Not One Day by Anne Garréta
- The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (fascinating woman!)
- There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker
- The First Collection of Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic by Jessica Hopper
The first two are books in translation, which I found because the store has an AMAZING selection of translated books. I took notice because this is something 90% of bookstores suck at. Newsflash to chain bookstores: Stieg Larsson and Fredrik Backman aren't the only good authors who don't write in English...
While I haven't heard anything officially announced, I can't help thinking all that wide open space will be especially useful for author talks, book signings, and other literary events.
And who wouldn't want to read from their work in front of a unicorn mural? Let's get a close up on that.
I feel unicorn-level just looking at it.
Now, back to the books. Notice something about the displays?
The books are all facing out! No digging for a book and not being able to find it. No glancing at a million book spines and accidentally overlooking a book you might like just because you didn't see it.
Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing and easier for the customer to find what they need, I can't help but think it'd cut down on people constantly asking booksellers to help them find a particular book. They're abiding by my life's philosophy: "work smarter, not harder."
True to my blog's title, "off the beaten shelf," I make an effort to read things that aren't as celebrated as they should be. I like looking for the unsung heroes of literature––the authors who are doing new, interesting things and aren't getting the props they deserve for it. That's one of the reasons I'm drawn to indie books and why I'm glad I now have an indie bookstore (that's "indie" in multiple senses of the word) in my city. I'll be chronicling the books I pick up there since they probably won't appear in the books section at Target, but are every bit as deserving of attention.
Got a favorite indie bookstore in your town? Read a great indie press book lately?
Tell me in the comments below!