Saturday, September 25, 2010

In praise of dusty little bookstores - Sally Koslow

Last Thursday did not bode well for my reading and signing of my most recent novel, With Friends like These. The event was in Greenwich, Connecticut, where early that morning I discovered that President Obama would also be visiting. As the day passed, many friends and students who’d told me they planned to attend the reading let me know they were scared off by potential gridlock. Then, an hour before the reading, rain started pelting in Biblical fashion. No one will show up, I thought, as I splashed along the highway to Connecticut. But—surprise, surprise—that was not the case.

The minute I opened the door to Diane’s Books I entered a readers’ paradise, stocked to the ceiling with a well-edited collection of contemporary fiction, classics as well as new titles. This is the kind of store, I instantly recognized, that makes you excited to read.

Attendance that evening was excellent because, the second thing I discovered was that many of those in the audience knew the store’s reputation and realized that if Diane’s Books had gotten behind a book, is has to be good. The staff, starting with owner Diane Garrett, has read every volume in stock and freely offers recommendations. If you wander into her shop and say, for example, “I like books about sisters,” you will walk out with two or three novels you’ll adore. Soon you will tell your friends, “Go to Diane’s. You can trust her taste.”

Diane introduced me with a warm recount of how much she had enjoyed With Friends like These. She commented on the authenticity of the characters’ dilemmas and suggested that the story would be appreciated by book clubs, whose members could mull over the plot and characters as well as discuss whether in their own lives they’d dealt with similar challenges in friendship. As I heard Diane praise my book, I realized, with a lump in my throat, that she was a bookseller who completely understood my intentions.

I left Diane’s charming shop convinced that we all must go out of our way to support small bookstores that offer personal attention, especially since where we buy books and in what form we read them is changing so fast it makes our brains feel like carousel horses. It was only 2007—so recent I don’t consider my clothes from that year “old”-- when I had the incredible experience of seeing my first novel published. (Little Pink Slips was based on having a magazine taken over by a celebrity, which happened to me when I was editing McCall’s and Rosie O’Donnell knocked on the door.) When my debut novel came out E-readers weren’t around in a major way. By last year, when The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, my second novel, was published, however, early adaptors had bought E-Readers and the novel received some sales of this type; nothing major, though.

From what I can tell, in one brief year, the balance has now tilted dramatically toward E-Readers. With Friends like These is being enthusiastically embraced by their readers, who increasingly include my closest buddies. I’m enormously grateful for these sales and recognize E-readership’s convenience and economy. Still, to me, nothing beats a hardcover’s unique possibility: passing on a book to another reader who will relish it as much as you do. (With Friends like These, I’m proud to say, is that kind of book. Several people I know have told me they’ve even bought multiple copies to give to friends.)

Let’s give a shout out for dusty little hole-in-the-wall bookstores owned by people who love reading so much they’ve open a shop partly to indulge their guilty pleasure. In fact, let’s do better. The next time you buy a book, make your purchase at a small bookstore in your area. Then, when you’ve finished your book, share it with a friend.

Sally Koslow

**Sally's giving away 3 copies of With Friends Like These!  Just leave a comment and we'll pick winners in a few days.  Good luck!**


mariska said...

i still want to smell of paper when i read a book :) that's why i want to read yours !!

susanwilson44 said...

What a fabulous post! My husband bought me an ereader last year as he said we were about to be killed by the avalanche of books on my bedside table. So I'm the worst kind of book hoarder. If I like it on the ereader and then go and buy a "real" copy that I can keep forever!

Caroline said...

Great post - so glad you had a good day. I love attending book signings - they are always fun events. Caroline x

Linda Henderson said...

I love print books. I know eventually I'll have to get an e-reader but I really can't get excited about reading a book that way. I go to little bookstores whenever I can, I really enjoy browsing around in them and finding little gems.

Alison said...

I love books. I can't imagine ever giving them up in favour of a e-reader - I know I'd drop it in the bath at some point!

Laurie said...

The book store that I loved closed about 2 years ago when both of the owners Mary and Nancy developed health issues.

I am able to visit another when I venture down to Florida. Maggie & Sally have quite a collection of books. They are always willing to order or search for any book you might want.
I love the personal touch!

gigi said...

I still love my paper books but I am seeing the merits of an e-reader. I an thinking of the ease of changing the font size. Since I am on the other side of 45 I am having to wear reading glasses and I think an e-reader would be an answer to that problem for me.
I wish we had more book sellers in my area but it is a small town. I know of only one real book store in my immediate area.
I am hoping over to your site to check out your book more.

Rachel said...

What an inspiring story! I love coming across books I've never heard of or wouldn't have found if not for a bookstore, and indie bookstores are great for that as well as heartfelt, genuine recommendations. If I'm ever in Greenwich I'll definitely stop by.

Kirsten said...

I'm really old-fashioned and adore the old paperbacks. Nothing as satisfying as turning an actual page and placing your bookmark one step closer to the HEA. So I often visit "my own" little bookshop. Most of the time they order the books that I want, but that are not in store, just for me.

robynl said...

I love the quaint little book stores one comes across once in awhile when travelling.

Paper books for me for the most part as I love having books on a shelf or in a cabinet; my e-reader is great for taking with to appointments or reading while dh is in a store I don't have any need to go into.

Estella said...

I love print books, but also read ebooks.
Haven't had a bookstore in my area in quite a few years.

Rebekah E. said...

I love print books but tend to get over run by them. So I would like to try out a e-book reader maybe it would help with the book clutter.

Mary said...

I love little bookstores and I'm so lucky to live in Las Vegas where there seems to be an abundance of book stores just like that.

I went to my favorite book store the other day and I was the only one in there, it was so different from going into let's say Borders, where there might be several people in the isle I want to go into and it's hard to see all the books on the shelf because there's so many people in there.

I ended up buying 6 books because I was able to take my time and no one was bumping into me. lol

I still buy more paperback books than ebooks and I believe I probably always will. I like to be able to hold them, put them on my shelf, give them to my mom to read.

Michele L. said...

Your blog is right up my alley, Sally! I just love little, cozy bookstores! Our Barnes & Noble is a little smaller than usual, and has such a cozy atmosphere. I love it there! We also have some hole-in-the-wall bookstores that have old books. So much fun!

Then my favorite is this bookstore uptown that is in a person's house. It is so cool! She has a reading area under her stairs which also turns into a corner. It is the coolest thing! Her whole shop is a juxtoposition of in's and outs, hideaway's, etc.

Yes, my favorite is holding a paperback in my hands and smelling the paper. I always love the artwork that graces the cover. The colors always attract me, and entice to pick up a book.

Can you tell that I love to read books? Congrats on your book, Sally!

Sally Koslow said...

It's been incredibly gratifying to read the comments to my blog post in praise of supporting cozy little bookstores run by readers who love and know their stock. Glad to see I'm not alone. Thank you! Sally Koslow

Pat Cochran said...

What a love lady! Would that there
were more bookstore owners like Ms.
Diane! I occasionally run into a
clerk in one of the chain stores
who is close to being a treasure.
Such a person is among the few and
far between!

Pat Cochran

Lil said...

A good bookstore is a wonderful thing. I haven't seen as many of the small cozy ones as I had in years past and I have been mourning that. The bookstore you wrote about sounds like just the kind of inviting place I love with the staff actually knowledgeable about the books.

I read both print and ebooks with my preference in reading the print form. Perhaps it is because I associated all of the pleasures of reading with the entire experience. Holding the book of my choice and feeling the weight of it, flipping each page, having a fun bookmark if I should need to mark my place. Even the smell of a new book makes me happy.

I know the arguments for ebook reading, too. Near instant gratification when purchasing online, no need to worry about physical shelf space, ability to make the size of print larger if needed. Still, it doesn't really give me the comfort of holding and reading a print book.

host said...

It is nice to hear that there are still wonderful people who love their job very much and are willing to make an extra effort for their customers :)
I love paper books so much more then e-books; it just a feeling of having the book in my hands, the smell, the sound of ruffling paper, that makes them so lovable.

traveler said...

What an excellent and lovely post. You summed up exactly how I feel about books, reading and charming, independent bookstores. They are vital to our communities and add an extra dimension to our book world. I enjoy books and reading is my passion, especially the feel of the paper and the way they can transport me to another time and realm.

petite said...

I appreciate your post about the value of reading and the importance of these amazing bookstores as well. What a delightful place to have your signing and to meet Diane. She is a treasure. Paper books will always take precedence over e-books. I am old fashioned and enjoy meaningful books that are cherished.

Amazingrose said...

I love printed book and i would love to read your book.

Brishen Maree said...

I love small independent bookstores for their selection of autographed books and their willingness to bring in authors to do signings and readings. However, the bigger stores usually have coupons more often, so my habit isn't quite as hard on the wallet.

For the physical book vs. the e-book... I have to say, I would prefer a book book any day. I love the feel and the smell of the books. However, the Kindle is convenient to have in lines or waiting in a restaurant, and if I have a knitting project that needs to get done, the books on my laptop come in handy. For this reason, I generally have several books going at one time. But if given the option, without circumstances, I would choose the paper book any day!

Congrats on the book!