Keeping current is what we do here at BookNet, even as we exist in an industry as old as time – or at least as old as cave drawings (it counts!) — which means we're always reconciling old ways of doing business with new demands. This sometimes means shifting the focus from present practices to potential ones: the should/could be, not just the what is. So, to highlight the past, present, and future realities of bookselling in Canada, we have decided to pose the following five questions to the people on the ground, selling books to Canadians each and every day. Thus begins our retailer Q&A series: 5 questions with.
First up, Store Manager Sarah Ramsey from Toronto's Another Story Bookshop!
Meet Another Story Bookshop
Nestled in Toronto's Roncesvalles neighbourhood and open to the public seven days a week, Another Story Bookshop is not another bricks-and-mortar shop. It's a city staple that can boast 30 years (though they don't look a day over 29-and-a-half) of independent bookselling. Founded by the late Shelia Koffman, Another Story is a known and trusted source for diverse and social justice-themed titles for all ages.
1. Which author would you most like to have for an event in your store (living or dead)?
Nigel Slater. I adore him.
2. Speaking of adoration and attractive turtleneck sweaters, what attracted you to bookselling?
Books. Words. Ideas. And a staff discount.
3. Do you have a favourite bookselling war story?
I was working at a desk at Book City in Bloor West Village recently and a little girl, likely no older than five, was sitting behind me with a BIG stack of books on her lap. She started loudly squealing, and, at first, I was irritated by it. But then I listened to what she was saying, and she was proclaiming "These books are so beautiful!" and "This store is so beautiful!" and gosh, tears were welling in my eyes. She left with that stack of books. And that is why I do what I do.
*interview paused so misty-eyed BookNet could blow its nose*
4. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing bookselling today?
There are many issues facing bookselling: the lack of diversity in publishing (reflected in the lack of diversity in the industry and in the books that are being published); the continued commodification of books and the need, since the economic downturn, to buy books at the lowest price without respect for their real value; and the change in how people buy their books, and how bookstores persist in being showrooms for online retailers.
5. Our final and most pressing question: What forthcoming book are you most excited about?
I was waiting with bated breath for Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers and My Year of Rest & Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, but they're available now, so I'm hotly anticipating the release of Crudo by Olivia Laing.
Pop quiz! An aunt comes in looking for a gift for her niece, who likes embroidery and Proust, just got a new job on a cruise line, and whose beloved schnauzer just passed away. What do you recommend?
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Oh, you're good.