Booksellers Talking

Are you wondering what's happening on the frontlines and how technology, chains and the slumping economy are taking their toll on the bookselling community?

Three podcasts of note hit the airwaves in the last few weeks giving us a inside look on the current state of the trade.

Nigel Beale, host of the radio show The Biblio File, recently passed through the Twin Cities and interviewed booksellers Rob Rulon-Miller and Kathy Stransky co-owner of Midway Used and Rare Books
Beale's interviews are worth a listen. At around 20 minutes each they are long enough to give one a real sense of the challenges facing the trade both from a bookshop and home-based perspective.

The Stransky inteview, titled "Gloom and doom from the used book business?," is a jolt to one's bookselling senses. Stransky recounts how all the changes in the last 15 years have chipped away at the brick and mortar of her business. It is not a pretty sight and after listening I was ready to turn the keys to our shop over to the landlord and go hole up in an office somewhere far away. "Yes, it's been hard" says Stransky "but still, despite diminishing returns, nothing can beat doing what you love for a living."

The Rulon-Miller interview sheds light on the inner-workings of the antiquarian trade and the challenges this segment of the trade is facing in these times.

Rulon-Miller interview here
Stransky interview here

On a lighter note. Cy Musker of radio station KQED visited James Bryant, of Carpe Diem Books at his booth at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Apart from the 'book as object' argument that separates the non-new bookselling world from the publishing and new book world you get a sense of the depth and breadth of material exhibited; from a fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls to a book inscribed by John Lennon to Eric Clapton.

Note the last minute or so of the podcast is not book related

Also of Note: The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) under the guidance of bookseller Michael Ginsberg, has begun an oral history project. Ginsburg and others have been traveling to various book fairs to interview booksellers. Think of it as a Folkways for the bookselling trade. At this time none of these interviews have been made public. I am hoping that when the newly revamped ABAA website launches in June we will have access to this treasure-trove of bookselling history.