Archive for the ‘who wants to be a bookseller’ Category

A potential future for indie bookselling

Just quick post regarding this item in today’s Shelf Awareness:

“The French National Book Centre awarded more than 400 independent bookstores the new three-year quality label. Bookseller.com reported that booksellers ‘had to respond to a number of criteria to qualify for the LIR, or librairies indépendantes de référence. These included deriving at least half their turnover from the sale of books, proof of independence, diversity of stock, the quality of staff and services, and a strong programme of events.

‘In exchange, they are entitled to exoneration from the payroll tax, or taxe professionnelle (TP), that is levied by local authorities, starting from next year. The label, which was officially launched last April, was one of the proposals in the ‘Plan Livre’ that was adopted by the cabinet in November 2007 to bolster the book business.'”

Ever since someone told me that in Switzerland, booksellers are required to be certified, I’ve been thinking that US booksellers should hop on the bandwagon. (NB: I have no idea if that’s actually true about the certification, but it got the wheels turning anyway.)

Bookselling, in our culture and for the average person, is a retail job. A slightly more interesting retail job, and maybe even a cool one? Certainly. But it’s also a job you take while finishing your MFA. There is very little professional credibility in working full-time for a bookstore outside of the book industry.

Now, you and I and the lamppost know that this is ridiculous. Most people in bookselling are woefully over-educated, and in addition, have a strange skillset that makes them good at their job. We tend to know too much about a few select types of books (collections of 18th century love letters, Russian literature of the mid-1970s, books about the cultivation of oranges, etc). We also tend to know enough to get by while talking about almost any book, and enough to bullshit when talking about the rest. Some of this we learned while completing useless bachelor’s degrees, but the rest we obtained honestly, through hours and days and weeks of time logged behind the counter and on the floor, the way you learn any trade.

So I think we should have a certificate or something, I don’t know what. A school. A quality label. Whatever! Something that would make materially clear what we already know to be true. Would it be very hard to quantify what makes a good bookstore and a good bookseller? Probably. Would it lead to squabbling? Almost certainly. But it’d be worth it, I think.

This is all scrabble-dash, though. What do you think? Would people be reassured to see a pretty certificate in a frame when they walked in the shop? Could it lead to a greater awareness of the greatest asset of the indie bookseller—knowledge—which currently does not seem to resonate with the wider public? Discuss.

It’s time to play…V

Who! Wants! To Be! A Bookseller!

First, yesterday’s answers.  The yellow book with Arial font was No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July.  The graphic novel I was looking for was The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert.  Donuts to Liberty and jjchristie when they are next in town!  (Or, depending on how you feel about stale donuts, I can ship one.)

Today’s game is courtesy of Katherine at Bunch of Grapes (on Twitter: @KatherineBoG).  I don’t know the answer either, so she will be the judge.  Prize is a donut.  All prizes will be donuts from now on.

“My all time fave: 2 cousin hamsters, B&W picture book, but there’s a piece of nougat in color, French author. Can you get it?”

Keep in mind that the first tip for playing Who Wants To Be A Bookseller is that none of the clues are guaranteed to be correct.