Kate Brittain builds an online database of indie book sellers:

One thing that became apparent, as I clicked through a few thousand bookstore websites, was the diversity of their dispositions. Through some amalgamation of the places where they reside and the people who run them, they are fitted to their communities in a way Amazon will never be.

…as I entered name after name into the database, wandering virtually into every store I could discover between our shining seas, I ceased, slowly, to worry. A conviction took hold in my heart: that whatever the outcome of this corporate kerfuffle, the bookstores—and so, too, what they support: books and writers and their communities—will survive this perilous moment.

Unfortunately, the numbers and the news reports don’t allow for my dismissal of doom. They say this is the end of book culture as we know it—or: How could anyone fight Goliath? What I think is, if we give up now on the Black Bears of America (*an indie in Boone, NC), then we are doomed. But if we choose to believe in them, to support them, then how can they possibly disappear?

Visit Kate’s site at Better Places to Buy Books. Choices are broken down by state and if your favorite isn’t listed, just drop her an email. I wrote to her about DogEars Book Barn in Hoosick NY and she added it same day!

Show some book love!

Carl_Spitzweg_bookwormThe Bookworm
Carl Spitzweg, 1850
oil on canvas

[h/t to Shelf Awareness for the lead in to the story...]

…let’s touch up those typos, fill the space, and get some good work done…m’kay?

gallary2Hudson, NY
Photo © Jeff Kopito


- excerpted from The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery by Sarah Lewis

seblester_yeats Cloths of Heaven
Based on the poem “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” by W.B. Yeats
Embroidered artwork by Seb Lester

From the artist’s statement:

“Yeats’s poem references ‘embroidered cloths’ and ‘gold and silver threads’, so I wanted to try to make the screen print look like an exquisite and timelessly beautiful piece of highly ornamental needlework. I’ve drawn from Medieval, Renaissance and 18th-century sources but I have also tried to integrate personal, progressive and irreverent flourishing ideas. The result is a hybrid stylistic treatment that I think could only exist in the 21st century.”

“In calligraphy I have found a joyful and visceral way to construct letterforms. The letters that appear before my eyes as I write have a warmth and humanity that is very hard to achieve with computers.”

Available as both print and embroidered artwork at the artist’s site.

More of the story and a video showing the hand drawn lettering and embroidery styles can be found at I Love Typography

Note – the poem was originally published in 1899 in the collection titled, The Wind Among the Reeds

[h/t for lead-in to poet Sarah J. Sloat at The Rain In My Purse...I don't visit often enough...]

Shelf Awareness comments on George Orwell’s comments on books:

In his 1946 essay “Books vs. Cigarettes,” Orwell observed that the “idea that the buying, or even the reading, of books is an expensive hobby and beyond the reach of the average person is so widespread that it deserves some detailed examination.” After attempting to calculate his book expenditures over 15 years, he estimated that his total reading expenses had been “in the neighborhood of £25 a year,” which was £15 less than his tobacco expenses.

“It is difficult to establish any relationship between the price of books and the value one gets out of them,” Orwell noted, adding that he had “said enough to show that reading is one of the cheaper recreations…. And if our book consumption remains as low as it has been, at least let us admit that it is because reading is a less exciting pastime than going to the dogs, the pictures or the pub, and not because books, whether bought or borrowed, are too expensive.”

orwellphotobkfaceGeorge Orwell in his flat
at 27b Canonbury Square, Islington, North London
in early 1946
photo taken by Vernon Richards

It’s Friday...buy a book

From Seth Godin’s, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?:

no map

And one of my favorite movie scenes from Midnight in Paris:

Just finished watching this for the seventh, eighth, or maybe tenth time. The Brunette leaves the room whenever I turn it on…she’s stopped asking me “why?”…

Garrison Keilor is interviewed in the New York Times Book Review:


Now get out there and run for public office  take some medication  do some good work!


A happy belated birthday to Penguin Books:

July 30 marks the 79th anniversary of a mass-market paperback revolution. On this date in 1934, publisher Allen Lane was supposedly struck by a fantastic epiphany while suffering from boredom at a British train station.

Popular lore is that Lane, after visiting Agatha Christie, was waiting for a train home and looking to buy a novel. He found nothing likeable among the magazines and pulp fiction, but a business opportunity soon emerged from his disappointment. He saw the need for cheap books, small in size and lightweight. He knew that the soft-covered stories of the time — “dime novels,” “yellowbacks” and “penny dreadfuls” — were stigmatized as trashy, poorly written and sensationalized to appeal to young, working-class male readers.

By the end of his trip, Lane started to put into motion a plan that would eventually give birth to Penguin Books, distributor of quality paperback titles. In 1935, the first 10 Penguin books hit the market, including reprints of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie.

Penguin books were perfect companions for harried readers, from travelers like Lane to soldiers hunkered in the trenches of World War II several years later. (The paperbacks were so small and light that soldiers could carry manuals and civilian-donated books in their uniforms.) Once Penguin launched their series for children, Puffin Picture Books, young readers could also easily move with their literature.

The industry term for paperbacks is “perfect bound” – a bit more poetry in that…I am such a boy…

It’s Friday…step lightly, pick one up, and read…

penguin with penguinPenguin Books Founder Allen Lane with a Penguin and a penguin…

[h/t to the Library Journal for the lead-in and The Airship for the back story...more of Penguin's story here...]

Make some money, have some fun, and leave some tracks.

This was an aphorism given to me by my last mentor whom I only had a few years to work with before he retired. And like most of what he offered me, it was years before it made any sense especially when you’re in the midst of ego and business building. The point was reinforced again this past week when a designer who I’ve worked with for several years was cutting down his days and slowly segueing into retirement himself. He was a former partner who was slowly being bought out, and suddenly found himself at the margins of the business.

We were standing in the conference room where several of our packaging designs were on display, Picking one up and carefully wrapping his hands around it, he poked at the openings, pulled the product out, weighed it in his hands and then carefully put it back in place. He then turned to me with a bit of a melancholy grin and said, “we did some good work.”

We did. And we do.

This morning I was reading an entry by the illustrator Austin Kleon:

…creativity doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Creativity is not an end, but a means. A tool for making things exist that don’t currently exist. You can use it to save the planet, or you can use it to ruin it. When we celebrate the act of creativity regardless of its purpose, we get slogans like “make your mark.” As if making a mark is always a good thing….Not every mark that can be made should be made.

Maybe we could borrow a phrase from medicine:

“First, do no harm.”

Or maybe that’s too weak. Too passive. So maybe this:

“Leave things better than you found them.”

Make some money, have some fun, leave some tracks…and leave things better than you found them.

Not so bad a list to have…

Street-Art-by-Pejac-in-Madrid-Spain Street art by Pejac
via Street Art Utopia

During drive time I’m usually listening to NPR podcasts that include Selected Shorts. I’ve been a fan for years and often tuned in on late Sunday afternoons to listen. Later I did some time shifting by recording the program onto DVDs and then taking them with me on client drive-bys. I discovered great writers and writing including Grace Paley, Rick Moody, Sherman Alexie, Billy Collins, and many others who I would not ordinarily have read or heard.

This other morning I caught an unusual story, Exchange, by Ray Bradbury. It’s about a twilight visit by a young soldier returning to the town where he grew up and approaches the local librarian who lets him in after closing hours:

   “Forgive, I hope you won’t be upset, but when I was a boy I used to look up and  see  you behind your desk, so near but far away, and, how can I say this, I used  to  think  that you were Mrs. God, and that the library was a whole world, and  that  no  matter what part of the world or what people or thing I wanted to see and read, you’d find and give it to me.” He stopped, his face coloring. “You did, too. You had the world ready for me every time I asked. There was always a  place I hadn’t seen, a country I hadn’t visited where you took me. I’ve never forgotten.”

She  looked  around,  slowly, at the thousands of books. She felt her heart move quietly.

“Did you really call me what you just said?”

“Mrs. God? Oh, yes. Often. Always.”

Take some time and listen – read by Rochelle Oliver…

the_lesson_sisley The Lesson
Alfred Sisley, 1874

© Bill Israel

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