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ABA Board Member Kenny Brechner on His Life Among Books

From The American Booksellers Association:

In the latest installment of our series profiling American Booksellers Association Board membersBookselling This Week talks to Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine. 

. . . .

BTW: What do you think are some of the most important changes in bookselling since you took over your store?

KB: The Internet and digital technology have been the core engine of change, and it is a two-edged sword, of course. We were the keeper of the keys in 1992, when I began bookselling. Information regarding books in print literally resided in Books in Print, and stock availability was to be found in microfiche stacks from wholesalers. Information is ubiquitous now, and the need to be in command of it and to maintain a store that is literally immersed in community outreach is a life-and-death affair.

There are positive changes that resulted from the rise of technology. E-mail listservs, at any rate, greatly increased outreach among my bookselling colleagues, reduced isolation, and were a dynamic force in bookseller-to-bookseller education and support. The New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council (NECBA) listserv, in particular, was a revelation to me and the starting point of some lifelong bookselling friendships that are beyond price.

E-mail and social media have also greatly increased bookseller-to-author and bookseller-to-publisher connections and partnering. The effectiveness of e-mail and online marketing are benefits, too. The downsides, largely due to a lack of filtering and regulation, are considerable, however. The rise of print-on-demand publishing, for example, has transformed the volume and spread of vanity books from a still reservoir into a thundering self-published tidal wave. I believe in filters. Traditional publishers’ acquisitions aren’t perfect, of course, but publishers and professional bookstore buyers play a vital role in the intellectual marketplace. Most importantly, proprietary publishing is the last substantial bulwark against the unregulated nature of online retail, which is coalescing around Amazon even as you read this. The biggest change in our bookselling world has been Amazon’s ability to blanket its assault on traditional publishing, bookselling, local commerce, sustainable communities, and traditional cultural norms under the false narrative of passive inevitability. Challenging that narrative successfully is our task.

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

PG prefers “the unregulated nature of online retail” and finds it intellectually stimulating. The thought of going back to meatspace bookstores and dead tree books is depressing.

PG suggests that a great many readers are far more satisfied with the quality of their book discovery, acquisition and reading experience during an era of ebooks and indie authors than they were during the dark days of Rule by Gatekeeper.

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9 Comments to “ABA Board Member Kenny Brechner on His Life Among Books”

  1. The ADS is strong in this one…

    “Finally, bearing in mind Gandalf’s advice that it is our duty “to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till,” we need to create dynamic outreach that results in building public will and consensus around the principle that antitrust regulation should be reanimated from the cave in which it has been slumbering.”

    • Reanimating things that have been slumbering in caves rarely works out well in the sort of stories Gandalf hangs out in.

    • @ DaveMich

      re: the quote in Italics…

      Huh?

      (I read it four times and still couldn’t figure it out. Snobbish pseudo-intellectual basura, IMHO.)

    • I would also mention, consider this…

      Most importantly, proprietary publishing is the last substantial bulwark against the unregulated nature of online retail, which is coalescing around Amazon even as you read this. The biggest change in our bookselling world has been Amazon’s ability to blanket its assault on traditional publishing, bookselling, local commerce, sustainable communities, and traditional cultural norms

      This guy is a board member of the American Booksellers association. He doesn’t want a book to pass through his hands – or any booksellers hands — unless it came from a publishing house of some sort. Why should indie authors care what happens to these establishments? He explicitly says (OP) that you are “vanity books” and (implicitly) holds you beneath contempt.

      • Felix J. Torres

        I wonder which “traditional cultural norms” he thinks Amazon is assaulting. Given that the culture wars predate Amazon by a generation…

  2. “We were the keeper of the keys in 1992, when I began bookselling. Information regarding books in print literally resided in Books in Print, and stock availability was to be found in microfiche stacks from wholesalers. Information is ubiquitous now, and the need to be in command of it and to maintain a store that is literally immersed in community outreach is a life-and-death affair.”

    Back then we had real control over what a reader might find to read, but now that dang internet has stripped that power and control out of our grasp! And that dang Amazon is making money off it – money we should be raking in! It’s not fair I tell you, Amazon should be torn into little bitty pieces – and buried alive!

    I sure there’s a law out there somewhere that they must be breaking that we can use against them. Dang that DoJ for not finding anything to hang them on …

  3. Think of Smaug as the Department of Justice anti-trust group. The Price-Fix-Six were the equivalent of “Bilbo the Burgler” showing up with a brass band, shoving fireworks up the dragon’s nose and lighting them.

  4. Is this the same ABA that accepts vanity presses as members and then boasts about rising numbers. The same ABA that has no problem with vanity presses putting the ABA logo all over their site and using that to snare newbies.

    Yep, the good guys. *nods*

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