Sunday, May 15, 2011

D.J. McIntosh on Bookstores

Vicki here to introduce this week's guest blogger. You thought I'd left Type M, didn't you? Well as one last job I wanted to have the honour of introducing my friend, critique partner, and wonderful writer, D.J. McIntosh.

With a little less than a month before my first novel The Witch of Babylon is published, bookstores are on my mind. I know one of the first things I’ll do is rush to see The Witch sitting proudly on its shelf. Until that moment, the very long process of writing, revising, critiquing, seeking publishers and promoting feels like a product-less enterprise. But when the book actually appears with its companions in the store, all those endeavours will finally converge into the real thing.

As we know, the opportunities to sell the bundle of carefully thought out words we call books are rapidly expanding. Predictions of what share of the market E-books will occupy in a year or two change almost overnight as more and more readers rush to the Kobo, Kindle or I-Pad. If paper is still appealing, you can now print off your favourite tome in the time it takes to order and drink an espresso. Back lists, dusty with age, are blooming again.

And if that isn’t enough of a challenge to the traditional bookstore, novels are readily plentiful in grocery chains, big box stores, druggists, even your local variety store. It’s common to hear that what’s happened to CD’s as a result of downloadable music sets the stage for the future of the book industry. Traditional music stores are closing or at best, limping along, and have had to bulk up on DVD’s, T-shirts and electronics just to survive. It was greatly ironic when the other day, I saw a downtown music store now selling none other than............books!

I hope it isn’t simply a dream but I like to believe bookstores will survive. I think they will do so because bookstores aren’t just about moving product off the shelf. Whether I’m shopping for groceries, or lightbulbs and batteries, knowing that it will take an inordinate amount of time to struggle with the self-checking kiosks, I load up the cart as fast as possible and get out of there.

In a bookstore it’s just the opposite. Permission to browse. Find a nook and sit with a new book you’ve discovered and leaf through it to get a sense of the writing before you decide to take it home with you. Maybe have a cup of tea. The other day at one of my favourite bookstores, I looked around and noticed how much people seemed to be enjoying themselves. No one appeared to be frantically rushing, or texting for that matter, and it was very busy in the store.

In the metropolis bookstores are an oasis from the frenzy. Even in the country, like libraries, they help knit the community together. A wonderful old yellow brick building sits on a triangle of land in Clavering on the Bruce Peninsula. It is a bookstore, a little island amid farmer’s fields that has become a landmark. It seems to contain an almost inexhaustible supply of used books, most of them old, piled to the rafter and full of undiscovered treasures. I remember a friend once unearthing a fabulously illustrated book of children’s stories there.

Bookstores – long may they live!

Visit the web page for the Witch of Babylon at


Vicki Delany said...

You are so right, Dorothy, about the joy of bookstores. I was signing at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg yesterday, and the store was constantly busy. Lots of families, kids lugging home books, older people browsing contentedly. A cafe, a series of lectures going on on heomeopathy. Yet the store couldn't survive in Toronto and closed after a mere six months. Bad timing perhaps?

Donis Casey said...

Very best of luck with your new book, Dorothy. May you have a hit on your hands and get to spend a whole lot of time in bookstores

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Vicki and Donis!......Dorothy