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Coming Soon: That Book Place
May 29, 2012 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Set on the stage of current book buying and reading habits, where bookbuyers browse local shops then buy online and universities move the books out of their libraries (prev), Tony Sanfilippo (MetaFilter's Toekneesan) imagines book stores of a different sort, part bookstore with new and used books, part lending library, part something more. (via)

Inside Higher Ed's Scott McLemee puts the idea into historic context, including Sanfilippo's childhood experiences with lending libraries of suburban Chicago.
posted by filthy light thief (24 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
toe knee san. I just got that.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:09 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good grief, this is a fantastic idea.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:18 PM on May 29, 2012


It's a really interesting idea. As public libraries become (possibly) community tech centers, it would be pretty cool to have the neighborhood book store(s) working side by side with them as a distributor of print. It's also not too far off the foundation of the local library in American history by way of the subscription library service.
posted by codacorolla at 1:19 PM on May 29, 2012


On occasion I've done the reverse of what's in the first link - I keep an amazon wishlist but end up buying the books at local used bookstores. In a lot of cases the prices of getting used books are comparable on amazon (after paying for shipping) and locally, and I get the warm fuzzy feeling of supporting local businesses.

But this requires some patience and having a list of a couple hundred books that I want to read, so that on any trip through a used bookstore I actually have a decent chance of coming across something on that list.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:27 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


On this idea being formed in part by "...Sanfilippo's childhood experiences with lending libraries of suburban Chicago", are you telling me that such things weren't the norm? I grew up traveling to specific suburbs to get access to such facilities, and vividly remember searching for books at home via 300 baud acoustic modem before heading out. I'm honestly shocked if that is an atypical thing across the US.
posted by davejay at 1:45 PM on May 29, 2012


The DRM-free book price is ridiculous, but other than that I'm sold - where do I sign up?
posted by namewithoutwords at 1:51 PM on May 29, 2012


It depresses me. I moved from a community with great libraries and bookstores within a block from the central bus stop to a community with less-great libraries and weak bookstores scattered all over town. My last journey to the local B&N found only one of the books on the Locus nomination list and the SF&F section cut by 1/3rd for a teen paranormal romance shelf. I've not been back since.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:56 PM on May 29, 2012


How my dream book store resembles the library:
the small photocopy machine in the corner.
(yeah, like that's gonna happen)

posted by Rash at 2:32 PM on May 29, 2012


davejay: are you telling me that such things weren't the norm?

In my limited Central California experiences, there are major libraries in bigger cities, and smaller branches in smaller communities, with regional sharing systems. The Chicago Lending Libraries were news to me.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2012


Rash: How my dream book store resembles the library:
the small photocopy machine in the corner.


Most libraries have some sort of photocopy warning. Few are truly appropriation-friendly, like the Prelinger Library.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:38 PM on May 29, 2012


I like to daydream about what I would do if I won the lottery. Plan #1: convert the beautiful but moribund local hospital grounds into a university. Plan #2: open a new and used book shop.

This post at first emphasizes what I already know: these plans should remain in the realm of fantasy because even a multimillionaire couldn't sit by while the bookstore or college hemorrhaged cash.

But this plan is brilliant. Plan #3: open a microbrewery is now Plan #2 and open a bookstore has moved up to Plan #1.

Now to win the lottery.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 2:57 PM on May 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


In my limited Central California experiences, there are major libraries in bigger cities, and smaller branches in smaller communities, with regional sharing systems. The Chicago Lending Libraries were news to me.

I don't understand how this is different than what happens in the Chicago suburbs. I mean, there are some differences, in that most Chicago suburbs are big enough to have a decent library and that there is no central NSLS library, so they're technically not branches. But they share a card catalog and there's a van that drives books from one to another when someone puts in an interlibrary loan request. (Evanston Library is big enough to have two little storefront branches as well as a proper library.) Functionally, this is the same as Berkeley and Minneapolis. (Though Minneapolis has some very weak branch libraries. Others are quite big. The library system also doesn't seem to have quite enough books or they're distributed weirdly. I spent a lot more time requesting books and waiting for them than I have elsewhere.) I only ever went to the main library in Chicago when I was with my dad (they had a circulating and noncirculating copy of most of the nonfiction, which was handy for school projects).
posted by hoyland at 3:11 PM on May 29, 2012


Barnes & Noble came to town. Within a year two independent lovely book stores closed, a third one survived by opening a cafe, installing armchairs and a fireplace. Then Borders opened a mile from B&N. Now Borders is gone and, since there is no competition left, B&N transformed 3/4 of their store into a toy shop. I'm very glad there is a indie and two Half Price stores in a 25 miles radius.

I miss the old days.
posted by francesca too at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2012


hoyland: I don't understand how this is different than what happens in the Chicago suburbs.

According to the Lending Libraries link, the notable difference (to me) is that "neighboring towns that were too small to support their own libraries to band together and form a library district encompassing several towns." Communities could band together and pay taxes towards a joint library district, where a single library couldn't be supported in an individual suburb/town.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2012


My assistant, semiretired superintendent, started up a book exchange at the end of my hall. In a10 storey appt building. About 4 large shelves worth. I swear I've seen 8 track cassettes there, but I've also found great shit.

Moving day, end of the month, grocery cart full of books.

I'm fortunate to live within a lot of book stores. Beautifull.
posted by alicesshoe at 3:39 PM on May 29, 2012


Books on Paper?!? Pfffffshaw.

I have a library. It's called the internet. Its basically anywhere I can go, at any time, its free, and 13 gbs of books and papers do not make my ipad any heavier.
posted by Chekhovian at 4:21 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is great. I work at a bookstore and have been thinking about this kind of thing a LOT lately. I'm not sure if it'll work, but I'm glad the idea is out there; I'd love to see some sort of weird hybrid bookstore/hackerspace happen. Or something like that.

OTHER BUSINESS IDEA: Get an Espresso book machine and use it to print copies, in-town, and deliver them to bookstores. Charge as much as Oxford or Penguin is for copies of classics. Use this for when your store gets 25 kids in looking for a book they have to read for class and you inevitably only have like 2 copies.
posted by NoraReed at 5:33 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice idea and well-written blog post, but in my opinion it's a little like telling a horse dealer from a hundred years ago that he needs to stock one or two automobiles beside the horses. That strategy will never beat the dealer down the street who focuses on autos.

I think physical book stores should focus on what online merchants can't do well: selling used books, selling physical goods that go with books (reading furniture, reading lights, stationary, posters) and providing cafe-like gathering places. Won't be easy and most of them won't make it.

I wish the people described in the blog post the best of luck and I hope they prove me wrong.
posted by Triplanetary at 5:34 PM on May 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's a fun idea, not least in that it's a test of what people actually want and will pay for, as opposed to what they claim they want.

On another note, I'm actually a bit surprised that Espresso Book Machines aren't already ubiquitous. Along with store cats, of course.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:11 PM on May 29, 2012


Rash, you would not believe the indignation of customers when I was a bookseller and told them no, they could not use our copier. Or that we didn't use the Dewey decimal system.
posted by emjaybee at 6:23 PM on May 29, 2012


So maybe publishers should treat indies like showrooms, and send their books to indies on consignment. That means that only if and when a book sells is money paid to the publisher.

I'm -- really not sure I can really imagine anything managing to dismantle the current system of returns. I think that suggestion is asking the dinosaurs of the publishing industry to be capable of dodging the meteors with bullet-time speed and grace.
posted by webmutant at 6:37 PM on May 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


There was an article in Forbes recently of a system just like this; in fact I thought the FPP was going to link to this.

"Essentially, Jeff installed a printing press to close the inventory gap with Amazon. The Espresso Book Machine sits in the middle of Harvard Book Store like a hi-tech visitor to an earlier era. A compact digital press, it can print nearly five million titles including Google Books that are in the public domain, as well as out of print titles. We’re talking beautiful, perfect bound paperbacks indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses. The Espresso Book Machine can be also used for custom publishing, a growing source of revenue, and customers can order books in the store and on-line."
posted by dhruva at 6:44 PM on May 29, 2012


I've seen the product of the EBM, and it's not too shabby, but I wouldn't say that the books are "indistinguishable from books produced by major publishing houses."

A close look at the printing on the cover showed some granularity; it was an EBM copy of a popular travel series book, so it easier to compare to the "officially" printed title. The perfect binding is decent, although it looked like the spines were a little overcompressed, and there was a bit of warp in the pages as a result.

The EBM's cool, but Forbes might be waxing a little poetic. Powell's Books just got one, so it's a thing, I guess.
posted by redsparkler at 7:39 PM on May 29, 2012


I work at a University Library on a large multi-school campus. Every year it's a fight to get each school to pony up their share of expenses. Every semester we have to explain to some of our students that we don't sell and often don't carry their textbooks. It would be so nice to have an Espresso Book Machine for printing textbooks on demand to help cover some of the cash shortfall. I would settle for a regular espresso machine as well.
posted by evilDoug at 8:32 PM on May 30, 2012


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