Issue 16 Interviews
From its inspiration to its final arrival in the hands of the reader, writing undergoes a lengthy and complex process, and one that is too often overlooked. Each issue, Front Porch sits down with people who are engaged daily with the processes and industries of writing, be it by running community workshops, buying books at a used bookstore, organizing translations, and much more. These interviews seek to examine the many forces that shape literature, and to highlight the perceptive and passionate people to whom we owe the books on our shelves.
Front Porch: How’s business?
Don Allen: The bookstore is very popular. We receive great foot traffic from Busboys and Poets, but bookselling is a tough industry with small markups. Our sales are strong enough to keep us afloat on a weekly basis but not strong enough to pay back our start-up expenses. We are also extremely concerned about Amazon’s efforts to undermine independent bookstores.
Interview with Michel Candor: Owner, Salamander Books, Baltimore, MD
FP: What is the most enjoyable thing about being in the bookselling business?
MC: The healthy cross-section of people that come into the shop.
Interview with Carson Moss, Book Buyer, Strand Bookstore
FP: What is the hardest part about being in the bookselling business?
CM: Like any other retail business, we will stock what is popular. While it is inadvisable to fall into the trap of judging the public’s taste, there can be frustrations in watching worthwhile books go unread while other titles receive greater publicity and backing from the publisher. As a bookseller you have the opportunity to hand-sell, and give small-press books a platform to reach new readers, but there are so many titles published every year that most end up slipping through the cracks.
Interview with Kathy Doyle Thomas: Executive Vice President, Half Price Books
FP: How have reading tastes changed over the course of your time? Are people reading more or less? Has what they are reading changed? Do people buy different kinds of books? Why are they buying books? Entertainment, utility, knowledge, some combination?
KDT: Studies show there are fewer readers. But more than one million books were published last year. Self-publishing has expanded, and that has changed the publishing industry. More books are available by more people. It used to be that a small amount of publishing houses controlled what was published, but now there are more books from more sources. And that changes the readership.