The End as We Know It

Ten days ago, I stood outside Budgens in Crouch End with our Roaming Store. A freezing cold Saturday three weeks after Christmas. I expectedCommunity. Image by niallkennedy no sales. Yet, one customer even bought four packs– two Female Voices and  two Men Series. She had never come across our books before. Never, of course, heard of any of the authors. I didn’t take her through the plots either. Instead I talked about the series. Why I curate them. Why compare books in this way. What that means for the reading experience.

Publishers and bookshops complain that books no longer sell. Publishers therefore publish more and more books in the hope to hit the jackpot with one of the titles. And bookshops champion bestsellers because they are the only works that can still earn them some money. I can’t blame them.

In February 2010 I published Peirene’s first book, full of hopes and enthusiasm and great spirits: Peirene and I will save the UK bookmarket. That was our mission. We certainly can’t claim victory. Publishers are struggling. Bookshops are closing down.

However, here comes the good news: Peirene is doing rather well. After all, she’s an ancient Greek Nymph and was never a traditional publisher and bookseller in the first place.

Last Wednesday I had lunch with Clare from the Crouch End Project. This non –profit organization helps the businesses in my local shopping area to create a sense of cohesive community. In a couple of weeks the Crouch End Project will launch a fantastic interactive website, where businesses and customers can exchange information on products and services. The website was developed with the understanding that what people most crave is community.

As I talked to Clare I suddenly understood Peirene’s strength: we don’t offer just books, we offer an experience and a community. Of course, this is no revelation. The curation, the strong branding, our many event activities have pointed in that direction from the beginning. But what hadn’t been that clear to me: The books are our basis, what we are actually selling  is something far broader, far more exciting.

“I am pleased you finally have come to recognize my real value.” Peirene throws me a beaming smile. “And hopefully that means you won’t disagree with me so much in the future.”

Well, I am not sure about the last bit.

Image by niallkennedy.

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