Most online booksellers may not know of me. I founded BookGraveyard.com (later renamed Bookquarters.com) in 1999 and later purchased “Bookseller Monthly.” Due to personal problems last year I bowed out of and sold Bookquarters.com and suspended publication of “Bookseller Monthly” unannounced. Some would say, rightfully so, that I seemingly fell off the face of the earth. But even with my failures most booksellers have welcomed me back, first and foremost, with a genuine interest in my well being as a person. For that I am very grateful and will once again be rolling out issues of “Bookseller Monthly.”
As before, my primary goal will be to print quality material to further the trade of bookselling and the joy of collecting. Profit was not something I came to know the first year of publication. I believe I printed more free ads to support our online dealers at Bookquarters.com than paid-for ads! But that was okay. I was simply trying to return the sentiment that so many had given to me–a measure of support. And although I must take a bit of a different financial approach with the re-launch of the publication, I still would like to play a role in this brotherhood that we see through organizations like the IOBA.
In the one year since I have been away, the industry continues to ride the wave of change brought on in the late 1990’s by the Internet. After the demise of “AB Bookmans” a few years back it seemed clear that the Internet was the primary source for listing wants and books for sale. Many felt the need to change their approach on bookselling to keep up, some more than others. Interloc was the new way to go. And it was discouraging to see such a quality publication such as “Biblio” fold as well. It started to seem that the Internet was going to be the only tool for selling, buying and communicating. It troubles me that in my own small way I signaled more coalescence to the Internet by suspending the publishing of “Bookseller Monthly.”
And even since then I’ve seen other small publications change as well, mostly due to the influence of the Internet. “Martha’s Kid Lit,” a small quarterly publication, recently announced they were going strictly online. Also about seven months ago “Australian Book Collector” changed from a monthly to a quarterly publication apparently because of a drop off in subscriptions. This discourages me, as I feel we are losing the tradition of having hard copy publications laying on cluttered desks full of wants lists and orders. Now we will be receiving emailed newsletters in our cluttered inboxes…full of digital want lists and orders.
But I do not wish to sound anti-Internet. From day one it was my intent to help preserve the traditional print forum and marketplace for booksellers. I wanted to help build a bridge between those online and those who chose not to make the change, hoping to keep the option of print alive for all. So, as has been a romanticized goal of mine from the beginning, I will push forward with my monthly print publication if only to say we have another one left. It is good to see “Firsts” still going, “Bookseller” in the United Kingdom, “Book Source Monthly” out of New York, among some other small specialty bookseller publications. At the same time, it is wonderful to see TomFolio.com going strong, the wonderful launch of BiblioDirect.com by such committed book people, and the other independent sites bent on making things better for all of us.
And as always, I will be open to anyone who would be interested in contributing material to the publication. By the last issue in February of 2001 there were around 6 or 7 regular contributors appearing in every issue, all reaching a level of quality I was very proud of. I really felt we were providing a unique service to the bookselling and collecting community while keeping a tradition alive. Often the simple fact that “Bookseller Monthly” had been around 29 years prior to my purchasing it humbled me, and still does. And the terrific growth accomplished in that first year, from 550 subscribers to just over 700 (with a great deal of the new growth being international), gave me promise.
So what can you expect to see in future issues? Even though the publication is not substantially profitable, nor will it likely ever be, I hope to use it as a tool for the benefit of our trade. I want to create more of a relationship between online activity and the brick and mortar world, as well as furthering support for the IOBA, TomFolio.com, and other organizations that support bookseller interests and promote reading and collecting. There will still be sections to post books wanted and for sale. And I would hope to see an increased “Letters” section to promote thoughtful discussion of the issues that affect all of us. We must all remember that there are still many booksellers with stories and ideas to share that are not on email lists or not online at all. As well, I hope to build a relationship with our trade partners by offering columns in the publication, similar to the previous “Booking with Tom” feature presented regularly by TomFolio.com.
I still believe in the general good will booksellers have for each other and for the preservation of their trade. I would like to continue a publication that reflects that. It is unfortunate what happened last year in my life and I do not wish to dodge any criticism from those who subscribed or supported my efforts without any seeming return. But I would like to encourage everyone to take a fresh look at what we are all doing, what part each of us plays in this centuries-old occupation, and to put a revitalized effort into keeping positive things happening with regard to bookselling. There are many challenges ahead as always, but many eventful times to share as well. May I simply offer this publication as a source for trying to achieve common goals. And to all of those who have welcomed me back, thank you!
Joe Spoor Bookseller Monthly