We all know you as the owner of the Edmonds Bookshop. How long has it been in business?
The Edmonds Bookshop was established in 1972. David Brewster and I are the 4th owners of the business, we came on board in 2001.
How did you come to be a bookseller?
Accidentally, or perhaps you could say it was by fate. I was going to school at the UW and got a job at the University Bookstore in the photography department. After a few years and a lot of asking I was able to transfer into the general book department. After I graduated (with a degree in German) I just kept on working at the job I had and I loved it. I became a bookseller, not just a person who worked in a bookstore. It was while working there that I met David, we married and had two daughters.
And why Edmonds?
From the University Bookstore both David and I moved onto other jobs in the publishing world which led to a 7-year stint in Boston with David working for publishers there. When it was time to return to the Seattle area we ended up in Edmonds because of the school system and the timing of a mid-summer move. My sister lives in Edmonds and she kept an eye out for a good rental house.
How do you select the books?
I find books for the store in many different ways. I read publisher catalogs and talk to publisher representatives. I read newspapers, magazines, blogs and I listen to customer requests. There are certain authors or topics I watch for and I am always watching for emerging talented writers. Other booksellers are a great source for book suggestions, we are a very collegial lot and love to help each other find writers who have captivated our attention.
When I come to the shop I see some books in the window, some on the big table, some face out on the shelves. How do you decide the displays?
With the windows we generally have a theme. It can run the gamut from an upcoming holiday to a celebration of wonderful first lines to a current event or author appearance. The tables are for newer books. The faced-out books on the shelves are either books we have multiple copies of because that title is selling well or sometimes just because it works out with the spacing of books to fit a particular title face out.
Tell us about your book club.
The book club is drop in and anyone is welcome to join. The books we read are chosen from a list of twelve or so suggestions drawn up by our booksellers. The groups vote on which 5 or 6 titles they would like to read from that list. The evening group meets on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m.; the morning group meets on third Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. Both meetings last one hour and are held in the bookshop. Both groups read the same book. People can go to either, or both, of the discussions as they wish. The books are listed on our website: edmondsbookshop.com
How has the book business changed since you became the owner of the shop? And do you see any major changes in the book business coming in 2017?
We continue to see huge changes in the book business. Independent bookstores went through a period when stores were closing at a rapid rate and many people thought that they had seen their last days. Big box stores, online discounters and warehouse clubs sold books at a loss and small stores lost sales of the very books that kept them afloat. E-readers came along and people foretold the death of the paper book. Self-publishing blossomed and people foretold the death of the traditional publisher. The bookstores that lasted through those scary days have seen a resurgence and renewed profitability as book buyers consciously choose to support their local bookstores, recognizing the importance of such places to their community.
In 2017, I see major changes as there is more and more consolidation of publishers and as the lines of distribution are concentrated. With one major player able to squeeze publishers for bigger discounts at the threat of not carrying their books I fear we will see fewer publishers willing to risks large advances for non-fiction books that require years of research and writing. Some of America’s most important works have resulted from the ability of publishers to support writers before a book is even published. Publishing and bookselling are businesses in that they must make money to stay afloat but the exchange of information, the marketplace of ideas and the cultural value of the written word have always been the driving forces of the book business. I fear we may see a restriction on the freedom of speech due to monopolistic control in the marketplace.
Do you have a rewards system for frequent buyers?
We do. After a person buys 12 new books they receive a bonus equal to the average price they paid for the 12 books. It is our booker’s dozen.
How does Edmonds rate as a book-loving town?
Edmonds has supported their local bookstore for 45 years. They are avid library users and supporters. I think Edmonds has one of the highest percentages of Little Free Libraries of any community. Edmonds rates high!
What books do you recommend we should put on our reading lists for this year?
There are several really good books out now about race and class in America and I think people should read at least one of these to help frame discussion about current issues. Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, Between the World and Me by Ta Nahisi Coates, Evicted by Matthew Desmond, or the National Book Award winner, Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi would all be worthy of your time and thought.
There are also some great new mysteries by Tana French, John Grisham, Louise Penny, Amor Towles and Lee Child. On Feb. 14th a weird and wonderful novel by George Saunders called Lincoln in the Bardo will be released.
Thanks Mary Kay! And happy reading to all!
The bookshop is at 111 5th Avenue, Edmonds, near the fountain. They have a great stock and are happy to order if you have other needs. Website: edmondsbookshop.com. Phone: 425-775-2789