The revival of independent bookselling has already begun and is one of the amazing stories of our times. Bookseller Andy Laties wrote the first edition of Rebel Bookseller six years ago, hoping it would spark a movement. Now, with this second edition, Laties’s book can be a rallying cry for everyone who wants to better understand how the rise of the big bookstore chains led irrevocably to their decline, and how even in the face of electronic readers from three of America’s largest and most successful companies—Apple, Amazon, and Google—the movement to support locally owned independent stores, especially bookstores, is on the rise. From the mid-1980s to the present, Andy Laties has been an independent bookseller, starting out in Chicago, teaching along the way at the American Booksellers Association, and finally running the bookshop at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. His innovations were adapted by Barnes & Noble, Zany Brainy, and scores of independent stores. In Rebel Bookseller, Laties tells how he got started, how he kept going, and why he believes independent bookselling has a great future. He alternates his narrative with short anecdotes, interludes between the chapters that give his credo as a bookseller. Along the way, he explains the growth of the chains, and throws in a treasure trove of tips for anyone who is considering opening up a bookstore. Rebel Bookseller is a must read for those in the book biz, a testament to the ingeniousness of one man man’s story of making a life out of his passionate commitment to books and bookselling.
Laties is a bitter, bitter man. He rails endlessly against book superstores and skewers publishers for allowing the giant retailers to dictate the new tenets of big book business, but, as he writes in his introduction, he's "accused no one of illegal activity." For 20 years, he's owned and operated independent children's bookstores in Chicago, and, in this book, shares much of what he's learned so, as the subtitle suggests, indie booksellers can not only survive, but, perhaps, thrive. However, he admits, much of his experience is irrelevant: "I can tell anecdotes about what we did. Unfortunately, none of those approaches will work again, because they've been ripped off by chain stores. You'll have to do something completely new." What he focuses on (and often distills into acronyms) are sound principles that apply to nearly any business: ADA (adapt, don't adopt), SMOWS (sell more of what's selling), the perennially obvious BLSH (buy low, sell high) and, naturally, be creative. The book alternates chapters between educational anecdotes and vitriolic rants, and though both are easy reading, the rants are where most of the fun (and dirt and tough-love business advice) is. Entertaining and heavy with Laties' experiences, his from-the-trenches account is a must-read for anyone considering opening an indie book shop.