September 20, 2011
I still love cracking the spine on a new book and marking my progress through a thick volume with a crudely fashioned bookmark. There’s something enormously satisfying about closing a just-finished book with an emphatic snap, before filing it on the bookshelf.
I’m one of those readers who has at least three books going at any given time. One is inevitably abandoned, replaced by the latest impulse airport bookshop purchase or gift. Over the years, I’ve been one of the beneficiaries of my friend Bruce Benidt’s voracious book habit — history, biographies, regional lit, poetry. All damn fine stuff. As he reads, Bruce makes notes in the margins of his books in green ink. The journey through those annotated hand-me-downs from a well-read friend has always made for a richer reading experience.
Frankly, I can’t imagine life without books around the house. But something tells me my trips to the bookstore these days might be akin to browsing the VHS selection at Blockbuster back in the day. I’ve had a bit of an insider’s view into this changing publishing landscape in my role as a member of the Board of Directors of Milkweed Editions, which is one of the country’s biggest and certainly best non-profit literary publishers. As a non-profit, Milkweed is able to set aside some of the commercial considerations involved in book publishing, and is able to put greater emphasis on artistic merit.
It’s a very important little corner of publishing, and one that is under constant threat. The lifeblood of literary publishers like Milkweed is the independent bookseller. Sadly, in this age of Amazon and the Kindle, the independents are slowly succumbing to marketplace realities. And as the world continues to shift toward the digital, Milkweed and other publishers are trying to anticipate what the future might look like. It’s an uncertain albeit very exciting time in the publishing world.
If you love great literature, and would like to see quality, non-profit presses like Milkweed survive, here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is. On Oct. 15, Milkweed will hold its annual fundraiser, The Booklovers Ball. This year, The ball will return to Open Book, home to some of Minnesota’s finest literary organizations. The night will include readings from distinguished Milkweed authors, a silent auction, food from D’amico and a chance to rub shoulders with diverse group of Minnesota bookworms. Tickets can be bought here. It’s a great event for a very important cause, and I hope you’ll join us this year.