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Why we’re here

These days, when folks are talking about the book business, they’re talking about the internet. The Department of Justice alleges that Apple is colluding with publishers. Amazon stops its customers from ordering Hachette titles in advance. “Download my new mystery free this weekend on your Kindle.”

Nothing wrong with any of that.  Lots of good stuff happens on the interwebs (along with lots of bad), and there’s certainly a need to talk about what’s going on out there, to explore how each of us — as readers, writers, publishers and booksellers — can best take advantage of the opportunities the new economy affords.

At the same time, because the new economy takes all the air out of the room, it’s become harder than ever to find space where folks who are devoted to real mysteries on real paper in real bookstores can get together to weigh our concerns, to talk about our businesses (without being derided as dodos), to find ways to better serve the readers who walk through our doors.

I’m launching Crime in Store to be that space, a place where we can talk about what happens with real books and real readers in real bookstores.  I believe more than ever in the value of what stores do to connect readers with books they’ll cherish.  As much as the folks who still participate in this experience continue to value what happens in local, community-oriented stores, we can also plainly see that others are promoting visions of brick-and-mortar-free futures for the book business.

These days, though, I mostly think that what happens on Amazon stays on Amazon, and that as long as folks in that ecosystem are not denigrating what we’re doing in our world and as long as they’re not demanding access to our ecosystem on their terms, then we’re cool.  More than cool, because as a publisher, I benefit from services provided by Amazon and other online providers.  But I also recognize that the business I’m doing online has little connection to what I’m doing offline.

Hence Crime in Store.

For starters, I’ve established an email discussion list as a first step towards building a community around real mysteries on real paper in real bookstores.  It’s my intention to be open with subscriptions.  I’m looking for booksellers especially — independents, chains, specialty, general, etc. — but I hope readers, writers and publishers will join us here too.  If you want to see more real mysteries in more real bookstores, then I welcome you to the conversation.

It’s a discussion list, which means that I’m looking for participation — reports on what you’re seeing in stores, tips and successes that others might emulate, issues and coverage that we can discuss, etc.   As readers of my blog know, I’m especially interested in an exploration of values, and how we can sustain the core values of book lovers in this new economy.  It’s my contention that different distribution arrangements support different kinds of stories, that the nature and quality of the choices that are offered to readers are based on these structures.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let’s chat!

It’s my intention to moderate the list closely in order to maintain a focus on real books and real bookstores, to screen out the negativity that’s so prevalent online, and also to insure that this list stays relevant and useful without becoming yet another vehicle for self-promotion.  Though I am offering some promotional opportunities here too, at first just to cover my (modest) costs.  Perhaps down the line we can make promotion a part of what we’re doing regularly — especially if we believe we can help overlooked titles reach more booksellers and ultimately more readers.  I want all of you to be observers, correspondents and pundits, but I will be your editor — a demanding one upholding high standards.

What will the conversation look like?  Perhaps a mystery-focused, crowd-sourced Shelf Awareness, Books & Whatnot and Bookselling This Week, in the form of email discussion lists like DorothyL and Sisters in Crime — all of which I subscribe to, read and admire.  Plus we might add in Advance Access-style offers for booksellers who are specifically interested in selling mysteries that aren’t getting attention through conventional routes — a vetted selection from suppliers who are eager to sell to stores on traditional trade terms.  Maybe even, eventually, leading to our own targeted white box mailings and seasonal catalogs.

What else?  Well that’s up to you.  Click over to the Join Us! page and let’s see what we can accomplish when we work together.

Jim Huang