Friday, October 26, 2012

Micawber's Books talks about their fiercely devoted customers, making a website that means something, and so much more






Micawber's Books is one of those indies that has a fiercely devoted fan base. And it's no wonder. Called "Everyone's neighborhood bookstore," the store caters to both readers and writers and it has a real community feel to it. I'm thrilled that co-owner Hans Weyandt let me pepper him with questions. Thank you, Hans!

Micawber's Books
2238 Carter Ave.St. Paul, MN 55108


The writers I know speak about Micawber's with a kind of fierce devotion. How do you keep authors (and readers) so devoted to you? And how can authors return the favor (other than buying lots and lots of books from you, of course!)

Way more important to us, or any store, than authors buying lots of books from us is to have them talk about the importance of indie stores. One frustration for me is hearing about the increasingly small percentage of total books that indies sell. It's a number that, I feel, doesn't accurately reflect what is happening. Those numbers are never tallied properly. Anyhow, I'd like to think we keep all kinds of people devoted and coming back because we offer a range of services people enjoy. Atmosphere and ambiance are well and good but, like any restaurant, that only works if the entire experience is good. We try to support local presses. We try to search out interesting titles and series and feature them.

Micawber's been around since 1972, which means you're doing something really right to be flourishing today. I keep hearing people talk about the death of reading, but I refuse to believe it. I personally think we're hard-wired to love story. Would you agree?|

I do tend to agree. People have been talking about the death of reading since it started. It is changing, without doubt, and the number of forms reading takes on today is probably more varied than before but it isn't on its deathbed. Kids and teens are the ones most often accused of being obsessed by screen culture and I know that is a falacy spread by adults. 

So, it says your'e reworking your website and making changes. Can we get a preview of coming attractions? What's going to be different? 

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure. I want something fun and informative and different to be there. We've never had a shopping cart on the site and it's been mostly used as an info dump(directions, events, staff picks, phone number, etc.) and it seemed like that wasn't enough to keep it being what it was. I've never been overly concerned in doing what we're 'supposed' to be doing. So while I know its part of the cultural currency for any business, large or small, to have a website I also know that I want it to mean something. We have a store blog (www.micawbers.blogspot.com) and a tumblr (mrmicawbers.tumblr.com) and we have a pretty active Facebook page with events, updates and all sorts of book miscellany. So we're still figuring out what it's going to be.

What three titles do you find yourself pressing into everyone's hands these days?

Joan Wickersham's "The News From Spain", Eduardo Halfon's "The Polish Boxer" and "The Mile-End Cookbook." Halfon's book is one that I just keep thinking about and wondering about. It's not possible to describe it neatly other than to say that its shape-shifting and without one genre and written beatifully. The Wickersham was handed to me by Jason Gobble--one of our Random House reps--and he told me it was the best collection of stories he'd read in some time. I agree with that and think it shows the story collection--as a concept--in its strongest form. It is still true that bands can make good records and ignore the enticing hit single. And Mile End is just so much fun to lose yourself in. Its two kids, really, who come from different locales(Montreal and New Jersey). Their marriage joins some great family history via food and culture.

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