Reflections and Meditations
As we close the fifth year of our ownership of Eight Cousins, I’ve been reflecting on all we took into consideration in purchasing the store from Carol Chittenden. We knew it would be difficult and I don’t think we have had any surprises on that front. What has been more challenging than expected, and not unique to independent bookstores, has been the acceleration in the use of technology and online shopping. We love technology, so we understand its appeal. We embrace it at the store. It has made so many things easier for us, from finding the book a customer wants, to our ability to communicate more frequently with you and analyze more fully what our customers are reading and what is on our shelves. We also have an awesome website for customers to browse and shop on.
Technology has made the competition for part of our product fierce. We are up against the national (global) giant of online shopping. But that is for the book itself, what I call the transaction. The larger product – our relationship with you, our service, our knowledge, the depth that we add to the greater Falmouth area by being here – all these we continually sharpen to maintain the tradition of Eight Cousins being a vital and treasured part of the community.
We know many people truly appreciate our value because we have countless partners: the hospital program for new parents, preschools to high schools, many organizations in town who seek us out to help bring quality programming to their constituents, our new partnership with the JFK Museum in Hyannis. We received tremendous support after our flood in 2018, and over the holidays many customers return to shop and tell us how much they love that we are here.
Running an independent bookstore will always be challenging and we will do all we can to continue to be a part of this community. I hope you’ll help us to do that.
It just about takes my breath away when I realize we are beginning our sixth year as owners of Eight Cousins! Where has the time gone? It’s been two years since the bookstore suffered catastrophic water damage, and we’re now completely comfortable in our more-than-renovated beautiful space. I have always believed that our recovery was amazing.
In the midst of overwhelming international and national events, I will follow the advice Nicholas Kristof offered in a recent New York Times op-ed piece in which he suggests that in the arc of human history, 2019 was one of the best years yet. He writes that “2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate, and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases.” How refreshing to have some positive news! That being said, I recognize that we are in the midst of a shift and the same is certainly true for us here at Eight Cousins.
The convenience of at-home, online shopping is revolutionizing the shopping paradigm. And although Eight Cousins has the capability to offer online purchases and direct-to-home shipping, nothing in my opinion beats the opportunity to connect with customers and discuss books, make recommendations, and help select that perfect gift. These are the moments that have meant the most to me this past year.
In 2019 I had the privilege of attending the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute in Albuquerque, and the annual New England Independent Booksellers Association meeting in Providence. At these meetings I had the opportunity to meet and talk with authors and fellow booksellers. Listening to authors such as Margaret Atwood and Eric Larson, I thought: “Aha! That’s why I’m in this business!” Sharing ideas with fellow booksellers is as much fun as it is educational. Last winter I also had the great fortune to take part in a book buyers’ retreat in Rhinebeck, New York, where booksellers, authors, and publishers participated in round-table discussions. Very inspirational!
However, for me it always comes back to our loyal customers. It is so wonderful when a customer says to one of us, “I could get these books online, but I prefer to make my book purchases with you.” Thank you so much for your vital support, which keeps us alive on Falmouth’s Main Street. Your commitment to us reinforces our commitment to the Falmouth community! Here’s looking forward to a successful and positive 2020!
In 2016, author Varian Johnson visited Falmouth. To celebrate the occasion, Stephanie Seales – formerly of the Falmouth Public Library currently Head Children's Book Buyer and Department Manager at Bookshop Santa Cruz – and I hosted a talk with him. At the time we were featuring The Great Greene Heist. He has since published To Catch a Cheat, The Parker Inheritance, and What Were the Negro Leagues?, with Twins coming October, 2020. His amazing books contain social groups, technology, race, family dynamics, tween/teen transitions, first love. Stephanie and I wanted to title the talk in such a way that we could address all of these conversations and we settled on "Books Build Conversations."
Books Build Conversations has since become a personal mantra. I hear myself using it when talking with local educators about having a reading night for parents. I use it when talking with expectant parents about early literacy and language development. It comes up in conversations with librarians as they tell stories such as when a book inspired one student to share their personal experiences with foster care and that story then inspired peers to share their own family stories: the good and the hard.
Books do a lot of things. They teach us. They entertain us. They help us feel less alone. They help us talk about difficult topics. They put words to our experiences. They provide metaphors and examples as we try to explain our feelings, perceptions, worldviews. They connect us. Books build conversations.
I'm not telling you something you didn't already know. If you're reading our newsletter, you're already a book lover. You already have your own understanding of what books mean for you. If you're interested in sharing, I'd love to hear from you.
Although the Books Build Conversations concept isn't new, I want to focus on it in 2020. I want to talk with you, readers, community members, publishing industry. In each newsletter, I'll share conversation ideas and review books that inspire conversation. We've got a lot to talk about in 2020. I look forward to the conversation.
|How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, available today!||This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewell|