Last Friday, in honour of my blog’s tagline, I spent my afternoon exploring indie bookstores looking for a new locale to write about. Later on, I stepped off of the bus on Elgin Street just as the sun went down. People had begun to file into the pubs and eateries that lined the street, and I was looking for a cup of coffee. That was when I noticed Perfect Books.
I was greeted at the door by Cortez. He motioned me inside, and urged me to stay awhile.
“Keep me company, buy a book.”
After some light chit-chat, I browsed the store. All the right names jumped off of the shelves at me; Chuck Klosterman, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, my Applied Storytelling professor Nadine McInnis. I returned to Cortez, with a book in hand. Cortez is the sort of pal you wish you could meet all the time: friendly, wise, knowledgeable. Cool. I asked him,
“What is the advantage of being an independent bookstore in today’s book market?” His response was succinct.
“We have a choice.”
Large chain bookstores (Cortez calls them box stores—I learned a new term) restrict the titles that their stores carry. Upper management (head office) has complete control over which books ship to the stores.
I tried to relate. “They might as well be selling coffee."
He smiled. “Yes. Exactly.”
At Perfect Books, staff members can suggest a book for the store to carry, so word of mouth matters. Cortez pointed out several cards that lined the shelves. As a requirement, staff members must be avid readers. They then contribute to the store by writing concise reviews to accompany books on the shelf. It’s a nice personal touch, superior to the “Staff Pick” stickers that box stores use.
Perfect Books also stocks books from self-published local authors. Their consignment program is cheap, and the authors autograph a large number of copies for the store to keep on hand.
Many independent bookstores in Ottawa have closed in the last few years. Will Perfect Books survive? Cortez is optimistic.
“You’re here, aren’t you?” he said, pointing to the book I put down on the counter. He picked it up, ruffled the pages, and sniffed at it. “Nothing beats that smell, when they’re right out of the box. People are always going to want to have them.”
What can I say? The guy speaks my language. I’ll be back.
Kristopher Bras is a 35 year old Professional Writing student at Algonquin College. When his nose isn’t buried in a book, he enjoys playing the guitar and viewing independent films. Some of his strongest influences are Roger Zelazny, Stephen King, and Chuck Klosterman. He still listens to the same punk rock bands that he enjoyed in 1995. Kristopher is frequently sighted at Ottawa Senators games.
Twitter / Mavericks / Punkottawa