There is a store in Toronto Ontario. This store has been in business since 1972. What does it sell, you ask? Why, books of course. And not just any books. This very real, successful store sells only Science Fiction and Fantasy books. Don’t believe me? Check it out. It’s real. Its name is Bakka Phoenix. Google it. It’s moved locations a few times and now has a home near the University of Toronto.
Now, I write Fantasy, and that is why it caught my fancy when I read about this store. It got me dreaming. Fast-forward twenty years. I choose twenty because I won’t be around in fifty. So, in this dream we go ahead twenty years. My story, my dream, my call.
I live in Mytown. You live in Yourtown, your reader lives in Anytown. Another lives in Big City. They look different from twenty years ago – as we would expect.
Twenty years ago, in 2013, the publishing industry looked bleak. Indies couldn’t get a foot in the door. They were stigmatised as deluded charlatans, looked down upon by the old school who could not let go of the idea that any writer worth his salt would be published only by what was then known as “The Big Six” or even “The Big Five”. Private bookstores were closing their doors, no longer able to complete with the big box stores that could buy and sell books at rock bottom prices. Even some of these looked about to fold.
Electronic books took up some of the slack, but sadly, that market could not seem to sort itself out. Good books were passed over, undiscovered. A few bad ones made a mint. Generally, it was a time of turmoil for both writers and readers.
Today, the picture is very different. In Anytown, Mytown, Reading City, in fact in any town and city with a population over 30,000 great changes have taken place.
Let’s look at Mytown. On Main Street I see a store that carries only mysteries. I watch customers go in empty-handed and come out smiling with two or three books in their hands. They found just what they wanted because they had a place dedicated to their taste. A block over stands the Romance and Historical Fiction store. It shares space, on another floor with one that sells only YA books. It’s fun to watch who goes there. The blue haired ladies bump elbows with the funky teens and regular women, even the occasional man. They smile at each other because they share the love of reading.
In the mall down the street a shop selling Action Adventure and Thrillers does a brisk business. The clientele here looks edgier, walks with more assurance. Some with a swagger. They too come out with books and a smile.
There is a small store dedicated to Fantasy and Sci-Fi, too, and a Children’s Books store. Another, somewhat larger, sells Non-fiction. Its customers are a diverse mix of students, academics, geeks, and just plain folks who are into what is or was ‘real’.
Often customers who frequent mostly one store will take a wander over to another to see what the fuss is about there, or to try out something new or something someone recommended.
All of these small stores, each one specialized in one or two particular genres, make a living selling books. Are Indies on the shelves there? But of course. Since the advent of e-readers and the idea that buyers can sample chunks of a book before they buy it, there is no need to distinguish between ‘trad’ and indie’.
OK, you can wake up now. Impossible? Utopian? Likely, or ….
It’s still 2013 and we’re still struggling. But, hey, if a store dedicated to only Science Fiction and Fantasy can make a go of it today, then what’s wrong with a dream like mine. After all, “If you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?” And isn’t it fun to dream?