The independent bookstore is a cultural and community hub – authors are introduced, works read aloud to an audience and ideas are shared.
Each month, we will be featuring an independent bookstore from across Canada, proving what a special role these shops play in fostering authors, community and a love of reading. For October, we are featuring Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton, Ontario. We got to speak with the lovely co-owners Kerry and Tracey. You can follow them on Twitter and Facebook!
- Tell us a little bit about the history of Bryan Prince Booksellers
Bryan Prince Bookseller was established in 1989 by Bryan Prince who had been partner, for many years, in the Dundas bookstore Chapman & Prince. The store has always maintained a strong community focus, participating in countless events, fundraisers and programs in the greater Hamilton area.
Tracey Higgins joined the staff as a bookseller in 1990 and Kerry Cranston began her bookselling career in 1994. In 2011 Bryan Prince retired from bookselling and sold the store to Kerry & Tracey, who do their utmost to continue the traditions of the store while adapting to current trends and technology.
- What made you want to open a bookstore?
We love books in all their manifestations. We believe that literacy, creativity and a critical mind are so important in developing a thoughtful, engaged citizenry. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, we are exposing our minds to new ideas and new ways of communication those ideas – we can’t think of many more satisfying careers than fostering and encouraging that process.
- What do you like best about your career in books?
The most satisfying part of being a bookseller is connecting a reader with their new favourite author, or the perfect book to suit their needs.
- What does the book-buying public understand least about independent bookstores?
Most of our customers understand how difficult it can be for independent booksellers to compete with huge corporations and online retailers who are able to greatly discount books. It is very comforting to know that so many of our customers are very loyal to independents and understand the importance of our existence to ensure diversity and local community in the marketplace.
- What is the hardest part about being a bookstore owner in 2012?
The hardest part of being a bookseller right now is the uncertainty of so many things that are completely outside our control: technology trends, the state of the economy and how that effects the average person; fuel & transportation costs, etc.
- What types of books does your store stock and/or specialize in?
Bryan Prince Bookseller is a general bookstore, stocking fiction, nonfiction and children’s books. We have a very good special order service and have recently started to stock French titles.
- What are some of your favorite titles? Titles coming out this year?
Tracey: I have the lost generation classic and am enamoured of the beautiful editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. In terms of new books coming our this year, I adored the debut mystery by Deryn Collier, Confined Space, and throughly enjoyed Jian Ghomeshi’s memoir, 1982. I am also very excited to read (when the time presents itself, Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton.)
- What are you reading right now?
Tracey: Right now I’m reading the Booker longlisted novel, Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng and the new Massey lecture by Neil Turok, The Universe Within.
- What is your most current best seller? Classic?
Our current bestseller is Joseph Anton, by Salman Rushdie. In terms of a classic bestseller, it would be a toss-up between Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen.
- What have been some of your favorite (or most memorable) author events?
One of our most memorable author events was the evening with Robertson Davies and Shyam Selvadurai. It was Shyam’s first reading and Robertson Davies was so kind and gracious with both Shyam Selvadurai and the booksellers from the store. That evening resonated with Tracey every time she rereads one of Robertson Davies’ novels. Aside from that one, the Harry Potter midnight parties were great. They entailed a ridiculous amount of planning and preparation, but worth is all when we saw the hordes of enthusiastic children.
- Any strange, wild or crazy-but-true stories?
It’s an unusual day when we don’t have anyone ask a strange question that has nothing to do with bookselling. One of the more difficult conversations I’ve had, though, was trying to convince a customer that the complete Oxford English Dictionary was not available on audio cassette.
- What book are you, or will you, hand-sell with a vengeance?
This fall there is a wealth of great books to recommend. As the weather cools off, though, mystery lovers are on the hunt for something new & exciting. This fall I will be handselling Confined Space, by Deryn Collier & Crow’s Landing, by Brad Smith.
- Is there anything else you would like to tell our blog readers?
There are lots of things we want people to know about booksellers, but there is one opinion that we encounter that we find disturbing. There seems to be an impression that booksellers are ignoring developments in technology, that we are passionate about books because we aren’t facing up to the future, or somehow defying the inevitable. We are all for reading. We wish everyone would read voraciously in whatever medium best suits their needs. But we also believe that physical books and digital books will find their balance and that we’ll get past this almost desperate frenzy to eliminate every alternative to the digital world.