The Spaces of Bookselling with Kristen Highland

Date & Time: Mar 31, 2023 02:00 PM London
Zoom Meeting: (Meeting ID: 983 2745 6202)

Claiming Space: Sidewalk Bookselling and Belonging in New York City

Highland, K. 2023. The Spaces of Bookselling: Stores, Streets, and PagesThis talk explores sidewalk bookselling in New York City as a dynamic space and practice for redrawing cultural, social, and legal boundaries of belonging for the bookseller and their customer-readers. Sidewalk booksellers everywhere must erect their tables on the unstable and shifting space of the sidewalk as regulated and politicized public and social space. In New York City in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, while sidewalk booksellers benefited from First Amendment exemptions for vending print material, municipal space management strategies continued to circumscribe and contain street bookselling. Within this tension, New York City’s sidewalk booksellers crafted geographies of belonging through diverse strategies of evading regulatory enforcement and cultivating intellectual and social exchange. Using the liminal and contested space of the sidewalk not only to make a living but also to create an inclusive space that incorporates the book and bookselling into the dynamics of urban social exchange, New York City’s sidewalk booksellers assert the value of books on streets.

Following Kristen’s talk, she will be interviewed by Eben Muse about her recent CUP Element, The Spaces of Bookselling, followed by an open Q&A session with all attendees.

Kristin Highland Kristen Highland is Assistant Professor of English at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Her research focuses on book history and the material dimensions of literary culture, including the social and cultural life of American bookstores, as well as digital humanities and mapping. She has recently published The Spaces of Bookselling: Stores, Streets, and Pages with the Cambridge University Press Elements in Publishing and Book Culture series.

Bookshops: Online and On the High Street

The 2nd Annual Bookselling Research Network Conference, in association with the Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing

When: 3rd-4th July 2023
Where: University of Reading
CFP Deadline: Extended to 15 March

Jeff Deutsch, in his recent In Praise of Good Bookstores, reflected that because “we no longer need bookstores to buy books…bookstores might well be an inefficient and inconvenient way to buy books in the twenty-first century.” Yet, as he goes on to show, and the industry seems to confirm, “good bookstores” are evident everywhere. The second annual Bookselling Research Network conference looks to discuss both the impact of bookshops in an era of online retailing and how booksellers, the book trade, and book-reading communities use online environments to return people back to the bookshop – wherever in the world these might be. What are the affordances, pitfalls, and challenges of bookselling in a digital era? What innovative, unique, or era-defying practices are evident and thriving? How have changes in bookselling affected literary production and reception? What cultural or political concerns remain prevalent for booksellers? What does it mean to operate a bookshop today?

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Feminist & Queer Bookshops – Community and Censure

A BRN Online Symposium — open to the public

Join Dr Kathy Liddle and Dr Sarah Pyke as they present their work on feminist and queer bookstores as places of contested cultural interactions.

Place: Zoom ( / Meeting ID: 945 0316 6927)
Date and Time: Feb 24, 2023 02:00 PM London

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To celebrate the coming of winter and the holiday that comes with it, we met on Friday, the 16th of December to talk about books about bookshops. Eben Muse, the author of Fantasies of the Bookstore, started the conversation off by presenting some of the books on his bookshelves that celebrate bookshops, fantasize about them, direct you to them, or tell you how to run your own. The discussion that followed included some other gems, including (in no particular order):

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Geraldine Cox at Kirkdale Bookshop

Geraldine Cox, owner-manager of Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham, London

As part of their series exploring what contributes to the enduring success of established booksellers, Kate Gunning, Acting Membership Manager for the BA, talks to Geraldine Cox, owner-manager of Kirkdale Bookshop in Sydenham, London. [This interview previously appeared in the December 2022 issue of the BA’s Bookselling Essentials magazine.]

How did you get into bookselling?

I worked in the local library in the holidays and helped run the school library, so when I was applying for university after my A levels, my father asked if I would rather start a bookshop with him; I decided to give it a go. In September 1966 we started cleaning an old motorcycle shop in Sydenham, southeast London. We opened officially on 13th October 1966. The shop started off quite small and gradually extended over the years. There isn’t an inch of space left!

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Matter of Bookshops 2022

Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 7th
11.30 Registration & Lunch

12:30 Introductions and Welcome from Meryl Halls (Booksellers Association)

13.00 Panel 1 Bookshop Histories
 Kristen Highland: The Monumental Bookstore
 Maria Vassilopolous: The light and dark of the book trade — Christina Foyle and her bookselling years
 Andrew Nash: Bookshops and Publishers’ Travellers in the mid-1930s

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“Developing Collaterals: Book Retail Networks in the Creation of Social Prosperity”

This was the second themed Bookselling Research Network event. This round table discussed the financial business dimension of a bookstore in tandem with its social dimension as the site for networked communities.

The table comprised of three 15-minute presentations and was followed with a lively question and answer session.

Our panellists:

Dr Simon Frost. Bournemouth University. See Reading, Wanting and Broken EconomicsA Twenty-First-Century Study of Readers and Bookshops in Southampton Around 1900.  N.Y.:  SUNY Press, 2021.

Dr Frost talked about the complexity of book retail, drawing on his research from the 1900s to contemporary times. He argued that in the 1900s books became a commodity culture and this continues today. There may be radical differences in operational mode between 1900 and now but the situation remains the same: the promise of a gain means we accept books are retailed to us.

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“Developing Collaterals: Book Retail Networks in the Creation of Social Prosperity”

Wednesday 25th May 2:00 – 3:30 pm BST

The Bookselling Research Network is pleased to announce its next event. This round table will discuss the financial business dimension of a bookstore in tandem with its social dimension as the site for networked communities. While the bookstore’s assets may generate revenue, they have other outputs from other ‘collaterals’, such as their communities of readers and end users, with the possibility that both might contribute to a much wider shared prosperity. In short, the panel participants will ask from their varied standpoints, whether there are good reasons to think of the otherwise separate domains of cultural politics and economics together as a networked political economy? 

The table comprises 3 x 10-15 minute presentations, with general discussion and questions to follow.

Our panellists are

Dr Simon Frost. Bournemouth University. See Reading, Wanting and Broken EconomicsA Twenty-First-Century Study of Readers and Bookshops in Southampton Around 1900.  N.Y.:  SUNY Press, 2021.

Prof. Corinna Norrick-Rühl. University of Münster: See The Novel as Network: Forms, Ideas, Commodities. Cham: Palgrave, 2020 (co-edited with Tim Lanzendörfer); see also Bookshelves in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Cham: Palgrave, forthcoming (co-edited with Shafquat Towheed).

Dr Ryan Raffaelli. Harvard Business School: See Reinventing Retail: The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores, HBS working papers series, 2020.

After the panel talks, the second part of the event will be an open discussion on these themes and an opportunity to identify areas for further research and collaboration.

This event will take place on Zoom and there is no charge for attendance. Please register here: