Claiming Space: Sidewalk Bookselling and Belonging in New York City
This 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.
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.
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?
Join Dr Kathy Liddle and Dr Sarah Pyke as they present their work on feminist and queer bookstores as places of contested cultural interactions. (The recording starts a minute or so into the first talk with my apologies to Kathy.)
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):
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!
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
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.
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.
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.