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

25 May 2022 @ 2:00 pm 3:00 pm BST

BRN Developing Collaterals

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

Dr Simon Frost. Bournemouth University. https://staffprofiles.bournemouth.ac.uk/display/sfrost 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.

Prof. Corinna Norrick-Rühl. University of Münster: https://www.uni-muenster.de/Anglistik/bookstudies/team/prof.dr.norrick-ruehl.html 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).

Professor Norrick-Rühl talked about the bookstore as node, and is crossroads between all relationships in books. Bookstores fulfil a variety of functions and this is how they continue to exist as they are emmeshed in cultural networks, entrepreneurial networks, and educational networks. Therefore, framing bookstores as nodes in overlapping networks is useful to this understanding.

Dr Ryan Raffaelli. Harvard Business School: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/profile.aspx?facId=257292 See Reinventing Retail: The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores, HBS working papers series, 2020.

Dr Raffaelli again underscored how bookstores are different to other stores and different to usual economics. Bookstores defied the predicted decline of the 1990s and there was a rise in independent bookstores in the 2010s. The discussion focussed on three factors which make bookshops ‘different’: community, curation and convening.

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