Posts filed under ‘Book Culture on Broadway’
We are excited to announce the launch of Book Culture’s brand new and improved website, which also features a new home for our blog! We are keeping our wordpress space until archived posts can be transferred to the new site, but we hope to eventually transfer everything over to the new blog. So be sure to look out for new posts at bookculture.com/blog or follow us on twitter and tumblr for updates.
In answer to why we have put the posters in our window with Je Suis Charlie.
We must stand firm in defense of free speech. It is one thing to not sell or read or ally ourselves with what we see as destructive imagery or language, it is another to say nothing when there is a fundamental attack on free speech. Book Culture is in the publishing business and as such we are obligated, without equivocation, to support that right.
We are not defending “Charlie Hebdo” or any idea or publication no matter how offensive or acceptable to us. We are defenders of the right to free speech.
Standing for the rights of only ourselves, our views of what is acceptable, proper, meritorious or warranting the right to publication, is not standing for the right at all. We are committed enough to stand up for the right to free speech for others. This is the commitment we must make if we are to uphold free speech as a right.
It is perfectly right and just that somewhere at the far edges of decency where Charlie Hebdo and super right wing literature exists we find ourselves deeply offended. We can see the devastating effect that inciting anger can have in Rwanda or Bosnia or Nazi Germany for example and we can make sense of the idea that some of this stuff ought to be censored.
But it is only in those places where censorship has won that day that we see the awful results of living in a place where the fundamental rights are not guaranteed to all. Every genocide in history has come in a land without the right to free speech.
We stand with Charlie Hebdo now because free speech has been attacked, and those attackers are asking for our complicity.
Je suis Charlie means we believe in democracy, human rights, the right to dialogue and the power of ideas and writing over violence and coercion. Je suis Charlie means that we will not review the content of our book shops to ensure we are not offending someone. Je suis Charlie means that as coworkers in the business of publishing and books we support, above the ideas themselves, the right of those ideas to be published. Je suis Charlie means that we’re booksellers and it’s a badge of honor. I say- wear it well.
In 1988 Salman Rushdie had published Satanic Verses in England and was almost immediately condemned and threatened with death because in an Ayatollah’s view it was blasphemy. Penguin in New York almost withdrew the publication and when it was eventually published the major chains and many smaller bookselling outlets didn’t offer to sell the book because they were afraid. Many indie booksellers, including the founders of your shops, did sell it. Because we were one of the few outlets that did, we put a mountain of 500 copies in the front of the store and sold 800 copies in a weekend because people didn’t want to be threatened and have their rights infringed upon. Another of the stores that did in Berkeley, Cody’s, was bombed. The question of offensiveness in the book was without question.
If the few outlets that sold the book didn’t what would that say about our democracy, about our commitment to the first amendment?
Where would we be without the first amendment?
We never have issues of free speech when the material being defended is without critics and universally regarded as culturally beneficial or innocuous.
We only have to defend free speech when it is being attacked, that is the nature of the right. If we don’t defend others rights to free speech we cannot claim it for ourselves.
As booksellers, as independent booksellers, we are committed to free speech. It is what we do. We offer a place to criticize governments, religions, ideas, each other. We do not condone or agree with all the ideas, nor do we purvey language that we do find hurtful or denigrating to others without merit.
We do however stand firm on the right to Free Speech.
We are thrilled to announce that native speaker, Camille Gros, will be hosting French Story Time this fall! French Story Time will be held at Book Culture on Broadway every Friday at 3:30pm, from October 24th through November 21st.
A little bit about Camille:
Best for native French speakers ages 4 to 8 – all are welcome
Drop in – Free of charge
I was a graduate student in New York when I became a mother and was inspired by the abundance of children’s educational and art venues in the city. I’d constantly come across wonderful books and educational toys but had a hard time finding any Persian children’s books, let alone educational toys. This made me look into the state of children’s education and literacy in my area of expertise, namely the Middle East. As a child in Iran myself, I had a difficult school start, for learning the Persian alphabet, diction and math all seemed like a punishing exercise. I believe that my negative experiences could have easily been avoided. Because with the right tools and stimulation, nearly all children are capable of visually memorizing the core elements such as the alphabet, numbers, shapes and basic cognitive concepts years before kindergarten/school-start.
So last year I took a leap of faith and fulfilled my dream of making the very materials I wanted for my own children.
2) Book Culture recently hosted a launch party for the Arabic and Persian block sets. What makes these sets different from other similar products?
I was very happy that we could have our first official launch event in Book Culture! Frequenting Book Culture both as a student and later as a mother was instrumental in the realization of our venture!
What makes our sets different from other similar products is that our blocks are ethically-made in Vermont, USA (no one is hurt making them) and of premium quality, which means they are made to last generations. When parents or a school purchases a set of Dr. Bashi blocks, they are also buying it for the next generation of children and their children…we guarantee it! Furthermore unlike the lindenwood and basswood alphabet blocks commonly found in the market, our blocks are suitable for children 1 years of age and older, they are made of sustainably sourced American hard maple wood – lacquered and painted with non-toxic ink–which creates a solid, non-splintering toy that is safe around the edges. This is particularly important as children under 3 tend to bite toys and lindenwood blocks are known to splinter (small chunks of wood can be bitten off) and lose their color fairly quickly.
Secondly, when you take into account that every square cube has 6 sides to it, you realize that each side of a wood block is prime time real estate! So you don’t want to waste it!
On just 1 side for instance, we have added 2 combined educational components– color and geometric shape for children of all ages to learn—so when you add a triangle why not color it, and add the name of the color too—so e.g. red triangle instead of just red or triangle?
So both our Persian and Arabic block sets offer 10 different colors and 11 geometric shapes, as well as the entire Arabic or Persian alphabet and all their conditional forms, vowels and numbers, basic math symbols, useful sight-words, the four seasons, and weather types, and even the 5 senses (for the Persian). The typography, choice of words and illustrations on our blocks are unique, artistically-exciting and wherever possible race and gender conscious—created in close consultation with scholars in the field.
So our blocks are packed with education and help with developing fine and gross motor skills and cognitive concepts, while also promoting parent/teacher-child interaction.
It is important to keep in mind that while in Europe and North America, ABC wood blocks for children have been part of every home, nursery and elementary school’s inventory for centuries, this has not been the case for Persian and Arabic speaking regions. So when I decided to venture into the field of children’s products, I wanted to make the best ABC block ever made–surpassing 300 years of experimentation with English or French wood blocks, both in terms of material but also content.
3) It is rather remarkable how much Dr. Bashi has accomplished, all while you maintain a full life as a scholar and as a mother. How do you do it?
Thank you for your kind comment! We have just begun our work. Parenthood and full-time work is always a challenge. I personally had to wait until my children were older before I could begin this venture. They have both finished preschool now.
4) Dr. Bashi will be hosting a Persian language story time on Saturdays at Book Culture on Broadway. What can parents expect for their children from these story times?
Persian storytime is a partnership between Dr. Bashi™ and Book Culture, a free program for the advancement of Persian literacy, language and heritage. My own children grew up attending story time in Book Culture’s 114th location. We’d pop in during story time even in languages we don’t speak because it was a chance for the kids to meet and play with other children and listen to an engaged adult reading from colorful books.
What parents can expect for their children from Persian story time is engaged and playful readings from a carefully selected list of beloved Persian children’s stories, both modern and medieval. It will also be a time for families and our children to come to Columbia campus, get to know each other, and have fun. I’d love to offer movie-time called something like “Persian n’ Popcorn” for older children with the option of writing and discussing the films or TV series we’ve watched. Hint hint, Book Culture ; )
5) Are there any other products currently in the works? What can we look forward to from Dr. Bashi?
We are working on a Persian-English children’s books project that we hope to launch next year. We are also working on offering our blocks in a number of other languages such as Urdu, Hebrew, Swedish and even English! Our capabilities to make educational toys in any world language or in any particular theme (chemistry, geography, botany, history, stories and much more) are endless. Hopefully with more visionary investors on board, we can realize our full potential.
6) Where can people find out more about Dr. Bashi?
http://www.drbashi.com and follow us on our Facebook, Twitter (@Dr_Bashi), instagram (@dr_bashi), YouTube, and pinterest channels. And come to Persian story time on Saturdays at 2:30 PM in Book Culture on 114th Street, New York, NY.
Questions by Cody
Another great flash came across the consciousness of the people in the book trade recently with a front page article in the New York Times and a long piece in the New Yorker about Amazon.com. In some ways, the business of books is upside down. We take our newest most valuable items and sell them at an enormous discount through internet retailers and discount outlets. We developed a large network of independent professional booksellers and then encouraged chain stores whose goal was to eat their lunch with discounts.
Then we put those discount chains to the fire by aiding and abetting an internet service that out-discounts the discount chains and super stores. One of the chains is gone; the other reeling. The discounter of course would claim that this is good for consumers and more efficient, but it isn’t. This discussion has been going on seemingly forever about selling books and what seems to be wrong. One story blames the rent, another the aggressiveness of Amazon, others the demise of reading altogether or the migration of readers to ebooks. If we look back several decades and reread the stories the culprit was the chain stores. Some of our most sophisticated essays on the issue such as Andre Schiffrin’s have pointed out the pricing regulations in France and Germany that protected booksellers and suggested that we ought to follow that model. In those countries selling books at a discount was illegal and allowed a vast and diverse array of bookstores to survive even in big expensive cities like Paris.
The problem is the price but we don’t need legislation, we need leadership. If retailers, even Amazon or Walmart, don’t uphold the price point, you don’t sell to them. What is broken in the publishing world is the industry’s ability to sustain a diverse growing retail distribution network that maximizes the value it produces. The reason it broke is that the producers, that is the publishers, somehow gave in a long time ago to the notion that it was a good idea to give up control of pricing. Decades ago, as the chain book stores and superstores opened, a siren call of profitability sounded in the halls of publishers. It isn’t hard to see the value of dealing with a one large well capitalized efficient distributor of your product.
But it was wrong. It is still wrong. And by the way, yes my point here is that Publishers should regain pricing control, but it is also wrong for Amazon to continue to step on the throat of publishing companies to give in on terms when it has already achieved so much market share and so damaged an industry by taking its chosen path to growth. Our values as Americans, as lovers of justice and decency make this repellent to us. Jobs and cultural capital are being destroyed. In order to protect one’s brand, be it Knopf Hardcovers, or Polo Ralph Lauren, savvy , consistent pricing and good use of distribution channels are key. The very newest or most highly valued items, be they seats on a plane, or styles that we wear must be priced to uphold value and this has to be protected by the industry creating the product. But publishing is upside down. Only in books can you buy the newest, the most coveted, the most valuable, at a deep discount. It isn’t a monopoly it’s the hideous opposite, a monopsony. Amazon, the only buyer, is dictating terms and pricing and coop and sometimes even editorial control. Of course they aren’t the only buyer but the control they exert over the vendors is indicative of the effect. It’s as though the leaders of our industry have been in a destructive, abusive relationship for so long they can’t see the way out. Discounters, and mass distributors, have their place in the life span of goods and for certain types of merchandise, even some new books, to be sure. Having a tool set that includes Costco, Target, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Urban Outfitters is essential to publishing and many readers. But giving these retailers control over pricing has been deadly to the sector of the retail distribution network that is attaining the highest prices and upholding the value of our product industry wide. Only independents stake a claim every day that a new hardcover book is worth the price that is printed on it. We charge that price and we live by it. To us and to our customers that is the value of a hardcover new release. We uphold the value of our product. I can’t think of another product or industry that is so destructive to its own value proposition or that of its retailers.
Moreover the lack of diversity in our retail network has sacrificed the diversity of voices that can be heard. Small retailers in every industry give wings to new trends, we break out ideas and incubate the new in niches and protected zones just by virtue of how we operate. In bookselling we are thousands of different owners doing things all a little differently; putting different books on display, reading differently, operating in different areas. And because we are so diverse, because our experiences and selves are all so different we need to encourage and make a place for all these voices, all our points of view. That place is at first in thousands of different book shops. Indies break out books – indies are the space for new and smaller voices- the industry knows this. Because even in an extremely small bookstore, take for example “3 lives” in the west village, or “The Grolier Poetry Book Shop” in Harvard Square, there is more on offer to a human being than in the screen that is Amazon. In Manhattan in particular it’s true that we have very high rents to contend with. But we also have the most literate book loving city to serve. And we have a walking vibrant city life that loves its local shops. Nationwide we have seen a bounce in the past two years for certain segments of book selling and more bookstores are opening. Even in Manhattan this can be true . And if we fixed the pricing problem there would be a steady stream of new shops opening in nooks and crannies and then even big bold spaces.
Stop in Tuesday, March 18th at 7pm for a discussion with author David Huyssen on his new book Progressive Inequality: Rich and Poor in New York, 1890-1920.
Huyssen interweaves dramatic stories of wealthy and poor New Yorkers at the turn of the twentieth century, uncovering how initiatives in charity, labor struggles, and housing reform chafed against social, economic, and cultural differences. These cross-class actions took three main forms: prescription, in which the rich attempted to dictate the behavior of the poor; cooperation, in which mutual interest engendered good-faith collaboration; and conflict, in which sharply diverging interests produced escalating class violence. In cases where reform backfired, it reinforced a set of class biases that remain prevalent in America today, especially the notion that wealth derives from individual merit and poverty from lack of initiative.