Forster's Book Garden is a fixture in my home town of Bolton, Ontario. Donna and Paul Forster have made a success of their business despite the changing landscape of publishing. Donna was kind enough to chat with me about her thoughts on the future of publishing, e-books, publish on demand as well as a few other things.
Tell us a little about your store and how long you’ve been in business.
Forster’s Book Garden www.forstersbookgarden.ca is an independently owned and operated “mom and pop” type general bookstore. We sell books in all categories and for all ages, including teacher resources and driving manuals. We also carry gift items like products from the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild which we like to call “intelligent cutesie”. Things like disappearing mugs (pour in the hot liquid and King Henry VIII’s wives disappear, or the TARDIS disappears from one side of the mug and reappears in space, on the other side). They also have some really neat watches and famous people finger puppet fridge magnets. We also carry books by local authors who may have self-published, and some hand-made jewellery made locally. We were at the old location for 11 years and have been here at 55 Healey Road in Bolton for over two.
In what ways do you try to keep your store unique? How have you been able to adapt and change with the changing book market?
We try to bring in unique products like those from the Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild and a great product (we are the only Canadian distributor) Book Buddies which are pillows with straps to hold your pages open, and keep your book balanced in your lap. They also come with an acrylic stage so you can write or use your laptop in your lap on the pillow as well.
As a brick and mortar book store, you mustn’t have a favourable opinion of ebooks. Do you see a way for traditional book sellers to get in on the growing digital book market? If so, how?
Independent bookstores in the U.S. are capable of selling e-books through their stores via Googlebooks. In Canada, we have no platform to store the books or collect the money for them so we’ve been left out of this market. We’d like to be able to sell books in “ANY” form to our customers, but we do not have access to the selling of e-books or e-readers.
Do you think physical books will ever go away?
We hope brick and mortar stores will be here in the future. We’d like to think that unlike music stores whose demise we can blame on the ability to download music, that books are a more multi-tactile experience and people will still want them in book form. The big concern is that brick and mortar bookstores will become showrooms for the books that people will then download.
What is your opinion of POD (publishing on demand)? Is it harder to order and sell POD books?
Print on Demand publishing is a great way for an author to get their book out there. There have even been some authors who have been picked up by bigger publishers after their print on demand book did well on its own (examples: Joan Fitzgerald McCurdy, Christopher Paolilni, Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams). However, it is an expensive way to sell books. The fewer that are printed, the more each book costs and the higher price is then passed on to the customer who, after comparison shopping questions the price of the print on demand book. It makes it difficult to sell. Unless booksellers take them on consignment (which means lower profit for the book store), print on demand books are not often stocked. They may, however, be specially ordered when requested, but then you’re selling one book at a time, instead of as shelf stock.
Do you have any promotions or special events coming up? Please tell us about them.
Since we just finished a big event, we don’t have anything planned for summer. Summer in this town, usually means there are fewer people around ton participate. Many have cottages and go there for weeks at a time, not just on weekends.
Please support local bookstores. Visit Forster’s Book Garden at www.forstersbookgarden.ca. Follow them on twitter page: www.Twitter.com/ForstersBooks and/or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bolton-ON/Forsters-Book-Garden
Thank you Donna for taking the time to chat with me...Jeanne