I’m glad to see this discussion taking place! I know I’m a year late to this conversation, and this April is not much like last April, but perhaps that makes this conversation all the more valuable.
Thanks for your blog post, @Brendan, and for your comments on this thread, @ellyblue, it was great to read about the innovations people are trying and what has and hasn’t been working. I had a couple thoughts in addition to the ideas already in the mix. Let me hasten to explain that my only experience with bookstores and publishing is that of reader, customer, and community member.
The first builds on the subscription model and the “para-book benefits” line of thinking. Is there a way to deepen the community aspect? I.e., can the “connection economy” be leaned into here? I don’t know how feasible this is as a direct source of income, given that there are such resources as Antilibrari.es, Goodreads, Open Library, etc. But is there a way to leverage this model in combination with subscriptions? Could there be a tiered experience of community within a Discourse platform where connection is the draw and there are additional perks at higher price points? Can the content created by connection online within the community become a greater contributor to the overall value of membership within the community?
The second involves collaboration. I don’t know the lay of the land so far as independent boutique imprints goes, but Revelore Press came to mind when I read this thread. Apparently based pretty solidly on collaboration as an organization, and with a focus on community building built in, Revelore seems like a good candidate for what I have in mind. What of collaborations/alliances between independent booksellers and independent imprints? It seems there must be some significant overlap in terms of what each could stand to benefit by working together to form and nurture community.
I’m not suggesting anything like consolidation here, but collaborations between independent entitites. And given the difference in audience and content between two imprints like Microcosm and Revelore (for the sake of two examples right at hand), perhaps there is room for collaboration on that level as well?
I trust you will forgive me my spectator status vis-à-vis publishing per se and I am curious to hear any new ideas that may have arisen in recent weeks.