Wordpower, Scotland’s leading radical political bookstore, opened it’s 13th book fair last night at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith.
Avi Shlaim, a respected historian of the Arab-Israeli conflict, opened the four day event with a concise talk on the origins of the conflict to a packed room – just the first in series of free events that include films, workshops, and, of course thousands of books from alternative, small and independent publishers.
I asked Elaine Henry, who founded Wordpower in 1994 with her partner Tarlochan Gata-Aura, how they are coping with the perfect storm of online book sellers like Amazon, aggressive chain stores, and the economic downturn.
“Word of mouth, customer support, our website – we ship books all over the world now – and we publish too, so we’re actually running several businesses within the business. ”
Elaine reckons the large publishers spend about four seconds per book when they are deciding who to commission – and it sounds like even Wordpower have to be pretty selective to make sure that they are stocking books that will sell well. But because of their ethos, the criteria are different – something that ensures a loyal, if relatively small customer base over the years.
LISTEN TO ELAINE HENRY FROM WORDPOWER