Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Very Busy Bookstore

We visited McNally Robinson bookstore, a Winnipeg phenomenon, today.  It is a small independent bookstore chain, family-owned.  It was started in 1981 and now has about four stores in Canada and one in New York.  This is the first one we have visited.
The store was filled to the walls with books, toys, gifts, journals and cards and writing paper, magazines and newspapers.  The children's area looks like a treehouse looming above the grownups' sections. They were calling names for seats in the Prairie Ink restaurant (at 2 p.m. on a weekday).  Near one entrance, their Espresso Book Machine was printing out a book for a customer.
They have an arrangement where a customer who finds a title on Google Books can come in and order a copy, which will then be printed, cut and bound -- minimum order is one.  They will also produce a book from a file produced by the customer.  According to their flyer, some recent titles are: Walking, by Thoreau; The Hand of Ethelberta, by Thomas Hardy; The Long Labrador Trail, by Dillon Wallace, Sniping in France, with notes on the scientific training of scouts, observers and snipers, by Hesketh Vernon Prichard.
As expected, they have a large and rich selection of Canadian books, both books written by Canadians and books concentrating on Canadian themes. The major Canadian authors are well represented, but their American cousins are not neglected. We saw the same American titles we would see in a Barnes and Noble store (except B and N does not stock much Canadian material).
We did not witness their book signing or author appearances, but judging by the signs everywhere, they must have several such events each week.
It seems that McNally Robinson has found a formula for success in the highly competitive world of independent bookstores.


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