A Question Worth Answering

We got an email today from someone who’d read an article which claimed independent bookstores (not us, other stores) were ‘censoring’ conservative authors by refusing to carry their books. This author was worried the story was true, and was looking for more information.

I could go on for ages about the difference between reaping the consequences and censorship, but the email seemed to be in good faith and deserved a real answer. Our response, with names redacted, is below:

“We are Bakka Phoenix, a different bookstore entirely. We’re not going to comment on a rumour about XXX’s activities: that way lies madness and a lot of silly Twitter feuds. You might want to contact them directly (their website is XXX). Also, please note: from a Canadian perspective, Breitbart looks more like an outlet for the borderline-lunatic fringe than a credible news source.

But if you were wondering, we can assure you that we ourselves carry many books we find personally or politically reprehensible. Let’s face it, your left wing is somewhere off to our right, enough so that we’d have trouble even agreeing on the definition of ‘conservative’. Frankly, we find a lot of US political posturing completely unhinged.

But… so what? We’re in the business of selling books. Good books. Bad books. Titles some people love; titles others hate enough to throw across the room. Some books will transform readers minds and lives and be remembered for decades. Others will be forgotten immediately upon reading (or even partway through). We don’t have to like a book, its author, or its message in order to sell it. To suggest otherwise merely proves that the suggester spends very little time in actual bookstores.

The many wonderful independent booksellers I’ve met feel the same way. Independent bookstores exist for precisely that reason: to ensure that readers have the widest choice possible. So we — all of us — stock books we think our readers might be interested in, personal taste bedamned.

That said (read: rant over), economics is a sad truth in the life of all small businesses. If we find that a particular author isn’t selling as well as he used to, we will out of necessity order fewer copies of his next book. If we take a chance on a new author and her book hits big, we’ll order more copies next time around. Financial consequence is not censorship, no matter how it feels from the author’s perspective. We know too many authors not to understand that terrible squeeze from both sides.”

3 Responses to “A Question Worth Answering”

  1. brashley46 says:

    I’ve been a customer of BAKKA since Charlie McKee and his buddies founded the business, on Queen Street in the early 70s. I have never seen a book that the succession of owners and clerks and managers would not sell based on its perceived ideology or that of its author(s); they’ve even sold stuff by a right-wing Holocaust denier notorious in the stfnal community (who I would name if asked, but not in public). Conservative? Bring it on, folks.

    What they won’t sell is books that don’t sell. At all.


  2. […] clicks he wants. One Toronto bookstore owner was intimidated into making a public denial — “A Question Worth Answering”. We are Bakka Phoenix, a different bookstore entirely. We’re not going to comment on a rumour […]

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