Domy Books, BookWoman owners discuss futures

Omar Gamboa

The emergence of digital and online textbooks will not limit the value of bookstores in Austin, Steve Bercu, the owner of BookPeople, said Thursday.

As part of its current exhibition “Banned, Burned, Seized, and Censored,” the Harry Ransom Center presented a public discussion with Bercu, Russell Etchen, director of Domy Books, and Susan Post, the owner of BookWoman about the future of their local businesses. Part of the discussion also touched on how new technology will impact their businesses.

“Both Susan [Post] and I, through our websites, sell e-books right now,” Bercu said. “We would hope that soon everyone would know that we charge the exact same price as everyone else who sells digital books.”

Etchen said while Domy Books doesn’t sell electronic books, his store’s future is not at risk. The store follows a contemporary art bookstore style and is considered an information source, he said.

“Personally, I’m more interested in putting books on people’s shelves — to develop the mentality that you should have books in your home,” Etchen said. “There’s this little John Waters meme going around in the Internet saying ‘If you go home one night with somebody and they don’t have books on their shelves, don’t sleep with them.’”

The event also coincided with the Ransom Center’s Greenwich Village Bookshop Door exhibition. Almost 240 artists, writers, publishers, and others from New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood signed a door to a back room in the bookstore between 1921 and 1925, which was once a part of an artistic hot spot.

Molly Schwartzburg, Harry Ransom Center curator, said the relationship between the speakers and the door provides a lesson about how bookstores have added to their communities throughout history.

“The relationship shows small bookstore owners involved in the store and the day-to-day activities that it provides,” Schwartzburg said. “They are focused on what a particular community wants, adding to a better process of selection for the customer.”

Etchen said Domy Books’ style is unique and has some adult themes. He said he did not want to create a traditional bookstore and wanted to cater to a more modern audience.
“You really have to be your own marketer,” Etchen said. “It’s every man for themselves.”

Post said while BookWoman is generally a feminist bookstore, only ten percent of the books in the store deal with that topic. She said being able to sell children’s books and activities in store is a large component of her business.

“Part of the reason [children’s books] sell so well is that they’re just fun,” Post said. “You’ve got to have a store where children can just go read and play.”

Published on Friday, November 18, 2011 as: Local bookstore owners discuss futures