By Sabrina Schnur
BU News Service
This article was previously published in the Brookline Tab.
BROOKLINE — Brookline Booksmith has announced its partnership in support of Bookselling Without Borders, a national organization sending American booksellers to international book fairs.
Lisa Gozashti, co-owner and manager of Brookline Booksmith, said the store has always been connected with Bookselling Without Borders due to its own weekly program, the Transnational Literature Series.
Shuchi Saraswat, curator of the Transnational Literature Series, said she focuses on migration as a way to look at borders. The group often looks at works in translation, Saraswat said.
“There’s so much published in the U.S. that it’s very easy for booksellers to stay focused on what’s published here,” Saraswat said.
In September, Bookselling Without Borders launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. Brookline Booksmith encouraged the community to donate and offered an hour-long “coffee and conversation about books” with Saraswat and Gozashti to the first person to donate at least $110.
The Kickstart campaign closes Oct. 25, whether or not the goal of $20,000 is reached. As of the afternoon Oct. 19, they had raised $18,499. The money Bookselling Without Borders raises will go into sending booksellers to book fairs around the world in 2019.
Peter Win, co-owner of Brookline Booksmith, said he has known the creator of Bookselling Without Borders, Michael Reynolds, for many years due to their involvement in publishing. Win said it’s important for independent publishers to promote books from different countries.
“Reading about and learning about other cultures, other countries, definitely can help to bring people together more and to increase our awareness and knowledge of other cultures,” Win said. “That’s something I think we all believe in.”
Reynolds, who is also editor and chief of Europa Editions, an independent publisher in New York City specializing in translations, said he was taking editors to international events regularly when he realized it would be beneficial to bring booksellers as well. So he started a scholarship in 2016.
“It doesn’t make any sense to be publishing books that nobody reads, and booksellers are an absolutely necessary conduit in getting our books into the hands of readers,” Reynolds said.
Christian Westermann, head of sales and marketing at Europa Editions, said the first scholarship went to Ariana Paliobagis, a bookseller from Bozeman, Montana who went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany.
“It was a real Cinderella story because she’s from a store that’s really way out there in the middle of the country,” he said. “Our editor and chief and the good folks at Other Press put together a really great program for her and took her to meetings and introduced her to booksellers from all over the world.”
Soon, Reynolds said, he realized it would be even better if a group of American booksellers could go together to debrief and discuss their days abroad, so he reached out to other publishers.
By the end of 2017 more than 10 other publishers had asked to become partners and Paliobagis had published her journal on her experience.
“That was our field of dreams moment where we realized this was a good idea and people wanted to be a part of it,” Reynolds said. “Since then it’s just really been growing.”
Terrie Akers, marketing director at Other Press, Europa Editions first partner in Bookselling Without Borders, said they also focus on publishing global literature, including international translations. Akers said 3 percent of literature that’s published in the United States is in translation.
“The U.S. tends to be a bigger exporter than importer of literature,” Akers said. “This is kind of a particular moment in this country where we really need exposure to those outside voices.
Akers said Bookselling Without Borders tries to attract different people each year and focuses on those who are passionate about books and “passionate about their communities” and “the world around them.”
“They’re engaged; they’re activist booksellers,” Akers said. “If they are given the opportunity to go out into the world, there’s a lot they can bring back.”
Christie Henry, director of Princeton University Press, said her company also partners with Bookselling Without Borders in order to encourage booksellers to ensure their shelves reflect the global community.
“Publishing is really about the power of relationships,” Henry said. “Here’s a chance to for us to forge closer relationships with the booksellers that we entrust and depend on.”
Partners of Bookselling Without Borders (blue) sent booksellers to three book fairs internationally in 2018 (purple). Map by Sabrina Schnur/BU News Service.
Reynolds and program coordinator, Steve Kroeter, have been discussing the future of Bookselling Without Borders. They are considering a residency program where American booksellers would work in a bookstore somewhere else in the world. They also might open the scholarship program to booksellers in other countries and expand the website to become an international resource.
“It’ll be kind of an online meeting place where international booksellers from all over can meet and share information,” Kroeter said. “A lot of what we do will be person-to-person but we hope to expand the reach of the program by doing a lot of things online as well.”
Reynolds said the application period for 2019 scholarships will open in January. He said last year’s pool of 500 applicants was extraordinary.
Next year’s international book fairs will be announced in December. Reynolds said the number of people and where they will go depends on how much money they raise by Oct. 25. Reynolds said the book fairs in Istanbul and Bologna, Italy both have said they’re eager to participate.