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Sunday, March 9, 2008

New York Acknowledges Seattle’s Existence

posted by on March 9 at 12:35 PM

Tucked into the business section of the New York Times is a story about Seattle—specifically Nancy Pearl, Costco, Starbucks, and Amazon—as a tastemaker in the book world. There’s also a photo of Amazon senior books editor and Stranger contributor Tom Nissley. It’s a little late to the party, but the article does confirm something that I’ve been saying for a while: We’re probably the second-biggest book city in America, right after New York, and our influence is only going to grow.

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Yeah, but Portland has Powell's.

Posted by Y.F. | March 9, 2008 12:47 PM

I think the article is really saying we have an important role in promoting corporate bookstores. Costco? Starbucks? Amazon? While I'm all for promoting literacy, it is a double-edged sword. I think you are forgetting this important line from the article:

"The flip side of the success of the big Seattle booksellers is the gradual decrease in the number of small independent stores, which have struggled as a result of a variety of factors."

Posted by that's not how I read it | March 9, 2008 12:58 PM

@2: The corporate aspect is disturbing, but remember it's for the business section. I think it would've been just as possible to write an arts article that would've been about very different subjects but come to the same conclusions.

And while the loss of independent bookstores is troubling, I refuse to accept it as a crisis. We've lost some good stores, yes, but we lost a lot more bad stores. A bookstore closure in and of itself isn't a reason to believe the sky's falling, but it's a fine way to insert a counterpoint in an otherwise positive article.

Posted by Paul Constant | March 9, 2008 1:11 PM

Thank you for slogging, Paul. What with the (now) tiresome political debates, I have become less interested in reading Slog. But you have changed that.

Posted by Tizzle | March 9, 2008 1:14 PM

Not quite. Some years we're ahead of my hometown, other times just behind. Damn you, Garrison!

Posted by Big Sven | March 9, 2008 1:27 PM

Big Deal about who's the better book city Seattle. Both cities have the corporate monolith stores, and in the used book category, seattle's got Half Price and Twice Sold Tales, but NYC has got the Strand. both cities are fine book cities, however, a city like Seattle that can't get its act together on building a real mass transit system like NYC needs to stop the inferiority complex whining about who's getting more recognition.

Posted by neo-realist | March 9, 2008 1:45 PM

Isn't Seattle the biggest science fiction market in the US?

Posted by Peter F | March 9, 2008 1:50 PM

So we have an influential librarian and the headquarters of some big distribution networks that deliver books, along with many other consumer goods. That does not make us a literary city.

Look where the publishing houses full of editors sit. Look where the big book release parties happen. Look where obscure literary journals flourish.

I'd say San Francisco is clearly #2, and Seattle is maybe somewhere in the top 10.

Posted by David Wright | March 9, 2008 2:19 PM

Seattle's bookstores are mediocre compared to Powells. Sorry, but it's true.

Posted by Fnarf | March 9, 2008 2:24 PM

@9, that may be true but you'll never get New York to notice/admit that Oregon exists.

Posted by Peter F | March 9, 2008 2:55 PM


For all the praise it gets here, Strand is actually not very impressive, and looking for books there is a pretty frustrating experience. Powell's is FAR better.

This is obviously not an argument in favor of Seattle, since Powell's is in Portland. Just wanted to point out that Strand is not all its cracked up to be.

Posted by Mike | March 9, 2008 3:01 PM

The Strand's reputation rests mostly on its ridiculous number of review copies. If you're looking for a recent hardcover, you can find it there for cheap, in huge stacks. For real books, it's much worse.

Posted by Fnarf | March 9, 2008 3:35 PM

@9 Powlles is a place I have dreamed about going to but have never gotten there. It's a little ways form where I live.
Someday you should take me there it's a heck of a lot closer to you and Mrs. Fnarf than me.

( here I am on a side track again)

Posted by mj | March 9, 2008 3:46 PM

Congratulations to Tom on managing to stay employed at Amazon while contributing to the Stranger.

Posted by Mike of Renton | March 9, 2008 4:41 PM

fnarf, I did get a hardback edition of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich at the Strand:)

Posted by neo-realist | March 9, 2008 5:52 PM

Hey, just curious - It's 6pm and there hasn't been a new Slog post since 12:35pm today. What's up with that? The Stranger staff are at work or something?

Posted by Madashell | March 9, 2008 6:00 PM

Que es mas macho? Powell's...o el Strand?

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | March 9, 2008 6:17 PM

oh please.... Seattle is backwater rottage next to NYC... you know it. I like Nancy Pearl and all but helloooooo??????

Posted by M | March 9, 2008 6:38 PM

I love Powell's.

And, I hate it.

I love that it exists and that it's so big and so complete.

I hate that, with its vast holdings and Web site, it's essentially no different than the used-book section on, only with a clunkier Web interface. Powell's is slowly becoming a big corporate presence, too.

I hate that many used books there are overpriced compared to the same used titles similar condition for sale at other used-book stores.

I also hate how monolithic and soulless the actual space of Powell's is. Like an East German discotheque.

I hate how dirty the bathrooms are there.

I hate how its cafe is the opposite of cozy and how the qi in the cafe space is screwed up so you sit there in tension, rather than at peace.

I hate that it's hard to park around that neighborhood, most times.

So, yes, Powell's is great. But, geez, it's not all that.

Posted by Simac | March 9, 2008 6:47 PM

JTC@17: Lori Anderson. I love it!

Posted by David Wright | March 9, 2008 6:53 PM

@16: It's Sunday. Slog doesn't really happen on the weekends. It's more of a Monday-Friday kind of thing.

Posted by Aislinn | March 9, 2008 6:57 PM

Park? Drive... a... car... in Portland?

I admit, however, that living in the Irvington neighborhood made it much easier to hoof it to Powell's.

Personally, the Hawthorne Powell's is my preferred destination for some serious reading. Stumptown Coffee beats the hell out of that stuff in the downtown location anyway.

Posted by Tom X. PDX | March 9, 2008 7:00 PM

@21 - Slog has banker's hours? I don't think so. My hunch is there are story deadlines which make staff too busy to post to Slog. Usually there are more weekend posts, however.

Posted by Madashell | March 9, 2008 7:29 PM

my girlfriend agree with peter F. we met on a free dating site she is a nice girl, have some interesting idears.

Posted by kelly | March 9, 2008 7:36 PM

Yeah, any more, Slog has banker's hours. Particularly since Dan has been spending most of his time flitting around the country. It's really pretty much a 9-5, M-F thing these days.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | March 9, 2008 7:44 PM

Nothing makes a town seem smaller than when it's insisting it's almost as good as Somewhere else.

Posted by TLjr | March 9, 2008 8:32 PM

ok, i know this is just a crappy comment on some internet comment thread, but # 6 has it right. seriously seattle, you COULD be almost as big and cool as new york, but your too lame to get an actual public transit system. instead you have the bus...oh, and the slut, serving all of south lake union. come on dudes, grow up, get some real metropolitan features, and stop trying to get by on your bookstores of all bull shit.

Posted by douglas | March 9, 2008 9:23 PM

I see several have beat me to the punch. I moved to NYC from PDX just last year. The bookstores here are pitiful.

Posted by Eric j | March 9, 2008 10:53 PM

On scale, Powell's and the Strand are impressive, not so much on selection. Great buyers make a great bookstore.

Posted by Eric F | March 9, 2008 11:07 PM

Village Books in Bellingham is pretty good
different floors with different atmospheres, attached cafe, integrated barista, adjacent to a public square. Seattle could learn from our podunk neighbor to the north

Posted by vooodooo84 | March 9, 2008 11:12 PM

Once upon a time, Seattle had Shorey's.

Posted by gnossos | March 9, 2008 11:43 PM

If New York is acknowledging Seattle, then why does Vanity Fair continue to acknowledge teeny film festivals around the US, but not the largest film festival, the Seattle International Film Festival?

It never shows up in their events pages - ever.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 10, 2008 12:36 AM

oh yah? oh yah? we'll i bet seattle is number one at coffee! so take that new york. and we have the best hockey team, oh er wait, nevermind. well we, uh, read. and um, we have a sculpture park. and a monorail, you don't have a monorail new york, or a space needle! or the first starbucks. so take that. and we have condos, lots of condos. and yah we wouldn't to live in new york anyway. here we have all the benefits of new york, but we can like climb mountains and hike and bicycle and shit. and everything is just as expensive as you new york, so we are just as good. oh and we have a volcano. and canada, but we don't go there. because everything is right here in good old seattle.

Posted by pwease | March 10, 2008 6:18 AM

@32, Will, is that true? If so, that question actually does deserve an answer.

Posted by Peter F | March 10, 2008 7:36 AM

I think the New York Times still has an embargo on Seattle since the whole "Lexicon of Grunge" article. They don't like to be made fools of by a bunch of NW townies.

See you on the flippity flop NYT!

Posted by Dougsf | March 10, 2008 1:45 PM

Pardon me, but I don't think we need to have New York deign to notice us in order to be a good book city. In fact, we don't need New York's permission to do or be anything.

Posted by Greg | March 10, 2008 2:18 PM

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