Wednesday, April 16, 2008

21st Century Strand

We all have our favourite bookstores and bookmen and I am fortunate to not only love The Strand bookstore in Manhattan but have Fred Bass its owner as a family friend. Over the few years I have known Fred, he has given me great insight into the trade, retail and books. He has not only taken his father’s legacy and turned it into a New York institution but now is handing it onto the next generation. So at 80, is Fred off playing tennis, golf and retiring and leaving the business to his 200 staff? No, he is still working on the shop floor - five days a week. He is still buying books, travelling the world to fairs and still as keen as ever to bag his bargains before others.

Although Fred has always shown a keen interest in what I did and to understand technology and digitisation his one love was and remains the book. This week he was across at LBF buying for his cavernous store and we discussed much over a quiet dinner. But this time was different; he wanted to know about digital issues and clearly was a fan of the Kindle.

Fred may joke about retiring - he never will. He may joke about digital issues, but he wants to understand and master them. I found our conversation uplifting because despite his age he not only wants to understand but engage with digital publishing. We both agreed that digital content will not replace books but will have a significant impact on publishing.