A bookish look
Indigo is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary. As an author, I say congratulations to Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman for sticking with this investment in a difficult business. At my go-to Indigo, the biggest promotional poster shows Margaret Atwood sitting amongst flowers and is described as a “writer, advocate, and birdwatcher.” Notice the comma after advocate. That’s called an “Oxford comma” because it is used with a series of words in books while in normal newspaper usage it would not appear.
Alternating with Atwood is a video poster of rupi kaur (the lower case is accurate) who is described as a “poet, activist, artist.” In this modern world, her fame came through social media. Atwood is further displayed on another video poster inside the store with her hand to her cheek, eyes closed, and the words, “Stories connect us.”
I can understand why Indigo has highlighted Atwood. Over the years, Indigo has probably sold more books by Atwood than any other Canadian author. Maybe more Atwood books than all Canadian authors combined. The sad fact is that Canadians don’t buy enough Canadian books. Independent publishers in Canada annually produce about three-quarters of all new titles but only account for about five percent of sales. The lion’s share of the market goes to the foreign-owned multinationals for whom Canadian books can be little more than an afterthought.
With that in mind, how much better it would have been for Indigo to focus its twenty-fifth anniversary campaign on half a dozen Canadian authors each of whom has a new book out this fall and deserves more attention. I can’t give you any names because I never heard of them – that’s why I want Indigo to tell me.
The other longer-running problem I have with Indigo is that books have become less and less important as those twenty-five years have passed. First they added a few cards and wrapping paper, then some boxed items, followed by tea cosies and who-knows-what. Newly appointed Indigo CEO Peter Ruis talks about how much he loves books but told Financial Post that he plans to create a “cultural odyssey of a store.” Coming as he does from Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, I can figure out what that means. More stuff on the shelves that’s not books. But if that’s the price we have to pay so Indigo continues to carry books, then so be it.