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Back in September, poet and novelist Sherman Alexie wrote an open letter to a group of people whom he called the "gorgeous book nerds" of the world, asking them to become "superheroes" for independent bookstores.
More than 1,000 authors answered his call, which means signing on to work at local indie bookstores today, Small Business Saturday, as part of the Indies First campaign. Alexie tells NPR's Scott Simon that he'll be doing a marathon of five stores, helping to sell some of his favorite books. Has Alexie sold books before? "No," he laughs, "although when you're a writer in this era, certainly you are pretty much a salesperson."
On the importance of independent bookstores
My career happened because the booksellers at independent bookstores hand-sold my book. Readers and potential buyers would come into their stores, they would pick up my books of poems, my books of short stories — published by micropresses — and put it in their hands. And that's the kind of relationship that exists between independent booksellers and their customers, and authors have a chance there that they wouldn't otherwise have a chance in this giant Internet world where it's impossible to get noticed.
On recommending his own books today
That's not primarily why I'm there — and I'm also working in Seattle, my hometown, where I live, so certainly most of the people who show up are probably already going to have copies of my books. I'm going to be doing what a bookseller does — they're going to walk in and ... I'm going to ask them, what kind of book are you looking for? And they're going to say, "Well, I loved this book of stories by Lorrie Moore," and I'm going to say, "Well, why don't you check out Natalie Serber's Shout Her Lovely Name? I think you'd really enjoy that."
Last week, the D.C. Council voted to designate e-cigarettes and "similar vapor products containing nicotine" as tobacco products. That means that their sales tax will jump from the regular 5.75% sales tax to the 70% tax that's tacked onto sales of products like cigarettes and cigars. We explore what this means for the evolving public health debate surrounding e-cigarettes.