A Great Bookstore in Action is a slim 32-page volume printed in 1939. It’s a record of a speech given by Adolph Kroch (here is a detail rich obituary), who was a very successful Chicago-based bookseller, active in the 20’s and 30’s.
In just these few pages, Kroch comes across as a like minded soul that I’d love to have had coffee with. The book starts up with his recounting how he got started in book selling and ends with his sharing ideas of how to fix all that was broken with the bookselling industry.
I have to admit that it was fun to read his thoughts, from my 2017 armchair, and have the luxury of looking back to see what all has changed and, sadly, what things have not.
Appreciating the value of a good book while realizing the amazing event that takes place when a thoughtful bookseller connects the right book with the right reader, informs every page. Even today, this idea of a local community bookstore being able to guide its surrounding neighbors to worthwhile books is a lofty service.
He was an advocate for professionally training booksellers and publishers in some way. Thankfully we have much of that covered these days between what’s offered at the Denver Institute and all the classes the ABA have.
Kroch rightly saw the implications of good books over the cheap fluff that some publishers and sellers were pushing. He was very concerned about successful authors that were able to write a book a year. He was not happy about the growing number of books publishers were cranking out each year either. But even that what not a new concern in 1939. Here’s a poem he shared from the 1600’s:
Can you imagine what he’d think of the industry today?
He also offered up a few sentences about the trend in the reading public to pull away from books and look to the growing movie scene and music for entertainment. Imagine how flustered he’d be today with every prospective reader having the entire internet in their pocket.
This book certainly isn’t a “must read” for folks, but it’s a wonderful peek at what the book industry was like in the 1930’s in the United States.
I’m giving the book 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested in the history of bookstores.