Binc Donor Profile: A Q & A with Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy

Photo Courtesy David Jacobs

Binc recently talked with Carolyn Reidy, Simon and Schuster President and CEO and Publishers Weekly 2017 Person of the Year, to discuss the importance of booksellers, bookstores and Binc.

BF: When did you first hear about Binc?

CR: I first heard of Binc in its former incarnation as part of Borders. Then, I remember seeing an email when they transitioned to helping all booksellers. The foundation really rose in my consciousness after I was approached by Ann Patchett in an email last year.

BF: What separates booksellers from other retail employees?

CR: The main thing is the passion they have for the business they are in. By the nature of their jobs they have to learn a lot about what they are selling and express their enthusiasm, knowledge and wisdom to their customers. They share a passion for what they are selling that I think is fairly unique in the world of retail.

BF: What do booksellers and bookstores bring to a community?

CR: Booksellers and bookstores bring so much to a community. One of the things that is unique to bookstores as a retail environment is that they are a gathering place, which most retail outlets are not.

Also, bookstores shape and are shaped by their local environment. They are community-based– the people who gather there are from that community and as a result each store has an individual character. At the same time, booksellers and bookstores are widening the world for the people who come in. They make it possible for their customers to see way beyond the local: to understand the world, to have empathy with points of view different from their own, to experience the wider world through books and to engage in the national discourse. Bookstores contribute to the dialogue that’s going on in the country about any number of issues through the books they sell.

BF: How can booksellers help facilitate the process of local engagement with national dialogues?

CR: There are many different kinds of events, or even use of their retail space available to booksellers to facilitate engagement in the issues of today and each bookseller brings his or her individuality to the table. They sponsor book clubs, they can gather titles covering a certain topic for displays, and they have author events or authorless events which they create to focus on issues or discussion. Some have newsletters, others will have educational nights where they teach and discuss specific subjects.

BF: What motivates you to support Binc and the bookseller’s safety net?

CR: Booksellers are a key part of our business and they share our passion and devotion to authors and the written word. We want every bookseller to thrive. When things happen that hit a person and could really knock them down, if we can do something to help I believe we should.

Booksellers work hard and are dedicated to our industry. They work for small businesses with sometimes limited resources, and they deserve to not be left on their own when trouble comes.. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in positions to help owe it to booksellers and independent store owners to help them out.

BF: You have been a leader in the book industry for years, how has working with books and booksellers changed your worldview?

CR: Working with booksellers has taught me the importance of passionate enthusiasm for what you do. The value of sharing your knowledge and what you learn from the books in your life. They demonstrate how lives can be changed by books, and also by the people who put the books in your hand.

Booksellers are facilitating the importance that books have in our lives by saying, ‘You should read this,’ either by making a book available on the shelves or by recommendation.

BF: Beyond helping each other through emergencies, how can booksellers help each other thrive?

CR: Booksellers have been doing a really good job of helping each other thrive in the past few years. They share their knowledge, they share their best practices, they share the things that help their stores remain centers of excitement and interest to the consumer, and they share their enthusiasm.

Booksellers team up on programs and ways of combining their influence in the business community. As a group, booksellers are very much into talking with each other and sharing, and that helps them all make their businesses better. I think they are doing an excellent job at that.

BF: What role do bookselling events like Winter Institute and BookExpo play in helping booksellers connect and grow?

CR: Bookselling events are essential and they have increased in importance over the years. Number one, booksellers have their own sessions for sharing business principles: new ideas, ways of doing things, airing problems, changes that are happening and ways to address them.

The Winter Institute and BookExpo are also wonderful forums for authors to meet booksellers and for booksellers to meet authors in a non-stressful environment. Booksellers also have the opportunity to meet with all of the publishing reps and hear about their books in a concentrated way so it’s very time effective.

BF: No book interview is complete without asking: what are you reading right now?

CR: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

It’s a book I was hesitant to pick up initially because the story takes place in a prison – the main character is a woman in prison. It is an absolutely magical and phenomenal book, I’m so glad I picked it up because Rachel makes you understand and empathize with characters to whom you might otherwise find it difficult to relate and makes you understand the world from their point of view. It’s absolutely remarkable. The ending is surprising but she really helps you not only see and feel how those people are caught in their world, but how they escape it emotionally and mentally.

BF: Anything else you would like to share?

CR: I think it’s important for us to support each other in this business so everyone has an opportunity to thrive within it.

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