I was pretty nervous, but I did it anyway. I started the Indigocafe.com Meetup Group and we had our first meeting last night. This is yet another adventurous attempt on my part to figure out a way for booksellers to survive in a new and changing world. Meetup is a pretty cool website and service. It is a way to use the Internet to create community, which is precisely what I'm attempting to do with Indigocafe.com.
We, booksellers, have to figure out ways to reach out to our customers. The relationship between booksellers and their customers has always been an unique one. It was more than just "here is this product, let me tell some falsehoods about its qualities so you will buy it." Our customers depended on us to give our honest opinion on the books that we sell. It was also a reciprocal relationship; customers would tell us about books and authors that they liked. That's how new authors could develop a following. It was word of mouth, bookseller to customer, friend to friend.
This relationship is, for the most part, gone with the age of the super stores (Amazon included) where the people in the stores barely know the books they are selling and only really advocate the books that the large publishers have chosen to push. The quality of books have, with a few exceptions, really diminished. And in the end the whole industry is going down because of the loss of this small but essential element in the chain of bookselling -- the bookseller. A few people have noticed and are beginning to lament this. The problem is, how do you get this "old fashioned" idea of hand-to-hand bookselling back in a world where no one sees each other, much less talks to each other? Hence, Meetup.
Last night was a great start. Just a few people showed up but that was still a good sign for the future. We all brought a book and we discussed them and it was interesting and fun. Most of the books discussed were titles I hadn't heard of before and it seemed to be the same for everyone. And we even got a visit from the Meetup Fairy! No kidding! A black guy in fairy wings and a tutu showed up with cookies and other Meetup swag for the group to enjoy. Which we did!
Can't wait for the next meeting. I hope that the group will grow and I will be able to have author signings and other types of events.