Revaluing the marketplace

by Jonathan Simcosky – originally published on ArtThrob

This past Thursday I sat at the Salem Farmers’ Market community table representing Cornerstone Books and had the opportunity to participate in a marketplace that gives me hope for humanity’s future – if not America’s economic supremacy.

Gathered in Derby Square were hordes interested in eating seasonally and organically.  They wanted to know where their food was coming from and to develop relationships with those folks responsible for bringing it into the world.  They were looking for good value, though not necessarily an unbelievable bargain.

It occurs to me that the role mass-industrialization of food production and distribution has had on the way we eat and buy groceries is analagous to what’s been happening in my own world of publishing with global distribution chains and volume driven pricing determining what we read and how much we pay for it.

Generations of consumers have now been trained to consider value synonymous with cheap; if it can be had faster and for less money elsewhere, it must be better.

What the farmers’ market showed me, though, was that there is a marketplace where other values come in to play.  There are consumers who are as interested in supporting innovative producers as holding out for the lowest price.

Just as we would never buy a work of art without developing a relationship with the artist or working with an established gallery, we’re learning that we eat much better when intimately connected with our food’s supply chain.  To wit, most of us are now willing to pay a premium for the assurance of that heightened experience.

Why then when shopping for literary art – i.e. books, our soul’s nourishment – are we comfortable anonymously searching online for the best price? What values are informing this transaction?  What values should?

As an independent bookseller and lover I’m especially interested in cultivating a revolution in the literary arts like what we’re experiencing in the culinary arts: re-thinking methods of creation and distribution that value originality and beauty over volume and discount.

We should read at least as well as we eat, right?


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