Octavia Books’ Connection to Digital Media
Starting January 31, 2013, independent bookstores will no longer be able to sell Google eBooks. “Google is now going to be following more like the Apple model where they want you to get everything through the Play store,” stated Tom. With this shift, Octavia Books is going to sell Kobo books, which have a more independent focus.
“People will be able to get them through us so they can still keep a connection with their bookstore. It is important that people support their local bookstores and independent publishers because if they don’t, the choices we have all enjoyed are not going to be there in the future. A digital book isn’t something that is easily passed on to other people. If you buy one now you don’t know if you will be able to read it later because in four or five years the device may change. We don’t know; we don’t have the experience. We have hundreds and hundreds of years of experience with real books,” Tom explained.
While there will always be division among readers concerning the question whether or not to go digital, Octavia Books provides its customers with the option to buy digital, print or a medley of the two.
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Reading with a Unique Local Flavor
On Saturday, August 27th of 2005, Octavia Books was having what would be their last book signing before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The owners of Octavia Books, husband and wife duo Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte, evacuated without any idea when they would be able to see books on the shelves of their bookstore again.
Luckily, it didn’t take long for Tom and Jude to make their way back to the city. In fact, they arrived in New Orleans before the city gates were even open and made preparations that allowed them to reopen the bookstore around October 5th. If the locals didn’t know it by then, now they were aware that Octavia Books was committed to the city.
With their wonderful selection of books, events, and bimonthly newsletter, Octavia Books has encapsulated the flavor of New Orleans from the time it first opened twelve years ago. “We really do have a lot of local flavor. Flavor is a part of life here whether you are talking about food, music or books. We always have new books coming out because it is a place that people want to read about,” Tom stated.
The store offers a variety of books that allow the locals to relive the taste of food from the Big Easy or the story of the haunted LaLaurie house, a staple at NOLA families’ late-night campfires. Octavia Books’ “Local Flavors” section graces the second page of their newsletter, andis a testament to the number of stories that are still being told about New Orleans; whether it’s a blast to the past like Larry Powell’s Accidental City or a look into the New Orleans of the future as seen in Moira Crone’s The Not Yet.
Book clubs--Octavia Books Book Club and the Octavia Books Science Fiction Book Club—also continue to be an important part of the history of this beloved bookstore. “There are some members of the Science Fiction Book Club that have been involved since the beginning of the store,” replied Tom. At Octavia Books, “the book clubs pick their own books. They each have their own methods of picking their books and we help publicize it,” Tom continued.
Octavia’s involvement in the community reaches far beyond the walls of the store. After Hurricane Katrina, there was an increase in New Orleans blogging as citizens tried to hold on to their city during displacement. In order to further the activism that was possible over the Internet, a group of NOLA bloggers banned together to start the annual Rising Tide conference, which started in August 2006. On September 22 of this year, Octavia Books participated as a vendor at this conference and supported dialogue between writers and readers with topics ranging from Louisiana's part in the national K-12 education reform to the commodification of culture in New Orleans.
Recently, Octavia Books also took part in the national campaign, Find Waldo, which celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the well-known character. The organizers of this event, Candlewick Press and the American Booksellers Association, urged individuals to visit their local independent businesses. Whether Octavia’s involvement leads them to a conference or a national campaign, Tom and Jude urge their customers to explore firsthand what their city has to offer or the important social dialogue that grips the local or global community.
Octavia’s calendar is always packed with intriguing authors that are ready to tell the story of their process and creativity. Recently, Octavia books held a signing with Jennifer Lormand, the author of MOMMYMOVEMENT and owner of Ascension Fitness.
“Many people came that knew the author from her local fitness center. There were lot of people that we might not have seen at some other book signings,” Tom said. The diversity of events held at Octavia Books is crucial to involving more people in the independent bookselling and publishing communities. Whether the events lead to new friendships between visitors or a reader’s ability to hear directly from the author, book events are necessary to keep the conversation about independent books in motion whether between adults or children.
“We usually have the author reading the book to the children,” Tom said of the children’s book authors. “Anything you can do with a child to get them hooked on books can make a difference in their life. A lot of the times when we bring authors to school they talk a lot about what they were doing when they were a child that actually made them into who they are as an author or illustrator. That probably gets kids thinking about developing their talent. We just had an illustrator here who showed up slides of the first book he wrote.”
The connection between authors and readers, whether the audience is adults or children, is something that deepens the experience of reading. “When you have large online eBook sellers monitoring how fast you read a book that breaks the sacred connection between the author and the reader. Having a place to look at books and discuss them is important,” Tom concluded.
Learn more about Octavia Books and what this store offers to the cultural landscape of New Orleans on their website: http://www.octaviabooks.com/.
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Nicolette Amstutz is a writer for Independent Publisher. She is currently studying English and Communications at the University of Michigan. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at namstutz (at) umich.edu.