December 18, 2019

Indie bookseller gives a hand for beloved single-sentence book


A duck: one of the many, many stars of Ellmann’s prizewinner (Ernst Vikne [CC BY-SA 2.0)

We often valorize the hard work being done, all across the country, by independent booksellers. There’s no better time than December—a month characterized by mis-shipments, demanding patrons, and the stifling pressure to be merry and bright—to stop and thank them for their efforts. They have, of course, the unenviable challenge of competing against a giant, price-slashing, next-day-delivering digital behemoth. In response to a price or delivery date quote, the phrase, “Oh, never mind, I’ll just get it on Amazon” is, we’re almost certain, being uttered in an independent bookstore at this moment. 

Indies are surviving these upheavals with grace. They’ve found ways to capitalize on the resources they have—cozy spaces for story time, and shelves of personal staff picks—that Amazon simply doesn’t. It’s still infinitely easier to discover a book in a physical bookstore than it is online. Our favorite bookstores have not only what we’re looking for, but what we’re not looking for, what we couldn’t have known to look for, but all at once feel we must have.

This Christmas one indie in Cambridge, MA, has found a new way to both break the mold and drive sales. Porter Square Books has been an advocate for Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport since before its release; Josh Cook, MHP author and PSB bookseller extraordinaire, had the featured blurb for its IndieNext appearance. In a moment of Black Friday delirium, Josh tweeted out the following:

You know what? Fuck it. If PSB sells 100+ copies of #DucksNewburyport by the end of the year, I’ll get a Ducks themed tattoo.

In what must be good news for PSB, Biblioasis, and the tattoo parlors of Cambridge, Porter Square Books sold their hundredth Ducks on December 12th. According to the comment from my order (the ninety-sixth copy PSB sold), Josh is “thinking the tattoo is going on my right hand on the spot between my thumb and forefinger.”

You’re probably wondering: why stop at 100? A new challenge, extending into the start of 2020, was issued on 12/13:

If PSB sells 150 by the end of January, a bunch of us will make short film/dramatic performance of the mountain lion story line.



John Francisconi is the Direct Sales and Operations Manager at Melville House.