Kepler’s Fifth Board Member

Kepler’s has yet to name the fifth member of its Board of Directors. In a letter to the editor of the San Jose Mercury on September 21, I called for Kepler’s to name a local author to the board:

Monday’s announcement of a patron’s circle of investors and a board of directors in the effort to save Kepler’s Books is a welcomed one. However, I was disappointed when I learned the makeup of the board of directors. Kepler’s undoubtedly needs a group to oversee its business operations, and the named members of the board are obviously qualified to do this and committed to the store. However, readers and writers are the people who make a bookstore, and Kepler’s should allocate at least one seat on its board to someone with a purely literary interest in the store–say, a local author or teacher.

Money and marketing expertise may allow Kepler’s to reopen, but what will make it survive and succeed are the people who get hooked on the store and its books and then bring their friends who end up doing the same. For this to happen, Kepler’s will need to remake itself to thrive both literally and literarily.

This, apparently, isn’t going to happen.

Kepler’s Holiday Picks—Where’s the fiction?

Kepler’s has a nice little pamphlet with its holiday gift picks. However, a wildly disproportionate number of these picks are nonfiction or popular fiction. With literary fiction making up less than 4% of the books sold in this country, it the responsibility of pushing fiction titles falls squarely on the shoulders on independent bookstores. There was no shortage of excellent literary fiction titles this year, with new books from Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Haruki Murakami, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, and Francine Prose. Although Kepler’s has always had good table fiction, their register display seems to contain an increasing number of nonfiction and popular fiction titles. The only work of literary fiction I recall from my weekend visit is Zadie Smith’s excellent novel On Beauty.