In the early days, when Wells first started thinking of Biblioasis as a press, he never thought it would take over his core business as an antiquarian bookseller. It’s telling that, at a time when book retail was being buffeted by unprecedented forces, he still viewed publishing literature as a more marginal activity.
Today, for the first time, Biblioasis has a stable, sizable staff consisting of Murphy, Eckerlin, production and marketing assistant Kate Hargreaves, and production manager Chris Andrechek. The press’s literary list is underpinned by less glamorous commercial fare (such as The Rumrunners: A Prohibition Scrapbook and Original Six Dynasties: The Detroit Red Wings) that has found a reliable local audience. In 2010, Seth joined CNQ as artistic director and oversaw a front-to-back redesign, ensuring it remains one of the country’s most prominently displayed (if not always widely read) literary journals.
As for the bookshop, Wells purchased the building for $160,000, lending stability to the retail operation as well. In the coming years, he plans to increase the proportion of new stock being sold in the store. Reflecting on the change, he says his experiences as a publisher have made him “much more aware of the vital role independent booksellers play in literary culture.”
“I’ve also become acutely aware of the role the independent, new bookstore plays as a cultural centre within a community, and as I have become more invested in Windsor as the city I call home, it has become much more important to me that we have an independent bookstore that could become that cultural centre,” Wells says.
“I think that I’ll always be a bookseller at heart,” he adds, “and there are far worse things for a publisher to be.”