Pages sees benefit in author readings

By Olivia Brooks

With the rise of cheap e-books and digital readers like the Kindle, Kobo and the iPad, many argue that the death of paper publishing is nigh. However, Simone Lee, co-owner of Pages on Kensington, believes that digital publishing “is overblown and a media darling.” But, she is glad for all the attention books are getting.

Lee is one of the coordinators of the Pages Author Readings Series which aims to bring local, national and international authors to Calgary to interact with the public through readings of their work.

Tom Jokinen, a recent national best selling author for his autobiographical book Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training, explored questions of life and death in the 21st century. Jokinen, one of the authors featured in this year’s series, appeared at Pages on Kensington May 19.

He feels strongly that events like the Author Readings Series are important.

“Especially for independent book sellers, I think there is a real benefit for people to meet the author,” says Jokinen in a private interview. “The writer and reader can get into conversations and debate the material, which I think works for both the readers and the author.”

Jokinen sees the increasing popularity of digital publishing with a unique perspective. He considers this crest of digital text as a new way to consume the material.

“Now, through downloading on iTunes, a small independent band can get a lot of attention,” says Jokinen. “Same is true for the written word. More people can get access to it.”

Today, entire generations are raised with this technology. Jokinen sees digital publishing as a place where people might read a novel on their Kindle, then go out and purchase a paper copy if they enjoy it enough.

“Not that I would, but I think it would augment [sales],” Jokinen says.

The Pages reading series has been running since the bookstore’s opening in 1993. Peter Oliva, the original owner of Pages, started bringing in local authors to the store and later expanded the operation with the help of the Calgary Public Library.

“People were worried I was going to change [Pages],” says Lee, who took over in 2007. “People feel very strong about Pages.”

Before coming to Calgary, Lee organized a similar series in Toronto where she worked as a publicist.

Since the closure of McNally Robinson, one of Calgary’s largest independent bookstores, Pages’ number of author visits has doubled.

“There is plenty going on in Calgary,” says Lee of the local arts scene. “There seems to be a festival every other week.”

Another event Pages runs is author presentations at the Plaza Theatre ­­– an independent movie theatre in Kensington– called Pages at the Plaza. Since the fall, Pages has hosted four of these presentations with the goal of getting bigger names in town. The presentations run every first Sunday of the month with brunch provided by a local caterer.

“We often pair a local author with a more known author,” says Lee. “Our kick-off consisted of Terry O’Reilly of CBC and a local author, Gordan Laird, which yielded a huge audience.”

Pages has been lucky enough to have several notable authors grace the store’s quaint two-story space, including Linden MacIntyre, a Giller Prize Winner, and Izzeldin Abuelaish, who’s novel I Shall Not Hate was nominated for a 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

“[The] author reading series gets bigger every year and has a greatly varied audience each time,” Lee says. “Pages wouldn’t be here if we didn’t do these kind of events.”

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