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Academic Seminars


"The Tragedy of the Book Industry"?:
Bookstores and Book Distribution in the United States


Michael B. Winship

(AAS-NEH Long-term Fellow and Iris Howard Regents Professor in English Literature II, University of Texas at Austin

Wednesday, March 3, 2010, at 4:30 p.m.
Class of '47 Room, Homer Babbidge Library
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut

Précis: The 1931 Cheney Report referred to book distribution as the "tragedy of the book industry," claiming that the industry was at the time "threatened with destruction." And yet the book trade survived, carrying on in much the same way that it had done for nearly a century. This paper explores the development of a national trade book distribution system in the United States during the antebellum period, a system that survived more or less intact until the present century. Special attention is given to the role of independent, dedicated bookstores as chief outlet for books, drawing on surviving images of bookstore interiors and early national directories of bookstores.

Directions: Parking is available in the UConn South Parking Garage for a fee. The Class of '47 Room is on the main floor of the Homer Babbidge Library. The rear entrance to the library (from the terrace) opens to a small alcove; the Class of '47 Room straight ahead and Bookworms Café is around the corner to your left.


The Class of '47 Room will open at 4:00 p.m. for a reception preceding the seminar. Afterwards, the group will go out for a dutch-treat dinner at a nearby restaurant. Please indicate your plans, especially if you wish to stay for dinner, by sending the completed form to Nancy Comarella to arrive at the university (or e-mail nancy.comarella[at] on or before February 22.

Reservations are suggested (and deeply appreciated) for attending the seminar. Reservations are required to attend the supper.