Episode 36: Danny Caine — Author and Owner of the Raven Book Store

Danny Caine discusses resilient booksellers, resisting Amazon, and a very special small town bookstore.

We interviewed Danny Caine, owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, and author of the zine How to Resist Amazon and Why. Danny is also the author of several poetry collections, including El Dorado Freddy’s, which is currently available for preorder.

The Quintessential Small Town Indie Book Store

Danny gave us the background on the Raven Book Store; how it was founded by Pat Kehde and Mary Lou Wright in 1987 through the sweat of their brows and the power of friendship (and no thanks to the chauvinist bankman). The shop, originally specializing in mystery titles, has survived over three decades. That includes fighting through the competition of a Borders books (yuh-byyyeeee) moving in across the street and putting nearly every other bookstore in town out of business.

Once Danny arrived to attend the University of Kansas, he was determined to work at the Raven. And as we have seen time and time again on this show, dreams really can come true!

From Cat-vision to Activism

(Yes, I know, I’m canceling myself.)

What began as a way to show off the shop’s cats Dashiell and Ngaio became a tool to speak out against one of the book world’s biggest bully. You can see where this is going.

After one too many people asked why the Raven’s books cost more than Amazon’s (ugh!), Danny took to Twitter to explain—and he didn’t mince words. That tweetstorm went viral, and led to his zine How to Resist Amazon and Why.

I think bookselling is a naturally political profession. There’s very little that
booksellers do that you can’t call political.

Political issues wind through our discussion, which is no surprise. Issues like how to choose which books to sell, how to display these books, and even real-estate issues regularly come into play for a bookseller. Danny cites examples of how booksellers are on the moral and political frontlines—like A Room of One’s Own’s successful fundraiser for RAICES and Parnassus’s appeal to the community of Nashville against Amazon moving in across the street.

But one of the most unique things about indie bookstores is their solidarity with one another. It’s not something that you really see within other industries (including actual book publishing itself). And their cooperation may be one of the biggest reasons that these places are making such a powerful resurgence.

Check out Danny’s other books here:

Connect with Danny and the Raven Book Store:

And thanks for giving a rip about books.

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