While current science fiction writers are enjoying the wealth of opportunities that digital publishing affords its authors, last week’s opening of the New York City brick-and-mortar bookstore Singularity & Co. is doing more than giving authors a platform for their new works. Rather, it aims to revive out of print and lost titles through ebook formats.
“We started with a simple but ambitious mission,” said marketing editor Kaila Helm-Stern in an interview with GoodeReader. “The co-founders [Ash Kalb, CiCi James, and Jamil Moen] realized there wasn’t a science fiction orientated space in New York anymore, but also that there was a missed opportunity to use the boom in digital publishing to rescue out of print, older, and forgotten titles. A lot of titles have been undiscoverable outside of used bookstores for decades, if not longer.”
For the staff of Singularity, it sometimes involves tracking down the authors or even their estates, which is actually helpful since they are also interested in the back story of how the book came to be. A Kickstarter campaign helped the founders to acquire the physical space and shed the old-fashioned idea of a bookstore by building it in conjunction with the technology of reading and publishing.
“We’re actually creating all of the ebooks in house. One of our partners is a copyright lawyer and he’s in charge of getting the authors and estates their money for payment. We create the ebook here with exciting new copies of their covers, since one of the things that’s great about these old, vintage pulps is the cover art.”
The ebooks are sold through the store’s website, but the physical space has been built as a haven for old and young science fiction fans, giving them a space similar to those that gaming fans and comic book aficionados have enjoyed for years.
“In terms of the actual physical bookstore, we’re happy to open it up to the community, but for the internet side, it’s kind of the most exciting part of our business model. The internet has really opened up the ability for us to have these books reach thousands, if not millions, of people who might not have seen them before. There’s also a really fast growing group of young people through online communities who are discovering sci-fi and fantasy, but there’s also the old guard of sci-fi fans who are discovering us on the computer. It’s great to cater to both the old fans and the new ones.”
Eventually, Hale-Stern and the founders are looking down the road to incorporating a print-on-demand model in the store to provide physical copies of long lost texts, but for now, the ebooks will have to fill the need for hardcore sci-fi historians’ tastes.
“We’re trying to blend the old and the new in terms of a publishing model, and make something exciting. We’re seeing the hunger for the book as a physical object.”