While many have argued that the rise of sites like Amazon.com killed the indie bookstore, one enterprising pair of young women are using the popularity of e-books to carve out a space for feminist authors online.
Emily Gould and Ruth Curry founded Emily Books in 2011 while both at professional crossroads. Currently, Curry works in academic publishing and Gould, a former Gawker editor, is a writer and novelist (her first book, Friendship, was published last year). Their company offers both a monthly subscription book service and a la carte books for purchase. Gould and Curry are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to further expand the fledgling company.
Emily Books was born to fill a vacancy. “When we founded Emily Books it was because we felt like we were aware of books and writers whose work was falling through the cracks, and we wanted to create a place where [those books] could sell and be celebrated,” said Gould in an interview with the Ms. Blog. “It was a case of deciding to stop complaining all the time that nothing like what we wanted existed and deciding to create it.”
Currently, a subscription to Emily Books ($13.99/month) sends subscribers one e-book each month, either a new release or a forgotten favorite. The monthly choices, picked out by Gould and Curry, are transgressive in spirit, highlighting women, trans people and queer people. Past books include the buddhist by Dodie Bellamy and Notice by Heather Lewis. “We don’t really expect everyone to love every book,” says Gould, “but we hope readers feel like we never waste their time.”
Along with increasing the visibility of feminist literary gems, Gould and Curry also want to create a space where readers can discuss the books through online forums. This format—inspired by Verso Books and the online community Autostraddle—has created a devoted community of 200 subscribers and more than 1,000 readers.
Funding from the Emily Books Kickstarter campaign will allow the company to expand. They are asking for $40,000, the majority of which will be used to create a new custom-designed website to better support their work, hosting book sales and online forums. But, based on Kickstarter’s format, they’ll only receive the money if they reach their total goal by April 2. So far, the Kickstarter has raised over $18,000.
Gould feels confident that Emily Books will meet the soon-approaching deadline.
I think we will make it, possibly by the skin of our teeth. But even knowing that we have gotten as far as we have is useful to us; one of the reasons we launched a Kickstarter is because, if it succeeds, we’ll have a lot of new subscribers and customers as well as the funds to fulfill our vision of what our website needs to be in order to serve those readers’ needs.
While Emily Books plans to expand, Gould says they won’t abandon their original mission. “Offering a subscription will always be the backbone of what we do,” she says. “But going forward, we are also publishing original titles in collaboration with Coffee House Press.” Starting next spring, Emily Books will publish their first novel—Jade Sharma’s debut work, Problems—and they will continue publishing two books each year after that.
In true indie spirit, Emily Books doesn’t want to monopolize their new e-book-selling model. Says Gould, “We want there to be a million stores like Emily Books, with dedicated booksellers—not algorithms—deciding which books to recommend.”
Photo by Lisa Corson, courtesy of Emily Books.