OTOMES OF IMPENDING DISASTER, thy time has passed. Canadians are heeding your message and snapping up titles that are more “do” than “doom.”
For ecobook sales in 2010, it was the year of home-grown changes. Book buyers- from St. John’s to Victoria reached for handbooks on sustainable eating, guides to self-sufficiency and explorations of how climate change was likely to affect their communities.
“There’s been a shift from books on climate change, because people are often quite educated about it, to books that explore what you can do to help,” says Ben Minett, manager of The Book Shelf in Guelph, Ontario.
At his store, books on food politics outsold those about climate change. The same trend was reported across the country: The growing, buying and ethical consumption of food ruled all, led by Sarah Elton’s Locavore and Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. Localism didn’t just permeate people’s diets. Regional issues trumped global ones for customers at a number of bookstores, too.
At Mosaic Books in Kelowna, BC, local by-laws allowing urbanites to raise livestock have turned self-sufficiency guides into the top-selling eco-titles. “People have that global message now, and they’re looking at how to apply that locally,” said book buyer Sarah Klassen.
Over on The Rock – not renowned for its growing conditions – self-sufficient-gardening guides popular elsewhere were superseded by books about the ocean. Of those, The Flooded Earth and The Power of the Sea were most popular, says Russell Floren of The Bookery on Signal Hill in St. John’s.
In Whitehorse, book buyer for Mac’s Fireweed Books, Lise Schonewille, says the impact of global warming on the Arctic and finding ways to protect the region were popular themes. Children’s books about how to do things the “green” way were also good sellers.
And in Edmonton, Gail Greenwood, owner of Greenwood’s Bookshoppe, says books about eco-housing, green architecture and sustainable design became highly, and unexpectedly, popular, covering everything from straw-bale insulation and solar power to The Vertical Farm.
These trends have been developing for the past two years, but the extent of the switch surprised many book retailers in 2010. Also surprising, they say, were the less-than-massive sales for David Suzuki’s memoir The Legacy. (It tended to sell better in bookstores where he did readings or appearances.)
At the other end of the spectrum, voices of dissent found a consistent, if smaller, national audience. At Munro’s Books in Victoria, BC, False Alarm by local author and former journalist Paul MacRae found a strong audience, while back at Mosaic Books, Bjørn Lomborg’s Cool It continued to generate buzz, likely aided by the November release of a related documentary.
Anne Wedler, co-owner of The Inside Story in the small village of Greenwood, NS, expects the trend to go full circle and bring back a post-war gardening ethic. It’s already heading in that direction for her community, beset as it is by challenges after the local fishery and meat-packing plant closed.
“We’re getting a subculture movement where people are growing and eating locally, even growing their own meat,” Ms. Wedler says. “Farmers’ markets are popping up again. People are … eating more seasonally and we’re seeing that reflected in a lot of the cookbooks. I think it’s a practical approach of what you can do. They’re trying to take control of their own lives, and also make it more affordable.”