“How do publishers survive if Barnes & Noble cuts half its stores, Borders closes, and more independent bookstores close?,” asks Gavin Grant, publisher of Small Beer Press in Easthampton, Mass. “It worries me.” And that was before Borders revealed the depth of its financial woes. In order to insure that there would still be a home for small press books and literary journals, Grant and Michael J. DeLuca started Weightless Books (www.weightlessbooks.com), an e-store devoted to e-books and e-subscriptions for independent presses.
“People love books. They love the story but not the format,” says Grant. “If you give them a format that’s easy and light, I can see why the e-readers are working. I wanted to give them something interesting.” Last March marked the soft launch for Weightless, which began with e-books from the Small Beer list and an e-subscription to its zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet.
Over the past few months, Weightless has added a handful of other small presses, including Blind Eye Books, Fairy Tale Review, and Featherproof Books. In partnership with Two Dollar Radio, it hosted a free download of two stories from Xiaoda Xiao’s The Visiting Suit: Stories from My Prison Life. In December Weightless began offering e-subscriptions to Lightspeed Magazine, a monthly science fiction publication edited by John Joseph Adams. Grant would like to add more.
“The only rule we have,” says Grant, “is: all the files are DRM free.” That has been a stumbling block for some presses like Coffee House, but Grant’s not worried, he anticipates adding many more publishers this year. “One of the things I wanted to do with Weightless was simplify selling e-books. It was oddly difficult to sell e-books and print books off the Web site,” he says. Now Small Beer can focus on its print list at smallbeerpress.com site and e-books on Weightless. The change is working, according to Grant. At present Small Beer is selling more e-books through Weightless than through Google eBooks.
Overall, sales at Weightless continue to grow every month, and he sees Weightless as a center for independent books online. “With e-books you don’t need distributors or a lot of capital,” he says. “If you’re like us, a mini-mass publisher, you’ve got to do something.”