Greenville’s Robbins Book List gives reading a local flavor

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 11:51 am on Tuesday, October 02, 2012

According to Robbins Book List manager Kevin Powell, about 10 percent of the store’s book selection is comprised of works by local authors. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

GREENVILLE — Every writer, from Shakespeare to Hemingway to King, started his or her career by writing — and finding a publisher for — that first book.

In times past, that “finding a publisher” part brought more than one burgeoning writing career to a an unceremonious halt. That’s less of an issue today. In a market flooded with small, independent publishers and many self-publishing options, anyone with a modicum of talent and a few hundred bucks can see their dream of authorship come true. In fact, the talent part is, unfortunately, optional.

Robbins Book List manager Kevin Powell shows off some of the locally written publications currently being featured in the store. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

That notwithstanding, many fine books are published each year by unknown writers. Too often, all but a handful of these books wind up sitting in boxes in the author’s basement. As many new writers quickly learn, most major booksellers are not interested in devoting precious shelf space to unknowns.

That’s one of the things that make locally owned shops like Robbins Book List in Greenville so important to the writing, and reading, community. Robbins not only carries books by local authors, it actively encourages their participation.

According to Manager Kevin Powell, Robbins has always welcomed the work of local writers.

“The store has been open for about 14 years,” Powell said. “Local authors have always been featured here. I’m not familiar with the policies of too many other book stores, but this is something they’ve been doing since they opened the store. We carry a lot of local authors.”

Richard Baldwin, Bob Morrow, Maureen Burns and Dr. Anthony Youn are among the writers with local ties whose books may be found on Robbins’ shelves. Powell estimates the store carries as many as 60 local authors at any given time.

“We do have some customers who come in and all they want to buy is local authors,” Powell said. “Sometimes they don’t even care what the content is, so long as it is written by someone local. The majority of our local authors aren’t well-known, but it definitely has its following.

Lakeview writer Dallas Lincoln says that stores like Robbins present an invaluable resource to new, relatively unknown authors.

“For do-it-yourself authors like me, marketing is the big hurdle when it comes to getting the news of your publication out to the public,” Lincoln said. “A local book store, like Robbins Book List, is a natural fit for local authors. How would I begin to do a ‘meet the author book signing’ event on the Internet?

“A lot of readers, especially my wife, want to hold a real book in their hands and browsing through a book store is an experience lots of people I know just like to enjoy.”

Powell admits that Internet giants such as Amazon have taken a bite out of local sales, which is one reason Robbins has in recent years branched out into other areas.

“Obviously, we can’t compete with the online stuff, Kindles and Nooks and whatnot,” Powell said. “We discount our books heavily, by as much as 50 percent. And we’re now carrying other things, such as gifts, home accents, calendars. We’re trying to step into our motto of being a ‘book store with more.’”

Robbins Book List is located at 320 S. Lafayette St. in Greenville. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

For more information, or to find out what other local authors are available, call (616) 754-4354.

A cozy reading room gives browsers a place to peruse Robbins Book List’s offerings at length. — Daily News/Mike Taylor

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