Book store

Tallahassee bookstore featured in documentary about independent booksellers

An independent bookstore in Tallahassee is among those featured in a new documentary about these local businesses.

First, let’s meet the project director:

“My name is Mason Engel. I am an independent writer and filmmaker and director of ‘The book tour“Documentary”.

And here is the producer of the project.

“My name is Doug Osman and I am a practice teacher at Purdue University at the Brian Lamb School of Communication.”

In fact, Engel was one of Osman’s students at Purdue. And that relationship took it to the next level shortly after Engel wrote a book.

“In 2017, when I was a senior at Purdue University – where I met Doug, my senior producer – and had self-published a novel on Amazon. I didn’t know what to expect from that. I did pretty well, and for the next two years I just rode the digital wave and was happy with it.

But this satisfaction was only temporary.

“In 2019 I was looking for different channels to promote my work and decided to explore brick and mortar (stores) to try and get my novel into independent bookstores. So my crazy idea was to go on a road trip of Indiana to California and back, visiting 50 independent bookstores in 50 days.”

Leaving copies of his novel to everyone. Engel said THAT idea was short-lived and a spin-off took its place.

“It wasn’t about self-promotion. It was about interviews, talking to booksellers across the country and asking them a simple variation of the same question: ‘Why should people s care? Why should people buy from an independent bookstore?”

Doug Osman signed on as the project’s producer. Over 17 days last summer, he and Engel visited 28 bookstores in 20 states. Each had its own unique characteristics. But Osman said there were also common qualities.

“A very loyal clientele of people who would rather walk into bookstores and first hold a book in their hands, than read it from their phone or tablet.”

Another is that each book selection is made by a real person, based on their intimate knowledge of local customer preferences. Among the smaller independent bookstores on the tour was Tallahassee’s downtown drive. There they interviewed bookseller Alexis Bondi. Doug Osman noted that she brings some of that personal touch that makes stores like hers so appealing.

“She’s not alone. There are a lot of people like her across the country who have this very deep love of books and who carry the same flag as her. It’s good to meet people like that and it It’s good to find there. There are a lot of people across the country trying to keep the books experience very personal and individual.”

Although director Engel added that there was also something unique about Midtown Reader.

“One of my favorite things about the store – and I hope they still do – is that during the pandemic they had a smart little car that could almost fit in your pocket. And they were driving around and doing their in-car book deliveries, so we made sure to get some pictures of this next to the beautiful bookstore itself.

Now, the fruits of that cinematic labor are almost ready for a public reveal. Director Mason Engel said the premiere of “The Bookstour” documentary will be online.

“The film is available for pre-order now through July 7. And all the money we raise goes to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation it’s basically the safety net of the industry. Or you can buy tickets for the virtual premiere, which takes place in mid-July. Additionally, digital rental will be available.”

By the way, Midtown Reader is a frequent underwriter of WFSU.