Rediscovered Books nearly doubled in size after an expansion in 2015, which allowed the downtown Boise shop to host literary events and book release parties with ease. It has paid off: This week, the bookstore is hosting a special release party to celebrate a new local book and announce a foray into the world of publishing, as well.
"We're looking at publishing two to three hyperlocal history books a year for kids, teens or adults," said Laura Delaney, co-owner of Rediscovered.
The release party for Half the World: Refugees Transform the City of Trees is at Rediscovered on Thursday, June 8. A panel of authors, contributors, and book editor and former Boise State University Professor Todd Shallat will discuss issues brought up in the book, answer questions and sign copies. The Delaneys and others at the store said though Half the World is a history text, it touches on contemporary issues near and dear to Boiseans.
The collection of Boise refugee narratives will be a test run for the freshly minted imprint of Rediscovered Publishing. Rediscovered Books has fronted the printing fees for the title, and its success or failure will be a lodestone as the store prepares to take on full publishing responsibilities for future books, which will include fielding pitches, editing, fact-checking, design, marketing and distribution. Profits from the distribution of Half the World will go toward funding future Rediscovered Publishing titles, though Delaney and her husband Bruce didn't tip what the first fully in-house published title will be or when it will be released.
Half the World—the eighth entry in the Boise State Investigate Boise Community Research Series—will be the last entry edited by Shallat, who said Amanda Ashley, assistant professor of the Department of Community and Regional Planning, will take the helm going forward.
According to a Boise State Public Policy Survey published in January, the City of Trees is the friendliest region of Idaho for refugees: 63.8 percent of residents favoring resettlement in the Boise area. When The New York Times crunched the numbers in 2016, more Syrian refugees had relocated to Boise than New York and Los Angeles combined.
Refugees became a hot topic in Idaho in 2015, when a ballot initiative appeared in Twin Falls County that would have banned refugee centers there—notably the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center—as the still-raging Syrian civil war displaced millions from their homes. The ballot measure failed, but Half the World is a testament to local interest in the issue (see Page 6).
It's also the kind of book the Delaneys said flies off the shelves at their store. They said Rediscovered Publishing will fill a gap in demand for quality local publications left by large and medium-sized publishers.
Books on local history have landed among the top-10 bestselling titles at the store for the last five years. Surviving Minidoka: The Legacy of WWII Japanese-American Incarceration by Shallat and Russell M. Tremayne, which accompanied the October 2016 Boise Art Museum exhibition Minidoka: Artist as Witness, was a top seller last year.
Other local titles that have cracked the top-10 sellers list at the store have included the short story collection Naked Me by Christian Winn,150 Boise Icons to Celebrate the City's Sesquicentennial by Anna Webb and Stanley F. Steiner's P Is For Potato: An Idaho Alphabet. Boise author Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See appeared on the top-10 bestseller lists at Rediscovered Books in 2014 and 2015.
Driving demand are two kinds of customers, according to Bruce: travelers buying souvenirs and locals curious about what's in their backyards. A handful of organizations, like TAG Historical Research, which has published titles like Legendary Locals of Boise and South Boise Scrapbook: A Neighborhood History; the Boise City Department of Arts and History and the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing, have dipped their toes into the local history market. The Delaneys said they can do the same without stepping on too many of them.
"For every book that's being done, there's 10 books that aren't," said Bruce. "If we're going to do this, we should look at doing that hyperlocal history. That was the genesis of what we're doing."
Rediscovered Books is following in the footsteps of other small bookstores that have diversified into publishing. City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco is perhaps the most famous. It was the first all-paperback bookstore in the country when it was opened by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin in 1953, and began publishing its Pocket Poets series in 1955.
One of the Delaneys' primary models is Biblioasis in Windsor, Ontario. Opened in 1998, it began publishing collections of poetry in 2004 and has since established an impressive stable of award-winning authors. It also expanded its enterprise to include novels, short story collections and more. In 2015, two Biblioasis titles—Arvida by Samuel Archibald and Martin John by Anakana Schofield—were nominated for Scotiabank Giller prizes.
The Delaneys would like to recreate the success of Biblioasis but, for now, they're limiting publishing to history and other non-fiction topics.
"Every store does something different," Bruce said. "We see what people come in every day and ask us for. ... We can say people came in asking for this sort of thing."