The San Francisco Book Review covered our awesome YA event and included some great history of Keplers.
Kepler’s was founded in 1955 by pacifist and conscientious objector to WWII, Roy Kepler. His original objective was to create a business that was in line with his core ideals, but could also enable him and his wife to raise a family. Roy’s goal was to have every paperback in print (about 5000 at that point) on his shelves. By the dawn of the 1960s and the Vietnam War, the peace movement was finding its feet and Roy Kepler and Kepler’s books were at the forefront. By the 1980′s Roy was ready to retire, and his son Clark took over management of the business. In the 1990′s independent book stores across the nation came under threat from large chain book stores offering titles at huge discounts, and then later from online book sellers such as Amazon, which offered large discounts and was not obligated by law to collect sales tax. In 2005 these market forces proved too much for Kepler’s and they closed their doors for good. Or so they thought.
On the Morning of August 31st, 2005, Clark Kepler called a mandatory all staff meeting to announce that Kepler’s was closing its doors. Within 30 minutes, the Menlo Park Almanac was at the door. Within an hour they were joined by the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. The next day, the closure was reported in the New York Times. By day’s end a group of investors had come forward, unwilling to accept that Kepler’s was no more. The city council also got involved. Kepler’s was central to the Menlo Park Community. A website was set up by a customer – savekeplers.com – which generated postings from as far away as India. Even the landlord was working to get Kepler’s back on its feet. 40 days later, on Saturday October 5th, Kepler’s reopened to massive crowds and much celebration.
Five years on, Kepler’s faces new threats to its survival – the economic meltdown of 2008 in conjunction with the surge of e-books. Kepler’s is responding to these threats in many different ways, diversifying product lines into used books and additional gifts, toys and games, and expanding their market into other revenue streams. Whether they succeed in overcoming the odds remains to be seen, but their passion for books and commitment to their customers of all ages remains strong.
A few days ago, I was able to take part in one of their many author events. It was my first time at Kepler’s, and I totally loved the layout and flow of the place. The ambiance was truly special and book categories had their own little nooks that allowed for a more intimate reading. That afternoon was a particularly special one– The New York Times Bestseller Linger was the highlight of the moment; so aside from the cute forest feel decors and wolf paw prints on the floor, I was just really looking forward to meeting Maggie Stiefvater in person. Her literary gift notwithstanding, this talented woman is also a cool musician and artist. If you’ve read her novels and blogs, you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of time and work she spends creating the soundtrack and stop-motion book trailers of her titles too. Stiefvater won’t disappoint. Every second spent with her was entertainingly meaningful and nothing at all like other typical “talking-head” authors. She was full of zest and humor that I would only imagine from a woman of her craziness. I took pleasure in the company I had; apart from the super friendly Kepler’s staff, the audience was an interesting mix ranging from teenage girls, dads, moms, barking dogs, bloggers and even fellow authors. Heidi Kling, author of the recently released and acclaimed YA book Sea, was also there to show her support.
Stiefvater definitely rocked the podium, gaining profuse laughter and applause from the audience. She was just really an enjoyable person. When I asked her about her favorite authors, she quickly exclaimed “Diana Wynne Jones. In the eighties, there were just a handful of fantasy fiction authors, but she wrote a lot of books and I read them all. I just love her way of writing. And of course the rock star of the literary world, Neil Gaiman, his talent just blows me away, and maybe I do wish a little in the future that my stories become graphic novels too” she adds.
For thirty more minutes, Stiefvater answered questions from the audience with the comical wit and style only she could deliver. Amanda Hall of Kepler’s adds “The best part of this visit was Maggie, herself. She was funny, irreverent and engaging. I loved all the personal stories she shared that really brought her family and writing to life. And, of course, she had a great rapport with the audience.”
One of Hall’s responsibilities is to read and review newly released titles for the store, and she has this to say about Shiver and Linger: “Werewolves in love– What’s not to like? Seriously, though, I loved her story, her play on words, and I loved her characters—especially Sam, with his vulnerability and watching eyes, and Grace with her strength and compassion. In the end, this is really a love story– a very romantic, suspenseful, heartbreaking love story. And I fell for it—werewolf thing and all!”
There are two events coming up at Kepler’s. First on Tuesday, August 24th at 6:30 pm, they will be hosting a release party for Suzanne Collins’ anxiously awaited Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Also, best-selling author and illustrator, Lisa Brown will be at Kepler’s Friday, September 3 at 7 pm to promote her new book, Picture the Dead, a genre-breaking, illustrated Civil War ghost story.
Hall adds “These events, like the Maggie Stiefvater book signing, are part of what make Kepler’s so special and so integral to the community. Authors are OUR rock stars, and being able to bring them in front of their readers, especially young readers, is incredibly worthwhile.”