Pages Books & Magazines
Pages doesn't really need an introduction. Of all the independent bookstores in Toronto, Pages is perhaps the most well known. It's on almost everyone's Best of Toronto list and it's holding its own kitty corner from Much Music on a stretch along Queen that in the last few years has been transformed (sadly) into a chain store mecca. Pages is also the force behind TINARS, arguably the best literary event series in the city.
The store was founded in 1979 at possibly the last high point for indie bookselling in Toronto. It was the same month that both This Ain't the Rosedale Library and the first Edward's Books and Art stores (now long gone but a force in the '80s and early '90s) came on the scene.
Since that time the store has expanded twice, once in 1983 (from 1000sq feet to 2400sq feet) and again in 1998 when it increased to its present size of 4100sq feet. Inside, Pages is organized into many of the usual bookstore sections as well as some harder to find ones. Among my favourites are the well-stocked shelves marked Counter Culture, Cultural Theory as well as Art and Photography.
Each time I visit my first stop is undoubtedly the series of tables near the entrance that highlight the latest releases for fiction and non-fiction, broken down into hardcover and paperback. Since Pages carries a lot of small-press books, there's always a handful of intriguing options I haven't seen anywhere else.
I recently caught up with Pages founder Marc Glassman to try to get the scoop on what makes Pages such a success. Read my interview below:
Pages always seems to win awards for Best Bookstore in Toronto. To what do you attribute the store's popularity?
We've always been community oriented and very supportive of arts and culturally oriented projects. Pages has a unique selection of books that reflects the independent spirit of Queen Street.
With Chapters down the street, in what ways does Pages manage to differentiate itself?
We emphasize different books. Pages isn't a mainstream store. We sell lots of fun, hip literature, "counter-culture" political and lifestyle books, cultural theory, small press lit and film and art books.
With industry consolidation, online shopping and mega-chains like Chapters, how challenging is it to be an independent bookstore in Toronto these days?
Very challenging. We try to be "guerrilla fighters," coming up with our own, quite quirky and independent solutions to book-selling dilemmas.
Can you describe the evolving Art Window? Do you get many submissions each week?
Mainly, people apply to me through the website. I know artists and festival organizers, of course, so sometimes windows come about through those connections. But a lot of artists want to show work in a spot that has high visibility - and no curatorial expenses. Many young artists show through Pages without knowing me (or anyone on staff) at all. And that's great: access should be open to everyone.