Of Swallows, Their Deeds and The Winter Below
Of Swallows, Their Deeds and the Winter Below is located on a second and third floor space at Spadina and College. The shop has no storefront, no cheeky Twitter account, and a discouraging list of predecessors who have each found their way into the deadpool.
But Jason Rovito, the owner of this bricks and mortar shop, manages to be optimistic about the future of his shop. He brushes off my question as to how he will survive when so many indie Toronto bookstores have not. "First of all, I think that's a bit of a myth," he says. "I think the media has distorted that somewhat; there are many that are doing very well."
"There's pressure on book selling, that's for sure," he says. "It's a hard business; rent is going up and book prices are going down what with the availability of everything on the Internet."
"But," he continues, "I think it is really the big ones who are getting hurt. Chapters and--well, I guess that's all now isn't it?"
I can see his point. Why go pick up a new copy of a best seller when you can get it faster and more cheaply online? Whereas second hand browsing is a much more tactile experience; you want to inspect the binding, feel the pages, see if you can glean what sort of past life the book endured before it landed on the shelf. There's a charm to a classically bound book, and you want to be able to feel it. For those reasons, Jason believes second-hand book selling is a more sustainable enterprise.
Of Swallows, Their Deeds and the Winter Below has filled most of its vacant space with books on art, literature, poetry, history, religion, and more. So-called "scholarly" topics. "They're for people with an inherent curiosity. Books for people who are curious about the world."
The model for Of Swallows is not purely about book selling; the third floor seminar room is rented out for lectures, conferences, and instruction. "We've had a group called the Toronto New School of Writing use the space," Jason says. "We've put on a series on luxury and waste, and we have plans for more speakers in the fall."
"This sort of programming, community seminars--it's part and parcel of running a bookshop," he says. Let's hope this time it will keep it afloat.