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Paperback Dreams chronicles the rise and fall of the independent bookstore. Born in the heady times of the paperback revolution, Cody's and Kepler's became literary landmarks and helped shape the counterculture of the 1960s. In their efforts to protect free speech and celebrate intellectual inquiry, the owners of these stores were harassed, vandalized, and threatened, for simply selling books. Cody's was the first store in America to be bombed for selling Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Unbowed, the staff refused to pull the book from the shelves.
Now the ground beneath their feet is shifting. Economic pressures have booksellers in a vice, but poor bookstore finances don't reflect the importance of these stores in their communities. Independent stores function as literary laboratories, and publishers rely on them to champion new and controversial work. At a time when the internet allows anyone to publish whatever idea they have as almost fast as they have it, the act of selling a book -- the portable, physical, low-tech product that has defined intellectual rigor for over 500 years -- remains a revolutionary. Paperback Dreams documents the struggle of these stores to survive, and demonstrates that their role in bringing new ideas to readers remains as essential as ever.