Last week, I linked to a revolutionary little machine that's like the Univac version of a Kindle and a printer (can you print from the Kindle? I don't think so but you should be able to -- add that compatibility, y'all!), the Espresso Book Machine. I lightly said it could save poetry.
Here's how it can.
First, the Espresso needs to be coupled with something like the DOA technology of Music Point to add real nice e-functionality to its products.
Secondly, a coffee house needs to pony up the 250k or so it would cost to get such a double-machine.
Thirdly, have great and wonderful readings both live and memorexed playing all the time.
So Instead of having to carry stock (the yearly inventory in any small bookstore is likely upwards of that 250k figure anyway -- and that's a one-time investment), you sell books and cds (with the books on .pdfs and recordings of the readings) on demand, especially those of readers performing at the venue.
I've seen great readers at a good venue sell upwards of a couple dozen CDs and a dozen or so books, 3 or 4 readers at a time (so say expect 100 -- 200 titles to sell if you know what you're doing). If the pricing scheme makes any sense, you could expect, as a venue to make $500-$1000 on book/cd sales on a good show (mind you, this is in "the world's biggest small town," and we aren't really known for our arts scene) add to that ticket sales ($1000 or more -- wait, you aren't charging for your poetry readings? Why not? Build expectations, y'all!) and 3 shows a week for a year pay off your machines. Don't you have 3 shows a week? Why not? Get people out for your amazing poetry shows! I ain't no Barnum and Bailey, but someone has to be. Where are you, dammit?
This new technology also solves more than a few problems of poetry distribution. Poetry is no longer "back-shelf" material. Hell, even if your bookstore is supported by sales of Sue Grafton and the latest DaVinci Code, you hardly have to advertise those. The reason they're in the front is because that's what people look for. With that space freed up by the Print-O-Matic 9001, poets can be showcased.
Also, there's no such thing as "out-of-print" or "rare"; books are just available. So that copy of Johnson's Ark is no longer $50 from a used bookseller. Pound's A Lume Spento is a nice, even $10.
But let's not forget about that Kindle. With native pdf support and a USB jack, you can sell ebooks at readings. And since the Kindle supports mp3s, you can sell readings, too. You can sell those for way cheaper, using a computer set up for just such a purpose, getting (maybe) a dollar or two kickback from the author for using your venue & technology.
In fact, if you're totally punk rock, you could set up a Kindle account (not a hard thing -- if you've got an Amazon account, you've already got one) and set the price of a poem (or the poems you're going to read) to $.99 -- then tell folks in the audience (who all have Kindles in this dream scenario) that if they buy that poem (or poems) you'll give them a $2 discount on their merch purch (like a free dollar, man!) -- then you've got an audience who's reading along with you.
Well, that's enough fanboy fantasy for now. Let's all go out and buy a Kindle! Who's got $500?