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From the editor-in-chief.

Late in 1997, I noticed a development I believed would become a permanent phenomenon--books by authors of African descent and books about black life and culture were flying off the shelves. At that time I had already been a magazine publisher for 15 years, so combining my own passion for books with this exciting market trend, I launched a new publication. Black Issues Book Review was the result.

From the magazine's inception, I discussed publishing a list of top-selling books with my founding team, Susan McHenry and Adrienne Ingrum (both of whom, I'm delighted to say, are still working with BIBR). After much deliberation, we agreed not to do it then. Our tiny staff, all part-timers working from home-based offices, could not possibly assemble a credible list. We all agreed to revisit the idea "one day."

That day has arrived. Half-way through our fourth year of continuous publication, BIBR's still-tiny staff, now working together in a very small midtown Manhattan editorial office jammed with books, has met this goal we set in the beginning. On page 72 (and at www.bibook review.com), you'll find BIBR's debut FLYING OFF THE SHELVES listing.

For us, a list that had integrity would survey the full spectrum of reading choices that black authors offer readers. It would scan the current crop of books targeted for promotion by publishers, and extend far beyond, because the sales-life of many black books results not from media blitz and author appearances. Instead, a black title's sales can grow quietly for years and endure for decades, sometimes even a century after an author's death, as our community, reader by reader, connects with the work.

We wanted our list to respect the book-buying habits of African Americans, from those who pay regular visits to their local Black-owned bookstore to pick up what's new and recommended; to those book lovers who linger over cappuccino after browsing among the 100,000-plus titles available in chain superstores like Borders; to those busy but equally serious book lovers who pop into the book aisles at merchandisers like Walmart, Kmart or Target to pick up their reading fare.

Although tracking the books African Americans are reading could be a statistical affair, we were not interested in numbers as much as nuance. We wanted our tracking to honor Black booksellers, without whom there would have been no "boom" in Black book sales in the 1990s, and who continue to be the launch pad for the vast majority of writers published by Black presses and author-entrepreneurs. To us at BIBR, fairly reporting what is being read in our communities involves registering the observations of those on the front lines, not just the cash register.

FLYING OFF THE SHELVES is meant to be a grapevine-in-print for black book lovers. We've gathered reports from sources we trust--and we plan to add more. We've also put our own spin on the book descriptions to let you know what-we-know-you-wanna-know about their subject matter. We intended to include children's and art titles in the listings, because we know how important those books are to our community. But our sources don't yet compile information for these categories, so we'll add them as soon as we can. FLYING OF THE SHELVES is a work in progress. Send us your feedback.

One of our biggest worries about creating a list was that it would be mistaken as recommendations or viewed as a guide. The entire magazine is your guide. Our recommendations remain where they've always been--in the text of our features articles and reviews, as well as in BIBR RECOMMENDS (page 6). Discover books on every page of this issue, and make your own list of favorites!

William E. Cox

President/Editor-in-Chief
COPYRIGHT 2003 Cox, Matthews & Associates
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Cox, William E.
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:618
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