I'm generally a little sceptical of those new-fangled "readers' communities" powered by advertising. But today I literally stumbled across something along those lines - but so much more.
Walking up the tail-end of Ackerstraße, I nearly bumped into a chalkboard advertising Tubuk. It is "an online shop for books from independent publishers" in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Only that's not all. They have a real-life shop at the front of their offices - so minimal and tasteful I suspect I wouldn't have noticed it without the chalkboard. It seems to be part of a small but perfectly formed network of bookshops. They sell books there, hold readings, etc. etc. But they also run their own online platform.
Readers can comment on and recommend books, and there is a top ten of most frequently recommended books - with Finn-Ole Heinrich's excellent Räuberhände at the top of the pile. You can enter your age and gender and get instant book tips - which really worked for me - and there is no hypocritical pretense that you'll make new friends and your social life will suddenly blossom. There are sample texts from a lot of the books in PDF format. Plus you can sign up as a test reader and get a free book. So it's like Blog a Penguin Classic only with German indie books. How good is that?
The lovely thing about it is that the books on offer are genuine beauties. I find German independent publishers make absolutely gorgeous books - not just in terms of content but also when it comes to the whole look and feel of the things. I had to dash to the bank to be able to buy Axel Altenburg's Stinkehose - more on that at a later date. Or probably not, as it turns out.
I'm really pleased the German indies have got together for this project. Although things haven't quite reached the state of bookselling in the UK or US, small publishers are finding it harder to get their books onto shelves as the chains take over and friendly neighbourhood shops go bust. And Tubuk seems to be an innovative approach to tackling that problem. Now all they need is their own Reading the World-type festival...