Face Out: ABA Board Member Matthew Norcross on His Life Among Books

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In this installment in our series on American Booksellers Association Board members, Bookselling This Week talks to Matthew Norcross, co-owner with his wife, Jessilynn Norcross, of McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan. Norcross is in his second three-year term as a Board director.

Bookselling This Week: Please talk about your early experiences with reading and books.

Matthew Norcross: I had a great deal of difficulty reading as a young person, and I was diagnosed with dyslexia in the first grade. When I was in fourth grade, I was given a box set of the entire Chronicles of Narnia on audiocassettes along with the books. I literally wore out the cassettes listening, and re-listening, to those stories as I followed along with the printed editions. These early experiences have made me love audiobooks and have also given me a desire to help other struggling young readers.

BTW: How did you begin as a bookseller, and how long after starting in bookselling did you begin to feel that you had found a special vocation?

MN: I started working in bookselling as a teenager because my mom, Julie Norcross, opened a bookstore and needed cheap labor. I began to see bookselling as a career only after returning to it well after college and seeing that some of my computer skills might be helpful to my mom’s store. Soon after that I met my wife, Jessilynn, at the bookstore and we have been selling books since.

BTW: When did you first become a member of ABA? What motivated you to join?

MN: I first became familiar with ABA through our regional organization, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association (GLIBA). Every interaction I had with ABA and its staff left me feeling reinvigorated with our industry and still does. Simply put, McLean & Eakin wouldn’t be the store it is if it weren’t for ABA and the amazingly talented staff they have working there.

BTW: What do you think are some of the most important changes in bookselling since you opened your store?

MN: Our ability to compete online. Every year since our store launched its IndieCommerce website, our online traffic has grown. We operate our store year round, but we are in a resort area that slows down in the winter. Our website allows us to stay in touch with our customers all year, and it allows them to support us all year.

BTW: What are your key goals as an ABA Board member for fostering the book industry, and bookselling in particular?

MN: In the past, independent booksellers have been viewed as Luddites, but that is changing. I hope to continue to change that perception and help other booksellers do that as well. I feel the largest hurdle we sometimes have to overcome is the perception of what the traditional indie bookstore does. The reality is that in 2015 small indie bookstores can do almost anything the larger guys do, if they want to.

BTW: What are you reading now?

MN: Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser.

BTW: You get a day to walk through any city, town, or landscape with any one writer. What writer and what place?

MN: Hunter S. Thompson in Las Vegas — if I could have an EMT on call.