Community Supported Books Program Launches at Canio’s Books

Heller_Community Supported Books Program at Canio's Books
Canio's Books proprietors Kathryn Szoka and Maryann Calendrille with their "produce box" of a "local crop" of books as part of Community Supported Books program at the bookstore on Saturday. Michael Heller photo.
Heller_Community Supported Books Program at Canio's Books
Canio’s Books proprietors Kathryn Szoka and Maryann Calendrille with their “produce box” of a “local crop” of books as part of Community Supported Books program at the bookstore on Saturday. Michael Heller photo.

By Emily J. Weitz

We’ve all heard of the CSA at this point. Community Supported Agriculture has become a new model to support local farms and food and to deepen people’s connection to the land. But what’s a CSB? Community Supported Books, of course. Similar to a CSA, community members commit a certain amount of money upfront and receive their “produce” later. This gives the bookseller “seed money” to purchase books, to keep the shelves stocked with fresh, innovative titles.

“Just as in the CSA model you get to know your farmer and who’s growing your food, here you get to know your bookseller and who’s making choices for your reading,” said Maryann Calendrille, co-owner of Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, where they just launched a CSB program. “It’s an effort to strengthen those relationships that exist already.”

CSAs support farms in the face of big box supermarkets and online food delivery systems. CSBs help booksellers work against the anonymity of Internet sales.

“This is the up-close and personal, meet your neighborhood bookseller approach,” said Ms. Calendrille.

While the concept is similar, of course the application is different for books than it is for food. To join the CSB program at Canio’s, you’re simply setting up an account.

“Someone makes a commitment to the shop by paying $100 or more upfront,” said Ms. Calendrille. “Then they have a store credit for that amount and they can come and purchase away against the balance on that account.”

There is a clear difference between the CSA and the CSB: choice. CSAs usually compile boxes for their members that are filled with the freshest produce that’s in great abundance at a given time. When this is tomatoes, it’s one thing, but when you end up with more leeks than you know what to do with, it can be more of a challenge. Canio’s, in contrast, is not composing boxes of books, filled with bestsellers that they overstocked. Members still have free rein in making choices about what books they want to purchase, and as always, if a book is not on the shelves, they can have it ordered. There will be modest discounts on a few selected titles for members, and members will also get special updates on what’s being offered in the shop. But otherwise, the program is basically setting up a house account to establish the connection to the local bookseller.

“It forges a relationship of loyalty and connection,” said Ms. Calendrille, “and builds community in that way.”

But there is another comparison that can be drawn between CSAs and CSBs: local, local, local. Here in Sag Harbor, the local community of authors and poets is distinguished, and Canio’s is at the heart of it.

“We always feature our local authors and poets to promote their work,” said Ms. Calendrille. “We also have a strong and deep collection of local interest books about the natural, cultural, and literary history of the area.”

Currently, they’re featuring a new anthology about Montauk and its literary tradition, which is called “On Montauk: A Literary Celebration”. They also have a collection of books by Arcadia Press that focuses on the Shinnecock Nation, Whaling on Long Island, the Bridgehampton Summer Colony, and more. They always promote “The Manor” by Mac Griswold, a book about Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island and its history as a slave plantation. They also have out of print books, like “Hamptons Bohemia.”

The relationship promoted by the CSB goes both ways. When people pledge their support to Canio’s they are also making a commitment to themselves, and to reading. Instead of feeling like they shouldn’t splurge on another book, they feel like they should, because they money is already in the account. They have that little encouragement to go to the book store and be inspired. And when they get there, it’s a place where they belong.

“The CSB is a hello,” said Ms. Calendrille. “It’s a touch on the shoulder, a book in your hands. People want to keep it real and have someone they trust who knows them and can give them guidance.”

It’s the same as the connection to the farmer in that way.

“I go to the farmers’ market because I know it’s something of value,” said Ms. Calendrille. “I trust that they’re not just giving me any old piece of lettuce, but lettuce that was grown with love and care. We try to do the same thing. The square footage here is tight, and we believe in the books we choose to have on the tables. There’s no filler here. In terms of ingredients, it’s all of value that we stand behind.”

Canio’s Books is located at 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 725-4926 or visit