Mark Kiessling founded do you read me?! in 2008 for the best business reason of all: necessity. After years of trying to locate inspiring magazines and books around Berlin, he was struck by the idea of opening a bookstore that would cater exclusively to the more unusual sections of your average bookstore – namely, international magazines and newspapers of all kinds, as well as specialized books in domains ranging from design to architecture to art to contemporary culture. The location on Auguststraße nestled among many of Berlin’s art galleries was perfect as well. And there they have been going strong almost 15 years later! Read on to find out more:
1. You moved location a few years ago, what made you want to do this and have you noticed any big changes since?
In fact, we have always been located at Auguststraße 28 in Berlin–Mitte. But yes, we had a temporary Reading Room in 2012–13 on Potsdamer Str. and several pop-up stores around the world.
2. What do you enjoy most about working in a bookshop and what do you find most challenging?
In addition to the daily demands of running a very popular bookshop, we would say that staying afloat of everything new and interesting is both the highest pleasure and greatest challenge. As one of the principal missions of the store is to promote exceptional independent publications that are difficult to find, we are constantly on the prowl for anything new and noteworthy. This means that our selection changes with great regularity, and that our clients will always stumble across something different and unusual with each visit. There are more and more publishers, particularly in regard to magazines; and many of them are generating impressive content. In the past, there were only a few dozen that seemed interesting to us. Now, there are hundreds. Discovering, promoting, and of course, selling them to the best of our ability is a thrilling (and sometimes overwhelming) experience!
3. How do you find the interaction between your physical and online shop? Do you think an online shop is a necessity in the modern book market?
We did not open a brick-and-mortar shop in order to run an online shop, but during the pandemic, our digital component has become an essential part of do you read me?! – both in the sense of pure survival as well as simply keeping in touch with our customers. As a result of people being forced to shop almost exclusively from home for the better part of 2020 and 2021, we saw our client base expand all over the world. Of course, this is something that we would like to continue to foster and develop. We do our best to offer the same level of hospitality and service that you would receive if you visited the store in person – but ultimately, that’s not possible. Online stores may be indispensable in the modern book market, but a physical retail store with an assortment like ours offers unbeatable advantages for both the customer and the store owner.
4. What are your best-selling art and fashion books? Are there any Yale books that do particularly well for you?
For art, one of our bestselling books is On The Necessity of Gardening (published by Valiz). In stunning visual detail, it presents a broad portrait of how society has viewed gardens over the centuries, ultimately describing how our current relationship with them is being forced to evolve in the face of climate change. Another bestseller is If You’ve Seen It All, Close Your Eyes by the artist Coco Capitán (published by Chose Commune)–a fascinating collection of her handwritten notes that offers an insightful and nourishing look into the creative process.
For fashion, since half of our selection is magazines, we do brisk business with a broad variety of releases ranging from independent publishers like 032c to more mainstream titles like i-D. But if we narrow it down to fashion-related books, Dissolving the Ego of Fashion by Daniëlle Bruggeman (published by ArtEZ Press) has done very well with us. Essentially, it examines different ways of producing a more socially conscious idea of fashion that actively engages with real societal problems.
For Yale University Press books, Devotion by Patti Smith is the clear and undisputed winner. Which we are more than happy about!
5. If you were allowed to take one book to a desert island, which would it be and why?
Probably the great Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione (published by Corraini)! It is a beautiful and democratic book that teaches the reader how to build their own furniture even if they have zero training and limited resources. This book is so useful it might even point a way toward building a boat to get off of the desert island with only the materials at hand.