A Philly Publisher on Why Books Will Never Die

Nic Esposito is an author and the founder of The Head & The Hand.

nic esposito

Nic Esposito is the author and founder of The Head & The Hand. Photograph of Eposito by Sam Abrams. Photograph of The Head & The Hand chapbook vending machine by Stuart Goldenberg

Nic Esposito, the author and founder of The Head & The Hand, an independent book publisher (that also hosts workshops, clubs and events), shares why books will never die.

You opened up a business that prints books. In 2012. Why?

I saw friends in the music business producing their own work, putting it out there, touring. I was like: Why can’t we do that with books? Today, everything gets swallowed up in corporate monopolization. The literary scene is primarily happening in New York and San Francisco. I shouldn’t have to leave Philly to get published. E-books have plateaued, and there’s a backlash to Amazon. We’ve had to pivot, but it ended up being the right time.

So there are still a lot of book readers?

Reading is the great equalizer. You can walk into a thrift store and get something for 50 cents that makes you think. I never saw e-books as a threat. Netflix is the threat. People talk about Netflix series like they used to talk about books.

Why is Philly’s literary scene taking off now?

There’s been a tradition here. It’s wrapped up in a lot of what Philly has to offer and why people are moving here. We have a walkable downtown, bars, shops — that bookstore culture still exists. What’s a commercial corridor without a bookshop? Millennials are yearning for that, and boomers are already tapped into it.

And now you sell books from a vending machine?

The small-scale books we offer are examples of work. If people believe in the chapter, maybe the author can get the larger-scale book published.

Published as “Nic Esposito” in the March 2019 issue of Philadelphia magazine.