Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 22, 2018


Penguin Press: Win a collection of some of this fall's best nonfiction

Scholastic Focus: Scholastic is proud to introduce a new imprint of beautifully written and carefully researched MG and YA nonfiction—coming Fall 2018

Other Press: Something Great and Beautiful: A Novel of Love, Wall Street, and Focaccia by Enrico Pellegrini

Canongate Books: The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Katherine Tegen Books: Time Castaways #1: The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl Shurtliff

Quotation of the Day

Chelsea Clinton: 'Politics and Prose Can Claim Me'

"Politics and Prose can claim me. I have many memories of browsing and buying books when I was in high school. I also... remember so vividly standing there when one of my good friends told me she had fallen in love for the first time. So, I also have quite romantic associations with Politics and Prose. And I'm so grateful that you continue to enrich my children's library with the books that you give to [my children]. Nothing gives me greater joy than reading with my children and now listening as [they] ask questions."

--Chelsea Clinton, author of Start Now! You Can Make a Difference (Philomel, Oct.), during her keynote speech on the second day of Children's Institute in New Orleans

 


World Editions: You Have Me to Love by Jaap Robben, translated by David Doherty


News

Supreme Court: Internet Companies Must Collect Sales Tax

In a major victory for sales tax fairness, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that Internet retailers can be required to collect sales tax in states where they have no physical presence. Under a 1992 case, Quill v. North Dakota, the Court had ruled that companies needed to have nexus--a major connection to a state, whether by having facilities or sales agents there--to be required to collect sales tax. That decision came well before the explosion in Internet retailing.

In yesterday's case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg, the Court voted 5-4 in favor of South Dakota, which in 2016 enacted a law requiring all companies to collect its 4.5% sales tax if they had more than $100,000 in sales or more than 200 transactions in the state per year. It then sued the three defendants for not complying with the law.

As the New York Times observed, "Brick-and-mortar businesses have long complained that they are disadvantaged by having to charge sales taxes while many of their online competitors do not. States have said that they are missing out on tens of billions of dollars in annual revenue under a 1992 Supreme Court ruling that helped spur the rise of internet shopping."

Since last year, Amazon has been partially collecting sales tax: it does so for its own products in all states with sales tax, but it doesn't collect sales tax for third-party vendors on Amazon Marketplace, which represent a majority of the retail giant's sales.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy estimated that the 1992 case caused states to lose annual tax revenues between $8 billion and $33 billion: "Quill puts both local businesses and many interstate businesses with physical presence at a competitive disadvantage relative to remote sellers," he wrote. "Remote sellers can avoid the regulatory burdens of tax collection and can offer de facto lower prices caused by the widespread failure of consumers to pay the tax on their own."

American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher praised the decision, saying, "Today's ruling represents a tremendous victory for independent booksellers and for indie retailers throughout the country. There is simply no way to overstate the importance of the decision handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. This victory is a testament to the hard work and perseverance of independent booksellers, who began advocating on behalf of sales tax fairness almost two decades ago. Their tireless efforts played a pivotal role in this win for small businesses and e-fairness."

The ABA filed a friend of the court brief in favor of South Dakota.


Disney-Hyperion: I Lost My Tooth! (Unlimited Squirrels) by Mo Willems


D.C.'s Solid State Books Opens

Solid State Books opened yesterday at 600 H Street NE in Washington, D.C. Co-owners Scott Abel and Jake Cumsky-Whitloc, former longtime Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café managers, made the announcement in an e-mail message expressing their "great pleasure to share with you the long-awaited, much-anticipated, for-real-this-is-no-joke news that we are now open for business in our permanent space!"

Noting that they had just finished moving books from the pop-up shop yesterday, the co-owners wrote: "We are still settling in, filling up the shelves (there are so many to fill!), and our food program is not fully operational just yet (though it should be by early next week). However, and most importantly, we do have a great selection of five beers, six wines, and coffee from Ceremony Roasters ready to go today! And of course we have the same great slate of events--now with much more space to operate--including tonight’s event with Camille Perri for her book When Katie Met Cassidy. So please stop in and grab a book or a drink, check out an event, or just say hello. We can’t wait to see you in the store!"

On Wednesday, Solid State tweeted about its first author event in the new space the night before: "Corks were popped! Books were signed and sold! Thank you to @rebeccamakkai for making the first event in our new space a great one. We wish the best for you and The Great Believers!"


Mandevilla Press: Assassins by Mike Bond


B&N: 'Turnaround Plans Take Time'

Wall Street reacted negatively to Barnes & Noble's disappointing fourth quarter and fiscal 2018 results (sales fell 6% and the net loss was $125.5 million), announced yesterday. In twice the usual volume, B&N stock fell 3.9%, to $6.20 a share. The company's market capitalization is $450 million and its yield is 10%.

In a conference call with analysts after the results were released (transcript courtesy of SeekingAlpha), B&N CEO Demos Parneros said that the company has been working hard for some time on reversing its fortunes, but "turnaround plans take time.... [Still, we] have laid the groundwork for the future and we are beginning to see modest improvement in some areas."

He cited at length various positive changes:

  • "Store conversion rates" improved during fiscal 2018.
  • B&N's membership program grew by 500,000 members.
  • At cafes open at least a year, sales rose in the latter part of the fiscal year.
  • The company has developed "a pipeline of real estate opportunities" that should allow it to have a net increase in store count next year, with ideal new stores at about 14,000 square feet and maintaining B&N's presence in "key markets."
  • The company launched its ship-from-store program.
  • The Barnes & Noble Book Club launched in May.
  • Tim Mantel was hired as chief marketing officer, among other "key hires" in the last few years to the management team.
  • The exclusive and signed editions program will be expanded to more holidays.
  • A business development team was formed and focuses on "creating a pipeline of fresh new concepts to engage our customers" such as new back-to-school products available in July.
  • The company's "new, more efficient store labor model... resulted in a $40 million cost reduction," and the company is reviewing other cost-cutting possibilities.

CFO Allen Lindstrom added more details about the results of store categories in the past year. Sales of books at stores open at least a year fell 3.4% in the fourth quarter, while all non-book categories fell 4.5%.

Gift, music and DVD business had "double-digit declines, partially offset by favorable trends in our café and toys and games categories."

Online sales dropped 9.6% during the year.

B&N's next quarterly report will be in early September.


Biblio-Tech Café Opens in Perry, N.Y.

Biblio-Tech Café hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening celebration recently at 2 S. Main St. in Perry, N.Y. "after Wyoming County's brief bookstore hiatus," the Daily News reported. Burlingham Books had previously occupied the location until its closure and ownership change was announced earlier this year.

"Today was a dream come true," new owner Giuseppe Gentile posted on Facebook after his first day in business. "The support and embrace from the community was overwhelming, and I was so happy to see so many smiling faces. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who came out today. Thank you to everyone who shopped with us. Thank you to everyone who got us here and made this moment possible. I look forward to many more years serving this community. Thank you."

Biblio-Tech Café "is just a little bit of the same--and a lot bit different--than Burlingham Books, Perry's old staple for new and used books, where Gentile had served for 12 years as manager before the famed store closed its doors," the Daily News wrote.


Let's Play Books Joining Forces with Ju-Ju Monkey

Let's Play Books children's bookstore in Emmaus, Pa., will join forces with Ju-Ju Monkey, which plans to close its Allentown store at the end of June. The Morning Call reported that the natural parenting business is "shifting its focus away from retail and concentrating more on children's and parenting classes and meet-ups."

At the bookstore, Ju-Ju Monkey will "offer classes and a smaller selection of merchandise, including amber necklaces, skincare products and baby-wearing and teething items, in a second-floor room," the Morning Call wrote. Owner Sara Moore said that as she and Let's Play Books! owner Kirsten Hess prepare to combine forces, they are excited about the opportunity to further "support each other, not compete against each other."

"We're really just going back to our roots," Moore said. "My vision has always been to have a space where parents could hang out and connect with each other and realize their feelings and frustrations are valid. So, I really wanted to create that tribe, or village, that everyone needs. That's been my main goal since the beginning.... We want to keep that sense of community by bringing families together."


Ci6: Selling YA Books to Adults

On Wednesday at the ABC Children's Institute 6 in New Orleans, La., a group of booksellers discussed ways they have found success handselling young adult literature to adults. The panelists--Destenie Fafard of Cellar Door Books in Riverside, Calif.; Kim Brock of Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio; Jordan Standridge of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.; Emily Lloyd-Jones of Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle's Children's Books in Mendocino, Calif.; and moderator Javier Ramirez of the Book Table in Oak Park, Ill.--began with audience involvement, asking the crowd to decide whether a certain passage was taken from an adult or young adult work. After the room full of booksellers guessed correctly on the first quiz, they were shown two new passages to identify. But the second was a trick question: the passages were from The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, signaling the complicated nature of the discussion ahead.

Ramirez began by asking the panelists what, exactly, YA is. Answers were varied. Standridge suggested that coming-of-age works are generally YA; Lloyd-Jones said, "YA is not so much a genre as it is a targeted audience"; and Fafard worked to sum up the assorted opinions by saying, "YA is such a blurred line [that] even publishers will sometimes get it wrong." The main point, they agreed, is that YA has a stigma attached to it and, in order to get adults buying and reading it, booksellers have to get buyers over it. Lloyd-Jones suggested that, in order to fight the stigma, we have to first explore why there is a stigma: YA, she said, is primarily written and edited by women and read by teen girls. She went on to say that our society sees anything that teen girls like as "frivolous or tainted" ("Uggs are comfortable!"), meaning that YA is generally not taken seriously by adults.

(l.-r.) Javier Ramirez, Destenie Fafard, Kim Brock, Jordan Standridge, Emily Lloyd-Jones

So how, then, does a bookseller go about selling YA to adults? Standridge expressed it is "important to speak from the heart about why you really like this book." Brock added to that by suggesting that booksellers pitch everything they love about the book before telling the adult buyer that the title is YA, if they tell them at all. They pointed out that the language used when pitching the book is important, Fafard noting that the fastest way to get an adult to buy a YA book is to say, "Oh my gosh, it's written so well" (adults also love the word "complex," Brock added). Standridge said he thinks "young adult [books are] the quickest to address" social issues, meaning readers seeking more contemporary experiences are likely to find them in YA before they find them in adult books.

This led to other practical suggestions from the panelists and booksellers in the audience. Ramirez advised including YA in Staff Picks sections; Fafard suggested creating topic-based displays that feature both adult and YA works (for example, an Afro-Futurism display she did included Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates, works by Nnedi Okorafor and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi); Brock recommended strategically placing the young adult section, moving it away from the children's section and closer to subjects adults might be perusing. The panelists and audience also discussed book pairings, noting that in many of their stores, they had recently seen a rise in parents seeking out books on contemporary issues to read with their teens. This is a great handselling opportunity--a bookseller can pair something like Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates with The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, giving the teen and the parent the opportunity to crossover their reading.

However a bookseller may get a YA book into the hands of an adult, all of the panelists agreed that young adult literature is about discovery and, as Lloyd-Jones put it, "discovering who we are is a universal process." --Siân Gaetano


Notes

Lake Forest Book Store: 'A Real Bookstore'

Observing that he recently experienced "an unfortunately rare pleasure," South Carolina author and Chicago Tribune "Biblioracle" columnist John Warner wrote that he "visited a real bookstore" when he stopped in at the Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Ill. "How can this be, O Biblioracle? you're wondering. How could you not be spending hours upon hours in bookstores? I'll tell you why: The town in which I live, Mount Pleasant, S.C., doesn't have a bookstore."

Calling the Barnes & Noble in his town "better than nothing," Warner observed that spending time in the indie "reminded me of the distance between most Barnes & Noble stores and a genuine bookstore. Like many independent bookstores where space is at a premium, Lake Forest Book Store is 'cozy.' You need to turn sideways to let another shopper pass in the aisles. But I think this is a significant advantage in a bookstore. The density of desirable items is incredibly high, each table and shelf worthy of extended scrutiny.... I walked in not needing to buy anything, since I was already well-stocked because I was travelling.... I left the store gratified. My only disappointment was that I didn't have space in my luggage for more books."

Warner's advice to B&N: "spend some quality time in places like the Lake Forest Book Store or Chicago's City Lit or Northbrook's the Book Bin or any one of the thousands of amazing independent bookstores in this country. There they will find community and care and passion that transcends the advantage of large inventories and low prices. Bookstores should be designed to bring us closer together.... No one is going to catch up to Amazon's size. To compete, it's a matter of beating them on spirit."


Bookshop Wedding of the Day: Gogol Bookstore

"Flowers, chandeliers, dozens of overflowing bookshelves and a red carpet make for an enchanting setting for those who choose Gogol Bookstore in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, for their wedding," China Daily reported, adding that since the shop opened in 2014, 36 couples have held their nuptials there.

"Unlike traditional lavish hotel weddings in large banquet rooms with countless round tables, bookstore weddings are more like an intimate family party," said Yu Bing, the bookstore's general manager. "Our store is quite small, so the number of guests is limited. Only the couple's closest relatives and friends can be invited."

Gogol Bookstore's staff try to come up with novel ideas for each reception. "We have a red carpet with love poems printed on it," Yu said. "Guests can receive unique gifts such as books, bookmarks and postcards, which are all specially designed for each wedding.... Traditional bookstores face challenges from online rivals, so we have to fight back by developing a new way to grow. So it's a good idea to host weddings in bookstores, as it is welcomed by young people and brings books back into the conversation."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Garrett M. Graff on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Garrett M. Graff, author of Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die (Simon & Schuster, $18, 9781476735429).

Sunday:
NPR's Weekend Edition: Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City (One World, $28, 9780399590832).


Movies: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

The first trailer is out for To All the Boys I've Loved Before, based on Jenny Han's YA book series. IndieWire reported that the project is "Netflix's latest dip into the deep waters of YA rom-coms." Directed by Susan Johnson (Carrie Pilby), the film stars Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Israel Broussard, Andrew Bachelor, John Corbett and Anna Cathcart. To All the Boys I've Loved Before will launch on Netflix August 17.


Books & Authors

Awards: McIlvanney Scottish Crime

A longlist has been released for the £1,000 (about $1,325) McIlvanney Prize for Scottish crime book of the year. In addition to the cash prize, the winner receives nationwide promotion from Waterstones. Finalists will be revealed in early September and the winner announced September 21. The 2018 longlisted books are:

Follow the Dead by Lin Anderson
Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
Presumed Dead by Mason Cross
The Man Between by Charles Cumming
The Loch of the Dead by Oscar De Muriel
Perfect Death by Helen Fields
Now She's Gone by Alison James
The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney
No Time to Cry by James Oswald
The Suffering of Strangers by Caro Ramsay
The Hunter by Andrew Reid
The Photographer by Craig Robertson


Reading with... Issac J. Bailey

photo: Axel Dupeux

Issac J. Bailey is a columnist for CNN, Vice and the Charlotte Observer. He's been published in Esquire and Politico and dozens of other publications. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2014 and has taught journalism courses at Harvard's summer school, Davidson College and Coastal Carolina University. He's the author of Proud. Black. Southern (but I Still Don't Eat Watermelon in Front of White People) and My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South (Other Press, May 29, 2018).
 
On your nightstand now:
 
I seem to be in a period of re-examination, one during which I'm searching for deeper understanding of some of the most vexing problems facing us. That's probably why on my nightstand you'll find White Rage by Carol Anderson, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In writing My Brother Moochie, I had to admit to some painful, even embarrassing, thoughts I've had about people who look like me. I want to get to the root of that kind of thinking to help my two kids, and my students, commit to that kind of self-examination much earlier in life than I did.  
 
Favorite book when you were a child:
 
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain was the first book that grabbed me and wouldn't let go. The language and imagery brought me in and convinced me writing could be my most effective way to communicate with the world. That was particularly important because I was grappling with a severe stutter that threatened to silence me.
 
Your top five authors:
 
My top five: Ralph Ellison because he wrote Invisible Man; Twain for A Connecticut Yankee; Maya Angelou because we both know why the caged birds sing; Elaine Pagels because she forced me to reconsider how I viewed a religion I had grown up with; and Leonard Pitts because of his fearless style of writing.
 
Book you've faked reading:
 
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
 
Book you're an evangelist for:
 
I may be exposing my geek side a bit here, but it's Genome by Matt Ridley. I've found that you can better understand the sociological problems I most often contend with in print if you have a firm grounded in the harder sciences, and Ridley's book helped provide that grounding because of his clear writing on an extremely technical subject. That's why I know popular solutions for broad problems, such as urging everyone to have low-cholesterol diets, can have unintended consequences on something as seemingly unconnected as who commits violent acts.
 
Book you've bought for the cover:
 
I know I've done that, at least once. I can still remember the Barnes & Noble in Myrtle Beach, S.C., where a book captured my eye. I remember the cover had a lot of red ink over a dark background. It looked cool. I bought it. But the cover was the only memorable thing about it. I've honestly forgotten its title or what it was even about. I don't mind, though. I've never regretted buying a book, even ones I ended up hating--or forgetting altogether.
 
Book you hid from your parents:
 
I never did. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment in which the more often I had a book in my hand--no matter the title, no matter the subject--my cache went up. In fact, I read and openly carried books so often my mom bought me a briefcase in high school because she was convinced that meant I was going to be a professional one day and wanted me to start getting used to the idea then.
 
Book that changed your life:
 
There will never be another book like Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Twain interested me in the craft of writing; Ellison introduced me to layers of humanity that not even a four-year degree in psychology did. The subject matter is centered on a young black man navigating a crazy, racist world, but the characters were so well-written, the story so well-developed, anyone who cracks open those pages could see herself in them.
 
Favorite line from a book:
 
"All my life I had been looking for something, and everywhere I turned someone tried to tell me what it was. I accepted their answers, too, though they were often in contradiction and even self-contradictory. I was naive. I was looking for myself and asking everyone except myself questions which I, and only I, could answer." That's from, you probably guessed by now, Invisible Man.
 
Five books you'll never part with:
 
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Genome by Matt Ridley are on my list, as is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander because of how it helped reshape our debate about the need for criminal justice reform.
 
I recently read Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and would not let that one go. He uses the power of narrative nonfiction to explain important but complex medical issues to readers. It's personal for me because such things become more personal when you spend time in a hospital bed not sure you'll ever leave that place alive, which happened to me in 2014, and because as a journalist I spent several years studying the health care industry.
 
The Autobiography of Malcolm X helped show me what a passionate, relentless pursuit of truth looked like, even through fits and starts. I hope some of that rubbed off on me.
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
 
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. For reasons that still escape me, I had trouble getting into that book initially. Now that I have fresh eyes and am in the midst of re-examining my thinking, I'm wondering how it would land on my brain today. I'm going to find out.
 
Book you want to write:

You mean other than My Brother Moochie and one that included a subtitle talking about watermelon and white people? I want to write one about Michelle Obama's roots in a way that only a black, stuttering journalist who grew up in a tin can of a mobile home in the part of South Carolina near where her roots reach can.


Book Review

Review: Baby Teeth

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (St. Martin's Press, $26.99 hardcover, 320p., 9781250170750, July 17, 2018)

Debut novelist Zoje Stage delves into a parent's worst nightmare in a gripping power struggle between an isolated mother and a relentless tormentor--her own child.
 
Suzette Jensen is no different from most mothers; she loves her only daughter, worries over her and makes sacrifices to give her the best life possible. Parenting has brought plenty of stress since Hanna is now seven and has yet to speak a single word. Medical tests reveal no physical disability. Hanna seems highly intelligent, but also acts out so much that several schools have expelled her. Suzette homeschools Hanna while her husband, Alex, works, leaving her alone for long stretches with a child whose behavior grows increasingly disturbing. His daughter becomes as angelic in actions as in her appearance when Alex is home, and he downplays or downright disbelieves Suzette's concerns.
 
When Hanna finally starts to speak, she speaks only to Suzette and insists she is Marie-Anne Dufosset, a girl burned as a witch in 17th-century France. To complicate matters, symptoms of Suzette's Crohn's disease assert themselves, apparently as a stress reaction. As Hanna's strikes against her escalate toward violence, Suzette agonizes over her parenting style but also grows increasingly more frustrated and angry with the child.
 
In alternating chapters, Hanna's inner thoughts storm across the page, worshipful of her father and scornful of her mother. Working from the magical thinking of a child twisted by psychosis, she has one goal: to rid herself of Mommy and have Daddy all to herself. From nasty pranks to malicious attacks, Hanna will break the evil spell she knows Mommy uses to bind Daddy, no matter how dire the method.
 
Baby Teeth is a taut, wicked thriller. Stage challenges the notion that a parent's love must be unconditional, showing a mother whose patience and love prove finite, then daring readers not to feel sympathy for her when faced with cruel, devious Hanna. Unlike most horror films or novels featuring the creepy child trope, Baby Teeth digs beyond the saintly mother trapped with the demon-ridden child to craft an allegory for the unspoken regret and resentment parents may feel but are not allowed to express.
 
Stage's screenwriting background shows in the plot's rapid forward motion as Suzette unknowingly races against time, with Alex's support the crucial piece that will tip the scales of battle in favor of mother or daughter. A revealing commentary on the martyrdom of mothers wrapped in a suspenseful story arc, Baby Teeth packs a sharp bite. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads
 
Shelf Talker: A stay-at-home mother tries first to save and then to escape the violent tormentor who hates her--her own young daughter.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: IBW Celebrates #BookshopHeroes

Independent Bookshop Week is currently underway in the U.K. and Ireland, with more than 400 indies celebrating #BookshopHeroes, a theme that has been an entertaining and inspiring way to showcase not just the bookshops, but individual frontline booksellers.

"Happy Independent Bookshop Week 2018!" Books Are My Bag tweeted. "We're celebrating the booksellers that work so hard in the bookshops across the UK and Ireland--they deliver a huge amount to their communities and their high streets. They're our #BookshopHeroes."

BAMB also noted that last weekend Erica Jones (@bookshopblogger) was "embarking on one of the biggest, if not *the* biggest #bookshopcrawl of all time."

In her wrap-up blog post, "Bookshops, home to real-life super heroes," Jones wrote: "You don't have to visit 12 bookshops in three days, but letting bookshops inspire you to visit new places (in the real and imagined world) is definitely a recommended experience--and one that will make you a bookshop hero too."

This year's festivities have been further enhanced by the variety of ways booksellers incorporated branded superhero capes from Quarto and IBW aprons from Nielsen into their social media outreach. Among the IBW #BookshopHeroes highlights:

Griffin Books, Penarth, South Wales: "This year's Independent Bookshop Week is all about #BookshopHeroes!"

Lindum Books, Lincoln: "Bookshop superheroes were in evidence yesterday as we started celebrating Independent Bookshop Week in earnest! Our caped crusader wanted to retain his secret identity though."

White Rose Books, Thirsk: "There's #BookshopHeroes then there's our Sue-per Hero!"

Mostly Books, Abingdon: "#BookshopHeroes #IBW2018 What a bunch of legends."

Warwick Books, Warwick: "#BookshopHeroes #ibw2018 Super hero powers... specialist knowledge of graphic novels, kids books, crime thrillers and the #warwick area... and also dressing up!"

Rickaro Books, Horbury: "A bookshop superhero flying around the shop today."

Ruth Concannon (customer): "My #BookshopHeroes are @ByrnesBooks [Galway], the hardest working booksellers in Ireland and the best Craic as well. They also put up with my mad schemes and terrible puns for two whole years #saints."

Alligator's Mouth, London: "The first Alligator's Mouth #BookshopHero is... Helen! She is wearing the #IBW2018 Apron of Destiny with pride. As you can see, she is the ultimate Bookshop Girl."

Lighthouse Bookshop, Edinburgh, Scotland: "It's our Michael's 58th birthday today! An honorary lighthouse keeper he brings us such joy we nominate him as our #IBW2018 BookshopHERO!..."

Padstow Bookseller, Padstow: "To celebrate #IBW2018 the shop has donned it's cape and is looking 'super' this week!"

Haslemere Bookshop, Haslemere: "From the newest member of staff to the longest standing, Thursday's #BookshopHero is Sue! Sue has worked in the shop for over 15 years and during this time has been involved in countless school events and community projects--she's a brilliant ambassador for books! When she's not in the shop Sue is out walking, birding and spotting butterflies."

Cogito Books, Hexham: "A huge shout out for our #bookshopheroes bookseller and book group guru @MacCallumHilar--an avid reader with extensive book knowledge and her wonderful way with people is always delivered with a smile!"

Tales on Moon Lane, London: "Alphabetizing... now that's a job for #bookshopheroes. Hang on, where does that McCall Smith go?"

IBW was not just about celebrations, however. Last week, Booksellers Association president Nic Bottomley, owner of Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, spoke at the House of Commons during a World Book Day launch reception. A true #BookshopHero, Bottomley cited the "massive disparity" in U.K. business rates, noting that one branch of Waterstones in Bedford paid 60 times as much as the Amazon distribution center in the same town.

"This isn't sustainable. Intellectually, morally, or for the bookshops involved," he observed, adding that as "a first step and as a matter of urgency we would ask for a business rates exemption for bookshops. Business rates dispensation has been given to pubs in recognition of their community value.... Booksellers bring both community value and cultural value to their towns, at a heroic level. And they should be given the same exception. I urge all Parliamentarians to support our representation that we should be given the same business rates concessions as our pubs."

This week, the Booksellers Association upped the ante by calling upon readers, authors, agents, publishers along with the general public to sign a petition urging the government to give bookshops the same business rate discount as pubs. Thus far, it has garnered more than 3,000 signatures.

Nigel Roby

Nigel Roby, owner and CEO of the Bookseller, enthusiastically endorsed the petition drive: "It cannot be right that the rates structure penalizes small local bookshops over giant, global corporations selling online. The BA's proposal is a sensible, achievable way of at least partially redressing this gross imbalance.

"This concession could help more bookshops to continue and just may provide the extra incentive for a new shop to open. The cost to government is minuscule, but the benefit to high streets, struggling with closures, could be significant. What would legislators prefer, yet another betting shop on the high street or a bookshop that supports the community?"

#BookshopHeroes: Maybe Superman is actually a disguise for Clark Kent.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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