No surprise but still striking: the New York Stock Exchange plans to delist Borders Group on March 21, according to a Borders filing
with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Trading in Borders stock
has been suspended since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
reorganization on February 16. Before then, Borders had trading under $1
a share for 30 consecutive days, which had started a separate delisting
Is it time for Congress to step into Amazon's Internet sales tax fray? Howard Gleckman suggested in Forbes that as the battle between individual states and Amazon continues, "I wouldn’t be surprised to see the whole issue land in the lap of Congress--which has been ducking the controversy for 20 years. That would be just the thing for anti-tax Republicans who’ll get squeezed between their governors and local retailers on one hand, and the e-tailers on the other."
In 1992, the Supreme Court "practically begged Congress to sort out the mess, noting both the complexity of these issues and the danger to business of conflicting rules in different states," he observed. But mail-order companies argued it would be too complicated to track different sales tax rules and rates nationwide.
That objection is no longer valid, according to Gleckman: "Technology has changed since 1992. Data miners know more about us than I want to contemplate. Keeping track of our zip code and the applicable tax rate is child’s play. Yet, the battle over Internet sales taxes drags on. For a decade, a group of two dozen states has been trying to sort this out on its own, with limited success. It is long past time for Congress to straighten it out."
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has joined with more than 40 free speech, civil liberties and civil rights groups--including the American Library Association--to protest plans by the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Representative Peter King, to investigate the threat of Islamic "radicalization" in the U.S. The hearings are scheduled to begin today.
"By focusing on allegedly dangerous ideas, Congressman King may repeat the mistake of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, which ran roughshod over the First Amendment right of Americans to say what they want, even when it is unpopular," said ABFFE president Chris Finan.
In a letter to King, the groups argued that Congress "simply has no business examining Americans' religious or political beliefs in official hearings.... It would be inappropriate and unwise for Congress to conduct an inquiry into the nature of Islam, the different interpretations of faith among Muslims, whether there exists an 'an ideology' of 'political Islam,' or whether some Muslims are more loyal Americans than others, just as it would be inappropriate for Congress to examine different interpretations of Christianity or debate whether Baptists or Catholics are more trustworthy."
A marginal note to the hearings: In today's New York Times, Noam Cohen deconstructs King's novel Vale of Tears, a "barely veiled 2004 thriller about a congressman who must thwart a planned 'dirty bomb' attack by Qaeda operatives working in Brooklyn and on Long Island."
Cohen notes some fictional prescience in the story: "On the final page, when you think tragedy has been averted, it is the congressman who gets the call to say the ringleaders have gotten away--off to Yemen. And perhaps a sequel."
The Gothamist showcased its choices for the "Ten Best Independent Bookstores of NYC," focusing on categories like best prices, ambiance, cute employees and "the all-important Cat Factor."
When Borders announced the closure of 200 stores and declared bankruptcy last month, Nicola Rooney and Bill Cusimano of Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich., "were busy serving a steady flow of customers browsing a selection of 52,000 titles. And unlike their cross-town big-box competitor, they were paying their bills," the Kansas City Star reported.
"Yes, bricks-and-mortar physical bookstore business is shrinking," Rooney said. "But if you are in an area where you have the right kind of people with the right kind of disposable income who want to spend on books, you can succeed.... The key is a customer who comes in after you recommended a great book for their son and asks the buyer to suggest another exciting title. Our clerk might even remember your son's name, something that might not happen at a chain store."
Added Cusimano: "For a retail store to work it's got to be part of the community. Sure, we do big events with authors like Anthony Bourdain or Elizabeth Kostova but we're also doing poet Martha Rhodes reading at the University of Michigan's English Department. We'll be lucky if we sell five books. But if you're going to be an independent bookseller you have to provide a venue for the literary world, even if it's a loss leader."
The owners of Pride & Joy, Northampton, Mass., have put their LGBT book and gift store up for sale. Bay Windows reported that Jeff Wheelock, Melissa Borchardt, and Kelly Wagoner have their shop on the market just two years after purchasing it. In a statement, the owners wrote: "Hard economic times, business and personal transitions, have all taken their toll on our lives. After much soul-searching, we have made the decision to put Northampton’s Pride and Joy up for sale. This decision was not an easy one for us to make. We’ve put our hearts and souls into this business, and we will miss it on many different levels."
"Movie memories have a long shelf life" at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, Los Angeles, Calif. Owner Jeffrey Mantor has a tattoo of Rita Hayworth on his left bicep and one of Anita Ekberg from La Dolce Vita on his right. The Los Angeles Times noted that the bookshop, founded in 1938 and specializing exclusively in movie books and memorabilia, is now facing serious online competition.
"It's tough to be in a specialty business where I spent 20 years learning to do what I do for a living only to have someone come along and type something into a search engine to get the same information," said Mantor. "That's the problem with eBay; everybody thinks they're a dealer."
The Advocate Weekly showcased the print-on-demand services offered by Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. "The vision for print-on-demand is twofold," said Chris Morrow, Northshire's general manager. "The first is to democratize publishing so anybody can be published, so you don’t have to go to New York and get an agent and all of this. The second is having access to all of the combined knowledge of the world.... We should be able to have, within the next decade, access to any book that’s ever been printed in any language."
Self-publishers are also self-marketers, Morrow added. "This is true with traditional books, too. It used to be the publisher did a lot of the work with marketing your book. A lot of authors are finding they have to do a lot of their own in terms of blogging and Facebooking and book tours. It’s different than it used to be. It really depends on how active and creative the author is."
Owen Laster, a former literary agent whose clients included Judy Blume, Gore Vidal and the estate of Margaret Mitchell, has died, the Associated Press (via ABC News) reported. He was 72.
"Egypt's New Chapter: Three Books to Catch You Up" were recommended by Yasmine Mariam Kloth for NPR's Three Books series. Her choices: Cairo: The City Victorious by Max Rodenbeck, Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
In the U.K., the Royal Mail has released a special set of stamps featuring "some of the world's--and fiction's--"most famous wizards, witches and enchanters," including Merlin, Dumbledore and Nanny Ogg, the Guardian reported.
Book trailer of the day: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead).
Yesterday's book trailer of the day, for My Name Is Not Alexander by Jennifer Fosbery (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), unfortunately had the wrong link. Please try this one instead!