Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 20, 2013

Disney: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Gotham: Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander

Balzer + Bray: The Zoo At The Edge Of The World by Eric Kahn Gale

Greenwillow Books: Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang

Macmillan Children's: Unraveled by Gennifer Albin

Plume: This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Harlequin: Fool's Gold by Susan Mallery

 

News

AAP Sales for First Half of 2013: E-books Slip

In the first half of the year, total net book sales fell 4.5%, to $5.491 billion, compared to the first half of 2012, representing sales of 1,196 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.

Adult e-book sales have slowed considerably in 2013, growing only 4.8% in the first six months of the year and trending downward: they were in negative territory in May and June, off 4.3% and 8.7%, respectively. At the same time, Children's/YA e-books sales fell 45.6% in the period. It's a striking change for a category that had triple-digit growth for several years and was heralded by some as a medium that would take over the book world.

Other than paperbacks, children's/YA had the biggest drops in sales, and mass market and adult paperbacks were off 7.4% and 11.5%, respectively. Adult hardcovers had a gain of 7.4%.

Category

Sales

% Change

 University press e-books

 $6.2 million

 50.7%

 Downloaded audio

 $61.6 million

 12.6%

 Adult hardcovers

 $580.7 million

  7.4%

 Religious e-books

 $35.4 million

  5.5%

 Children's/YA paperbacks

 $244.6 million

  5.4%

 University paperbacks

 $21.6 million

  4.8%

 Adult e-books

 $647.7 million

  4.8%

 K-12

 $1.128 billion

  1.5%

 

 

 

 Religious paperbacks

 $73.8 million

  -0.7%

 Religious hardcovers

 $130.2 million

  -2%

 Physical audiobooks

 $35.2 million

  -3.3%

 University hardcovers

 $19.3 million 

  -3.7%

 Professional publishing

 $283.4 million

  -3.8%

 Children's board books

 $20.9 million

  -7.3%

 Mass market

 $184.4 million

  -7.4%

 Adult paperbacks

 $635.1 million

 -11.5% 

 Children's/YA hardcovers

 $267.2 million

 -31.5%

 Children's/YA e-books

 $83.7 million

 -45.6%

 

Berkley: The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

Steve's Sundry in Tulsa to Close at End of Year

Photo: Chris Cordt/KRMG

Steve's Sundry, Books and Magazines, Tulsa, Okla., a combination bookstore, magazine shop and "old-fashioned soda fountain," is closing on December 31, the store announced yesterday.

Owner Joanie Stephenson said, "Our lease is coming up for renewal early 2014, and with the current flux of the book industry, I have decided it is now time to begin the next chapter in my life." She cited the "economic climate, daily changes in the publishing arena and Internet buying culture.

"This was not an easy decision," she continued. "Steve's Sundry has been a part of the Tulsa fabric since 1947; we are an institution. Multi-generations of customers have grown up coming to Steve's to sit at the soda fountain. Hopefully, someone in Tulsa will be interested in purchasing the soda fountain so its legacy will live on."

News on 6 noted that the store was founded by F.W. "Steve" Stephenson and is now in the second generation of ownership. "Aside from featuring worldwide bestsellers to local authors, Steve's serves up old-fashioned malts, shakes and homemade sandwiches from the lunch counter just like they did in the '40s."

KidsBuzz for the Week of 8/25/14

Amazon: Lockers Shipped Out; Suits; Strikes

Staples and RadioShack have dropped Amazon lockers from their stores, "as competition stiffens with the online retailer," Bloomberg wrote.

The companies had begun the program last year, believing that when Amazon customers came to the stores to pick up packages--shipped to the store for no extra cost--they might also shop at the stores.

Staples said the test "didn't meet the criteria we set up together," while RadioShack said the program didn't fit its strategy. Bloomberg noted that under a new CEO, RadioShack has been "cutting items to reduce clutter in stores while improving displays to boost sales of major brands such as Apple."

---

In recent weeks, current and former workers at Amazon warehouses in Kentucky, Tennessee and Washington State have filed four proposed class-action lawsuits against the company, seeking pay for the time they are searched when leaving the warehouses for breaks and at the end of shifts, the Huffington Post reported. Another proposed class-action suit in Nevada doesn't name Amazon as a defendant.

Workers have complained that the searches take at least 40 minutes a week--much longer during the holiday season--and are off the clock. The Huffington Post wrote: "According to the complaints, workers at Amazon warehouses have to go through a security checkpoint at the end of their shifts, as well as at the beginning of their unpaid breaks. Workers typically line up to pass through a metal detector, and they may have their bodies passed over with wands or their bags searched by guards if they happen to set the detector off.

"In their complaints, the workers argue that they should be paid for the screening time because it's a requirement, not an option--and because Amazon is the one to ultimately benefit from it. They also claim the screening eats up nearly half of their unpaid work breaks, which are mandated by law."

---

Some 600 workers "stayed off the job" yesterday at two Amazon warehouses in Germany--in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld--where the union ver.di wants the company to boost wages. The strikes are set to last three days.

The AP said Amazon said its warehouses are "logistics centers, and employees are already paid on the upper end of what workers in that industry earn."

Plume: This Is How I'd Love You by Hazel Woods

Susan L. Jurevics New Pottermore CEO

Effective October 1, Susan L. Jurevics is becoming the CEO of J.K. Rowling's Pottermore.com site and will work alongside Julian Thomas, acting CEO, who now becomes COO, the Bookseller reported. Charlie Redmayne had been CEO, but left in July to become CEO of HarperCollins U.K.

Jurevics has been senior v-p of global retail CRM and brand marketing at Sony and was in charge of Sony's partnership with Pottermore. She is relocating to London from New York.

Neil Blair, Pottermore's chairman and Rowling's agent, said: "We have enjoyed working with [Jurevics] at Sony and are looking forward to her leading the team into exciting new challenges. She has powerful global experience in brand and retail, as well as all the managerial attributes and creativity to steer Pottermore through an increasingly complex digital landscape."

Atria: You by Caroline Kepnes

Showrooming Report: Selling to the 'Mobile-Assisted Shopper'

The showrooming attitudes, shopping patterns and motivations of 3,000 "leading-edge consumers" in the U.S., U.K. and Canada were the subject of a new Columbia Business School/Aimia report from titled Showrooming and the Rise of the Mobile-Assisted Shopper. Although not specifically focused on the book industry, the study's aim is to show retailers "concrete steps they can take to entice consumers armed with mobile devices to make purchases inside their store walls." Among the report's key findings:

  • 74% of M-shoppers are older than 29 years old.
  • More than 50% of M-Shoppers are more likely to purchase a product in-store when their mobile device helps them find online reviews, information, or trusted advice.
  • Although "price checking" is the number one action of M-Shoppers, convenience, urgency and immediacy are the top three reasons why M-Shoppers will buy in-store even if they find the same product cheaper online.
  • 48% of M-Shoppers say that being a member of a store's loyalty program makes them more likely to purchase products in-store, despite equal or cheaper prices online.

"Our findings debunk many of the common assumptions about the threat of showrooming and who is doing it," said Matthew Quint, a co-author of the study and director of Columbia Business School's Center on Global Brand Leadership. "Many shoppers with smartphones care about more than just the lowest price on every item. In fact, while roughly 25% of M-Shoppers may require a discount to motivate in-store purchases, a clear majority can be enticed to purchase in-store through information assistance, engagement strategies, and strong loyalty rewards programs"

New American Library: When We Fall by Emily Liebert

Obituary Note: Cynthia M. Black

Cynthia M. Black, president and editor-in-chief of Beyond Words Publishing, has died. She was 61.

Best known as editor of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, which sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, Black worked on another 300 books during her life. Richard Cohn, publisher and a co-founder with Black of Beyond Words, remembered that she was "always there for any author who needed help in developing ideas and concepts" and was "grateful to collaborate over the years to produce cutting edge content that will help change the mindset of the world. She was a great mentor to many, and her presence will be greatly missed.

"Over the past few years, Cynthia embarked on a healing journey. We are all blessed to have been part of that journey, and she wanted us to hold a memory of her spirit soaring. As we mourn the loss of this dynamic woman, we aim to take what we learned from Cynthia and move forward with the Beyond Words brand that she helped co-create--just as she would wish. Our shared vision will continue to drive our decisions, customer interactions, and our passion for the possible in both life and work."

A Celebration of Spirit gathering is being planned.

For an overview of Black's career, see the main article from our dedicated issue in March celebrating Beyond Words' 30th anniversary.

Notes

Image of the Day: Brazil in Frankfurt in New York City

The Rare Book Room at the Strand;
Ricardo Costa (r.)
photos: JC McIlwaine
 

The German Book Office New York and the Frankfurt Book Fair hosted some 100 guests at the Rare Book Room of the Strand Bookstore in Manhattan on Wednesday night to celebrate Brazil, this year's Guest of Honor at the fair next month. Ricardo Costa, the fair's associate partner for Brazil and South America, spoke to attendees about Brazil's booming economy, burgeoning book industry and more than 1,700 bookstores. Guests received a copy of All Dogs Are Blue by Brazilian author Rodrigo de Souza Leão (published in the U.S. by & Other Stories), and the party featured an assortment of Brazilian hors d'oeuvres, Radeberger beers and hand-made caipirinhas, Brazil's national cocktail. --Alex Mutter

Happy 50th Birthday, Munro's Books!

Congratulations to Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C., "Canada's most magnificent bookstore," which is celebrating its 50th anniversary tomorrow, with appearances by Red Green, aka Steve Smith, whose new book is Red Green's Beginner's Guide to Women--For Men Who Don't Read Instructions, and Patrick Taylor, whose new book is An Irish Country Wedding. The store is also offering 50th anniversary bookmarks, with three designs created by children, and had a contest for which customers voted on the most memorable books of the last 50 years. (Grand prize was a library of the selected books.)

The store was founded by Jim Munro and his wife at the time, Alice Munro, who then was an aspiring author. Munro's is now located in a strikingly redesigned bank building with a 24-ft. high ceiling that resembles the ceiling of the porch of the great library of Ephesus. The Times Colonist has a delightful profile of Jim Munro and the store.

Bookseller-Authors Promote Non-Amazon Purchases

Jaime Clark, co-owner of Newtonville Books in Newton, Mass., and author of the upcoming novel Vernon Downs, has launched the website Please Don't Buy My Book on Amazon.com, imploring prospective readers to skip Amazon and, before pub date, buy directly from the publisher, Roundabout Press.

In an open letter to consumers, Clark wrote: "A day I've been dreading is soon upon Roundabout--the moment when they must apply for the barcode for the cover. Once the book acquires a barcode, it enters the publishing bloodstream, which generally triggers an Amazon listing."

Vernon Downs won't be available from general retailers--independents or otherwise--until April 2014; proceeds from all orders placed between now and April will go entirely to Roundabout, with Clark donating any royalties earned during that time. Customers who order directly from Roundabout also have the option to support their local bookstores by "entering their name and address in the Special Instructions field when you checkout and Roundabout will donate 50% of the monies (excluding shipping) to that bookstore."

Clark explained: "As a bookstore owner, I see small presses come and go--they usually publish a book or two and then fold after running out of money. For many small publishers like Roundabout, Amazon accounts for a large portion of sales, but the publisher realizes very little of the purchase price owing to Amazon's discounting policies. So... please don't buy it on Amazon."

---

Another bookseller-author, Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., suggests many independents, "some of America's great bookstores," on his website to people who want to buy his novel, The Circle of Thirteen (Turner Publishing).

Petrocelli commented: "I get really disheartened every time I see a routine, mindless 'buy-link' to Amazon on author websites. (It's even worse when it's an author I know or one who's coming to our store for an event.) Needless to say, I never even considered doing that.
 
"I thought about simply directing any sales to Book Passage, but I quickly decided that wasn't such a good idea either. As an author, it's in my best interest to spread sales around and get as many stores involved as possible.
 
"I finally decided I wanted to give potential customers the sense of what it is like to deal first hand with some of America's great bookstores. I put in a link to Indiebound.org, but I also decided to put in individual links to many independent stores and to include a little bit of information about each one of them. The link in each case goes to the page on that store's website where my book is featured."

'Cats Who Live at the Library'

Noting that "a library can operate without a cat, but a library with a cat is special," Mental Floss featured a selection of feline bibliophiles and explained that library cats "draw new patrons to the library, they make people smile, calm the staff, and they keep mice away. Some also work to promote literacy, library use, and pet adoption."

Book Trailer of the Day: Flora & Ulysses

A cynic meets an unlikely superhero in Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sheila Bair Takes Bull by the Horns

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Melissa Francis, author of Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter: A Memoir (Weinstein Books, $15.99, 9781602862302).

---

Today on Rachael Ray: Linda Ronstadt, author of Simple Dreams: A Musical Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451668728).

---

Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Samantha Geimer, author of The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski (Atria, $26, 9781476716831).

---

Sunday on CNBC's On the Money with Maria Bartiromo: Sheila Bair, author of Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself (Simon & Schuster, $16, 9781451672497).

TV: Bitten; Never Look Away

The Syfy network has acquired the 13-episode first season of a new Canadian scripted series Bitten, based on Kelly Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld book series, Deadline.com reported. Set to premiere next year, the project stars Laura Vandervoort (Smallville, Ted), Greg Bryk, Greyston Holt and Paul Greene.

---

NBC has put in development an as yet untitled drama based on the novel Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay, Deadline.com reported, adding that the project is written by Matt Venne (A&E's Bag Of Bones).

Movie Trailers: Big Sur; Great Expectations

Director Michael Polish's Big Sur, the film version of Jack Kerouac's novel, has a new trailer. The story "centers on his post-On the Road struggle with fame, drugs and his relationship with Neal Cassady's mistress.... it's certainly a visual different take on the era too, one filled with much more melancholy than jazz fueled hijinks," Indiewire reported. The movie, starring Jean-Marc Barr, Josh Lucas, Kate Bosworth, Anthony Edwards, Radha Mitchell, Balthazar Getty and Henry Thomas, opens November 1.

---    

A new trailer has been released for the latest adaptation of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, directed by Mike Newell and starring Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) as Pip, Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and Holliday Grainger as Estella, Deadline.com reported. The cast also includes Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemyng and Sally Hawkins. The film gets a New York and Los Angeles release November 8.

Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Award Fiction Longlist

The longlist for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction:

Pacific by Tom Drury (Grove Press)
The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver (Harper)
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner (Scribner)
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (Knopf)
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth)
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Riverhead)
Someone by Alice McDermott (FSG)
Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press)
Tenth of December by George Saunders (Random House)
Fools by Joan Silber (Norton)

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
Let Him Go: A Novel by Larry Watson (Milkweed Editions, $24, 9781571311023). "Like far-off black clouds with the faint sound of thunder on the horizon, Let Him Go crescendos into a violent Northern Plains thunderstorm as grandparents George and Margaret Blackledge set out on a journey to 'rescue' their grandson from his new stepfather. Confronting the hardscrabble Weboy clan that is equally determined to keep Jimmy can only have violent, tragic consequences. Watson has written a novel that rivals his earlier work, Montana 1948, in character development, storyline, and excitement. Stunning and riveting, Let Him Go will not be soon forgotten!" --Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, Iowa

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny (Minotaur, $25.99, 9780312655471). "A new Inspector Gamache novel by Louise Penny is always something to anticipate, and How the Light Gets In does not disappoint, even as the nuanced and mercurial Gamache is getting older and, perhaps, slightly weary of cleaning up the riffraff in Quebec. As the holidays approach and Gamache looks forward to a family trip to France, a long-term plan by those at the very top to get Gamache out of the way once and for all, a murder, and a mysterious suicide intertwine in a complex and satisfying plot that never gives itself away." --Carol Spurling, Bookpeople of Moscow, Moscow, Idaho

Paperback
Talk With Your Kids: Conversations About Ethics--Honesty, Friendship, Sensitivity, Fairness, Dedication, Individuality--and 103 Other Things That Really Matter by Michael Parker (Black Dog & Leventhal, $14.95, 9781597129484). "Guidance through conversation is the key theme of this book. Just expecting your child or teen to make a good decision is really not enough, but talking about ethics and morals can help give children and teens a foundation to start building their ethical pathway through life. Parker's open-ended questions provide a great new resource for parents, guidance counselors, and teachers!"  --Connie Griffin, Bookworks, Albuquerque, N.Mex.

For Teen Readers
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy by Elizabeth Kiem (Soho Teen, $17.99, 9781616952631). "This book has something for everyone: 1980s Soviet Union, 1980s Brooklyn, obscure musical references, prima ballerinas, and even a hint of the supernatural. With characters and a plot line as compelling as its title, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy is not to be missed." --Becky Quiroga, Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Brahmin: Lauren Grodstein

photo: Nina Subin

Lauren Grodstein is the author of The Explanation for Everything (Algonquin, September 3, 2013). Her other books are A Friend of the Family, Reproduction Is the Flaw of Love and The Best of Animals. She directs the creative writing program at Rutgers University-Camden.

On your nightstand now:

Lonely Planet Vancouver by the Lonely Planet people, since the only thing more pleasantly soporific than being in Vancouver is reading about it. The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. Once I'm finally asleep, I like to dream about Southern food. My four-year-old's Lego Star Wars Character Encyclopedia by the folks at DK Publishing. His Star Wars Scanimation Book by Rufus Butler Seder. Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Favorite book when you were a child:

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. To this day, every time I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I dream of pulling a Claudia.

Your top five authors:

M.F.K. Fisher, who made eating and writing about eating classy. Richard Ford, whose Bascombe trilogy, about a middle-aged New Jersey man, inspired me to write A Friend of the Family. Brenda Shaughnessy, whose poetry collection Our Andromeda is the truest thing about motherhood I've ever read. Phillip Roth, because he's this constant guiding light. Laurie Colwin, a less well known but much beloved novelist, essayist and story-writer.

Book you've faked reading:

Middlemarch by George Eliot.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I tell everyone I know to read the Bridge books by Evan S. Connell. I'm always surprised when they haven't. There's no finer fictional portrait of an American family.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I do this constantly with children's books, which makes no sense--you could read most children's books in about five seconds in the store aisle--but I never do. I just scoop up every cute kid's book I see, and then my ungrateful kid only wants to read about Star Wars.

Book that changed your life:

I read Layover by Lisa Zeidner while I was in college after it received an incredible New York Times review. I just loved it, and still do. A decade after reading it, I saw a post for a job opening at Rutgers University, in the program headed by that very Lisa Zeidner. I detected good fortune, so I applied for and got the job. My life has since been better in all ways--especially because now Lisa Zeidner is not only one of my favorite writers, she's also a great friend.

Favorite line from a book:

"First, try to be something, anything else." --from "How to Become a Writer," Self-Help, Lorrie Moore

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I read Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, when I was living in Berkeley with my first boyfriend one summer years and years ago. I was broke and smoking a lot and stupidly in love and everything about that book felt like a prophecy.

Book Review

Review: Half the Kingdom

Half the Kingdom by Lore Segal (Melville House, $23.95 hardcover, 9781612193021, October 1, 2013)

Half the Kingdom is a tour de force for Lore Segal, the 85-year-old novelist and Pulitzer finalist (for 2007's Shakespeare's Kitchen). It can be appreciated from several points of view: as a serious indictment of the American medical system, a scathing commentary on the marginalization of the elderly or a sendup of sociological/medical "studies." It is all of the above--and a wicked good story as well.

Doctors at a Manhattan hospital have noticed a strange increase in patients presenting with Alzheimer's or dementia. They are fine one day and not so fine the next. Is it coincidence or a terrorist plot? The phenomenon must be investigated, and none better than Joe Bernstine to lead the study.

Joe, who's returned to New York with his wife, Jenny, after retiring from a Connecticut think tank, is currently concerned with end-of-the-world scenarios--concerned to the point of paranoia. He enlists his daughter, Bethy, and Benedict, the son of an old friend, to work with him. Says Benedict, upon learning that Joe has rented an office: "He needs this office to have his funny ideas in. And to make work for his pain-in-the-ass daughter." Computer whiz Al Lesser is the next hire; Lucy, an emphysemic, "barely e-mail literate" 75-year-old, rounds out the team.

Each of these characters has a story--as do all the patients they are interviewing--and Segal combines laughter and tears, pathos, real tragedy and comic relief in everyone's scenario. She never trivializes or makes fun of the very real pain and confusion these people are feeling. As meetings are called and canceled, medication given and withheld, all these disparate lives converge in the hospital's ER. Joe and Lucy also end up there--for reasons unknown, except that they are old and not very well (though "our vitals are good").

There is a story read by a visiting granddaughter about a lovely girl who runs away to the forest. "And even people who have not read, and never been told the story, know that the girl will marry the prince with the kind eyes," Segal writes. "They will inherit half the kingdom, and if they haven't died they are living to this hour." Segal's novel is a beautiful, down-to-earth tragicomic meditation on age, failing powers and the loss that comes to all of us. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: Segal (Other People's Houses) tells a tragicomic story about a team of researchers interviewing an alarming number of aging people with signs of sudden dementia.

Ooops

Books & Company: Party Tomorrow!

The party celebrating the 30th anniversary of Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis., will be held tomorrow from 6-9 p.m., not on Saturday, the 28th. Our apologies!

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Regional Digital Time Capsule

Remember the good old digital days when we were still trying to figure out whether e-books were just a fad and if bookstores really needed websites or blogs; when conference sessions focused on "Capturing the I and My Generation (iPods, IMs and MySpace)"?

This morning I'm in New Orleans for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show. If you're reading this between 8 and 9 a.m., I'll probably be at a session titled "How to Build a Genuine Community Presence Both On- and Off-line," featuring Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.

As we continue our indie journey at retail warp speed, nostalgia is probably a dangerous commodity. I can't help recalling, however, the 2009 SIBA show in Greenville, S.C., where I first met Janet. She was still in the planning stages for her bookshop, but already building a community of colleagues and future customers through her website, blog and on Twitter.

Janet Geddis

At the time, she told me her "feeling is that social media tools are indispensable to prospective booksellers. What better way to get your feet wet and start conversations with people you might not come across in your day-to-day life? Athens has no indie that sells new books, which means I have to go on long drives to meet booksellers face to face. Through my Twitter account I've been able to befriend people all over the country who own and/or work in independent bookstores."

Maybe the past is always prologue. In 2007, Len Vlahos, then ABA's director of education and Booksense.com (now BISG executive director), moderated a panel called "Doing Digital Right," focused on the participatory nature of online life. "I think people are looking for a blend of professional and amateur information," he said.

On that panel we talked about investing precious time in Web marketing, about trusting staff and about the act of faith involved in working with digital options that might not pay immediate benefits. Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, then events coordinator for McNally Robinson NYC (which became McNally Jackson) and now co-owner of Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore, shared her thoughts on in-store and out-of-store blogging: "It's just another way of doing the things we do well."

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo (photo: Irish Echo)

Not everyone felt that way. At the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association show that year, a bookseller told me she already worked a brutal schedule and couldn't find good help to delegate any of these online tasks to. She had no interest in establishing an online presence. A hundred trade show panels wouldn't solve her dilemma because there'd never be enough time--nor a sufficient number of qualified, motivated staff members--to do everything that needed to be done.

I nodded sympathetically, but I also knew there wasn't "enough time" before the Internet when booksellers were slipping index cards between the pages of books for inventory control. And yet, they found time where they always found time, in its mysterious expandability.

Go back further. At the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association show in 2006, technology was the prevailing theme, with sessions like "Essential Technologies: An Overview" and "Digital Media Formats and the Independent Bookstore" At the time, I noted: "Most of the panelists at the MPIBA show were (how do I say this diplomatically?) not representing the MySpace generation, yet their attitude toward technology was generally curious, engaged and resourceful."

Dave Weich of Powell's Books (now president of Sheepscot Creative) said, "I don't know what's going to happen. The changes in the next 15 years will make the changes in the last 10 look like nothing." Noting that about 1% of Powell's sales came from e-books for Adobe Reader, Microsoft Reader and Palm Reader, he predicted the figure would rise dramatically when a first-rate e-reader was developed: "People are committed to their device, not to their desktop computer. Eventually there is going to be an iPod for books; that's when e-books will explode."

Carl Lennertz of HarperCollins (now executive director of World Book Night US) stressed the need for every bookstore to have a high-speed Internet connection in order to acquire information from and communicate with publishers. "Catalogues may go online in the next five years," he said.

Now travel back to 2005. "When our great-grandchildren are having Pride and Prejudice downloaded to their brainpans, how will they know that DirectLitFeed (patent pending) evolved from Gutenberg or cave drawings?" I asked. "What will bookstores look like in 10 years? A cross between Circuit City and Starbucks? And e-books? How do you read them comfortably? You don't. Not yet. We're an impatient species. We are turtles with delusions of hare. We think five or ten years is a significant amount of time for a technology to succeed or fail, but we're talking evolution here."

In less than a decade, the digital question for many independent booksellers has changed from "Why should we?" to "How do we?" to "How do we do it better?" The future is thoroughly embedded in how indies do business now, and the fall regional trade show season continues to be a place where they look ahead, just around the next bend. What are we talking about this year at sessions like "How to Build a Genuine Community Presence Both On- and Off-line"? Well, I'm here in New Orleans to find out. I'll keep you posted. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

KidsBuzz: It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
KidsBuzz: Princess Pig & Rat Attack by Molly Coxe

« prev issue | next issue »

Do you need to change your e-mail address or unsubscribe? Update your subscription

powered by: Xtenit