Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 10, 2010


Harper: Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

St. Martin's Press: Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair by Kim Scott

Haymarket Books: We Still Here: Pandemic, Policing, Protest and Possibility by Marc Lamont Hill, edited by Frank Barat

Shadow Mountain: Miracle Creek Christmas by Krista Jensen

Graydon House: The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little

Grand Central Publishing: What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Quotation of the Day

E-books: A 'Comfortable Couch for Our Customers to Settle Into'

"The Google e-book and the IndieCommerce-supported websites help indie bookstores bring together the Web and bricks & mortar to create a continuum of excellent service and experience for readers. We are adding another comfortable couch for our customers to settle into and read a great story. And in many ways it is a couch that my customers can take with them wherever they happen to find themselves: in the car waiting for their kids, on an airplane, or in their favorite chair. ABA has provided bookstores with an incredibly valuable tool. Honestly, I am surprised by the number of stores who do not take advantage of it. Our bookstores are rarely confined to the four walls that contain them."

--Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis. (See more from indie booksellers on Google eBookstore's launch in Robert Gray's column below.)

 


University of California Press: Epic Books Make Epic Gifts


News

Image of the Day: Feminist Voices

A week ago, Idlewild Books, New York City, hosted a launch party for Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness, and Finding Your Own Voice by Marianne Schnall (Blue Mountain Arts) that was also a 15th anniversary party for Feminist.com, which Schnall founded. At the party, Gloria Steinem, one of the many women quoted and discussed in the book, spoke. She appears here (at l.) with Schnall.

Photo: Avionne Adams



ECW Press: Van Halen Rising: How a Southern California Backyard Party Band Saved Heavy Metal by Greg Renoff


Notes: BookScan Data for Authors; Dangdang's IPO Rush

Writers using Amazon's Author Central service can now view Nielsen BookScan's weekly geographic sales data for their print books. Author Central has also added a feature that shows past history on Amazon's ranking for their books.

The new "Sales by Geography" feature displays a map of the continental U.S., highlighting areas where copies of an author's books have been sold. A "Sales by Week" feature displays a bar chart of an author's sales recorded over the trailing four weeks. Authors can also see how many copies of each title were sold by print-edition type, e.g. hardcover or paperback. Digital book sales are not included in BookScan data.

The Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog noted that writers were responding to the news "with both enthusiasm and trepidation."

"Get the Xanax ready," tweeted David MacInnis Gill, author of Black Hole Sun, then added in an e-mail: "Authors worry. We worry about writing. Worry about our editors, our agents, our reviews, and our readers. We worry about everything, including all forms of social media including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and personal websites. The one thing we haven't been able to obsess about is real-time sales numbers."

Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion: A Memoir, observed: "In order for writers to get our work done, we need to tune out the noise--and sales figures, while obviously important, are very very noisy.... There's a time and a place for the business of writing, but now that business is available with a keystroke--most of us work on computers and so the instrument on which we write is also a constant, and constantly tempting window into the outside world. I've begun to write by hand in notebooks when I can."

"Will having access to the BookScan data serve any useful purpose?" asked Ellen F. Brown, co-author of Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood--which will be released in February. "I like to think I will put the information to good use. Time will tell."

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Shares of online retailer Dangdang, often referred to as the Amazon of China, rose 86.9% in its New York Stock Exchange debut Wednesday, according to DailyFinance, which noted that the company "sold 17 million American Depository Receipts (ADRs) on the U.S. market and saw those shares explode upward in trading." The stock closed at $29.91 on the NYSE Wednesday, up dramatically from its IPO price of $16.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Dangdang's owners "are aiming to follow Amazon's model and broaden their inventory beyond books, a process they began last year." Peggy Yu, Dangdang's co-founder and chairwoman, has an MBA from New York University and worked in the U.S. "We want to duplicate that shopping experience," she said. "Right now, there's nothing to bring that kind of assortment of products together in one place and make it available to consumers in China."

Yu also told Investor's Business Daily that she began building Dangdang in 1999, when she returned to China "after spending a number of years in the States. And I really wanted a good bookstore that I could visit. I lived in the Upper West Side of New York, and there are quite a few really good bookstores here.... Also, when I was in the States I began to notice the rise of e-commerce--AOL and many other things. So my husband, a publisher, and myself decided to do a bookstore online. That's our initial vision."

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Today on NPR's Morning Edition, indie booksellers Daniel Goldin of Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis.; Lucia Silva of Portrait of a Bookstore, Studio City, Calif.; and Rona Brinlee of the BookMark, Atlantic Beach, Fla., named their favorite reads for 2010.

"Every year, when we present these holiday book choices, I'm struck by how idiosyncratic the picks are," said host Susan Stamberg. "I suppose it's because of that immense world of books out there (we're talking hardcover here--independent sellers know about e-books, but their passion is for pages and print). These sellers have the chance to read publisher's lists, to see what will come out in a given season, and then to order, on the basis of what they know about the readers in their communities. It's such a personal process, so full of good and considerate connections. It's almost as nice as sitting down in the most comfortable chair in the place, and getting lost in a fine story."

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Yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air, critic Maureen Corrigan unveiled her Best Books of the Year list, and closed the segment with a touching tribute to the late David Thompson, who ran Murder by the Book, Houston, Tex., and Busted Flush Press:

"I want to end this list by doffing my hat not to a book, but to an independent bookseller and small press publisher. David Thompson was known throughout the mystery world; he died suddenly this year at 38. David introduced me to the wonders of noir writers like Reed Farrel Coleman, Daniel Woodrell and Martin Limon. His legacy is a reminder to all of us who love books that, as someone once said about the late critic Irving Howe, enthusiasm is not the enemy of the intellect."

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Cool idea of the day: WORD, Brooklyn N.Y., has launched WORD To Your Mailbox, a subscription service that sends customers one trade paperback original a month "plus extra goodies of various, secret types, and basically we are going to make you excited to get your mail once a month. I will probably decorate the envelopes by hand, as is my wont," wrote store manager Stephanie Anderson on her Bookavore blog. A children's version of WORD To Your Mailbox is also available.  

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"Roller skates were involved, however subtly," in the latest video from Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., in which booksellers offer "19 gift ideas from $2.49 to $1,750."

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Sad news: Chicklet Books in Princeton, N.J., is closing at the end of the month. Owner Deb Hunter said that she has always had a lease in which either party can give 30 days' notice. "A doctor's office has rented the space and I have to leave by the end of the month," she wrote.

Hunter has no plans to open elsewhere because "standard rents are extremely out of my reach. I was only here in Princeton due to the graciousness of my landlord, which I appreciate more than anyone can know."

The 10,000-sq.-ft. store is in the Princeton Shopping Center and includes a post office substation. Hunter moved into the spot three years ago.

A group of Chicklet Books fans has begun a letter-writing campaign to the mall owners and local newspapers. One of the letters is by Meg Cox Leone, the former Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote frequently about books and the industry. She wrote in part: "One of the real joys for me, which makes [the shopping center] more than just a place to shop, has been Chicklet Books, which has become a community meeting center because of the special openess and generosity of proprietor Deb Hunter. She helps local authors, gives discounts for book groups and lets groups like my yoga class meet there free.

"I'm not anti-business.... But I think there are multiple considerations in a good business decision, and that creating a warm, welcoming place with a community feel is something that WILL translate to your bottom line. How hard would it be to work out a deal that would allow Deb and the post office to occupy a smaller and VACANT site elsewhere in the center?"

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Did Keith Richards recently crush his own dream of being a librarian? New York Press reported that shortly before giving a talk at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library, "the Rolling Stone lit up a cigarette in deputy director Marie d'Origny's office. He then stubbed it out on a clay saucer he grabbed from underneath her precious orchid. Just to make sure the famously hard-to-care-for flower was really dead, he had someone open the office window to let in a breeze. It's all OK though, since Richards autographed the saucer when all was said and done."

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"In an age of immediacy, bookstores serve as a refuge where people can browse at their leisure and make thoughtful purchases. Although digital devices enable readers to have hundreds of books at their fingertips, independent bookstore owners have either embraced the technology or found ways to diversify," the Lodi, Calif., News-Sentinel wrote in its look at area bookshops, including the Book Lady, Tom's Used Books and Hooked on Books. 

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Not everyone wants an e-book reader for Christmas this year. In the Wall Street Journal, Dan Newman wrote: "Print editions enable shared experiences in ways unavailable to electronic versions. I'm no snoop, but one of the first things I do when I enter a home is scan the bookshelves. As often as not, that sparks conversation about the interests of my hosts and about what they've read and hope to read. They invariably pull out other books, some inscribed, and hold them in their hands while we talk. That experience simply can't happen crouching over a hard-drive. Imagine entering a living room and saying: 'Hey! Mind if I scroll through your Kindle?'

"A book is more than a shell for words: It's a box whose magic starts at its real-world dimensions. No other common item so lacks a standardized size, and that makes individual books memorable. I could tell with my eyes closed if you've handed me a copy of The Great Gatsby that isn't mine."

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And the word champion is... Flavorwire explored Vivian Cook's All in a Word (Melville House) and was particularly intrigued by the the wordy inventiveness of Chaucer and Shakespeare: "While Cook notes in both instances that the famed writers probably didn’t invent the words listed, as much as make the first recorded use of the language around them, it’s interesting to see who’s responsible for what."

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What books are we giving for the holidays? The Huffington Post asked that question on Twitter and Facebook and compiled the responses into a slide show.  

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Book trailer of the Day: Shazam! The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal by Chip Kidd, with photographs by Geoff Spear (Abrams ComicArts).

 


House of Anansi Press: Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson


Borders Group Sales Drop 17.6%; Net Loss Doubles

Sales at Borders Group in the third quarter ended October 30 fell 17.6%, to $470.9 million. The net loss was $74.5 million, compared to $37.7 million in the same period last year.

Sales at stores open at least a year dropped 12.6%. Sales at Borders.com fell 8.6% to $12.5 million.

In stores open at least a year, sales of digital material rose 93.6% and children's toys and games rose 6.6%. The overall sales drop at stores was "driven primarily by the adult trade category."

Since its launch on September, the Borders Rewards Plus has attracted more than 580,000 customers, resulting in $11 million in membership revenue. During the past year, inventory was reduced by $233.7 million. Also in the past year, Borders closed 191 smaller stores, mostly Waldenbooks, and 13 larger stores.

CEO Mike Edwards said that results "reflect the business challenges facing Borders and the industry at large" and expressed disappointment but added, "My management team and I continue to vigorously address these challenges and our commitment to winning at retail is stronger than ever. We're pleased that our publishers and strategic partners have continued to support our business and brand initiatives. We have a comprehensive, executable plan in place that supports our goal of transforming the iconic Borders brand into a profitable economic model over time."

Edwards noted that the addition of Area-e digital shops to Borders stores "required some reconfiguring of store space, creating a disruption which adversely impacted sales for the quarter." The company also invested in "the redesign of in-store signage to improve the shopability of our bricks and mortar stores."

The company also "invested strategically" in Borders.com, "redesigning the site and adding services."

 


Holiday Hum: Superb Sidelines

The top-selling sidelines at the Book Table in Oak Park, Ill. are tried-and-true favorites: printed calendars. "Despite the fact that every single electronic gadget we own has a calendar on it, we still sell them at huge rates," said owner Jason Smith. About 40% of the store's calendar sales come in December and account for 5% of the month's revenue.

Calendars featuring works by Frida Kahlo and other artists are the main draws. "You name the artist, we do well with it," said Smith. Another popular selection is The Reading Woman, available as a wall calendar and an engagement calendar, which showcases paintings from the 17th to the 20th centuries that depict women reading.

The Book Table regularly does a brisk sidelines business, which Smith credits in large part to the store's location across the street from a movie theater. "A good number of our customers are people whose only purpose of walking in the store is to kill 10 or 20 minutes," he said. "Sidelines are one of those things that can get people buying. Even folks who have never bought a book from us happily buy sidelines all year round."

The store carries moderately priced items that rarely exceed $25. Along with calendars, journals, cards and reading glasses are more unusual sidelines like one of this season's bestsellers, the Seven Year Pen from Seltzer. Reported to hold enough ink to write two meters a day for seven years, the pens come in bold colors and are decorated with images like an exclamation point, an ice cream cone and a skull and crossbones with the slogan "Need Coffee."

Another Book Table sideline specialty: Meri Meri cupcake kits, which include 24 baking cups and decorative toppers. 15 different kits each have a distinct theme (like Fairy Wishes, Fire Truck, Cute Kittens, Groovy Party) and are displayed with copies of Who You Callin' Cupcake?: 75 In-Your-Face Recipes that Reinvent the Cupcake by Michelle Garcia and Vinny Garcia, 500 Cupcakes: The Only Cupcake Compendium You'll Ever Need by Fergal Connolly and Karen Tack and Alan Richardson's Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make and What's New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion.

For kids the store has Rich Frog's flashlights with turtles, butterflies, penguins and other critters on them (batteries included). The young at heart will appreciate Smith's favorite sideline, the Rubiks Cube Clock from Made by Humans. The whimsical timepiece is based on the puzzle game and displays different information--time, alarm, date and temperature--when it's twisted. "It's a great nostalgia item for adults."

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For those who want more ominous holiday listening than Christmas music, Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop in Mechanicsburg, Pa., has just the thing: Cape Cod Radio Mystery Theater CDs featuring original performances by a grass-roots theater group seeking to revive and expand mystery theater. The spooky CDs are highlighted in a "stocking stuffers" display that also features notepads, ornaments, jewelry and other items with a range of prices.

The bestselling sidelines at Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop are LightWedge book lights. "We sell as many of them during the holiday season as we do during the rest of the year," said store owner Debbie Beamer. Both hardcover and paperback sized book lights are in stock, along with protective cases, batteries and cleaning solution.

Book lights sell as standalones and are included in gift baskets. "Customers are fascinated with our gift baskets because of the books and other items we choose to match the theme," Beamer said. The Book Lover's Gift Basket includes a book light, cleaner, magnifier bookmark, bookrest, the store's custom-created note cards and one or two book-themed mysteries, like Joan Hess's page-turners starring bookstore proprietor Claire Malloy.

Sample gift baskets are on show in the shop as well as on the store's website. There are mystery-themed arrangements for cat and dog lovers, wine enthusiasts, scrap-bookers, gardeners and Sherlock Holmes fans, and the store will custom create baskets according to recipients' interests and gift-givers' budgets. Beamer donates several baskets each year to local charities to raffle off.

Other sidelines selling well at the store are Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle Games, the History's Mysteries Card Game, a "rummy-like" game based on a History Channel series and Franklin's Oxford Pagemark Dictionary, a lightweight electronic dictionary that also has games, a calculator, a local/world clock and more.

Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop carries its own line of blank note cards. One is adorned with a stack of books and a quotation by Thomas Carlyle, "May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians or whoever it was that invented books." A second design shows a woman with a huge book on her lap; across the top of the card in Latin, and translated at the bottom, is a sentiment especially appropriate at the holidays: "Too many books, too little time! (and not enough money) (and not enough space)."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


Media and Movies

Media Heat: When Pride Still Mattered

Tomorrow on HBO Sports Documentary Lombardi: David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi (Simon & Schuster, $18, 9780684870182/0684870185).

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Sunday on ABC's This Week with Christina Amanpour: Gordon Brown, author of Beyond the Crash: Overcoming the First Crisis of Globalization (Free Press, $26, 9781451624052/1451624050).

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Sunday on NPR's All Things Considered: Jay Kirk, author of Kingdom Under Glass: A Tale of Obsession, Adventure, and One Man's Quest to Preserve the World's Great Animals (Holt, $27.50, 9780805092820/080509282X).

 


Television: More Pretty Little Liars

Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog reported that author Sara Shepard will add four new books to her Pretty Little Liars series, beginning with Twisted next July. This will bring the series total to 12 titles. Though the number was originally capped at eight, the ABC Family show "has been a ratings success and renewed interest in the books."

 


Movies: Incarceron; The Tempest Trailer

Taylor Lautner (The Twilight Saga) will star in Incarceron, the Fox 2000 adaptation of Catherine Fisher's YA novel. Deadline.com reported that the Lautner will play Finn, "who has lived his entire life on Incarceron, a savage, futuristic prison society." The film is being written by he film is being written by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, and will be produced by John Palermo, though Lautner is likely to become involved as a producer as well.

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Check out the new trailer for director Julie Traymor's film version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren. The movie premieres in New York and Los Angeles today, and will expand its release nationally on December 17.

 



Books & Authors

Awards: U.K. Educational Writers' Award

Bill Bryson's A Really Short History of Nearly Everything won the Educational Writers' Award, sponsored by the Authors' Licensing & Collecting Society and the Society of Authors to honor books for 12- to 18-year-olds. He will share the £2,000 (US$3,169) prize with Felicia Law, who abridged and edited the book.

"I am honored to be considered for this award," said Bryson. "Any initiative that encourages young people to read is obviously to be applauded." He bested a shortlist that included Ben Crystal for Shakespeare on Toast, John Farndon for Do You Think You're Clever? and Liz Strachan for A Slice of Pi.

 


Book Brahmin: Don Bruns

Don Bruns is a novelist, songwriter, musician and advertising executive who lives in South Florida. He is the author of Stuff to Spy For, Stuff Dreams Are Made Of, Stuff to Die For, Bahama Burnout, St. Barts Breakdown, South Beach Shakedown, Barbados Heat and Jamaica Blue. Bruns's newest book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, was released on December 6, 2010, by Oceanview Publishing.

 

On your nightstand now:

Vengeance Road by Rick Mofina, Worth Dying For by Lee Child, The Reversal by Michael Connelly. This will be my first Mofina book, but it comes highly recommended.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Any book about the Hardy Boys. I know so many mystery writers who started because of that series.

Your top five authors:

That's impossible. However, five that are in my top 100 or so favorites would be Dennis Lehane (what elegant prose and what stories!), Elmore Leonard (characters to die for), John D. MacDonald (trend setter and craftsman), Lee Child (modern king of the tough-guy genre) and Robert Lewis Stevenson (Kidnapped and Treasure Island remain two of my favorite books of all time).

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, I had Ulysses on my shelf for years. Just the connection with Shakespeare and Company in Paris intrigued me, but I've never been able to get it really started.

Book you're an evangelist for:

There are two books I've crusaded for. One is Dennis Lehane's The Given Day. One of the best books I've ever read. No one writes like Lehane.

The second book is nonfiction that reads like a thriller and is a real page turner: Les Standiford's Last Train to Paradise, the story of Henry Flagler's railroad to Key West.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Will Cook for Sex: A Guy's Guide to Cooking by Rocky Fino. How could you not be attracted to that cover?

Book that changed your life:

It didn't change my life, but Huck Finn changed the way I looked at life. At an early age the story, the narration, the style, introduced me to a different time in history, and I realized that well-written books had the ability to transport you and introduce new friends into your life.

Favorite first line from a book:

"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen."--George Orwell, 1984.

A close second to that line is "Tom."--Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer.

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

I would love to read the James Bond books for the first time. I loved the literary Bond. And possibly Jim Kelly's The Water Clock. I was knocked out by the story.

 


Book Review

Book Review: Walking Shadows

Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Words by Neil Bousfield (Manic D Press, $19.95 Hardcover, 9781933149295, September 2010)

Neil Bousfield, an award-winning printmaker and animator, trusts that 200 woodcut engravings will tell his story without having to add a single word of conventional text to his striking visuals, and that readers will supply their own interpretations for each intricately detailed full-page image without any prompting from dialogue or narrative. What is unambiguous in this beautifully produced novel without words is that a family of four (husband, wife and two boys) are living a life of economic desperation: the husband trudges off to a soul-deadening job wrapping packages while his wife tries to take care of the boys, keep the small apartment in order and earn a little extra money mopping floors. Their present is bleak, and their future holds no promise of alternatives.

Bousfield lavishes enormous ingenuity on images that positively flash and glow with a subtle interplay of shadows and light. He portrays accumulating stress of the husband and wife in bodies collapsing into exhaustion; escape is limited to watching television or having one beer or one bottle of wine too many; rage explodes into ugly physical battles, followed by anguished reconciliations; the children watch in silent dismay. And then the next day arrives with very little variation from every other miserable day. How much can a human being endure? Something has to give.

Having seen the limited choices many people have in his work with a charity serving the economically disadvantaged, Bousfield does not hesitate to connect antisocial acts (theft, drug abuse and violence) with the lack of opportunities to alter a dead-end course. These people may not think they have made a choice when they break-and-enter or steal automobiles; they think they are trying to survive or merely blowing off steam. Yet, no matter what the excuses offered are, the criminal justice system is unforgiving for the people in Bousfield's story and brands them criminals. As for the family in Walking Shadows, the cycle of hopelessness and frustration ends in self-destruction for too many. In his novel, however, Bousfield does hold out a glimmer of hope (the rays of light in the images have hinted at that faint possibility) for the brave soul who attempts to fight to make a life worth living. Or, that's the story I created as I savored the images (redolent of film noir and German Expressionist printmaking) that Bousfield generously entrusted to me to interpret.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A luminous, wordless account of the heartbreaking story of a family on the brink of economic disaster and their attempts to carry on.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: What Will Indie E-Booksellers Do Now?

Perhaps you've heard that the Google eBookstore debuted this week. It's one of those stories the media in all its incarnations--print, video, digital, whispered rumors in coffee shops--loves to proclaim, then immediately strap down to the nearest table and dissect.

Not being immune to the temptation, I read everything I could and more, perhaps, than I should. As often happens, my thoughts turned to what this means for indie e-booksellers and three questions occurred to me:

  1. How does the Google eBookstore change the game for their shops?
  2. What are their expectations (and/or hopes) in terms of "gain"--financial (e-book sales, sidelines), customer perception, marketing opportunities, etc.?  
  3. How will they handsell e-books (in-store promos as well as online) to convince patrons that an indie bookstore is the best place to buy one (or many)?


When you want answers from indie booksellers, you just have to ask. So I did. This week, some responses to the first question:

Allison Hill of Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif.: "We're really excited about the Google e-books! This puts us in the e-book game in a real way. We don't have any illusions about a dramatic increase in sales, but it does allow us to help our loyal customers support us. Now we can meet all of their content needs in a viable way."

Stephanie Anderson of WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y.: "I think the way we feel here is that the Google eBookstore gets us in the game in a way that we weren't before. Especially in the case of books that we get under the agency model, because now we're on the same playing field as everybody else price-wise, which is a much bigger deal for e-books than physical books. And whereas before the dominant thread in conversations about e-books seemed to be about devices, this launch seems to have partially changed the conversation to being about the books themselves and how they work, thanks to the cloud model. I think that'll really change the way people think about e-books--they're going to want the option to read the same book on their phone, their computer, etc, now that it's available. And we're glad that we're selling e-books that work that way."

Matt Norcross of McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich.: "We've sold e-books for a couple years, however Google Editions improves our game on several fronts: It greatly increases the number of titles we can sell. It increases the functionality (their ability to work cross platform) of the e-books we sell by leaps and bounds. I believe it strengthens customer confidence in our ability to deliver to current devices and the devices of tomorrow (that should be said with an echo)."
 
Neil Strandberg of Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colo.: "As an IndieBound store, we have been 'in the game' off and on for several years now, though everyone concedes that the customer interface has been awkward and that selling non-agency e-books at MSRP is about as useful as... as... well, it merits consideration as the very definition of useless. As a result, we spent very little time promoting (heck, acknowledging) that we were 'in the game,' e-book-wise. This all having been the case, we are greatly relieved that we now have not only a state-of-the-moment ability to sell e-books but also the media spotlight Google commands to promote our new powers."

Anne Holman of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah: "Being an e-bookstore means we have one more tool to do the thing we do best: read and recommend great books. It means we can provide access to the same reading materials at the same price and format as our competitors. So many of our customers have told us how convenient the e-reader is for traveling but they're loyal to us and they're committed to shopping local so they dislike shopping on Amazon. Now they don't have to! They can purchase an e-book and keep dollars in their community."

Lanora Hurley of the Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, Wis.: "I don't necessarily see Google eBooks as a 'game changer.' The 'game' for independent bookstores has and always will be to connect readers with good books. We pride ourselves on a knowledgeable well-read staff and superior customer service. To do this, we will always adapt, as we have in the past. Google eBooks is just a new format that will allow us to do what we've always done: provide our customers with access to great books."

Casey Coonerty Protti of Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.: "It gets us in the game. It makes us seem less old-school and more willing to innovate. We have many, many customers that love us for staying true to what we've always been, but we were at risk of losing another subset that didn’t think we could serve new needs of convenience and access. Now we can serve both groups."

Susan Fox of Red Fox Books, Glens Falls, N.Y.: "At the very least, it gives our customers the impression that we're keeping up with the changes in technology and staying current. It also allows us to offer an alternative to customers who want to read e-books but still want to support us. I still think Kindle has a corner on the market and it will be hard to compete with them, but at least we offer some kind of alternative. It has helped us to feel better prepared and not as frightened of digitalization. Plus, it just makes indie bookstores look cool to be working with Google. Perhaps it makes us seem more legit to techies?"

Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis. (with whom I began this conversation in October at the MBA trade show in St. Paul, Minn.): "Although we have been promoting e-books both on our website and through conversations with our customers, the Google e-book and storage system makes the promotion and conversation much easier. Instead of selling multiple formats, we can sell one that applies to multiple devices. It allows my booksellers to simplify the message and focus on what we do best: recommend good books and guide customers through the myriad of choices that are out there. The agency model levels the field and changes the conversation. It is no longer about price, but about the value of service and the quality of experience that independent bookstores provide consumers."

More indie e-bookseller reactions next week.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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