Get out your virtual wallets. TechCrunch reported that $27.46 billion has been spent online this holiday season, a 12% percent increase over the same period last year, according to comScore, which also noted that for the week ending December 17, online spending reached $5.5 billion, an increase of 14%.
TechCrunch cited the influence of free shipping offered by more retailers as a primary factor, since "each of the past five weeks has seen free shipping on at least half of transactions, while that benchmark was reached only once during the 2009 season. For the five-day week ending with Free Shipping Day, the percentage of transactions with free shipping reached 52.7%, up 12% from last year." Purchases of handheld devices and laptop computers are driving this sales growth, comScore reported, with consumer electronics second and books/magazines third.
For bricks and mortar retailers, promotions and steep discounting were mentioned by the Wall Street Journal as the biggest contributors to "packed malls and long checkout lines... The last 10 days before Christmas account for 34% of overall holiday sales, says ShopperTrak, which expects holiday sales to rise 4% this year after declining the prior two."
"This past weekend was a great contributor, with steady traffic on both Saturday and Sunday," said ShopperTrak's Bill Martin.
Tokyopop, Baker & Taylor (and its TextStream POD service) and MashON have jointly launched the new Tokyopop Shop at www.tokyopop.com.
The shop features manga merchandise and thousands of manga titles,
including many that were previously out of print, such as Arm of Kannon,
Gorgeous Carat and Liling-Po.
"We initially set out to build the
Tokyopop Shop in order to provide our fans with a high-quality,
price-competitive way to purchase our books online," Stu Levy, CEO and
founder of Tokyopop, said. "It's an incredible bonus that we have
partners who also have made it possible for us to offer print-to-order
books and exclusive merchandise. We've always wanted to offer these
features to our fanbase and now the technology is here for it."
You may think it's a little early in the game for an e-reader retrospective, but Fast Company has countered your skepticism with Journey of the E-Book, which illustrates how the "dream of reading books electronically dates back decades, and... the many forms that electronic reading might take are still gleams in a few visionary designers' eyes."
At its "What the Dickens?" event last weekend, Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City hosted a three-hour rendition of A Christmas Carol with about 30 volunteer readers, including authors Mary Gaitskill and Jonathan Ames.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the event featured "a full house of hipsters and well-heeled holiday shoppers who ordered cocoa and red wine from baristas with Santa hats, and then settled in against their puffy coats for some good, old fashioned, infantilized storytelling."
Housing Works board member Alison Brower "welcomed the crowd, lifting a red bucket to encourage the audience to 'not be Scroogey' and give to the nonprofit, which serves homeless New Yorkers with HIV and AIDS," the Journal noted.
This week, Algonquin's Booksellers Rock! series focused on Clinton Book Shop, Clinton N.J.
"Clinton is a small community and knowing the names and faces of so many of our customers is one of the greatest joys for our staff," said owner Rob Dougherty. "Of course, our four-legged canine customers are favorites and they love the treats that we keep for them behind the counter. On occasion, I am even the recipient of a bottle of some very fine vodka."
If he weren't a bookseller, Dougherty "would return to working with those in need. My graduate degree is in Human Services. Although at one time I thought I could never go into politics because of the skeletons in my closet, I may rethink that given the political climate these days. I have inhaled but I’ve never dabbled in witchcraft. Somewhere out there is a video of me mooning a motorcade (I’m the one the quarters were bouncing from). I don’t think these offenses would keep me from office."
The National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, Mass., closed its bookstore and laid off four people this month in a move that reflects a strategic change in operations, according to the center's president, Aaron Lansky, who told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that the nonprofit "is shifting its emphasis from saving and restoring ancient Yiddish texts to educating people about those books." He called the bookstore unprofitable, and noted the organization is attempting to reallocate resources, shifting funding from administrative positions to educational ones.
"For 28 years we spent a lot of our energy on the sheer act of rescuing books. We've now collected over a million volumes and more important we have posted most of those titles online," Lansky observed. "The goal has not changed, but the tasks have become very different and we had to adjust to accommodate."
Two employees--v-p Nancy Sherman and program director Nora Gerard--are resigning. The positions cut include Lansky's personal assistant, a major gifts officer, the bookstore manager and a designer at the organization's magazine, Pakn Treger. Lansky said the center is looking to hire a Yiddish instructor, academic director and communications director.
Old Books on Front Street, Wilmington, N.C., which opened December 5, "just got so much cooler" with the debut of Sugar on Front St., an in-house bakery/coffee shop that "was not quite ready for prime time when Old Books had its grand opening," the Star News reported. Sugar on Front St. is owned by baker Samantha Smith, "who you might know from her work at Wilmington’s Great Harvest Bread Company."
"Why did my parents let me read It as a child and then take me to the circus?" Stephen King answered readers' questions about his new book Full Dark, No Stars, and more in an interview on Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog.
Getting rich for Christmas. Forbes featured its choices for best books on investing, observing that the most valuable "are those whose authors came up with a thesis about the markets early and then kept refining and updating their ideas during the incredible expansion of financial markets that has occurred since 1975."
Here's an alternative get rich scheme: author Cathal Morrow "plans to float himself on the London Stock Exchange. Having previously wangled sponsorship from a private equity company to fund a year without lying--he's writing up his exploits as the book Yes We Kant--Morrow is hopeful that patrons looking for a more unusual investment will back this latest project, Me Me Me Plc.," the Guardian reported.
"Rather than one company owning part of the intellectual property of a project, a lot of people will own a smaller part of me," said Morrow, who is offering a total of 30,000 shares in himself at £10 apiece. Since he can't legally sell the shares, investors are actually buying a signed photo of the author, with "free" shares tossed in as a bonus.
"I'm floating the value of me, that is the intellectual property of the story of my flotation on the stock exchange," he added. "If it goes viral, if we get book deals, and a big movie studio wades in with a big chunk of cash, then that could be worth a considerable amount. The more 'famous' I become, the greater the value of me."
The first installment of Flavorwire's new series, "where we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters," considers Holden Caulfield, who "would surely think pop music is completely phony, and probably wouldn’t be interested in anything anyone he knew liked, but he’s an asocial, introspective depressive, so we’re pretty sure he’d get a kick out of some of the same songs that got us through our teenage years--if he’d like anything at all, that is."
Gothamist featured photographs of Mark Twain's 70th birthday dinner at Delmonico's restaurant in New York City. The party was held December 5, 1905, with a guest list that included Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and Dorothy Canfield.
"First, poetry disappeared from the subway. Now prose is on the way out, too." The end of an era underground appears to be at hand, as "Train of Thought, the program that placed literary quotations from the likes of Kafka and Schopenhauer in the unlikely locale of a packed New York City subway car, is being removed, two years after it assumed the mantle of subterranean high culture from Poetry in Motion. In its stead is a new promotional campaign by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that is intended to highlight recent improvements to the transit system. A spokesman for the authority said there was not enough space for both," the New York Times reported.
Earlier this fall, St. Martin’s Press launched CommandPosts.com, a site designed for authors to comment on military news, history, and relevant fiction. The goal for the website is "to foster a community that will engage the audience and provide a location rich in rational discourse and commentary, and find creative ways to support the military community."
Book trailer of the day: The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French (Doubleday), which will be published in early February.