Powell's to Teach Used Book Skills
Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., and the University Book Store, Seattle,
Wash., are working together in an unusual venture that Powell's hopes
to extend to other independent bookstores around the country. Under the
program, Powell's will train the University Book Store in buying and
selling used books, a Powell's forte.
For nine days, beginning September 10, Powell's will operate a
temporary used-book buying kiosk at the University Book Store in
Seattle's University district. (Sellers will be offered cash or
University Book Store credit.) At the kiosk, University Book Store
employees will train with Powell's used book buyers. A group of
University Book Store staff will also visit Powell's in Portland for
training. On September 22, University Book Store will begin
buying and selling used books on a permanent basis.
In an announcement yesterday, Mark Mouser, general book manager of University Book Store, commented,
"It's a learning process for us, and their expertise is much
appreciated. In the end, it's about working together and offering the
best book selection we possibly can for our customers."
Miriam Sontz, Powell's CEO, called the program "a win-win situation.
Independent bookstores cooperating for the sake of book lovers in
general is at the core of our business philosophy and success." Noting
the "abundance of used books in this country," Sontz added, "Any effort
to tap that resource benefits the book community as a whole."
More next week.
Bookselling Notes: Kinokuniya Tests New Water
Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore that in the U.S. has six stores on
the West Coast and one in New York City, has "many, many American
customers," Ichi Hashi, a company v-p, told the Rockland County Journal News
. "They are very interested in Japanese culture, the comics, design, architecture."
As a result, for the first time, Kinokuniya has opened a store in an
area without a sizable Japanese population in the immediate vicinity:
in the Palisades Center, West Nyack, N.Y. The Journal News
talked with several American customers and employees who love a range
of things Japanese, from manga and anime to cuisine and the language.
The Arizona Republic
of our favorite names for a newspaper) marks the year since
Mark-My-Time bookmarks began shipping. The brightly colored bookmarks
have a digital timer that keeps track of how long the owner has been
reading. According to founders Joe and Maureen Farinella, who live in
Gilbert, Ariz., the $8.95 bookmarks are available in "more than 5,500
stores in 38 states, including Walgreens, Barnes & Noble, Costco,
Borders and small bookstores."
Books-A-Million has appointed Albert C. Johnson, a financial consultant
who was v-p and CFO of Dunn Investment and at Arthur Andersen for
nearly 25 years, to the board of directors. Johnson will serve on the
B&N Earnings, Sales Rise; Investors Still Unhappy
Barnes & Noble sales in the second quarter ended July 30 rose 6% to
$1.17 billion and net earnings rose 55.2% to $13.5 million. Because the
sales figure was slightly below analysts' estimates, the stock suffered
on Wall Street yesterday, closing at $37.40 a share, down 5.2%, on more
than double usual volume.
The effect of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was mostly
positive. The book "boosted our traffic both in stores and online," CEO
Steve Riggio said. Some 30%-40% of people who bought Harry Potter
bought something else, and the book added three percentage points to
the comp-store sales gain. But B&N sold most Harry Potter titles at
a 40% discount.
Sales at B&N superstores rose 7% to $1.03 million, and sales at
superstores open a year rose 4.3%. Sales at B&N.com rose 14% to
$96.3 million. At B. Dalton Bookseller, sales fell 21% to $31.6
million, mainly because of store closings. Comp-store sales at Dalton
During the quarter, the company opened five superstores and closed
three. It also closed four Dalton stores. It now has 673 B&N stores
and 146 Dalton outlets.
Net income was hurt by "pretax charges of approximately $6.9 million
for legal costs and increased accruals for anticipated settlements of a
previously reported class action suit on employee wages and other
litigation." B&N said it believes the amount will "satisfy outcomes
of pending litigation."
For the third quarter, the company expects comp-store sales at
superstores to be in the low-single digits. For the full year, the
company continues to expect comp-store sales to increase about 3%.
The company also forecast a slight net loss in the third quarter, in
part because of the costs of its new distribution center in New Jersey.
Like Borders and Books-A-Million, B&N continues to buy its own
shares. In the first six months of the year, the company spent $164
million on itself, about $90 million of which occurred in the second
Also, like its chain bookstore competitors, B&N has begun paying a
dividend. The 15-cent-a-share dividend will be paid in September.
Constant Gardener Blossoms on Screens
The Constant Gardener
, directed by Fernando Meirelles and starring
Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, opens in theaters next Friday, August 26. Based on
the novel by John Le Carré, it is a suspenseful mystery of
international conspiracy. Justin Quayle, played by Fiennes, embarks on
an odyssey of danger and discovery after learning of his wife's murder
in a remote area of Kenya, possibly at the hands of her companion, a
doctor. Quayle bypasses local authorities and undertakes the investigation on his own. The Constant Gardener
(Pocket Star, 1416503900, $7.99) is now available in a paperback movie tie-in edition.
Media Heat: The Rabbi's Cat
Monday's Today Show takes notes from Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond (Fireside, $14, 0743270207).
Yesterday All Things Considered purred over The Rabbi's Cat (Pantheon, $21.95, 0375422811), the new graphic novel by Joann Sfar, set in Algiers in the early 20th Century.
Lott's Story: Senator Scratches Back
After an early read of Herding Cats: A Life in Politics
by Senator Trent Lott (Regan Books, $27.50, 0060599316), whose pub date
is next Tuesday, the Associated Press notes that Lott accuses Senator
Bill Frist, his successor as Majority Leader, of "personal betrayal."
Among other items on the book's agenda: Lott had an unusual alliance
with President Clinton; Gerald Ford cautioned him not to "go so far out
on a limb" defending President Nixon; and Senator Jim Jeffords of
Vermont, the Republican who became an independent, giving control of
the Senate to the Democrats in 2001, was "a loose cannon."
Osnos's Next Project: Distribution Solution
Now that Peter Osnos is stepping down as publisher of PublicAffairs
(but not as an editor), he plans to use some of his spare time in an
endeavor that could be more challenging than founding a house
specializing in thoughtful nonfiction. He intends to study and
come up with a plan to tackle one of the book world's big problems:
"Books may be the only serious form of information in limited
distribution," he said recently in an interview on the subject with
Shelf Awareness. "I want to help solve the problem of getting more
books to people in ways that satisfy the urge to read without saddling
us with heavy costs of distribution and returns."
The traditionally wasteful book distribution system is getting worse
and particularly hurts publishers like PublicAffairs, Osnos said. "On
average, returns of hardcover nonfiction are twice what they were when
I came into the industry 20 years ago."
The root of the problem, by Osnos's reckoning, is that book
distribution has changed little in centuries. "Most books are still
sold the way they were 300 years ago: from kiosks," he said. "If you
exclude Amazon, which is still just 10%-12% of the market, about 85% of
books are sold to people who get up out of a chair and make a trip to a
kiosk to buy a book, whether the kiosk is a superstore or Wal-Mart or
other retail outlet. This works well for a mass market title that is
widely available like Harry Potter or Grisham or Dan Brown. But it's
less well designed for a smaller but extensive audience interested in
other types of books."
Too often, Osnos argued, supply and demand are out of whack. "Our books
are more visible than available," he lamented, mentioning a recent
PublicAffairs title that was reviewed and written about "effusively" in
the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. The author
received national radio attention, too, but the book was not readily
In another case, the New York Times Book Review had a "beautiful"
review for one PublicAffairs book, but "to find the book in a bookstore
after the review would have taken an act of immense will," Osnos said
Sometimes a bookseller can sell the customer another book, but because there are "so many other options in life" these
days, "people don't have patience" and give up the hunt, Osnos said. "How frustrating
is it to go to a store and hear that a book you want is not in stock?
"For books like the ones we
publish at PublicAffairs, I know the genuine audience is 25%-35% bigger
than sales," he continued. "There's an audience still out there. Our books
are to books as NPR is to radio. NPR serves 25 million. Our books have
the same template. We should reach more people."
Osnos doesn't blame booksellers for distribution problem. In fact, he
praises many booksellers, saying, "They have multiple role. They are an
important community asset. They provide books, reading groups,
signings. They offer the community a gathering place. They can be to
books what Starbucks has turned out to be to coffee. The relationship can be
'the place I like to go.' "
Mentioning that he has talked with many booksellers over the years
about distribution issues, Osnos said that their most pressing concerns lie
elsewhere. "They're so busy keeping their stores alive. They don't
worry about the book the way we publishers do because all new books can
be returned. They're not paying for royalties and paper. Their biggest
risk is the store and staff, not the book."
So in that immortal phrase, what is to be done?
"I want to look at ways books can be made more available using existing
technology that is now underutilized," Osnos said. "I'm not interested
in the hardware, but the process. There are at least four and possibly
five ways that good books can be distributed either in partnership with
retailers or direct from the publisher involving digital, audio,
searchable and POD."
Osnos wants to "create a demonstration model, working with people who
share the objective." He doesn't want to start a new business; it would be a nonprofit venture.
There is "a lot of stuff in the air," he went on, but for a variety of
reasons, "they haven't been aggregated into a plan that university
presses and other publishers like us might pursue. Each has some plan,
but no one has time to think it through. Everyone is so busy, and in
publishing there is little research and development capital."
The potential solution is close. He noted that publishers' files are
digitized already. And, of course, much of the population is wired. Using himself as an example, he said, "I could print
something that would look like a book on my computer at home," Osnos
said. "I'd have to cut it but it could have a four-color jacket maybe." In a similar way, the many
people with Blackberrys and Treos could have books sent to their
devices, download them at home and print out 20 pages at a time to take
with them to read anywhere they wanted.
He imagined a bookstore of the future with multiple "delivery
systems," as it were. "What if every time a customer came in asking for
a particular book, the bookseller could answer not 'no' or 'soon' but
'yes, now?' " he asked. Using POD or digital delivery, the customer
"could take home a hardcover" or in several ways be able to read the
book right away and "not leave dissatisfied," Osnos continued. "And the
bookseller would get a commission on the sale price."
Osnos would like to "expand the platform as much as possible and
not exclude anyone. If a retailer can make the sale, they
should participate, but publishers should not be shy to do so either.
The publishers should be the failsafe for a reader to get a book." In
some cases, he added, it would make sense for publishers to use
channels. For example, he said, "the digitally transmitted book would
be of great use for special interest Web sites.
"There is no single formula," he continued. But "whether we're
publishing the most high-toned serious nonfiction or pop fluff, we all
have the common urge to connect people with what you're doing. And
publishing would be a much better business if we sold 25% more and had
25% fewer returns."