After reading these articles on independent bookstores closing their doors, I’m wondering if small towns are not the best place for small box booksellers.
Via Books, Inq., New York City’s Coliseum Books is closing: Competition is killing independent U.S. bookstores. The owner says, “Chain-store sales and the Internet are far more practical. People will go to places closer to them. Places like Barnes & Noble.”
Can you blame anyone for doing that?
Also in New York City, the landlord raised the rent on Murder Ink, “the oldest mystery-themed bookstore in the world,” and has forced it out. The owner, Jay Pearsall, says, “I was a little outraged that a well-run bookstore couldn’t make it in the best book-buying neighborhood in the world, but there’s no business model that can work.”
I wonder what the blogosphere’s role in small business America is. Do we generally support or undermine high-service, select-quantity booksellers? I know of two new independent bookstores in my area, both downtown though in different towns. Are they fools waiting for a pit to fall into?
Here’s an article on buying intellectual books for home decorating, giving visitors the impression that the buyer has a formidible mind or at least keeps very good literary company. This reminds me of a story, which I believe Ravi Zacharias tells, of browsing a used bookstore and overhearing a man in overalls ask for a certain length of books, say 35 feet. He didn’t know what books to order. He just wanted to fill a 35′ long shelf so that his union boss would appear to have the intellect to negotiate with management.
The English Bibles blog lists the top selling Bibles sold by Christian retailers. Here’s part of that list.
1. New International Version
2. New King James Version
3. King James Version
4. New Living Translation
5. English Standard Version
6. Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish)
The Literary Saloon links to a list of “most overrated and underrated” books in Prospect, which claims to be “the most intelligent magazine of current affairs and cultural debate in Britain.” Of course, the Saloon notes a few of its own.
On the overrated list, Everyman, by Philip Roth. “A slickly written, shallow and predictable novel of American self-regard and deserved decline.” and The God Delusion. Playwright Samantha Ellis nominates On Beauty,by Zadie Smith, saying it is “massively overrated. Why read a tribute to Forster when you can just read him?”
On the underrated list, Why Truth Matters, by Ophelia Benson & Jeremy Stangroom, Alentejo Blue, by Monica Ali, and The Human Touch, by Michael Frayn. Writer Allan Massie states, “William McIlvanney is the finest Scottish novelist of my generation, but Weekend, his first novel for ten years, received less attention than it deserved. This account of a university study-group meeting at a faux-baronial castle on a Scottish island, is wise, funny and often moving.”
Here’s a shout out to Read and Relax bookseller in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for supplying me with a new copy of Wolf Time when Amazon.com could not.
Also, kudos go to Sea Shell Books of Clearwater, Florida for another copy of the same book and a few others. Sea Shell has under 400,000 titles for sale through Alibris.com, if not other used book networks.
World’s blog points out some bestsellers, and I note that The Accidental, by Ali Smith is on the list. Writing for the Alibris.com blog, Jeff asks if this book is a classic in the vein of Tony Morrison’s Beloved.
I’m with Bill Peschel on this one. Abebooks.com should rethink, perhaps retool, and refocus (via Frank Wilson).
In case you are unaware, here’s a simple plug for a good little bookstore.
This one by Ken Sande is a book I need to chew on a while.
You can begin voting for The Quill Book Awards now on MSNBC. I hope to compose a thoughtful post to tell you how you should vote, or at least how I voted, later this week. With twenty categories, I may have to write a few posts.
How many copies does the average American book sell? Everything is on the table, so don’t think of fiction only (which is probably why the number is so low). Common Grounds has some statistics.
Lynne Scanlon also complains about the shoppers in some stores, which I felt was interesting enough to put in a unique post:
If Borders were to become the preferred destination for book buyers, people would walk or drive the extra distance and pass right by a Barnes & Noble.
Jones already gets the message that too much time is spent by walk-ins and loungers who spend too little money at the cash registers. He’d like to remedy that, so would I. I loath tripping over those parked baby buggies (install meters!) and having to deal with kids whose moms use Barnes & Noble as a place to kill a few hours on the cheap. PT Barnum faced the same problem until he hung a sign that said: “This Way to the Egress!” I like the idea of a sign that reads: “First you pay, then you read.”
Is that too harsh? Does it conflict with her idea about inviting writers to write on in-store computers? Does it conflict a bit with coffeeshops in stores?
Lynne Scanlon notes that Borders Group has a new CEO, and she wonders what he could do to make Borders and WaldenBooks more attractive than Barnes & Noble. She has many great suggestions:
- Make exclusive arrangements with publishers to sell specific books at Borders and Borders only.
- Create a “new format” book that is sold exclusively at Borders.
- Co-publish books with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and medium- and small-sized publishers. Give preferential shelf placement in lieu of a cash investment.
- Have a prestigious VIP cash register and pass out discount coupons to the big spenders, say, at the $150 purchase level.
- Rope off a special VIP room for people who buy books in quantity and make these readers feel important because they are!
- Have “For Authors Only Socials” where local authors meet local authors in Borders to socialize over a glass of wine or something significantly stronger.
- Offer to rent computer space in Borders to struggling writers.
There are more and commenters join in. What do you think?
Author Katha Pollitt has turned a bad review into an interesting article in the NY Times on whether publicity is bad only when it’s unnoticed.
“Actually, this is good,” my editor said when my book got panned. “It’s a long review by a well-known person. It’s on a good page. It’s even got a caricature of you.” . . .
“Yes, it was pretty negative, and your arms looked like tree stumps,” said one friend, helpfully. “But so what? That just means you’re a star!”
I wonder how many people told her to avoid watching Amazon’s sale rank. I understand the appeal having checked my own site stats more often than I knew I should, but what is an author’s alternative? Do publishers let you know how many of your books sold in a certain time, say quarterly at least?
Tags: books, bookselling, publicity, reviews
Interesting market data noted by the Grumpy Old Bookman–well, he points out a book with the data, but he writes this: “One interesting (and possibly encouraging, provided you put it in perspective) piece of information is that 14% of all fiction sales were for six figures or more.”
Grumpy OB is also the first stop in a July contest which encourages us to buy books for our friends.
The man who gave me my chance as a published author, Jim Baen, passed away yesterday. Author David Drake provides an eloquent eulogy here.
In the ups and downs of our working relationship, I never lost my deep respect for the man they used to call the “GE” (officially General Editor, though many fans preferred God-Emperor, begging your pardon).
You’ll read now and then about the great old days of publishing, when Mighty Editors roamed the earth (or at least the hallways) wielding their red pencils and showing callow authors who showed some promise how to tell a real story.
Those days are mostly gone now. Today the industry is run by bean counters who sell books by the yard. Editors flit from house to house, perpetually frustrated that they can’t get approval for books and authors they believe in.
Jim Baen was a throwback to the glory days. He ran his own shop, and he ran it his own way. He published the kind of books he wanted to read himself, and he showed the world that you could make a nice living doing just that.
He was fiercely, even frighteningly, honest. When he said he’d do a thing, he did it.
He believed in freedom of speech and, unlike many in the publishing business, he practiced it. He published me (a Christian) and Eric Flint (a Communist). He himself was an agnostic.
I doubt I’ll ever see another editor/publisher like him.
We can never know for certain the fate of any soul. I pray Jim will have found grace at the end.