NYC’s Idlewild Books Takes Off: Three Stores, Many Languages

13 August 2014

From Shelf Awareness:

In 2008, David Del Vecchio opened the first Idlewild Books, a 1,100-square-foot bookstore specializing in travel books and international literature located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. Before then, he had spent 10 years at the United Nations as a press officer for humanitarian affairs.

“Initially the store was devoted just to international literature and travel,” Del Vecchio said. “I was looking to do something different, to get out of the U.N., so it was a way to combine those interests.” At the store, books are organized by country and geographic region, with fiction and nonfiction titles alongside conventional guidebooks. He continued: “There were always places to find travel books, but it was difficult to find literature related to Nepal or Indonesia or France, unless you had done research before you went to a bookstore, because everything was just A-Z.”

For a time, Idlewild was a conventional bookstore–author signings and book launches were common, and there were event series on literature in translation as well as humanitarian efforts around the world. In part because it seemed print travel guides “might not have an endless future,” as Del Vecchio put it, he sought to shore up the store’s business in 2010 by experimenting with language classes.

. . . .

Customers started calling the store and requesting classes in more languages and for different levels of fluency. Subsequently, Del Vecchio began scaling up Idlewild’s offerings. In Idlewild’s first two years, Del Vecchio and his staff were putting on three or four traditional bookstore events per week; it was not long until the only events they hosted of any sort were classes, and today Idlewild Books runs French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic classes for speakers of varying skill levels (and, come this fall, there will also be classes in German and Brazilian Portuguese).

. . . .

“I think we were surprised by the response just because it’s New York City, and we thought there were already a lot of places to learn languages,” Del Vecchio said. “But I think people were excited about the idea of taking a class in a bookstore, in a non-formal atmosphere. It didn’t feel like a school. And that the teachers are from those countries lends the classes a culturally authentic feel.”

Around the same time that Idlewild started offering classes, Del Vecchio began stocking foreign-language books.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Barnes & Noble Getting By With a Little Help From Its Friends

9 August 2014

From The Street:

Barnes and Noble’s trading symbol, BKS, tells it all. The company always was all about selling books and still is. But it has recognized that as a problem and is getting much-needed lifelines from some very influential partners — Google and Samsung.

. . . .

South Korea-based Samsung sent invitations to an Aug. 20 New York event with Barnes & Noble where a new co-branded e-book reader/tablet — the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook — will be announced. Earlier in the year, Barnes & Noble announced it would be spinning off its Nook business.

. . . .

As part of the Samsung deal, according to Reuters, Barnes & Noble agreed to buy 1 million Galaxy Tab 4 tablets in the first year after launch.

. . . .

Google has made a big commitment to help too. Google reportedly has agreed to allow Barnes & Noble to use its new service to offer same-day book deliveries in a number of test markets.

. . . .

These agreements are to help B&N fend off its chief rival, Amazon. The latest blow from Amazon was its recently announced, $10 a month, all-the e-books-you-can read Kindle Unlimited plan. So far, Barnes & Noble has not offered a match for Amazon’s offer.

But the writing has been on the wall for two decades. Amazon started as an online bookstore in 1994. Obviously, that changed over 20 years but it also wound up changing the book-selling industry forever. Instead of being burdened with the overhead of B&N’s brick-and-mortar stores, a lean and mean Amazon brought book retailing into the Internet age.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble answered by closing retail stores. Amazon introduced Kindle e-book readers. B&N countered with its own line of readers called Nook. Amazon lowered book prices. Barnes & Noble dumped the B. Dalton stores it has purchased out of bankruptcy and closed more of its own stores.

Link to the rest at The Street

Google and Barnes & Noble Unite to Take On Amazon

8 August 2014

From The New York Times:

Google and Barnes & Noble are joining forces to tackle their mutual rival Amazon, zeroing in on a service that Amazon has long dominated: the fast, cheap delivery of books.

Starting on Thursday, book buyers in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area will be able to get same-day deliveries from local Barnes & Noble stores through Google Shopping Express, Google’s fledgling online shopping and delivery service.

Google Shopping, which began operations about a year ago, allows online shoppers to order products from stores like Costco, Walgreens, Staples and Target, and have them delivered to their doors within hours.

The partnership could help Barnes & Noble make inroads into online sales when its brick-and-mortar business remains stagnant. The company has closed 63 stores in the last five years, including some in bustling areas of Manhattan and Washington, leaving it with a base of about 660 retail stores and 700 college campus stores. Its Nook business fell 22 percent in the fourth quarter compared with the period a year earlier, according its most recent earnings report.

. . . .

Amazon’s popularity as an online shopping destination has the potential to undercut Google’s lucrative search engine advertising business. By adding Barnes & Noble to its list of 19 retail partners, Google is making a more explicit grab for Amazon’s turf. The partnership also comes at a moment when many authors and book buyers are frustrated with Amazon because of what they say are its punitive negotiating tactics in its standoff with the publisher Hachette over e-book pricing.

“Many of our shoppers have told us that when they read a review of a book or get a recommendation from a friend, they want a really easy way to buy that book and start reading it tonight,” Tom Fallows, director of product for Google Shopping Express, said by email. “We think it’s a natural fit to create a great experience connecting shoppers with their town’s Barnes & Noble.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Foyles’ innovative digital in-store shopping service

6 August 2014

From The Literary Platform:

With so much great publicity for its amazing new flagship Charing Cross Road store, Foyles booksellers’ innovative in-store digital shopping service, launched at that time, got a bit lost in all the noise.

The first of its kind in the UK, Foyles Book Search allows customers with a smartphone to browse stock availability and to locate books within the new four-storey bookshop using an interactive map. The project has been nicknamed ‘Ariadne’ by Foyles booksellers, after the mythological figure who guided Theseus through the Labyrinth, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the labyrinthine old Foyles bookshop, with its narrow passageways between teetering piles of books.

Link to the rest at The Literary Platform and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Building a Better Amazon

2 August 2014

From Publisher Weekly:

Amazon, Amazon, Amazon. I’m tired of hearing about Amazon, aren’t you? I know—I’m not helping. The word “Amazon” is sprinkled liberally throughout this article. And I’m one of Amazon’s best customers. I can’t bring myself to bash it. Its customer service is second to none, as are its prices and selection. I love Prime. But in light of recent events, I am of the opinion that it is time for the world to rise up and form a Rebel Book-Lover’s Alliance, to storm the Amazon Death Star, to use collective force to take back the e-book galaxy.

So, over two days last week, I convened a meeting in New York of some of the brightest minds in publishing to tackle the topic of creating the “perfect” e-book store. The premise was simple: if we—as readers, writers, publishers, agents, librarians, and booksellers—were given unlimited time and resources to build our own vision of e-book nirvana, what features would it have that are either lacking at Amazon or that exist only in bits and pieces across a disconnected e-book ecosystem?

. . . .

 As it turns out, my team’s scheme for a site resembled the Kindle Cloud Reader. Our store would offer zero-click reading; integrated purchasing/library checkouts; buy-once, read-anywhere openness; a direct reader-author-publisher community built in; and an API through which anyone could create an embeddable e-book store widget with just a few clicks.

. . . .

 Then a strange thing happened: we pulled back. We second-guessed. We found ourselves in a dark wood. How can we compete with the Amazons of the world? The challenge seemed insurmountable.

. . . .

Someone quipped that we needed a hook, a jazzy one-sentence summation of our clever idea, like, “Uber, where everyone’s a taxicab”; or “Airbnb, where everyone’s a microhotel”; or “Square, where everyone’s a cash register.” Our dream e-book store thingy needed to turn everyone into… something. But what? A bookstore?

We set out with a desire to design and build something that could compete with Amazon’s massive scale. But, ultimately, we found that perhaps the best way to get traction against a dominant player like Amazon is not to build something equally titanic, but to build something wee, something human. Grassroots. Peer-to-peer. Something simple. Distributed. Democratic. Something that will turn the focus back to art and away from commerce and shareholders. Connection. Emotion. Humanity. Maybe each one of us should be a bookstore?

. . . .

 Maybe I’m a little naïve, but I choose to dream grandly. And I’m glad I’m not alone.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

The brightest minds in publishing?


Shelving to Save a Book’s Life

14 July 2014

From The Atlantic:

The rules of shelving can seem arbitrary, even arcane, but the fundamentals are easy to learn: two hard covers, and no more than three paperbacks of the same title, on each shelf. The exception is the face-out. If the jacket is displayed horizontally, behind it you can stack as many books as can fit.

Turning a book face out is an act of tremendous power, or so it feels when you are working at an independent bookstore at a moment that has major chains shrinking and Amazon wreaking havoc with publishing’s already fragile ecosystem. In a bookstore, you can decide, unilaterally, without having to ask permission or sit in an hour-long meeting, to simply face out Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance because, well, because it’s one of your favorite books, and it also solves the problem of what to do with the space left by your desire to consolidate the David Mitchells, which means moving them all to the shelf below.

You can also show a little love to an obscure mid-list paperback you just discovered suffocating between two behemoth hardcovers—simply because it feels like the right thing to do. The positioning will likely only matter for a day or two before the next person doing some shelving undoes your handiwork, sticks three Fine Balances spine out, climbs the giant ladder, and puts the rest in overstock.

. . . .

Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends, I suppose, on one’s ability to accept that you can only save the books that you can save. Despite the occasional gloomy headlines and the despair of some of my talented friends who are having trouble finding publishers right now, there are still an awful lot of books out there. Those bound galleys in our break room make me angsty every day. Between each cheerful cover I imagine the champagne that was popped when the book contract was signed, and see the author mugging for the photo while privately rehearsing answers for Terry Gross’s Fresh Air. I fret about the daily deluge in my inbox, too. It’s filled with requests from publicists and authors who would like to hold an event at our store. It’s hard to say no to a book with a celebrity and a cute pet on the cover even though it won’t appeal to our demographic, and hey, I’m a softie for the kindly pediatrician who keeps calling even though I have never heard of his publisher, the timing is off, and there is no room whatsoever on our calendar.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

More Book Signings from Hell

13 July 2014

From author Mary Kennedy via The Cozy Chicks:

As promised here are some more “book signing horror stories.”

. . . .

2. The Guy with His Grandmother’s Memoirs. He plunked down an enormous manuscript on the signing desk–it was the size of three Manhattan phone books.

“My grandmother in Iran wrote her memoirs,” he begins, “and her English isn’t so good. I’m having trouble finding an agent.” (what a surprise.)

“Yes?” I say, trying not to show too much enthusiasm.

“I thought maybe you could read her book and recommend it to your agent.”

“Well, I’m afraid I really couldn’t do that–”

“You’ll need a Farsi dictionary,” he says, cutting me off, “so I brought you one.” (what a thoughtful guy!)

Sure enough, he plunks a Farsi-English dictionary on top of the ginormous manuscript. “Some chapters are written entirely in Farsi, I tried to write some notes in the margins, but I gave up after the first 300 pages.”

“I’m not surprised.”

Memoir guy leaves, looks disappointed.

. . . .

3. Mr. 007 “You really should write my life story,” he tells me, “we could make millions.” He vaguely looks like a guy who knocked on my door last week, trying to sell me magazine subscriptions.

“We could?”

“Sure! With your looks and my brains, we could clean up.”

“Hmmm…”(pretending to consider). “You said, ‘with my looks and your brains,’ why couldn’t I be the one with the brains?”

“Well, it just doesn’t work that way,” he says irritably. “Now here’s the thing, I’ll give you the ideas and you just write them up. You have the easy part,” he adds generously. “We’ll split the profits 50-50. Are you with me, so far?”

“I think so.” (wow, he really knows how to tempt a girl.)

“My life is so exciting, my friends call me 007.”

“They do?”

“Yes, and I’ll tell you why. I love excitement and danger, I love to explore new places and I’m the man of a million faces. Women throw themselves at me everywhere I go.”

“Really? That’s fascinating. Are you a spy or something?”

“Not quite.” For the first time, a note of doubt creeps into his voice.

“But what do you do?” I persist. “Do you have a business card?”

“Sure.” He pulls out a card and hands to me.

I read the card. 007–the man of a million faces–sells Venetian blinds.

I hastily get rid of him.

Link to the rest at The Cozy Chicks

One of Mrs. PG’s favorite things about indie publishing is no book signings.

Barnes & Noble To Strengthen Protections For Breastfeeding Mothers

11 July 2014

From the office of The New York State Attorney General:

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Barnes & Noble, Inc. that will protect the rights of nursing mothers seeking to breastfeed at its stores in New York. The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the national chain following a March 16 incident in which a woman was asked to cover up or leave the company’s Nanuet, New York, store while breastfeeding her infant son. Under New York State law, a mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, so long as she otherwise has the right to be there, regardless of whether she is covered while nursing. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the law’s passage.

“All New York residents, including breastfeeding mothers, must be afforded equal protection under the law,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “No mother should endure harassment for breastfeeding her baby in public. There is one set of rules for everyone in New York, and I applaud Barnes & Noble for taking steps to ensure that moms are not harassed or discriminated against.”

Under the agreement, Barnes & Noble will strengthen its customer complaint resolution procedures with respect to the handling of complaints received from breastfeeding mothers, train all New York store employees and managers on its breastfeeding policy, which prohibits employees from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed at its stores, and display the international symbol for breastfeeding at the entrances to its New York stores. In addition, the company will pay $10,000 to Rockland County to support the activities of its Breastfeeding Promotion and Support Program.

Link to the rest at New York State Attorney General

The French Do Buy Books. Real Books.

10 July 2014

From The New York Times:

One of the maddening things about being a foreigner in France is that hardly anyone in the rest of the world knows what’s really happening here. They think Paris is a Socialist museum where people are exceptionally good at eating small bits of chocolate and tying scarves.

In fact, the French have all kinds of worthwhile ideas on larger matters. This occurred to me recently when I was strolling through my museum-like neighborhood in central Paris, and realized there were — I kid you not — seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment. Granted, I live in a bookish area. But still: Do the French know something about the book business that we Americans don’t?

I was in a bookstore-counting mood because of the news that Amazon has delayed or stopped delivering some books, over its dispute with the publisher Hachette. This has prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales in America and its 65 percent share of new books sold online. For a few bucks off and the pleasure of shopping from bed, have we handed over a precious natural resource — our nation’s books — to an ambitious billionaire with an engineering degree?

France, meanwhile, has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazonlaw, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books.

. . . .

The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.

Fixing book prices may sound shocking to Americans, but it’s common around the world, for the same reason. In Germany, retailers aren’t allowed to discount most books at all. Six of the world’s 10 biggest book-selling countries — Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Spain and South Korea — have versions of fixed book prices.

Even with the state’s help, French bookstores are struggling.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to James for the tip.

Let’s see. 1. The French “secret” is that publishers set book prices. 2. No discounting is allowed. 3. Bookstores are struggling.

Could it be that many French readers can’t afford high prices? Or that, in the face of high-priced books, more and more French people are choosing alternative low-priced entertainment options?

PG says you can’t trust traditional publishers with a nation’s literary legacy. Only authors are worthy of that trust.

New York Bookstore Workers Fired For Voting To Unionize

4 July 2014

From The Huffington Post:

On June 24, Bec Goodbourn and Kerry Henderson cast ballots in a union election held for the staff of Book Culture, the independent bookstore where they worked in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York. Like the vast majority of the bookstore’s workforce, both Henderson and Goodbourn voted in favor of union representation.

By the end of the day, they were both fired.

After letting Goodbourn go in person, her boss, Chris Doeblin, included her on an email in which he explained to the store’s management team why she and Henderson had to go.

“It was indicated to me … that two people in our management group voted in the union and effectively undermined the interests of the store. The store always being in opposition to the Union,” the email read. “Unfortunately there is no other recourse but to remove these people from our employ effective immediately. Therefor [sic] Bec and Kerry have been fired.”

. . . .

The union that won the election, the New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, has filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, the agency that enforces labor law, demanding that the two be re-instated.

. . . .

Doeblin has been clear that he feels having a union in the workplace is bad for business, a sentiment that might rankle some of the progressive students and faculty from nearby Columbia University who shop at the store. Much of the store’s workers are either recent college grads or working toward their degrees.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Carolyn for the tip.

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