I don’t want to buy books from Amazon anymore!

20 May 2015

From Medium:

I slipped into the convenience trap. I happily ordered my Ballards, my Murakamis, my Carvers from Amazon without giving much thought to my local independent bookshop, just 10 minutes from my home.

Amazon is convenient. For lazy, laptop-in-bed, impulse purchase people like me Amazon is a dream — it offers me a familiar catalogue of books, ready to purchase with a click and get delivered next day. They might not pay much tax in the UK, but when time is so precious and it’s that easy, do we really care?

The march of the machine brings more efficiency and savings but everyone knows it’s the small guys getting squeezed. When I cycled past my local bookshop, I felt a niggle. A niggle that said if I wasn’t supposed to be meeting Mario at 10am for that pre-ride coffee, I would go in there. I would buy a book, support the shop. The niggle said maybe I’ll go tomorrow or the day after? I said that would be great.

. . . .

I wanted to build something that doesn’t compete head-on with the Amazon machine, but embraces it, augments it and nudges you towards the local option to buy.

The Bookindy Google Chrome extension gives you the price of the book in your local bookshop whilst browsing Amazon. Bookindy embraces Amazon’s well-ordered and familiar catalogue for browsing and allows you to buy the book from your local independent bookshop shop if you want to.

. . . .

 I now browse Amazon and then buy books from Dulwich Books, my local independent bookshop, 0.8 miles away.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Indie Bookstores Are Finally Not Dying

16 May 2015

From The Daily Beast:

A little girl wearing fairy wings twirled in a photo booth rigged up next to the New Releases table. Across town, a bookseller set cans of beer, donated from a local brewery, to chill in a tub of ice. Balloons tied to chalk boards proclaimed Saturday, May 2 Independent Bookstore Day: the first national celebration of this surprisingly buoyant industry. On Twitter and Instagram, shoppers showed off their literary hauls so enthusiastically that for a few hours the hashtag #Bookstoreday was trending nationwide, up there with the royal baby, the Kentucky Derby, and an event which shares the event’s community-spirited DNA, Free Comic Book Day. For the booksellers who embraced the day’s events, the day was a chance to declare that they aren’t going anywhere. But it was also a reminder that community support is more vital than ever to the survival of their businesses.

“We wanted to change the tired narrative of bookstores hanging on by a thread and being these musty throwback shops,” says Independent Bookstore Day program director Samantha Schoech, a former bookseller.

. . . .

“It’s fun to throw a party and have all these enthusiastic customers come in to your store,” she says. “It further cements a bookstore’s role in a community.”

To get new customers coming in, spending money, and coming back, independent bookstores have to offer something that their customers can’t find online. That might be an intangible sense of community, or something more concrete, like the special products that the IBD organizers created this year—“physical, real, bona fide book swag,” as Rebecca Fitting of Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore called it. The range of signed books and artwork, available only on this day and only in stores, included a chapbook of new essays by Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay; a limited-edition print by the graphic artist Chris Ware; and a stencil of a Margaret Atwood quote designed to resonate with the bookstore crowd: “A word after a word after a word is power.”

. . . .

“One of the great strengths of our store is that so many writers live close by,” Stockton Bagnulo explained. To capitalize on their location, the staff invited local authors to come in and take photographs with customers.

. . . .

[T]he stores that profit best from an event like Bookstore Day seem to be those, like McNally Jackson, that have already embraced the new social reality of bookselling. They are the stores that maintain a chatty and approachable social media presence, offer a carefully curated selection of stock, run children’s story time in the mornings and readings and parties in the evenings, and focus on making their stores pleasurable places to visit. They are the stores that are the face of this unexpected retail resurgence.

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Dave for the tip.

How This Tokyo Bookstore Made Me Fall Back In Love With Print

14 May 2015

From Medium:

Most devotees of print culture lament the time when Barnes & Noble began to swamp cities across the country with its superstores, driving a lot of independent booksellers out of business.

But there was an upside to that invasion, which New Yorkers of a certain age will remember fondly: the masses of readers able to crowd around the magazine racks at those retail behemoths. For the first time, rather than face the stern warnings of newsstand proprietors (“No looking! You look, you buy!”), readers were free to peruse hundreds of periodicals and acquaint themselves with topics as varied as pro wrestling and punk rock.

These same magazine areas, which then seemed like beacons of a friendlier, more accessible reading culture, now look sad and lonely — dark corners of a dying enterprise.

So I was more than a little surprised when I recently entered the flagship Tokyo store of a multimedia chain called Tsutaya, and saw throngs of people eagerly crowding the magazine section. The store, in the Daikanyama district, felt like a testament to the continued power and relevance of the written word — a place where browsing, reading, and buying books and magazines was a popular and pleasurable experience.

. . . .

Japan’s book and magazine industry looks radically different than our own: though many smaller stores have shuttered, casualties of online commerce, E-books have yet to make a major dent in the business, and many magazines disdain the need for a website. For some reason, the Japanese have remained much more connected to the printed word than Americans.

The longer I spent roaming the stacks, the more I became convinced that this store holds the key to understanding that deeper connection. I also felt like I was falling back in love with the printed word myself, which came as something of a shock — I’m a self-confessed, early-adopting, SIM card-swapping travel geek, currently on my seventh Kindle. This was not a nostalgic, Luddite moment, but a response to five specific principles that became increasingly clear to me as I wandered, browsed, read, and reflected.

. . . .

1. Writing and reading are fundamentally physical activities

The T-Site store has done more than just amass a formidable collection of books and magazines: it has also figured out how to celebrate the physicality of writing and reading. Take the decorations at Anjin, a luminous bar and lounge on the second floor. The walls are filled with bound volumes of visually inspiring magazines, dating back decades, all available for customers to peruse while they down a sandwich or sip a whisky.

. . . .

 At one end of the floor is a shop that stocks what is probably the world’s most comprehensive range of writing instruments, and that also serves as a mini-museum featuring over a thousand different pens, displayed as if each were a work of art. The effect is to make these objects seem slick, sexy and desirable, rather than relics of the past.

. . . .

 The spine and cover designs of books, which used to be the predominant decoration of most of my friends’ apartments, offer a different kind of solace than that which comes from knowing that everything you’ve read lives somewhere in the cloud. Covers and spines are not just decorative items; they are external, tangible reminders of something that may have transformed you internally, emotionally, intellectually. To be able to call them up on your iPad simply isn’t the same as having them surround you — constantly reminding you, when you glimpse them, of the multitudes contained within each one.

. . . .

5. Printed books help to make you who you are

There are, of course, other ways of seeing this. For some, Tsutaya just illustrates one more quirk of Japanese society, like the way the country still buys most of its music on CD. Or worse: One could call it a triumph of fetishism, materialism, and consumerism over what ought to be the unadulterated power of pure words.

I wonder. For most voracious readers I know who came of age in the era of physical books, that physicality wasn’t tangential to the reading experience, it was central. I guess that’s why each time I enter this strange, shiny temple to reading I feel something like the primal pleasure I felt, many years ago, upon touching, reading — and buying — actual books.

And now, because I read almost everything on a device of some kind, Tsutaya reminds me of what I’m missing by doing that. When you first start reading a lot, books become your world and share your space, a reflection of their importance in your life. We lose something when they are reduced to data, as opposed to possessions that constantly remind us of what’s inside them. Books in a home were once one of the chief ways to take stock of, engage with, and understand a new friend or a new love. Now you’d need their Amazon password to do that.

Link to the rest at Medium, where there are lots of great photos. Thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Indigo Eyes U.S. as Dolls Help Bookseller Fend Off Amazon

12 May 2015

From Bloomberg:

Canada’s biggest bookstore chain has managed to stay viable in the world of digital reading by adding everything from iPads to olive-wood cutting boards to its shelves. Now Indigo Books and Music Inc. is setting its sights on the U.S.

Chief Executive Officer Heather Reisman, 66, has spent the last several years developing the company’s “cultural department store” model, expanding into home decorating, dining ware and personal technology. Indigo is set to unveil a new store model next year that will showcase the concept, and Reisman aims to take it beyond Canada.

. . . .

“We started in this business as passionate booksellers,” said Reisman, sporting an Apple Watch. “We are still, as you can see, passionate booksellers.”

. . . .

Even so, lifestyle products now make up 30 percent of sales, and with physical book sales stable that could grow to about half, she said. More than 50 percent of these products are designed in-house, including at Indigo’s New York design studio.

“Everything is going to start to bloom in the next year,” she said. One initiative is an online tool that lets customers try out different wall art combinations and then customize prints from Indigo’s bank of Getty Images photographs.

. . . .

“We see people changing their behavior,” Reisman said. “People who were reading 80 percent digitally are coming back and reading half and half.”

Indigo jumped on the digital reading trend in 2009 by developing its own e-reader, the Kobo. It sold it to Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2011 for $315 million.

. . . .

“Books are not growing, but they are not shrinking all that fast,” said David Schick, a retail analyst and managing director of equity research at Stifel Financial Corp. “E-books had a huge surge that has ended.”

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

17 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Bookstores

10 May 2015

From Mental Floss:

For book lovers, there’s no more magical place than the local bookstore. Endless shelves of stories and characters, all at your eager fingertips. And while most of us have probably spent a significant amount of time wandering the aisles, few of us know what goes on behind the scenes.

. . . .

Just browsing? Bookstore workers can tell. “Cookbooks is one of the sections where that happens the most,” says Orphan. “Art books and cookbooks. The people who are going to buy books, I can tell by the way they look at them, touch them, start carrying them around in a stack. I can always tell when people come up who is going to buy a book and who isn’t.”

. . . .

One trick to get customers to commit to a book is to physically put the book in their hands and have them flip through it. “You can direct them to a part of the store, but that’s only half of selling a book,” Rodriguez says. “It’s important to get merchandise in people’s hands so they feel there’s already some ownership happening. They say ‘I like the way it looks and feels in my hands and i like the way it smells.’”

. . . .

“It’s nice to be able to go in and read maybe a chapter to see if you’re gonna like the book,” Chin says. “But then when you sit and read the whole book and put it back on the shelf, it gets grubby.” You’ll know a bookstore is trying to nudge you out the door if multiple employees drop by to ask if you need any help. “We would quietly pester people,” says Caleb Saenz, who used to work at Barnes & Noble. “I was at my peak passive aggressive phase when I was working at a bookstore.”

Link to the rest at Mental Floss and thanks to Joe for the tip.

Owning a bookstore means you always get to tell people what to read

23 April 2015

From author Ann Patchett via The Washington Post:

When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville in November 2011, I hadn’t really considered what an enormous boon it would be to my lifelong goal of forcing books on people. There were so many logistics to deal with — finding a space to rent that had good parking, finding employees, finding shelves — that there wasn’t a minute to think about the fun part: recommending books. After all, I’ve been telling people what to read since I was able to recognize words on paper. I was the kid extolling the virtues of “Charlotte’s Web” in the school cafeteria. “Fern saves the runt from being killed,” I told my friends. “And so her father lets her keep him.”

. . . .

But now that I own a bookstore, I no longer need to rely so heavily on my immediate circle to ensure that people are reading the books I love. At Parnassus, there is a constant river of people flowing past the new fiction releases, past U.S. history and down toward the children’s section, and many have no idea what they want to read. They’ll walk right up to me and say, “I’m looking for a book.” I wait for a minute, thinking surely there’s going to be more to that sentence — “I’m looking for a book I heard about on the radio” or “I’m looking for a book like ‘The Goldfinch’ ” — but often there is nothing else. They just smile up at me, trusting and curious, waiting to follow my instructions. It makes my heart soar. I ask them to tell me the last couple of books they’ve liked, just so I have some idea of who I’m talking to, then I lead them gently over to the shelves and get to work.

. . . .

This is nothing at all like an algorithm. I don’t keep a piece of paper by the cash register and mark down how many of the people who bought “Gone Girl” went on to buy “The Girl on the Train.” I’m a reader who stays up half the night ruining my eyes because I can’t tear myself away from the new Richard Price novel, “The Whites.” When I recommend a book it’s because I’ve read it, not because I’ve sold a certain number of copies.

And when’s the last time your Internet superstore told you that you might be making a mistake? I recently brought my friend Jane to the bookstore. Jane was visiting from Wisconsin. She picked up a novel that I, too, had been drawn to read. It started out with such promise and then disintegrated into a pile of ashes. I tapped the cover, shook my head. “Not this one.” I can’t always be there to steer people away from the bad book and toward a good one, in the same way I can’t always keep pedestrians from falling down open manholes, but when I see something, I say something.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

First Bookstore Dedicated to Self-Published Authors Opens in Florida

21 April 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Frustrated by a lack of opportunity to display and sell their work, self-published children’s author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson and history author Timothy Jacobs decided to create a bookstore of their own, Gulf Coast Bookstore, and to only sell books by indie authors.

“It’s just hard to compete with Stephen King or Dan Brown in a mega-bookstore that has tens of thousands of books for sale,” says Jacobs.

Although Jacobs came up with the idea for a bookstore that would showcase indie authors a few years ago, he and Jefferson didn’t act on it until recently. When a space became available in downtown Fort Myers, Fla., last month, the store came together quickly. On April 1, the pair held a soft opening for Gulf Coast; the grand opening followed on April 10.

Gulf Coast operates very differently from a traditional bookstore chain or independent. Self-published authors rent shelf space for three months for $60, plus a $15 set-up fee, close to what they might spend to exhibit a single title at a day-long book fair. They also handle stocking and restocking. In return, the authors receive 100% of every sale rather than 40% from a bookstore that sells their books on consignment.

. . . .

Jefferson and Jacobs rearrange inventory every two weeks to keep the space fresh. There is no curation of authors. According to Jefferson, the only criteria is “they have to be local.” She and Jacobs also cap the number of titles in any particular genre the store carries at six. Children’s books filled up first for the initial inventory. Other areas represented include education, fantasy, local history, and memoir.

Each writer—currently there are 37 with another 16 authors to be added on May 1—can display 10 copies of a single title or up to 10 titles with one copy each. Authors can also place bookmarks, business cards, or brochures about their work on shelves.

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

Traditional books on paper open a new chapter of success

13 April 2015

From The Guardian:

A former tannery has been magicked into an arts venue, the lights have been dimmed, and a roomful of publishing executives are sitting on creaky wooden floors, cross-legged or knees scrunched up, school-assembly style. The canapes can wait: the group has gathered to listen to writers reading their latest, soon-to-be-published works – a heart-rending family memoir, a Jazz Age tale, the gangs of Los Angeles.

These are some of the stories publishing house Picador hopes will enthral readers this summer – and almost every writer reads from a paperback. One, poet Kate Tempest, speaks from memory, electrifying the room. No Kindles, Nooks or iPads in sight.

Public affection for print runs deeper than some had thought. On the eve of the London Book Fair, a three-day trade extravaganza that starts on Tuesday, optimism is rippling through the industry that it can weather the digital age. The idea that the ebook will kill the paperback seems increasingly like a tall tale.

Total spending on print and electronic books increased by 4% to £2.2bn in 2014, according to market data firm Nielsen. Ebooks now account for around 30% of all books published, including almost 50% of adult fiction. But the decline in print is levelling off as migration to ebooks declines. For some in the industry, it is a sign the dust is beginning to settle after the great digital shake-up.

. . . .

Nigel Newton, chief executive of independent publisher Bloomsbury, whose catalogue spans Margaret Atwood and the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack, sees the future of bookselling as finely balanced. Publishing itself was in a robust state, he stressed, but the outlook for booksellers is less certain.

. . . .

The publisher is also experimenting with multiple editions. In October, it will publish PJ Harvey’s debut at several price points. The Hollow of the Hand, a volume of poetry in collaboration with photographer Seamus Murphy, chronicles their journeys to Afghanistan, Kosovo and Washington. A paperback and ebook will be available for £16.99, dedicated fans can splash out £45 for a lavish hardback, while the most hardcore can get a limited signed edition for £400.

. . . .

It is just one example of how publishing, which has always judged a book by its cover, is fighting back against pixels with more lavish printed objects. Shelves are filled with ever more beautiful books: classics bound in Victorian-style cloth covers with dyed print edges, or cookbooks with expensive gloss finishes reminiscent of bar-room tiles, such as Martin Morales’s Ceviche. “Print has become the luxury model,” Rentzenbrink observed. “There is almost a festishisation of the print book.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Showrooming is like shoplifting

13 April 2015

From The Bookseller:

Showrooming is just a “genteel form of shoplifting” author David Nicholls told an audience at the London Book Fair Digital Minds Conference this morning (13th April).

Giving a keynote speech at the digital event ahead of the fair’s official start tomorrow (14th April), Nicholls spoke of the importance of physical bookshops, and criticized the practice of discovering a title in a bookshop only to buy it online instead, known as showrooming.

He said: “For all the ease and convenience of online shopping or the digital download, I still feel a town without a bookshop is missing something…For much of the early nineties I worked in bookshops myself, running the children’s section in Waterstones Notting Hill with a rod of iron and believing, like all booksellers, that books are somehow special, that the expertise and enthusiasm of booksellers is vital, that if you love bookshops you should spend money there, and that to discover a book on display in a well-staffed, lovingly-maintained shop, to hold it in your hand then to sneak off and buy the same book online is really just a genteel form of shoplifting.”

. . . .

Nicholls spoke of the beneficial insights e-book data could give an author. He said that from New York he travelled to Toronto, where he “visited the offices of an e-book retailer,”  assumed to be Kobo since the company’s head offices are based there. Nicholls said the staff were “without exception, smart, well-read, youthful, enthusiastic, they reminded me of the people I used to work with in bookshops years ago.” He added that someone asked if he’d be interested in knowing at what point people stopped reading his novel, because if he knew what readers didn’t like, “maybe I could fix it and make it better.”

Nicholls said: “When I wrote my first novel this would have seemed fantastical, but now I can reach into my pocket, take out my phone, open up the text and find out which passages have been underlined, shared and annotated, and I’m always just a few clicks away from several thousand reviews, constructive or otherwise. Why shouldn’t I toughen-up and learn from the data and feedback? More to the point, why shouldn’t I correct those mistakes?”

He concluded the anecdote by telling the staff: “I’ll give it some thought.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders, if there is only a single bookstore in town, is that a genteel form of monopoly? Or if the bookstores all charge the same price for a book, is that a genteel form of price-fixing? Or if a bookstore refuses to stock Christian literature or certain types of romances, is that a genteel form of censorship?

Here’s an even better idea. If someone comes into your bookstore and reads a few pages in a book, then begins to walk out without purchasing, why not charge that person a reading fee (because it sounds more polite than a shoplifting fee)?

To protect his gentility, perhaps PG shouldn’t go into bookshops at all.

E-books Gained, Online Retailers Slipped in 2014

30 March 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

E-books’ market share of new-book sales increased slightly in 2014 over 2013, while the share of all book sales made through online retailers and bookstore chains dipped in the same period. Those were two of the major trends found by the most recent survey of consumer book-buying behavior conducted by Nielsen Books & Consumers.

E-books accounted for 15% of the spending on all new books (backlist and frontlist titles) last year, up from 12% in 2013. The format’s share of units rose at a slightly slower rate, rising by one percentage point in the year, to 21%, an indication that though e-books remain lower priced than print titles, prices have increased. Print accounted for 70% of new-book spending in 2014, a drop of seven percentage points from 2013.

. . . .

The online retail channel, which includes Amazon, accounted for 35% of all new book sales, both print and digital, in 2014, down from 38% in 2013. Online retailers had a larger share of units, accounting for 39% of units sold, reflecting the impact of the sale of lower-priced e-books. The decline in online retailers’ share of spending despite growth in the e-book market suggests that e-tailers’ share of print book sales may have declined last year.

Bookstore chains’ share of spending fell from 25% in 2013 to 22% in 2014, and its share of units last year was 21%.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Next Page »