Barnes & Noble: why it could soon be the bookshop’s final chapter

12 May 2018

From The Guardian:

America’s biggest bookstore chain has seen its sales slide for 11 years. With its stock price falling 8%, is the writing on the wall?

. . . .

To the casual observer Barnes & Noble in Manhattan’s Union Square seemed to be doing everything right last Thursday lunchtime: displays heaving with books; customers milling around; every table at the Starbucks on the third floor taken by customers; a creche full of excited children; magazine racks browsed.

But appearances can be deceptive. America’s largest bookseller is in trouble. A quick chat with the “customers” suggests one reason why.

“I get a coffee, take a seat, read the latest magazines,” said a man who gave his name as Buddy. Asked if he planned to purchase the car and engineering titles he was holding, Buddy replied flatly: “No.”

Perhaps this is what it means to be a bricks-and-mortar retailer in 2018. It’s a feelgood customer experience and a showcase for online purchasing – but the sound of cash registers ringing? Not so much.

Last week, Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the US, saw its stock price plunge nearly 8% just days after the New York Times published an editorial calling for the chain to be saved. “It’s depressing to imagine that more than 600 Barnes & Noble stores might simply disappear,” wrote columnist David Leonhardt. “But the death of Barnes & Noble is now plausible.”

. . . .

Sales have been on the slide for 11 years; even online sales have fallen. Over the past five years, the company has lost more than $1bn in value. Dozens of stores have closed. A shake-up in February resulted in the loss of 1,800 full-time jobs.

. . . .

But arguably innovation is where Barnes & Noble went wrong. Other big booksellers have tackled Amazon’s onslaught by doing precisely the opposite – going back to basics and putting the books first.

. . . .

Analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData Retail said one difference between Waterstones and Barnes & Noble is that the UK chain is centered on high streets whereas the US chain tends to be centered on malls. It’s one thing, he says, to attract high street foot-traffic, another to get customers to drive to a mall for a book. Especially when America’s malls too are being swept away by the Amazon effect.

“People may drop in for a browse but they won’t make a dedicated trip to a bookstore,” Saunders says. “They don’t have the need and they don’t have the time. The way people shop changed, and that’s been detrimental for Barnes & Noble.”

. . . .

“The stores just look like an enormous Aladdin’s cave of all sorts of random products, including departments selling CDs and DVDs that are never crowded. The stores themselves are too large for what they need and in the wrong locations.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Save Barnes & Noble!

7 May 2018

From The New York Times:

Barnes & Noble is in trouble. You hear that, in worried tones, when you talk to people in the book business. You feel it when you walk into one of the chain’s stores, a cluttered mix of gifts, games, DVDs (DVDs?) and books. And you really see the problems if you dig into the company’s financial statements.

Revenue from Nook, the company’s e-book device, has fallen more than 85 percent since 2012. Online sales of physical books have also plummeted. At the stores, where business was once holding up, it’s down about 10 percent over the past two years. Several stores — like my local one, in the Washington suburbs — have closed, and many have reduced staff.

The company’s leaders claim that they have a turnaround plan, based on smaller, more appealing stores focused on books, and I hope the plan works. It’s depressing to imagine that more than 600 Barnes & Noble stores might simply disappear — as already happened with Borders, in 2011. But the death of Barnes & Noble is now plausible.

. . . .

The full story revolves around government policy — in particular, Washington’s leniency, under both parties, toward technology giants that have come to resemble monopolies. These giants are popular, because they provide good products and service. But they have also become mighty enough to vanquish their competitors and create problems for society.

. . . .

For most of American history, the government viewed giant corporations of any kind as inherently problematic. Their size gave them too much power — to eliminate competition, raise prices, hold down wages and influence politics. So the government passed laws to restrain businesses and occasionally broke up the largest, like Standard Oil and AT&T.

In the 1970s, however, a new idea took hold: Size was not a problem so long as prices remained low. Bigness could even be good, because it promoted efficiency and thus lower prices. The legal scholar Robert Borkwas the most influential advocate for this view, and it soon guided the Supreme Court, the Reagan administration and pretty much every administration since.

But the theory has two huge flaws, as a new generation of scholars, like Lina Khan, is emphasizing. One, prices are not a broad enough measure of well-being. Wages, innovation and political power matter as well. If prices stay low but wages don’t grow — which is, roughly, what’s happened in recent decades — consumers aren’t better off. Two, regulators have focused on short-term prices, sometimes ignoring what can happen after a company drives out its rivals.

. . . .

The book business is looking like a case study. Amazon is taking over, yet has never run into antitrust scrutiny. It has reduced prices, after all. It sells many e-books for $9.99 and hardcover best sellers at a big discount. So what’s the problem?

Plenty. Amazon has been happy to lose money on books to build a loyal customer base, to which it can then sell everything else. “Amazon isn’t primarily concerned about books these days,” Oren Teicher, who runs an association of independent bookstores, told me. “They are far more focused on getting consumers into their ecosystem so they can sell them every other product under the sun.”

But the artificially low prices have created a raft of problems. Fewer books are commercially viable. Publishers are focusing on big-name writers. The number of professional authors has declined. The disappearance of Borders deprived dozens of communities of their only physical bookstore and led to a drop in book sales that looks permanent.

. . . .

“It’s in the interest of the book business,” Teicher says, “for Barnes & Noble not just to survive but to thrive.”

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

PG suggests the fundamental purpose of antitrust law is not to benefit the corporate losers in commercial competitions, but rather to benefit consumers by promoting competition in a variety of marketplaces.

These laws are not intended to punish successful competitors because of their size or to permit courts to choose winners and losers in the marketplace.

In an active marketplace, consumers will be benefited by the improvements in products or services and/or the lowering of prices that result when sellers are competing for the business of buyers. Each seller is focused on capturing and holding the loyalty of buyers by providing a more attractive product or service to those buyers. Buyers vote with their dollars, but no seller can assume that their customers today will be their customers tomorrow unless the sellers continue to attract and serve buyers with features the buyers desire tomorrow, whether they be price, selection, service, a better purchasing experience or whatever buyers value tomorrow.

Consumers are subject to the threat of substantial damage in a market that is not competitive because established sellers are relying on something other than the free choices of buyers to select the most attractive product or service by interfering with the competitive process.

How has Amazon beaten many of its competitors? Better prices, certainly, but also with better service (2-day delivery with Prime and real-time updates on delivery status, for example), a huge selection of goods, lots of customer reviews to provide additional information to prospective purchasers and easy returns and refunds if a product does not satisfy a customer.

As compared with physical stores like Barnes & Noble, an Amazon customer can choose from a far, far wider selection of books than any Barnes & Noble store carries. An Amazon customer can typically purchase books for lower prices than are offered at a Barnes & Noble store. An Amazon customer can purchase a book when a Barnes & Noble store is not open or not convenient to visit or staffed by sullen clerks working for little more than minimum wage.

An Amazon customer can purchase books from independent authors instead of large corporate publishers exercising monopoly power by offering authors substantially identical terms and compensation as other corporate publishers do. When an Amazon customer makes such a purchase, she can do so knowing that much more of the price she pays for the book will be received by the individual author than would be the case if a purchase was made from a corporate publisher. A savvy purchaser will know that she is not subsidizing the victimization of authors by corporate publishers as has occurred on several occasions during recent memory.



What does the future of book shopping look like?

2 May 2018

From China Daily:

Self-service start-ups have become the new fad for Chinese investors after the arrival of lots of successful players – big and small. Alibaba launched its Tao Cafe in late August, 2017, two months after JD Daojia rolled out something similar. There are also many smaller companies doing similar things like Xingbianli and Easyhome.

However, unmanned stores are not quite the novelty they once were. There are an increasingly large amount of them springing up around the country every week – from supermarkets and noodle-shops to bookstores. An unmanned bookstore opened in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou in January this year.

. . . .

Scan the QR code on the glass door and wait until a mini-program appears. As soon as the door flashes, you are in the bookstore. On the back of each book, you will find a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) circuit, which uses electro-magnetic fields to track the book on your way out. Stand in the payment area and scan the QR code once more and you have successfully made a purchase.

“It can save some labor costs. Also, we collect information, like the customers’ shopping habits and their book preferences. Then, in the future, we know what books we should provide,” said Fang Hao, Chief Operating Officer, IFANX Bookshop.

. . . .

“Risk control is probably the first word that comes to mind when talking about unmanned stores. But with the support of technology, the rate of stolen or damaged goods in our automatic stores is far lower than in traditional retailers,” said Chen Zilin, founder and CEO of BingoBox, at TechCrunch Shanghai.

Link to the rest at China Daily

Retail’s Other Problem: Too Few Clerks in the Store

30 April 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Many of America’s biggest retailers, under assault from Inc., have been slashing staff even faster than they have been closing stores, a dynamic that has left fewer clerks and longer checkout lines at remaining locations.

Despite operating roughly the same number of stores as it did a decade ago, Macy’s Inc. has shed 52,000 workers since 2008. At J.C. Penney Co., workers have disappeared twice as fast as department stores. That’s led to an average of 112 total Penney employees for every store today, down from 145 a decade ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Similar per-store staff declines occurred over the Past decade at Kohl’s Corp., Nordstrom, Inc., Target Corp. and Wallmart Inc.,  regardless of whether the retailer opened or closed stores, according to the Journal’s analysis. The employment figures are for all full- and part-time staff and don’t distinguish between store, warehouse or headquarters workers. Industry executives say store employees make up the vast majority of retailers’ workforce.

“Retailers are shooting themselves in the foot trying to save pennies by lowering labor costs, and that’s costing them dollars on the top line,” said Rogelio Oliva, a business school professor at Texas A&M University. He recently analyzed the relationship between sales and labor at a women’s clothing retailer and found that many of the stores were understaffed by as much as 15%, leading to potentially lower sales.

. . . .

Now, some retailers are discovering they may have gone too far and are beginning to replenish staff—just as the booming U.S. economy is creating historic labor shortages and forcing companies to pay higher wages and offer perks such as better training and benefits.

. . . .

Now, some retailers are discovering they may have gone too far and are beginning to replenish staff—just as the booming U.S. economy is creating historic labor shortages and forcing companies to pay higher wages and offer perks such as better training and benefits.

. . . .

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. wants to increase store labor by about 10%, said Chief Executive Edward Stack, reversing a decadelong trend. Over the holidays, Dick’s added more cashiers, “because if there’s one thing that drives me nuts, it’s waiting at the register,” Mr. Stack said in an interview.

. . . .

Gilbert McGarvey has worked at the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store in New York City for 24 years, most recently in the shoe department. “It used to be what we sold was service,” he said, “Now, they’ve cut that to the quick.”

Saks last year closed the service desk at its flagship store and reduced support staff, which has meant that sales associates now have to process returns and spend more time restocking shelves and fulfilling online orders, tasks that take them away from selling, Mr. McGarvey said.

. . . .

“If brick-and-mortar retailers can’t compete on price in an online environment, the only thing that allows them to survive is to provide a positive in-store experience,” said Stuart Appelbaum, the union’s president.

Jessica Tokarski recently stopped by a Target store in Orchard Park, N.Y., to buy a phone case. But the 23-year-old couldn’t find anyone to unlock it from the rack, so she left the store without making a purchase.

“I’ve turned to online shopping, because customer service in stores has gotten really bad,” Ms. Tokarski said.

. . . .

Over the past 12 months, 86% of U.S. consumers say they have left a store due to long lines, according to a survey conducted by Adyen, a credit-card processor and payment system. That has resulted in $37.7 billion in lost sales for retailers, Adyen estimates.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Regular visitors to TPV will recall that Barnes & Noble implemented major staff cuts in its stores a few months ago.

PG suggests that if you want people to come to your store to shop for books or anything else, you should make the visit an enjoyable experience when they arrive. Unlike a competing retail establishment that may be located at the other end of the mall, Amazon is seldom farther away than the consumer’s purse or pocket.

Bookstores are the Center of the Literary Ecosystem

28 April 2018

From The Literary Hub:

In 2014, the first-ever Independent Bookstore Day launched in California. It was conceived by bookseller and writer Samantha Schoech, who partnered with the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association to highlight the important cultural value independent bookstores bring to their communities. The following year, Independent Bookstore Day became a national event. Since then, writers like Roxane Gay, Stephen King, George Saunders, and Lauren Groff have donated their work to the holiday.

Now in its fifth year, the 2018 Independent Bookstore Day on April 28th (tomorrow!) will host special events, readings, performances, and more at over 490 bookstores nationwide. 

. . . .

Matt Grant: Tell me a little about Independent Bookstore Day. What is it, and what is your role as an ambassador? 

Celeste Ng: Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April—this year it’s on April 28th. Because every independent bookstore is unique and independent, every party is different as well, and can include everything from cupcake parties to literary scavenger hunts to live bands and author readings. Every year there are also exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day at your local bookstore. As the Independent Bookstore Day Ambassador, I get to spread the word about Bookstore Day and the important role that independent bookstores play in their communities.

. . . .

MG: Did you have a favorite bookstore growing up?

CN: When I was a kid in the 1980s, I didn’t have any independent bookstores near me—I grew up haunting the B. Dalton and Waldenbooks in the mall. So my first indies—the long-gone Booksellers in Beachwood, Ohio and the redoubtable Mac’s Backs in Cleveland Heights—were revelations; they carried such a wide array of books, including niche titles that a more mainstream retailer wouldn’t have. I discovered many of my favorite authors just by browsing their shelves. Then, when I went away to college, Harvard Book Store became a haven for me. Porter Square Books in Cambridge is now my local—I can walk to it from my house—but I’ve developed crushes on many indies across the country as I’ve traveled, including (in no particular order) The Red Balloon in St. Paul, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Powell’s in Portland, and Loganberry Books in my old hometown of Shaker Heights, Ohio.

. . . .

MG: What would your dream bookstore look like? 

CN: Lots of shelves of books, obviously—far enough apart for easy browsing but just close together enough to give you that cozy, warren-like feel. Plenty of little nooks or armchairs for sitting and reading. Art by local artists on the walls. Quirky, well-read, and opinionated staff. Lots of shelf talkers and a few special displays around the bookstore for whatever the staff wanted to highlight—books related to recent news topics, themed or seasonal displays, etc. A good-sized children’s section with toys and places for kids to sit and read, so we can start encouraging readers early on! Maybe a bookstore dog or cat (optional). And a cafe section with a decent amount of seating, because 1. (selfishly) I like to write in bookstores and bookstore coffee shops are a great place for that, and 2. (more practically) people seem to buy more books when they linger, and coffee and snacks help with that.

. . . .

MG: The common belief (outside the publishing world) is that indie bookstores nationwide are dying, and yet more than 40 opened in 2017. Why do you think there’s a disconnect between perception and reality? 

CN: It’s human nature to not notice a problem until we’re on the verge of disaster, right? And it’s also human nature to extrapolate any signs of progress into victory. The truth is that indie bookstores have been fighting for survival for years—decades, even—as big-chain bookstores and then online book sales started to edge them out. It was only when many of the indies had closed that people started to realize what they were missing and tried to reverse the trend. So the growth in indie bookstores is a pretty new bend in the curve.

Maybe a good analogy is putting an animal on the endangered species list: when its population starts to rise again, it’s great, but it doesn’t mean you stop all your conservation efforts. There’s still a long way to go. It’s fantastic that more communities are recognizing the value of independent bookstores, and that more people are opening stores across the country. But as any bookseller will tell you, it’s hard work and the margins are pretty thin. A more telling figure might be how many of those new stores are still open in five, ten, fifteen years—and that really depends on whether customers support them.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG wonders what proportion of the population of the United States lives within 20 minutes of an independent bookstore. What might be the answer to that question if it were modified to read “a good independent bookstore?”

PG loves Powell’s Books. If he lived close by, he would visit Powell’s every few weeks or months. He even has a Powell’s t-shirt somewhere in his closet. He enjoyed his one visit to Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle several years ago and The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, also several years ago.

However, PG can’t remember the last time he purchased a physical book in a physical bookstore that wasn’t a gift for a child. Perhaps this says more about PG’s memory than he would like to admit, but the simple fact is that, as a product category, there are few product categories that lend themselves to ecommerce better than books do. Ebooks are self-explanatory, but physical books are generally of a predictable size and very tough to damage once they’re in a box.

He’s mentioned this subject before, but thinks it bears repeating – most independent bookstores are places where most of the staff earns minimum wage or its local economic equivalent. The people you interact with in an independent bookstore are probably living at poverty levels by local standards, in the bottom 10-20% of wage-earners. Managers will adjust schedules so most, if not all, bookstore employees are classified as part-time, so the store is not obligated to provide fringe benefits like health insurance, sick leave or paid vacations.

If you felt guilty several years ago about buying grapes that were picked by poverty-stricken migrant workers, you might think about whether the bookstore employees at the independent bookstores are being similarly exploited.

For Barnes & Noble employees, there is a possible path to promotion and a higher salary.

Burger flipping at McDonalds is the archetypal dead-end job, at least in the US. However, most McDonalds store managers started out flipping hamburgers and the average McDonald’s store manager can expect to make over $45,000 per year. How likely are employees at an independent bookstore to have an opportunity for that kind of upward mobility?

A lot of people who make more money than independent bookstore owners and employees have a big stake in the survival of those stores, however. When Barnes & Noble finally goes bankrupt, traditional publishers large and small will rely on independent bookstores and their rickety financial foundations for their financial future.

The only alternative will be competing with aggressively priced indie books on the dreaded Zon.


Waterstones bookshop chain sold to Elliott Advisors

26 April 2018

From the BBC:

Book chain Waterstones has been bought by activist investment firm Elliott Advisors for an undisclosed amount.

James Daunt, the chain’s chief executive since 2011, will remain in the post under the new ownership, along with his key management team.

Mr Daunt said the sale should mean the chain could grow a lot faster.

Waterstones has 283 bookshops and 3,000 staff in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, and sales of more than £400m a year.

Lynwood Investments, which has been the controlling shareholder in Waterstones since 2011, will keep a minority stake.

. . . .

Mr Daunt told the BBC that Elliott was buying Waterstones as an investment which would grow, not in order to force through change.

He said he expected Elliott to “see us grow and ultimately sell us for a nice profit – that’s what private equity people do”.

Link to the rest at BBC

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Independents: Who’s Disrupting Whom?

19 April 2018

From Forbes blogs:

No doubt big-box stores in any industry are disrupters. Walmart, Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco and many others have disrupted the retail industry as we knew it. At one point, when Walmart stores would come into small towns, retail experts would conduct workshops for local competitors on how to stay in business alongside stores that focused on low prices and large selections.

The same thing happened in the book industry. Arthur Hinds & Company was founded in 1886 in New York City, and recent Harvard grad Gilbert Clifford Noble got a job there as a clerk. By 1894, Noble became a partner and the new store was called Hinds & Noble. In 1917, Noble bought out Hinds and formed a partnership with William Barnes, and the name of the business was changed to Barnes & Noble. At its peak in 2008, Barnes & Noble had 726 stores, as well as a chain of 674 college bookstores. In April 2017, a corporate report said the number of stores was at 632.

. . . .

But even with Amazon and Barnes & Noble gobbling up most of the market share, some independent bookstores have been able to survive, or even thrive, in the competitively-priced landscape of the industry by offering not only the latest books, but also hard-to-find older books, many of them used. Local authors play an important role in the success of independent bookstores. Now, some indie bookstores, such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, are as big, if not bigger, than some Barnes & Nobles, while others like Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, have a smaller footprint.

. . . .

[A] recent RetailWire article reported that Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is struggling to compete against some of the independent, Mom-and-Pop stores. I’m not sure that’s accurate.

. . . .

Was the recent shift to online retail in the book industry a surprise to Barnes & Noble? No, it figured out years ago that the retail landscape was changing. It recognized that its own Goliath was Amazon.

. . . .

While the headline in RetailWire said that Barnes & Noble was losing out to Mom-and-Pop retailers, I’m not sure I’m in agreement. Yes, the independents are doing well, but the entire retail book industry is evolving. The smaller stores that have survived and thrived are seeing the retail landscape favor them a bit.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Contra to the OP, PG suggests that Barnes & Noble did not understand that Amazon was a serious, even deadly, competitor until way, way too late to do anything about it.

BN’s online efforts were ridiculously bad, but it was a serious error in judgment not to move online far earlier when it would have been easier to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon.

Barnes & Noble also made a classic error in declining to be price-competitive with Amazon. Online, books are fungible commodities – the same no matter where you buy them – and Barnes & Noble never did anything effective to persuade readers it was a better place to shop than Amazon was.

PG also believes that Amazon’s early and continuing embrace of self-published books was and is a huge competitive advantage over Barnes & Noble and everybody else. With Amazon’s incentives to sell indie ebooks on an exclusive basis, it had an inventory advantage that no one else could match.

PG hasn’t seen any serious acknowledgment from traditional news and publishing sources that indie ebooks are one of Amazon’s most important competitive advantages over other online retailers. PG suggests it’s similar to a blind spot on the part of the same people with respect to the importance and value of romance titles.

The blindness to the advantage Amazon’s own publishing imprints gives the company is also inadequately acknowledged by the traditional industry and its hangers-on.

PG just checked and five of Amazon’s top ten fiction bestsellers (print plus ebook) were from Amazon’s house publishers.



A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores

14 April 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

. . . .

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said.

With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The Disappearing Bookstore in the Digital Age

8 April 2018

From Grok Nation:

Movie World is a bookstore in downtown Burbank. Its interiors are lined with thousands of paperbacks, glorious oversized movie posters, and random ephemera, like Modern Mechanix back issues from the 1940’s with captivating cover art depicting “gee-whiz” gadgetry. There’s little rhyme or reason to each section, and if you dig around long enough, you will find something you never knew you always wanted. But after being around for fifty years, the shop is closing its doors forever.

. . . .

This isn’t the first bookshop in Los Angeles to recently close or announce closure. Just in January, the Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica quietly shut its doors for good. And the ever beloved Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, a haven for comic book fans and creatives for the past 25 years, sailed into the sunset on March 30th. In the past few years a plethora of book stores around LA and the Valley, too many to list, silently died.

This is alarming, since these institutions are special spaces, capable of enriching lives and igniting imaginations. Bookstores, libraries, and even comic book shops have served as places of entertainment, education and refuge.

Bookshops transformed my life. When I was in Kindergarten, I had a poor reading and comprehension level.  My father wasn’t happy. And at night, he’d force me to stay up and read chapters out of my English text book until I passed out. In the third grade, I remember him getting so upset about bad marks that he tore up my comics. It wasn’t until I discovered R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, (corny, I know) at the local Waldens, a now-defunct company, that I began to enjoy reading. Something clicked: I stopped seeing words, and saw actual images when I read. I began to imagine, because I picked up the right book. That changed everything.

In the fifth grade I was kicked out of the reading aid program after the teacher caught me tearing through a Michael Crichton novel. By freshman year of high school, I’d gotten my first “real” job at the local library as a shelver.

. . . .

Today, I’m a bibliophile; I’m obsessed with reading and collecting books. I have this odd habit: although I already have shelves full of books that I haven’t even opened, I keep buying more hardcover books. The Japanese have a term for this, “Tsundoku.” No, it does not translate to “hoarder.” According to Wikipedia, it means to acquire reading materials and letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. I’m not sure why I keep buying. I think it has to do with never having an excuse to be bored, because I have more than I could ever possibly read. Or maybe, I just like having countless make-believe escape pods.  Perhaps I keep loading up on books, because I’m paranoid about running out of places to find them.

Link to the rest at Grok Nation

Bye Bye, Geoffrey

4 April 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

“Have you heard that Toys R Us is closing?  You must be so glad!” is the greeting from dozens of customers over the last few weeks.  “Yes, I heard that,” I reply.  “Did you guys come in to visit me today—or is there something I can wrap for you?  I am unpacking new books… would you like to see?”

“So how’s business?  Are you guys OK?” is usually the follow-up query, delivered either sotto voce with a sympathetic look from a parent, or in the appraising raised eyebrow glance of the grandparent—that look that causes you to check your shirt for dribbles of donut frosting and a stray sprinkle or two. “We’re just great—how are YOU guys?  Wow, the kids get bigger every time I see them—my goodness, you’ll be taller than me in a week or so! Did you get an April calendar of activities? There’s a great author event tomorrow!”

And so we smile and tap dance and book talk and gift wrap and dazzle them with service, avoiding the hundredth or so conversation about another chain closing, another retail demise, another conversation about how “everyone buys online, now, you know.”

I’m not sad to lose a competitor, but TRU was never that. They are a chain that sells children’s products, as we do, but oh, the myriad of things they sell is hardly comparable to my little neighborhood shop.

. . . .

The ability of manufacturers to sell online immediately, without using TRU as a testing laboratory for new product lines, was also a factor. But retail, as we know, has fundamentally changed, while many retailers haven’t. Customers can buy almost anything cheaper, faster, and with less effort than a visit to the store that serves only one purpose. Multiply that truth tenfold if you factor in the effort of buckling a child or two into a car seat for the errand. And so, the allure of Geoffrey fades, as will the “everything must go” signs taped to the windows.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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