Eleven SF bookstores get cash assistance from city

17 October 2018

From Mission Local:

Nearly a dozen local bookstores received a special gift from the city on Tuesday morning — $103,000 in total grant money to help them through a time when books can be delivered to one’s door at the click of a mouse.

And that’s exactly why the funding is so important, says Joaquin Torres, the director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “There’s nothing online that can recreate the experience of walking into a bookstore — the art you see on the walls, the performances that take place, the cultural conversations,” he said.

. . . .

The money is part of the Bookstore SF Program, a pet project of the late Mayor Ed Lee, aimed at funding bookstore “revitalizations” that emphasize their roles as social hubs rather than simply places to purchase reading material.

. . . .

According to OEWD, there are 57 independent bookstores in San Francisco that together generate more than $9.8 million in sales, create and retain more than 100 jobs, host more than 40 free community events each month, and have been in business for an average of 21 years.

. . . .

Smith told the small crowd that he was considering closing his store in January. But, in the end, he decided to stick it out, and did so with the help of this loyal customers. Smith, in fact, started a Patron drive and apparently received enough to keep him going. For him, the city grant only added to his customer support.

“Some of my customers have been with me for the entire nine years (I’ve been in business),” he said. “That sort of loyalty and interest in reading on a regular basis is really powerful.”

. . . .

Razo had other exciting news: that Dog Eared would be opening yet another location — albeit a very small one — within the new social-justice-oriented cafe, Manny’s, soon opening at 16th and Valencia.

Speaking about the grant money, Razo, who has been running bookstores in San Francisco since the ‘80s, said: “I never thought I’d see the day where the city says, “‘Hey, here’s a check.’”

Link to the rest at Mission Local and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG did a little math (actually, his Excel spreadsheet did the math, but PG punched in the numbers) and determined that if, per the OP, 57 San Francisco bookstores generate $9.8 million in sales (PG presumes annually), the annual sales of a single bookstore average  $171,929.82 per year.

Due to massive tech-driven gentrification, San Francisco has become one of the highest living costs of any metro area in the world. According to Smart Asset, average monthly rent on a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $4,650 (to save you the math, that’s $55,800 per year). In Q1 of 2018, the median San Francisco home price is $1.61 million (it’s doubled in the last five years). San Francisco’s healthcare costs are about 20% higher than the US average. Grocery prices are about 50% higher than the US average, etc., etc., etc.

Generally, bookstores need a gross margin of 40% to be profitable (the bookstore acquires a book for $12 and sells it for $20). A 40% gross margin on sales of  $171,929.82 (the average annual sales of the 57 bookstores described above) is  $68,771.93. That’s before rent, utilities, salaries, etc.

In 2016, the median household income in California as a whole is $67,739. The median household income in San Francisco is $84,160.

It sound to PG that the independent bookstores are marginal businesses these days and their employees are working at the ultimate dead-end job that leaves them impoverished and likely dependent upon government assistance. And the Bookstore SF program is designed to allow them to continue in an economically unstable state for a few months or years more.

Confusion Pops Up, in a Pop-Up Bookstore

15 October 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

It’s funny what can happen when you throw around industry jargon assuming everyone is familiar with only to find that they are not, in fact, familiar. I’ve written here before about trying to phase out my usage of the terms “middle grade” and “young adult” in store signage and handselling. These phrases tend to be heard as “middle school” and “young adult” (as opposed to 12 years old and up) by anyone not in the book business. And what’s the point of holding on to a phrase that doesn’t communicate what we intend it to?

. . . .

I’ve been running an after-school pop-up [bookstore in an ice-cream shop] which has, so far, been met with frequent delight and only occasional confusion. One of these occasions involved a very sweet elderly lady who came up to me as I was setting up for the afternoon. Setting up involves moving a fairly hefty sales counter — on wheels, thankfully —180 degrees so that the open side with shelves of books is on display to the room. As I was slowly spinning the purple behemoth that is Spellbound’s pop-up bookshop, this exchange happened.

Sweet Elderly Lady: I just have to ask. What is this?

Me: A pop-up bookshop!

SEL: A puppet shop?

Me: No, a pop-up book shop [gesturing at books now that they’re visible].

SEL: So you do puppet shows about the books?

Me: No, “pop-up,” not “puppet.”

SEL: Oh… so these are all pop-up books?

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here’s Why the Worst Is Yet to Come for Barnes & Noble

13 October 2018

From The Motley Fool:

Barnes & Noble . . .  has been a slowly sinking ship for many years. You can blame some of that on Amazon and some on the chain’s own incompetence.

The bookseller botched its digital strategy by waiting too long to have one. Now, the company’s NOOK line of digital readers barely exists, and there’s no chance of winning back that market.

What’s more troubling is that there’s a clear blueprint for struggling retailers to follow since the rise of Amazon and the internet. Barnes & Noble added a piece of that when it built out its cafes, but it basically stopped there.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble is not the only retailer threatened by Amazon. Best Buy found itself in a similar position roughly six years ago when Hubert Joly became CEO. The electronics retailer had essentially become a showroom for Amazon — a place consumers went to look at items before buying them at a cheaper price from the online retailer.

Joly instituted price-matching, but that was only one small piece of his efforts. He also transformed Best Buy to give consumers a reason to come to its stores.

That included building out store-within-a-store concepts from a variety of technology leaders. The Best Buy turnaround also involved adding omnichannel capabilities, and more services through Geek Squad.

Consumers have a reason to go to Best Buy now. They know they’re getting a fair deal, and they can see dedicated areas for Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and others (in many cases, their cable, internet, or phone providers). Basically, instead of just being a warehouse for electronics, Best Buy became a destination with lots of things to do and reasons for consumers to come out.

. . . .

Books no longer make Barnes & Noble a destination. Consumers can browse books on their Kindles, tablets, and phones. They can also browse the shelves of a bookstore and then order the book from Amazon at a lower price.

To make its stores relevant, the chain needs more than merchandise. It put a toe into that water by adding toys, but it failed to use the category to become a destination.

. . . .

The company has been operating cautiously — as if somehow Amazon had not taken its market, or as if the right display of books might bring people back. That’s not going to happen.

Link to the rest at The Motley Fool

The Indie Author–Indie Bookseller Relationship Warms Up

6 October 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

Independent booksellers often talk about their tight bonds with their local communities, and, increasingly, one of the many ways in which they are engaging with those communities is by stocking self-published titles by local writers. For years, the libertarian and frequently contrarian nature of independent authors was at odds with the requirements of bricks-and-mortar indies; self-published authors were empowered by the emergence of online retailers that produced, published, and sold their works, and they didn’t consider how those books would be sold in physical stores. But the relationship between indie authors and indie bookstores has evolved, and numerous booksellers are willing to stock self-published titles—albeit within certain limitations. PW surveyed the members of BXsellers, our Facebook group for booksellers, to find out what criteria they apply to handling self-published work.

Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, co-owner of Greenlight Bookstore, which has two locations in Brooklyn, said she limits the selection of self-published books each store carries to authors who live nearby. “We do have certain requirements—the book must have the name on the spine, for example—and we have a six-month consignment policy, but we consider it a community service,” she wrote. “And some do end up taking off!”

. . . .

Megan Andrews Blackshear, co-owner of Bookbound in Ann Arbor, Mich., concurred. She sells only books by self-published authors who live in the store’s county and admitted that, though a handful of titles are “awesome” and have become Bookbound favorites, “a majority of these books do not sell a single copy.”

Several booksellers said that they will consider stocking an author once that author has demonstrated that he or she has readers. Victoria Roberts, operations manager at Hugo Bookstores in Massachusetts, wrote, “We consign self-published books but do not order them in unless they have a track record of success. If we sell a lot of your book on consignment, we would consider ordering from Ingram, but only if it is available at a full discount.”

. . . .

Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., noted, “We have started to hold ‘How to Self-Publish Successfully’ educational events for authors. They’ve been very popular. Generally, we will carry a self-published book by a local author if its looks professional on consignment. For authors with a track record, we will buy them outright.”

One word of advice several booksellers shared for self-published authors: do not mention Amazon. Bear Pond’s Benedict wrote, “We do not carry Amazon-published books in our store, even for locals.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

Bookselling is the most over-romanticised job in the world

6 October 2018

From The Guardian:

Readers around the world cooed last month when a Welsh bookseller announced he was giving away his shop to a regular customer. It was a lovely story, but as an ex-bookseller of five years, I could only dwell on the harsh realities this unsuspecting man would inherit: slow days, stocktaking and, unavoidably, a few regular oddballs.

Bookselling has been relentlessly romanticised, most often by Hollywood: in truth, it is further away from You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks’s snazzy shop Fox Books would have been toppled by the internet) and much closer to that moment in Notting Hill when Hugh Grant catches Dylan Moran ferreting away a book in his pants. This actually happened at a bookshop I worked in: a man was caught packing his trousers with true crime and was asked (amazingly politely) to hand them over to a long-suffering colleague (they went promptly back on the shelf).

Even the grimier portrayals like Bernard Black – Moran’s later turn behind the till in UK TV comedy Black Books – are not that accurate. Yes, booksellers do often hate you, probably because you only know that the book has a blue cover. No, we could never say it because, unlike in Bernard’s shop, there is always an overbearing senior manager hovering nearby. Even the Yorkshire Dales “bookseller from hell”, who lived gloriously free from corporate bigwigs reminding him that the customer was always right, quit his shop after outrage over his policy of charging customers 50p to browse.

. . . .

Stray bodily fluids are by no means a unique treat for booksellers – but anyone who has sold books in the last decade must also deal with: never-ending questions about why it is cheaper online; constant jibes about losing your job to Amazon; cavalier parents who treat your children’s department like a creche; older (usually male) customers who only ask you about books to test your (they hope) comparatively measly knowledge; and hundreds of inane queries about bathrooms, loyalty cards and coffee shops, when, really, all you want to talk about is books.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Barnes & Noble Evaluates Possible Sale

3 October 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

Barnes & Noble Inc. said it is considering a sale of the company after receiving expressions of interest from multiple parties, including from the company’s executive chairman, Leonard Riggio.

The struggling bookseller on Wednesday said it would launch a formal review process to evaluate its strategic options. A special committee of the board will lead the review.

Barnes & Noble also said it has adopted a short-term shareholder rights plan, after observing “rapid material accumulations” of its stock by parties it can’t identify. The rights, which will expire in a year, would go into effect if a person or group acquires 20% or more of Barnes & Noble common shares without the board’s approval.

The plan would allow all rights holders to purchase preferred shares that are equivalent to the retailer’s common stock at a 50% discount. This would dilute the outsider’s holdings.

The company said Mr. Riggio, who has a 19.2% stake, will vote his shares in favor of any transaction recommended by the committee.

. . . .

Years of sliding sales and unsuccessful turnaround efforts have taken a heavy toll on Barnes & Noble. Its market capitalization has been sliced by more than two-thirds since 2015 to about $400 million. And there’s no sign of an end to the bleeding. For the full fiscal year that ended April 28, total sales fell 6% to $3.7 billion.

As its traditional retail business suffers, Barnes & Noble has struggled with its online offerings, where revenue fell 14% in the most recent quarter. On Wednesday, during the retailer’s annual shareholder meeting, Mr. Riggio said improving the company’s website was its top priority.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG says this level of visible turmoil at BN has to be a drop in the bucket compared to the internal turmoil in the organization. Anybody who is not flooding the world with résumés is living in an alternate reality.

As has been widely reported, the company has been operating on a $75 $750 million line of credit for several months. It’s difficult for PG to believe that whoever extended the line of credit (PG hasn’t seen the identity of the lender anywhere) has not included some substantial covenants and obligations that a floundering company is liable to violate. If the lender has the ability to pull back the line of credit and BN does something (or fails to do something) that triggers such a pullback, the bookseller might close down in a hurry.

Publishers small and large (and their authors) would likely take a substantial financial hit as well. Recall the mess that Borders left when it suddenly closed its doors a few years ago.

Campaign to Promote Physical Bookstores Launched

1 October 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

A number of industry members have gotten together to form Love Your Bookstore, a campaign aimed to help draw attention to all physical bookstores as the holiday shopping season begins

“Bookstores are amazing and important places for us all culturally, and we know that booksellers help readers discover and share the magic of books,” said Dominique Raccah, publishers CEO of Sourcebooks and a member of the steering committee that created the campaign. “They create communities of readers that make a difference because books change lives. We want to give everyone a way to celebrate their favorite bookstore.”

. . . .

A key element of the initiative is the week-long Love Your Bookstore Challenge. The challenge encourages readers and authors to go into their local bookstore and take a picture of the book they are most excited to gift this holiday season or a book you love or want to receive.

. . . .

“Any grassroots campaign to promote reading and great books in such a positive, spontaneous way is balm for America’s soul during these times,” said Lennertz. “I truly hope this new campaign becomes a new annual tradition!”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The B&N Nook is on its deathbed

27 September 2018

From Good Ereader:

Barnes and Noble has no plans to release a new e-reader this year and the bookseller has moved the entire Nook section to the back of the store in almost 600 locations in the United States. The display areas have been torn down and thrown in the garbage.  The Nook e-reading app for Android and iOS has not been updated since April and I have been told by the engineers that there will likely be no further updates until least 2019.  The Nook Audiobooks app, which is not even promoted last saw an update in February 2018. I suppose it is now safe to say that Barnes and Noble no longer cares about the Nook unit.

Over the course of the past three years B&N has been slashing costs in the Nook division, hoping to make it profitable. The company fired most of their staff and outsourced all firmware and software development to an Indian firm, but they are doing a terrible job. Last year B&N also proclaimed that they are no longer in the technology business and will focus on selling books online and in their retail stores.

A few months ago Barnes and Noble fired Chief of Digital Fred Argir. The bookseller did not publish a press release or mention it during their latest quarterly financial report. He was initially hired by former CEO Ron Boire to gut the Nook division. Under his watch the Nook App Store and Nook Videos was shuttered. The Silicon Valley R&D office for Nook was also closed down and B&N ceased to design their own hardware and just outsourced it to Netronix.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

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