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

Amazon’s dominance ‘damages’ progress

27 March 2015

From The Bookseller:

Amazon’s position in the market is damaging progress in the book trade, according to the president of the Booksellers Association, Tim Walker.

Speaking on a panel about publishing and technology at the Nielsen BookInsights conference yesterday (25th March), Walker said that Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market was having a negative impact on bookselling.

“I do a have a concern that Amazon’s dominance is causing problems”, he said. “We estimate Kindle has a 95% market share of e-book sales in the UK and this is having a damaging effect… Consider the struggles of Barnes & Noble and the Nook platform, the problems of the established Txtr in Germany, and the decision here of Tesco to pull out of Blinkbox Books.”

Walker also spoke of concerns about free library e-lending, which he said “has to be done right, or it will do harm to the book trade”.

However, he said that publishing on the whole “embraced” new technology. “I think publishing can come in for quite a bit of stick but we’ve done a lot to embrace technology.”

. . . .

Gavin McLauchlan, consultant at Nielsen Media Services said publishers did not put enough money into advertising. “Only 0.67% of book revenue is put back into advertising,” he said. “It is very low, even compared with the fast moving consumer goods category.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Online book shopping overtakes in-store for first time

26 March 2015

From The Bookseller:

Print book sales showed “continuing resilience” in 2014, with overall spending on print and digital titles increasing across the year. Meanwhile, online book buying overtook in-store book buying for the first time last year.

In 2014, sales of print and e-books stood at £2.2bn, up 4% from the previous year. The data was revealed today (25th March) at Nielsen Book’s annual conference, BookInsights.

Overall, e-books accounted for 30% of book units purchased in 2014, with the fastest growth coming in non-fiction and children’s categories. However, digital migration in those categories still remains limited, while there were signs that migration in categories such as romance and fantasy was slowing. Altogether 56% of the 36,000 book buyers in Nielsen Books & Consumers UK Survey owned a tablet by the end of 2014, up from 41% in the previous year, with 25% owning an e-reader.

. . . .

2014 also saw online spending on books overtake in-store spending on books for the first time. However, bookshops actually gained share in the print market, and remain ahead of online sales for children’s books, impulse buys and the gift market.

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

A Bookstore has Value

23 March 2015

From the Letters to the Editor of The New Milford Spectrum:

To the Editor:

. . . .

In case you don’t know, Vanessa and I bought the Book Nook last year. We celebrated our one-year anniversary Feb. 21.

When we bought the store, we had no experience in retail and our only background with books was the time we spent buying them.

Despite the lack of experience, we saw it as a labor of love, not profit. We only hoped to break even.

For us, it was an opportunity to engage in a business that feeds the soul. After a year of ups and downs, plenty of sweat but no tears or blood, we still feel that way.

. . . .

[Before purchasing our store] I gave no further thought to [having ordered a book from Amazon after the bookstore didn’t have it] until I saw the store was closing. I understand now what I failed to then; the difference between value and price. A book has a price; a bookstore has value.

We sell more than books at the Book Nook. We provide a place to browse, pick them up, get a feel for them; we provide a place to talk about books, make suggestions, research what you may like; we are a welcoming light after dinner or as you come blinking out of the movie theater.

If we simply sold books, we could never compete with Amazon. We provide a place in our town and in our world for you, our readers and customers.

. . . .

And when we don’t have the book you want, think about letting us order it for you. We can’t match Amazon, but if you’ve stepped foot in our store, we’ve already provided something that Amazon cannot.

David and Vanessa Gronbach

Bank Street Book Nook

New Milford

Link to the rest at New Milford Spectrum

The man who transformed bookshop chain Foyles

16 March 2015

From the BBC:

It used to be rather difficult to actually buy a book at one of the UK’s oldest and best-known bookshops – Foyles.

Run by the indomitable Christina Foyle for 54 years until her death in 1999, she had an eccentric way of doing things.

Firstly, books were not ordered alphabetically at Foyles’ vast, but ramshackle store on London’s Charing Cross Road. Instead they were grouped together by publisher.

If you eventually found what you were looking for on its 30 miles of shelving, then your problems were far from over. Because instead of simply going to pay at a till, you were required to queue three times.

To begin with, you had to collect a paper invoice for the book in question, which you were required to take to a different part of the shop to pay. Then you had to go somewhere else in the building to finally be given the book.

And the staff were often not particularly happy, no doubt due to Ms Foyle’s rule of sacking everyone after they had been there for one year.

. . . .

When she died, control passed to her nephew Christopher Foyle, a grandson of one of the two founders.

He immediately started to modernise the business, but, with the company continuing to make a loss, in 2007 he decided to bring in the firm’s first boss from outside the family.

The person he appointed as the new chief executive was an accountant-turned-business leader called Sam Husain.

. . . .

Now 67, Mr Husain immediately realised that with Foyles he was going to have “his hands full”.

Although Mr Foyle had ended the need to queue three times, and started to order the books alphabetically, many other aspects of the business needed to be fixed and modernised.

One problem was the thousands of old books clogging up the shelves. Nobody ever bought them so Mr Husain says he made the “brutal” decision to simply bin them.

“We cleared out £1m of stock,” he says. “And when you realise that the average price of a book is about £7, that is a lot of books.

Link to the rest at the BBC and thanks to Brendan for the tip.

Barnes & Noble to Close Fewer Stores Than Forecast

11 March 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Barnes & Noble Inc. showed hints of progress in its turnaround efforts in the fiscal quarter ended Jan. 31, and even said it would close fewer stores this fiscal year than previously forecast.

But the bookseller’s shares tumbled 10% in Tuesday trading as earnings came in below Wall Street’s forecasts.

Net income grew 14% to $72.2 million, or 93 cents per share, up from $63.2 million, or 86 cents per share, in the year-earlier quarter.

. . . .

At the Nook segment, which includes devices, e-books and accessories, revenue dropped 51% to $78 million, while digital content sales declined 29% to $41 million.

. . . .

To attract more holiday shoppers, Barnes & Noble added such products as craft beer kits and portable turntables together with a wide selection of signed books.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)


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