Bookselling in the 21st Century: “Why Even Shop Local?”

21 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

We had screwed up the customer’s special order. Or charged her twice for the same book. Or maybe we had forgotten to ask if she was part of our customer loyalty program before the sale and had needed to redo the transaction. It was our fault, we screwed up, all booksellers have been there. Anyone who has ever worked retail, or in any service industry job, has been there. The protocol is near-reflex, at this point: you apologize, thank the customer so much for their patience, maybe give them ten to twenty percent off their purchase, and wish them a great rest of their day. Once, at the end of such an interaction, which had taken a serious turn for the worse my former boss (also my Dad, who probably doesn’t recall this, and will be embarrassed to be reminded that he ever said such a thing) joked to the customer: “Why even shop local?”

This joke is the opposite of that other punch-line you hear in independent bookstores—“You don’t get this kind of customer service online”—but they are based on the same premise. People go to their local bookstores for that “personal” touch. While other folks (let’s keep them abstract and cold for now) sell you online services which require no human interaction whatsoever, such as zero-click burrito ordering, booksellers across the world open their doors, play their eclectic music, and try to help you find a good book. But, as the very product we sell teaches us, humans are awful and not to be trusted. That’s why I love independent bookstores: our strongest talent is also our biggest weakness.

. . . .

An algorithm does not take the joke too far; a search engine won’t judge your taste. Of course we should continue to call out the online behemoths about the biases of their algorithms, the treatment of their employees, or how they can screw up your order and put you on hold for an hour. But these transgressions aren’t scalable, to use the lingo of corporate America—the stressful and awful rule of retail is that a person will tell twice as many people about a bad experience as a good one. Each customer interaction holds exponentially more weight for us than it does for Amazon.

. . . .

The fear of torches might be a little much, for now, but it points to a reality that I think every bookseller knows and will admit: our position is a precarious one. Our existence depends on the theory that people will continue to come back and hear our (usually wrong, and always subjective) thoughts on books, art, and sometimes even life.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Booksellers Wonder if Booze Will Save Them

20 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

At a Digital Book World panel called “Will Bars Save Bookstores?”, panelists, among them, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, bookseller Jessica Bagnulo and IPG CEO Joe Matthew, cracked jokes (“retailers turn to drink”) but used the opportunity to examine a wave of new strategies behind a resurgent independent bookselling sector.

Teicher called the booze in bookstores theme, “a euphemism for all things smart entrepreneurial spaces are doing to attract consumers.” And it’s not just beverages, Teicher said. Bookstores, he said, are running summer camps, offering dance classes, hosting travel events, “hundreds of innovative things that are helping stores thrive in a very competitive environment.”

. . . .

 In an environment where e-books, online retailing and less time for reading is challenging business of physical bookstores, Matthews said, “we need experimentation. This is an effort to drive traffic and keep consumers in the store. You can’t download a cocktail.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Why are print sales up? Data Guy gives his reason—and it isn’t adult coloring books

18 January 2017

From TeleRead:

Perhaps the reason print book sales are on the rise has nothing to do with coloring books, digital fatigue, the “ebook fad” or book store appeal. Data Guy has offered a different reason based on the data he has scraped for Author Earnings.

To start, independent book store sales are up 5 percent from 2015, but the rest of the brick and mortar stores are down 5 percent, on average. However, the industry is up 15 percent as a whole with the difference coming from Amazon.

Data Guy states that the real reason print sales are up is because a change in how Amazon priced its titles. In 2015, discounts on ebooks for large traditional publishers was eliminated. In turn, Amazon discounted the prices of print books in mid-2015 – and that’s where we see the change in print sales.

To break down the data even further, when Amazon discounted sales in some of the spring and summers months, sale units on print books were up 7 percent. However, when it scaled back its discounts just a few short months later, the overall percentage of unit sales also dropped and at the end of the year, the industry saw an increase of just 3.3 percent from a year before.

Data Guy surmises that the question really shouldn’t be about print vs. digital. People want to read, and they are going to do it in ways that are easiest and convenient for them. This bigger question is brick and mortar vs. online sales. Online sales are ever increasing with Amazon taking the bulk of the sales.

Because we are currently seeing online sales wallop brick and mortar unit sales, he said about two-third of traditionally published adult books are bought online.

Link to the rest at TeleRead and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Don’t shop at Amazon’s new Chicago store

18 January 2017

From The Chicago Tribune:

I have a favor to ask: When Amazon opens its retail store in the Southport Corridor area of Lakeview later this year, please do not shop there.

It will be tempting, because the store will seem shiny and the merchandise will interact with your smartphone, informing you of prices and additional recommendations. You will be offered discounts on Echo, Amazon’s home “digital assistant”; Prime memberships; and access to streaming content.

And the books will be less expensive than at your local independent store.

But those few dollars saved will come at the expense of something more important: our community, our values.

Amazon is not evil, but it is a corporation, and corporations do what corporations do — whatever it takes to maximize profits and shareholder value. In the case of Amazon, in the past, that’s meant subjecting warehouse workers to inhuman conditions and their corporate employees to a kind of white-collar Hunger Games.

. . . .

Beyond the privacy issues, Amazon is unconcerned with quality of life in local communities. We have seen entire towns crash on the shoals after giving in to the siren song of Wal-Mart’s low, low prices.

Wal-Mart moves in, bringing not just those low prices but low-paying  jobs too. Unable to compete, the existing local businesses fail, putting communities into a death spiral, until so many people leave that Wal-Mart also pulls up the stakes.

Instant ghost town.

Obviously, Chicago isn’t going to become a ghost town, but we should be very aware of the cultural and community riches we have in our many independent book stores.

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

This was a very tempting article, but PG will limit himself to only a couple of observations.

Amazon is a “corporation”.


If the community bookstores the author of the OP is trying to preserve are consulting competent attorneys and accountants, they are probably doing business as corporations or limited liability companies. One good way to preserve a community bookstore is to protect the owners from random spurious lawsuits.

Entire towns “crash” because of Walmart’s low-paying jobs.

When a new small-town Walmart is nearing completion, it starts hiring staff for the store. The line of job applicants is always very long and includes a great many employees of local retailers.


After the store is finished, Walmart employees will be the best-paid retail employees in town. With much better benefits than small town retailers provide. And a career path that includes wage increases and the possibility of promotions within the local Walmart or in other Walmart stores nearby.

Working at a small-town Walmart can be a career. Working at a local small-town retailer is a dead end.


November Bookstore Sales Rose 1.5%

15 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Bookstore sales inched up 1.5% in November over November 2015, according to preliminary estimates released Friday morning by the U.S. Census Bureau. November’s sales were $805 million, up from $793 million a year ago.

. . . .

For the first 11 months of 2016, bookstore sales were $10.58 billion, an increase of 3.4% over the same period in 2015.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Barnes & Noble in North Brunswick closes

14 January 2017

From My Central Jersey:

Township officials say business prospects are good for the township’s Route 1 corridor, despite the closing of the Barnes & Noble store at the end of last year.

“We had several discussions with the property owner in an attempt to arrange acceptable terms for a lease extension, but unfortunately we could not reach agreement,” according to a statement from David Deason, vice president of development at Barnes & Noble. “We enjoyed serving our customers there.”

. . . .

The store, which opened in November 1999, was in the North Village Shopping Center that is home to such other businesses as Bed Bath & Beyond, Michaels and Staples.

“We were certainly disappointed but not entirely surprised given Barnes and Noble’s challenges with its retail business,” said Michael C. Hritz, director of the township’s Department of Community Development.

Link to the rest at My Central Jersey

Barnes & Noble pulls Nook Tablet 7-inch from sale due to faulty charger

14 January 2017

From ZDNet:

Barnes & Noble released its latest Nook tablet, the Nook Tablet 7-inch, on Black Friday in its latest attempt to battle the success of Amazon’s popular Fire tablets. With a low price of just $50, the new Nook was supposed to compete with the dirt-cheap Fire 6, but B&N’s slate has been riddled with issues from the start.

Shortly after its launch, the Nook was found to be loaded with ADUPS firmware that could allow hackers to spy on the device’s user, presumably thanks to the Chinese manufacturer B&N used to produce it (a cost-cutting break from its partnership with Samsung and its Galaxy brand of tablets). The bookseller claims by launch it had updated the Nook to a version that did not track user data and was working on removing it from the device altogether, but it was hardly an auspicious beginning for the tablet.

Then more recently a poster on Reddit claimed to be a Barnes & Noble retail employee and claimed that the new Nook had been recalled from stores. The company’s website has also been updated to reflect that the Nook Tablet 7-inch is now “not available.”

While speculation was that B&N was unable to rid the Nook of the ADUPS spyware satisfactorily, the company told the Android Police website that it pulled the tablet from sale for an unrelated reason. It claims that three incidents of the casing of the Nook’s charging adapter breaking led to the halting of retail sales. No injuries were reported, but Barnes & Noble says that existing owners can charge the Nook via a computer instead and that the company is sourcing a replacement AC adapter.

Link to the rest at ZDNet

Seattle’s New Favorite Place to Drink: In the Bookstore

12 January 2017

From The Stranger:

New bars spring up in Seattle like weeds in sidewalk cracks: anywhere, everywhere, and in droves. Recently, though, there’s a new trend where people can find their favorite beverage in a place that speaks directly to the need for coziness, companionship, and intellectual fodder through the dark and damp Seattle winter: bars in bookstores.

For a place that consistently tops both “most literate city” and “best beer town” lists, the combination makes sense—it coddles the introvert nature of locals while allowing an opportunity to get out into the world. “The whole point is to build community,” says Danielle Hulton, co-owner of Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe, which recently added a cocktail bar and event space called the Lab. “Having food and drink helps.”

In a similar spirit, Third Place Books has devoted the basement and part of the main floor of its new Seward Park location, which opened in May 2016, to Raconteur, an all-day bar and restaurant by the folks from Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. The concept is meant to appeal to a wide swath of customers. In the upstairs bookshop, there’s a coffee bar and a restaurant serving fried-chicken sandwiches and halibut tacos. A staircase leads down to the bar, where you can wash down the house-made pretzels (served with beer-cheese fondue) or drive-in burger (served in a burger bag) with beers from one of their 20 beer taps (plus six wine taps), including local options like the custom-brewed Raconteur Rye by Counterbalance Brewing Company, Machine House Brewery’s Golden Ale, and Georgetown Brewing Company’s award-winning Bodhizafa IPA.

. . . .

The Lab is everything you’d imagine a bar in a store that stocks science and engineering books to be: a Marie Curie–inspired room that boasts a sleek chandelier made of test tubes and a nook wallpapered with old textbook pages. While the cafe at Ada’s serves beer and wine, cocktails are available only in the Lab, which doesn’t keep regular hours.

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

University Book Store Closing Bellevue, Wash., Location

12 January 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

University Book Store, Inc.–the for-profit corporate trust that benefits University of Washington students, faculty and staff and has seven stores in the Seattle, Wash., area–is closing its 30-year-old store in downtown Bellevue on February 15.

University Book Store CEO Louise Little said that “while we have enjoyed success over those 30 years, the retail environment has changed significantly. We believe our business, and the Trust which governs our operations, will be better served by leasing the space that our store currently occupies to another retail tenant.”

The University Book Store owns the building its Bellevue store is located in; tenants include Y’ves Delorme, Zeeks Pizza, Nancy Wallace Pilates and Salon 990.

Little noted that Bellevue, an upscale city across Lake Washington from Seattle, is going through “a huge growth spurt,” with lots of development, making commercial properties more valuable. University Book Store looked at the economics of operating its own business in its 19,000-square-foot space, 1,000 of which is leased to a cafe, compared to leasing that space to another business, and found, Little said, that “it was far and away much more profitable to lease that space rather than operate our own store.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

City of Asylum bookstore opens Saturday

11 January 2017

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

When City of Asylum opens its distinctive new bookstore on Saturday, visitors to the North Side will be able to browse a carefully curated selection of 8,000 volumes by authors from all over the world in a renovated Masonic hall now called Alphabet City.

For a dozen years, the nonprofit City of Asylum has offered refuge to writers in exile. Now, the diverse work of those authors will receive prime display.

The writers’ voices will be heard in Alphabet City, too, because the building’s first floor has a state-of-the-art broadcast studio next to the bookstore. The rest of the 9,000-square-foot space will house a wine and cheese restaurant, Casellula @ Alphabet City, which is expected to open Jan. 28.

. . . .

For Lesley Rains, opening the bookstore at 40 West North Ave. marks a milestone in her career as a bookseller.

“Five years ago, I was carting books around in my car,” said the 36-year-old woman.

Ms. Rains is pleased to be managing a bookstore with such a distinctive list of literary titles. Back in 2011, she sold books from pop-up displays at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District and Assemble, a hands-on creative space in Garfield. To acquire inventory, she visited prime hunting grounds such as yard and church sales.

Link to the rest at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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