5 Reasons Why Indie Bookstores Are Perfect Models for American Small Businesses

16 April 2014

From Flavorwire:

I don’t recall exactly which sky-is-falling installment of the 2008 economic meltdown was in the news on a day.

. . . .

Fearing the market-inflicted doom, all I could do was go to a reading in a Brooklyn bookstore and drink the free wine there. The plan to get drunk and not think about my future worked until I was about three or four cups in, when I started wondering how the beloved indie bookstore I was standing in expected to survive when pretty much everything else looked like it was going to hell.

Five years later, the bookstore is still going strong, and they’ve even expanded into another neighborhood with a second location. While I’ve watched restaurants, bars, coffee shops, clothing boutiques, grocery stores, and nearly every other type of independent business close their doors as a result of the financial crisis, that indie bookstore, and others, are still going. Not only are they still going, but they’ve outlasted their original biggest threat, chain stores like Borders (closed) and Barnes & Noble (future uncertain), and many are thriving even as Amazon tries to tighten its grip around the publishing industry.

. . . .

There’s no secret recipe, but any young entrepreneur looking to start their own business should consider walking to their local bookstore to see how it gets the following things right:

1. Like snowflakes, no two indie bookstores are alike 

I’ve been to dozens of bookstores all over the country, and the one thing that strikes me is that every single one of them has it own, individual feel.

. . . .

2. The secret ingredient is love

The explanation for #2 is simple: people don’t open bookstores because they think they’re going to strike it rich slinging paperbacks; they do it because they genuinely love it.

. . . .

5. Indie booksellers empower their employees

I’m not saying they offer a career path with fringe benefits and a retirement program, but I’ve known the people behind the registers at some stores for years. In a place like New York City, where new faces come in and out of your life every hour, that says something. It says that the owners push their employees to take pride in their identity as booksellers.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

James Patterson on How to Write an Unputdownable Story

16 April 2014

From Fast Company:

They call it beach reading–the kind of ultra-accessible mass market paperback that nestles inside canvas bags all summer long. (And on airplanes year-round). Considering how addictive James Patterson’s books are known to be, and their inescapable popularity, the wildly prolific author is probably directly responsible for more sunburns than incidents of non-water proof sunscreen.

. . . .

Patterson recently earned the distinction of being the best-selling author since 2001. Just to be clear, one of the author’s books wasn’t merely declared “the #1 bestseller,” a blurb that pops up on front covers regularly. Rather, James Patterson is the top selling author in the worldfor the last 14 years. An estimated one out of every 17 hardcover novels purchased in the United States is his, dwarfing the sales of both Harry Potter and the sparklyTwilight vampires.

. . . .

I think what hooks people into my stories is the pace. I try to leave out the parts people skip. I used to live across the street from Alexander Haig, and if I told you a story that I went out to get the paper and Haig was laying in the driveway, and then I went on for 20 minutes describing the architecture on the street and the way the palm trees were, you’d feel like “Stop with the description–what’s going on with Haig?” I tend to write stories the way you’d tell them. I think it’d be tragic if everybody wrote that way. But that’s my style. I read books by a lot of great writers. I think I’m an okay writer, but a very good storyteller.

. . . .

I’m a big fan of these two novels Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge by Evan S. Connell Jr. They’re both very eloquent, but they have short chapters. And then Jerzy Kosiński wrote a few books like The Painted Bird and Steps that have very short chapters and I just love that style. It’s a style I evolved to. It was actually on (his 1989 novel) Midnight Club. After I read the first 100 pages, I was planning to flesh them out more, but then I thought, “I kind of like this.” It’s that more colloquial style of storytelling where things really just move along. That became my style.

. . . .

People want to be glued to the page. They want suspense, and suspense to me is always about questions that you must have answered. I try to pretend that there’s somebody across from me and I’m telling them a story and I don’t want them to get up until I’m finished. John Grisham always plants a really powerful hook early, that question that makes you want to know what the hell is gonna happen to this guy or this woman. But part of it is, who are you talking to? What have you got for them?

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Norway pursues possible publisher cartel favoring own book chains

16 April 2014

From TeleRead:

After the reports of Amazon entering the Swedish market amid possible restricted competition, now Scandinavian neighbor Norway has reportedly seen a crackdown on anti-competitive practices in the local book trade. According to the Norwegian press reports, the Norwegian Competition Authority (Konkurransetilsynet) has raided the offices of the country’s big four publishing houses – Aschehoug, Cappelen, Gyldendal, and Schibsted – to investigate a possible cartel designed to restrict book supply to supermarkets and other outlets in favor of the publishers’ own-branded book chains.

Norway has a highly restricted publishing and book market that might facilitate such abuse. As per research in Regionalism and the Reading Class, by Wendy Griswold, the Norwegian state buys 1000 copies of every book published by a Norwegian publisher, and pays an annual subsidy to every member of the Authors Union.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

The Death of Rizzoli

16 April 2014

From the Page-Turner blog at The New Yorker:

On Friday night, I met up with several friends on Fifty-seventh Street, for Rizzoli Bookstore’s final hour of business. All of us were onetime employees of the store, drawn together to commemorate the imminent demolition of that building, a landmark from our youths. It had been some time since I had gone to a bookstore funeral, but in the nineteen-nineties I was a morbidly regular attendee at going-out-of-business sales for numerous storied Manhattan bookshops. Part wake, part bargain hunt, and part keepsake quest, those events were like estate sales for beloved but distantly related cousins; the atmosphere was a distinctive combination of guilty discovery and mournful nostalgia.

From those necrobibliophilic clearances, I had gathered a small cache of memorable volumes. At Endicott, which closed in July of 1995, I turned up two early collections of poetry by Ciaran Carson, “The Irish for No” and “Belfast Confetti.” A year later, I delved among the mortal remains of Shakespeare & Company’s Upper West Side store, briefly considering buying one of the bookcases (all of which were for sale) before settling on a hardcover copy of John Demos’s “The Unredeemed Captive.” In 1997, at Books & Co., I purchased a copy of Wendy Cope’s “Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis,” which is, to this day, my favorite book of light verse.

. . . .

There had been a last-ditch petition to obtain landmark status for the building at 31 West Fifty-seventh Street, but the Landmarks Preservation Commission had ruled that, while the building dated to 1919, the baroque interior, installed in 1985, when Rizzoli moved there from its Fifth Avenue location, was not old enough to warrant landmark status. Earlier on Friday, there had been a demonstration to protest the store’s closing. In an eloquent gesture, the Rizzoli staff had placed a photograph of the old Penn Station in the display window, along with a quote from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis:

Is it not cruel to let our city die by degree, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children? If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?

. . . .

I had hoped to be there when they locked the door for the final time, but at seven-thirty, the normal closing hour, there was still a line of more than twenty people waiting to buy their bargains and their keepsakes. Dozens more customers were still browsing the aisles. My former colleagues and I made our way out the front door, where scaffolding was already in place for the coming destruction. We posed for photographs, watched other customers get interviewed by local television news reporters, and decided that it was high time for a drink.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Innovation is in the blood

16 April 2014

From FutureBook:

If there was one dominant theme coming of out the London Book Fair last week it was of an industry taking a pause, drawing in a big deep breath and working out what comes next. At Digital Minds, the author Nick Harkaway said that publishers liked to reach a plateau and then wait for the next innovation to run them down.

. . . .

There isn’t a conversation I have with anyone in publishing these days that isn’t prefaced by a worried shrug, or a slightly nervous glance over the shoulder. Publishing is in confident mood right now, but that confidence is based on some brittle assumptions: that digital continues to not disrupt, and that physical book retail does not close down. Take either of those two pillars away, and all this talk of an orderly transition to digital, will vanish as quickly as a drunken tweet.

The question of what comes next, and how much we can influence that should now be foremost in our minds. Speaking at Digital Minds, Faber’s Stephen Page said it was difficult to lock a group of employees in a room (away from the wider business) and ask them to lose money for six months.

. . . .

Publishing’s other great problem is that its core product isn’t broke. What have we really found out from five years of Kindle? Readers like reading. And generally they like reading in an environment unencumbered by music, video and animation. If publishers don’t feel like their products are going out of fashion, how can we expect them to change them.

. . . .

Publishers innovate constantly but much of it occurs in niche areas, away from the glare of social media. Show me a reader in demand of a new way of reading, and I’ll show you six publishers trying to meet that demand. Show me a publisher innovating and I’ll show you six technologists explaining why they are wrong.

Link to the rest at FutureBook

Big Publishing’s inability to engage in meaningful innovation was encapsulated for PG in, “. . . it was difficult to lock a group of employees in a room (away from the wider business) and ask them to lose money for six months.”

If you’re afraid to lose money, you’ll never do serious innovation. If you think real innovation can happen on a six month time-table, you really don’t understand innovation.

This is a reflection of a classic bean-counter mentality which may be well-suited for optimizing revenue and profit in a stable business environment but practically guarantees the business will be roadkill during a period of change.

The book business is not in stasis and won’t be for awhile. Organizations that do well in a period of disruptive change are typically lead by people who are willing to bet the company on a great new idea. Jeff Bezos has done this over and over with Amazon.

And as for “taking a pause, drawing in a big deep breath,” PG doesn’t expect Amazon to do that any time soon.

Big Publishing has all the wrong people in management positions and probably can’t do anything about it.

Gone Girl

15 April 2014

 

From Gone Girl: A Novel

Sorry about the video. It was working fine this morning. See if this link works better

Little pitchers with big ears

15 April 2014

We have all been little pitchers with big ears, shooed out of the kitchen when the unspoken is being spoken, and we have probably all been tale-bearers, blurters at the dinner table, unwitting violators of adult rules of censorship. Perhaps this is what writers are: those who never kicked the habit. We remained tale-bearers. We learned to keep our eyes open, but not to keep our mouths shut.

Margaret Atwood

Three Booksellers on the Bookshop of the Future

15 April 2014

From Shelf Awareness:

At the London Book Fair last week, three booksellers–Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., and president of the American Booksellers Association; Sion Hamilton, retail operations director of Foyles in London; and Hiroshi Sogo, the managing director of AsianBasis Corporation, a subsidiary of the Japanese bookstore chain Books Kinokuniya–discussed how their stores have adapted to the sea changes of the past several years and what they plan going forward.

. . . .

In the process of designing the [new] store, Hamilton and others at Foyles took the opportunity to “completely question” the natures of both bookselling and their organization. Foyles sought the opinions of everyone from customers and members of the general public to industry experts, retailers in other industries and its own frontline booksellers while deciding on a vision for a “bookshop of the 21st century.” In February 2013, in fact, the store co-hosted a conference on just that topic; the event drew an international crowd of writers, publishers, librarians, booksellers and developers.

“At our workshop last year, someone demanded a Yo! Sushi-type conveyor belt of books,” recalled Hamilton, referring to an English chain of sushi restaurants that features plates of sushi on conveyor belts. After realizing that bringing conveyor belts into the bookshop wouldn’t work, Hamilton thought to invert the idea by displaying books along the store’s stairways. “We devised a slot that we cut into the side of the atrium, and we have lecterns that sit at each landing. You can see all those lovely books as you walk up.”

The flagship store will have six floors and contain, in addition to bookselling space, a cafe, gallery and atrium. Those three spaces, Hamilton related, can “interact, inform and be informed by the bookshop.” The shop’s various rooms, he went on, are meant to draw customers through a series of inviting spaces, and through their browsing, customers will be encouraged to discover new writers and break from their usual book-buying habits. And customers, he added, should “revel” in the experience of being surrounded by voices.

. . . .

“No one has to come to our store to buy a book,” said Bercu, who stressed the importance of crafting a great experience for customers. This experience, in whatever form it may take, has to be so compelling that it beats out not only “every conceivable form of entertainment” but also the convenience of lying in bed and shopping on a phone or lap. “I don’t know if we’re the future, I don’t know what we are exactly, but we have a lot of fun doing it.”

BookPeople’s motto is “a community bound by books,” and that determines everything that Bercu and his staff do. In addition to selling books, of course, they run book fairs and festivals (some as far afield as Boston, Mass., and Philadelphia, Pa.), host author events, birthday parties and book clubs, and even have two literary summer camps.

. . . .

When asked about his store’s ubiquitous branding, Bercu said that he no longer views other bookshops as competitors. “We’re not interested with branding in regard to bookshops anymore. Frankly we don’t care about Barnes & Noble anymore; we look at them as cousins now as opposed to enemies… We want to be a focal point for the community. That’s what we’re working in.”

. . . .

Sogo also discussed the necessity of running events and creating interesting, engaging displays. One such display, which came from the conversations of a few young staff members in Japan, involved covering 100 books with special paper so that customers could not see the title or the author, and writing the book’s opening line or lines on that paper (Kinokuniya sought the permission of each book’s publisher beforehand). The display was up for 60 days, and Sogo reported that the sales were phenomenal. Customers found it fascinating, and it even drew media attention and TV crews.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness (you’ll have to cursor down a ways to find the article)

The Address

15 April 2014

From Fast Company

[The new Ken Burns film, The Address,] focuses on the words of that speech, and the boys who attend Putney, Vermont’s tiny Greenwood School. For the past 35 years, the boys, aged 11 to 17, who live with a variety of learning challenges, have been required to memorize and recite the words of the Gettysburg Address–and Burns turns off the Effect and largely abandons his familiar form of filmmaking in favor of a style that he refers to as almost cinema verite as he tells the story of the boys at the school.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

The Chicago Sun-Times Shuts Down Their Comment Section

15 April 2014

From The Digital Reader:

It’s widely accepted that the anonymity of the internet can turn almost anyone into a troll, and nowhere is this more true than in the comment section. This unfortunate trend has led a number of sites to respond by either removing any aspect of anonymity or taking a more extreme step of killing their comment section entirely.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the latest media organization to take the latter path; they announced over the weekend that the comments were going to be temporarily disabled.

“The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas,” wrote managing editor Craig M. Newman this weekend. “But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.”

. . . .

This paper is not the first to to try to fix online comments, nor will they be the last. Many sites have adopted comment management platforms like Disqus as a way of managing the troll problem, but that solution comes with its own problems. Other sites require that commenters create accounts, but when the bar is set that high it tends to discourage casual commenters.

. . . .

South Korea first started requiring internet commenters use their real names in 2007. The rule initially only applied to sites with more than 300,000 users, but was later tightened to sites with more than 100,000 users.

The rule was scrapped in 2011 because it was deemed largely ineffective at curbing trolls.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

PG is grateful that The Passive Voice generally avoids troll problems and appreciates the many visitors who spend the time necessary to leave intelligent and insightful comments.

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