Bookstores

Former Barnes & Noble manager accused of stealing thousands of dollars through fake book returns

15 November 2019

From WFSB.com:

A bookstore manager is accused of stealing $15,000 through book returns.

According to police, 24-year-old Samantha Kobuta of North Haven conducted more than 150 fraudulent returns while she worked at Barnes & Noble in North Haven.

Detectives began looking into the case at the end of August.

Link to the rest at WFSB.com

Barnes & Noble Axes Staff of B&N Teen Blog, and Other Freelancers

15 November 2019

From The Digital Reader:

When news broke in June that B&N had been acquired by the same hedge fund that owned Waterstones, it seemed likely that the first thing to go would be the failing Nook division. Alas, we guessed wrong; the blogging staff got cut first.

. . . .

There’s no word yet from B&N on the number of people impacted by the job cuts. (I have queried B&N, and am awaiting a response.)

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Cash-Strapped Small Businesses Turn to GoFundMe

10 November 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Aimee Skier loves taking her 3-year-old son to story time at Books of Wonder in Manhattan. So when she got an email from the bookstore soliciting GoFundMe donations to help with moving costs, she was happy to chip in $25.

“It’s a quaint little independent store,” Ms. Skier said. “Story time, the programs and readings that they do—there’s no charge for those, and you can spend time there. To me, that’s worth something.”

Most people think of GoFundMe as a way to raise money for medical debt, funeral costs or natural disaster relief, but the crowdfunding website is increasingly used by struggling small businesses, said Chief Executive Rob Solomon. Thousands of small businesses, ranging from comic-book shops to drive-in movie theaters, have opened campaigns across 19 countries.

“These independent businesses become pillars in a community, and when they can’t stay open, the communities really rally,” Mr. Solomon said in an interview.

Books of Wonder’s campaign, which started Oct. 22, has raised more than $23,000 toward its $250,000 goal. The company has about 30 employees between its two stores and annual sales of just over $2 million.

Owner Peter Glassman said he can pay his current bills but needs money to move the bookstore’s flagship from 18th Street to a more affordable and high-trafficked space in the Flatiron District. He said he has struggled to pay the $600,000 annual lease at his current location, particularly after his most recent subtenant, City Bakery, entered financial trouble and folded.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

Raven Book Store Owner Publishes “How to Resist Amazon and Why”

10 November 2019

From The American Booksellers Association:

Danny Caine of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, has published a zine titled How to Resist Amazon and Why. The 16-page zine features Caine’s October 2019 letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, a review of the case against Amazon, a compilation of Raven’s Twitter advocacy, and additional material.

How to Resist Amazon and Why was quick to receive widespread attention. Caine told Bookselling This Week that “Between in-store sales, online sales, and wholesale orders we’ve shipped out, we’ve moved about 1,400 zines in the first 10 days. All of those were hand stapled by me, my wife, and my friends.” Caine added, “we’ve sent them to around 60 stores in the U.S., Canada, and England.”

Due to the zine’s popularity, Raven partnered with Microcosm Publishing to assist with distribution. Microcosm has a record of resisting Amazon — even going as far as altering its business model to no longer have a direct distribution relationship with the company. Microcosm has positioned itself in such a way that Amazon sales comprise only one percent of its sales each month.

According to Caine, Microcosm expects How to Resist Amazon and Why to be its best-selling zine of the season with already a few thousand pre-orders. Microcosm confirmed that Caine’s zine was impressively its #2 title for the last week of October.

Joe Biel of Microcosm told Bookselling This Week, “I think the zine has been so successful because people feel very frustrated by Amazon.” Biel added that no one “realized how big of a title this would be. Nor did anyone realize that [the zine] would resonate so deeply with bookstore employees.”

In Raven’s letter to Bezos last month, Caine articulated some of the many ways Amazon has hurt booksellers. “We like business competition, we think it’s healthy. But the way you’ve set things up makes it impossible to compete with you,” said Caine.

He challenged the idea of tech companies “disrupting” old ways of doing business to further innovation, saying “…we are not ripe for disruption. We’re not relics. We’re community engines…If your retail experiment disrupts us into extinction, you’re not threatening quaint old ways of doing things. You’re threatening communities.”

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

PG doesn’t like to see any small business fail because, almost always, there is a lot of work that someone or several someones have put into building it up and keeping it running.

However, any business, large or small, relies on customers to purchase its goods/services.

PG suspects that blaming Amazon for a sales downturn really amounts to blaming the former customers of the business who have, for one reason or another, chosen to purchase from Amazon because doing so benefits those customers in some way that’s important to them.

If lower cost is a reason those customers prefer purchasing from Amazon, criticizing Amazon is effectively blaming those customers who may not have enough money to pay for the extra overhead involved in supporting a physical bookstore. At least some of those customers are avid readers who appreciate the ability to obtain more books to read and enjoy.

PG also suggests that, if Amazon had never existed, someone else would have run the same play that Jeff Bezos did. Physical books are a great product for mail order because they don’t spoil on the shelf, don’t get broken during shipping and even benefit from lower postal costs.

Ebooks are an even more ideal product because they’re cheap to store and, effectively, cost nothing to deliver. If Amazon had not executed its ebook strategy, some other cost-cutter or combination of cost cutters would have done the same thing.

Again, blaming Amazon because a lot of people prefer reading ebooks over physical books is, effectively blaming those readers for their personal choices.

California Indie Booksellers Contend with Fires, Power Outages

31 October 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

Indie booksellers throughout California are contending with mandatory evacuations, power outages, road closures, and air quality issues as fires continue to rage in the state.

The situation in Northern California for many indie booksellers can only be described as dire, with a number of NCIBA member stores being forced to close their doors–some since Saturday. Other stores are staying open, but only by overcoming huge obstacles in creative ways.

“We have had our power shut down since Saturday,” said Luisa Smith, the Book Passage’s buying director, of the retailer’s Corte Madera location. Smith told PW that some in-store events were canceled, while others were moved to the San Francisco store. “[The power] just came back on, but they say they will be turning it off again tomorrow,” she explained on Tuesday. “This is true for all the bookstores in Marin, and many in the East Bay.”

A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland responded to almost three days of power outages by both reducing store hours and selling books by candlelight. Owner Kathleen Caldwell described Sunday at the store as “a party,” with people bringing wine to sip while browsing. Although the store’s booksellers were able to ring up credit card sales using their iPhones, overall sales were down 65% on Sunday, and about 80% on Saturday and Monday.

. . . .

“We know that at least 100 booksellers have been evacuated,” Binc executive director Pamela French told PW.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Should We Pay to Enter Bookstores?

25 October 2019

From The New Yorker:

While browsing a table of new books at the Strand and spotting one that I wanted to buy, I experienced a common, modern-day itch: Do I purchase the book there and then from the Strand without pause, thus supporting bookstores, publishers, authors, and everything that I believe in? Or do I drive myself crazy by pulling out my phone and checking how much money I would save were I to buy the book online? The Strand was selling the book at a modest discount off of its suggested retail price, but I suspected that it would be less expensive on a certain ubiquitous Web site. Sure enough, the same book was listed there, brand new, for ten dollars less than the Strand’s price. If I ordered it from this Web site, it would be delivered to my door, the next day, for free.

The moral high ground is to buy the book from the Strand. The store afforded me the pleasure of browsing the shelves on a weeknight in New York. The store’s owners permitted me to pick up the book and read a few pages, for as long as I wished. They should have my money. But, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that I chose three additional books and that each of those books was also ten dollars less online. I could save forty bucks, which isn’t chump change. So the question then becomes, where do we draw the line? Are we expected to underwrite David’s battle with Goliath, no matter what the cost? I want to give my money to the Strand. I’m willing to pay more in exchange for the intangibles that I’m offered by a store’s physical existence. But I fear that this business model, whereby physical retailers are basically relying on a code of honor from their customers, is just not sustainable.

So why not monetize the intangibles? The Strand, and stores like it, could charge an admission fee. Something token, like a dollar. For a buck, you’re granted access to everything the store has to offer. You can browse to your heart’s delight. There’s no pressure to make a purchase. And, if you do buy something, perhaps the item costs close to what it would cost online, because all of those dollars would have allowed the store to lower its prices.

I’m not an economist, so maybe this idea is an unsophisticated one. More than five thousand people walk into the Strand every day, according to the owner, Nancy Bass Wyden. (“It’s department-store numbers,” she said.) Would every one of those people be willing to contribute a dollar to provide enough of a cushion to allow for quasi-online prices? And what about the little shop in the rural community, the one that might see twenty customers walk through its doors on an average day? Twenty dollars or so a day may not be enough to keep that store afloat. Is there perhaps some sort of revenue-sharing system that could be instituted, whereby all of those single dollars go into one big pot that each participating physical retailer gets an appropriate share of?

. . . .

In 2013, the then U.K. HarperCollins C.E.O., Victoria Barnsley, floated the notion of a pay-to-browse model for bookstores in an interview with the BBC. A follow-up piece in the Washington Post found that a sampling of American booksellers were hostile to the idea, but a few daring retailers overseas have since begun experimenting with variations on this model. In Porto, Portugal, visitors to the world-famous Livraria Lello bookstore pony up five euros (about $5.50 USD) for an entry voucher, the cost of which is then subtracted from a purchase. And Bunkitsu, a bookstore in Tokyo, charges customers the equivalent of a whopping fourteen dollars for the experience of browsing its inventory and exhibition space. (Included with the admission fee is access to a reading area, where patrons are permitted to kick off their shoes, help themselves to unlimited quantities of coffee and green tea, and read anything they like.)

The booksellers I spoke to in New York were generally uninterested in this sort of radical move. Miles Bellamy, the majority owner of Spoonbill & Sugartown, in Williamsburg, dismissed the idea. “I would never charge people to walk into the store. No. It’s just not classy.”

. . . .

“Bookstores are havens,” she said. “They’re one of the few public spaces left. It’s my responsibility as a bookstore owner to figure out how to stay competitive. Charging admission?” she asked, incredulously. “What about children? What about teen-agers? Absolutely not,” she said. “I’d rather close.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

PG says, “Give a try,” while thinking “This sounds like desperation and smells like flop sweat.”

But he could be wrong.

Hiroshi Sogo Looks at Global Bookselling Trends

25 October 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

With 107 bookstores worldwide, Kinokuniya’s director of import and distribution, Hiroshi Sogo, gives us his international bookselling insights.

. . . .

PP: How is the market in Japan at the moment?

HS: Tough as ever. A long decline since 1997 hasn’t hit the bottom as yet. Total sales have declined to half of what they were in 1996.

. . . .

PP: What’s the balance between digital and print in Japan?

HS: Digital is around 14 percent and print 86 percent. Basically, print continues to decline while digital grows.

Around 90 percent of digital is represented by comic and manga content. There was rampant piracy of manga content until March 2018 when the government finally passed seminal legislation and the police started to crack down.

That helped the industry to regain what had been lost for many years, and helped digital manga sales for some of the major publishers, such as Shuei-sha and Kadokawa. It’s estimated that the total loss collectively inflicted by piracy is 300 billion yen (US$2.78 billion).

. . . .

PP: Why do you think Japan takes a different view from the US with regard to fixed prices?

HS: Historically, the mechanism has been regarded as one of the more civilized, inclusive government policies. It goes back to the era when Japan was rebuilding the country after the war. Recovery of social coherence and infrastructure was the priority.

While ordinary commodities were exchanged in free markets, the government . . . thought that information carried by publications such as newspapers, books, and magazines should be available to all citizens at the same price wherever they were.

When Japan went into a fast economic development drive in the 1960s and 1970s, fixed pricing made a lot of sense. Publishers and booksellers didn’t have to compete on price. There was a strong appetite for news, knowledge, learning, and entertainment. I suspect that there was hardly a soul who had any negative perception against fixed prices up until recently when a new type of Western capitalism started seeping into the social fabric of the country.

Winning competitions became the highest virtue above all else. Then people started to think that fixed rates are a cartel that’s ugly and unsavory. Yes, it’s under pressure and will remain so. I’m not certain if it will survive for long. But the current administration hasn’t shown any specific interest in ending it any time soon.

. . . .

PP: What are your thoughts about the future of physical bookshops?

HS: I personally believe that physical bookshops will never die, partly because physical, printed books will never completely disappear.

Digital may continue to grow, but tactile reading will not leave human behavior entirely. The total volume may reduce and as a result, only selected, curated works may be made into aesthetically crafted volumes that attract avid readers and connoisseurs alike.

Those who don’t pay attention to books and reading now will be unlikely to complain when there are fewer bookshops in high streets. Books will have stronger constituencies, where people are willing to support physical bookshops because they value the physicality of books, the curation, the serendipitous experience, the conversations, and recommendations over your favorites.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Literary Tourism: Eastern Iowa, With Indie Bookstores Galore

7 October 2019

From BookRiot:

I’m a proud Midwesterner, and have loved to call Iowa my home for the past ten years. Iowa is full of lovely towns, both large and small, that have a locally owned independent bookstore on the main street or town square. We’re also a literary and arts hub, due to Iowa City, with its UNESCO City of Literature designation and the famous  University of Iowa Writers Workshop.

Today I’m going to take you on a literary tour of the eastern part of our state and highlight the best spots for readers and book lovers along the way.

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA

Cedar Rapids Public Library: In 2008, the city of Cedar Rapids suffered a terrible flood that found most of downtown underwater. The downtown public library completely flooded, but the city used the opportunity to rebuild to create an exceptional new library. The library is Platinum LEED Certified for sustainability measures incorporated in the design, and in 2017, the library won the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Medal for Museum and Library Service. This library is definitely worth a wander!

. . . .

Next Page Books: Next Pages Books is an independently owned bookstore in the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street District (see: the coolest part of Cedar Rapids). The little shop is warm and inviting, located inside a larger arts and culture building. The owner, Bart, is always ready to chat about books, and his bookstore cat, Frank, is silly and delightful. If you’re in Cedar Rapids, please go visit my hometown faves!

. . . .

BURLINGTON, IOWA

Burlington by the Book: Located in southeast Iowa, near the Mississippi, Burlington by the Book is another lovely independent bookstore. They sell both new and used books, and the proceeds from the used books go toward purchase new books for children.

IOWA CITY, IOWA

Prairie Lights: Prairie Lights has been the indie bookstore for the literary hub of Iowa City since 1978. Today it is three stories, including a wonderful cafe. The bookstore frequently hosts readings of Iowa Writers Workshop graduates and others, including writers like Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, E.E. Cummings, and Stephen King. It’s an incredible bookstore, plus I met my husband there so it will always get a winning endorsement from me!

Self-Guided Literary Tour: Iowa City has put together a self-guided literary tour of all the famous stops, including the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the dorm where Flannery O’Connor lived during her time in Iowa.

Mission Creek Festival (annually in April): Mission Creek is a six day art, music, and literature festival in Iowa City. They “embrace live performance, literary arts, and radical community happenings,” and host readings, panels, a literary magazine and small press book fair, and a Lit Walk that will take you to loads of cool and local stops in Iowa City for readings. I’ve seen Roxane Gay and R.O. Kwon read at recent festivals and it is always a quality line-up.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

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