Are Bookworms Killing The Bookstore?

From BookRiot:

Here in Memphis, The Booksellers is going belly up – causing an emotional shock among my friends almost as great as the election. Since I’m a senior citizen Book Rioter, I’ve seen countless bookstores come and go. I remember the thrill of their openings and the depression of their closings. I know of only one bookstore older than myself, and I think I’ll outlive it. But hell, nothing seems to last anymore. I’m truly sad bookstores are going out of business, but aren’t we to blame?


Among my bookish friends lamenting the demise of our favorite bookstore, we feel something significant has changed in our lives. The Booksellers used to be Davis-Kidd Booksellers, which at one time had several locations across Tennessee, with legions of devoted fans. Evidently not enough. Will any bookstore stay in business in these changing technological times?

I admit my guilt. I’ve bought dozens of books this month.  None from a new bookstore. I now prefer digital books – either Kindle editions or Audible audiobooks. I own over two thousand books I carry around in my iPhone 6s Plus. I’d need a Class 4 truck do that with hardbacks.

. . . .

I went to Barnes & Noble Monday, our last remaining bookstore selling new books, and spent $35. But I bought two expensive computer magazines and a remaindered coloring book – no new books. For over forty years in my younger life, I’d visit bookstores two or three times a week, always hanging out in the science and science fiction sections. My Barnes & Noble have large sections for those books. However, I didn’t even glance at them. I’ve decided it’s unfair to use their shelves for perusing books I would only buy at Amazon.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Barnes & Noble’s smart new restaurant concept has all the makings of a bestseller

From The Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Go figure. The most impressive chain restaurant to land in the Twin Cities in — well, I can’t remember when — is located inside a bookstore.

Last fall, when Barnes & Noble announced plans to include Barnes & Noble Kitchen as a part of the relocation and reinvention of the company’s 25-year-old Galleria location, my knee-jerk response was “color me skeptical.” Anyone who encountered the dreary, prepackaged fare at the store’s somnolent, Starbucks-fueled cafe probably had the same reaction.

Color me corrected.

The bookseller is following the example of other retailers — including Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Restoration Hardware — that have recently discovered that good food served in an attractive setting can act as a powerful customer magnet. It’s hardly rocket science. Department stores have been doing the same thing for generations.

. . . .

A book club could easily convene over the shareable dishes, which echo Feeley’s straightforward approach to modernizing classics while using first-rate ingredients.

Kudos to the chunky, brimming-with-cilantro guacamole with crisp, salty tortilla chips (crank up the heat by adding a smoky tomatillo salsa), and the tahini-laced hummus, spread across sturdy house-baked lavash.

But top honors belong to the generous hunk of imported Italian burrata — mozzarella’s upper-tax-bracket sibling — that’s presented with toasted bread, a lively basil pistou and roasted tomatoes, the oven slowly but surely intensifying their flavor. Don’t miss it.

. . . .

Although it doesn’t quite feel that way, the restaurant is located in the basement (or “Valet Level” in Galleria-speak, which surely ranks as an all-time favorite Edina-based euphemism). The saving grace is a bank of windows, which contribute much-needed sunlight but unfortunately also offer a view that’s primarily parked cars. Remember, it’s a shopping mall, not an arboretum.

Link to the rest at Minneapolis Star-Tribune and thanks to WHM for the tip.

Closure of Fifth Avenue Books in Hillcrest part of changing industry

From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

Not every book has a happy ending. Not every bookstore, either.

That’s been true for a while, and now add to the casualty list Fifth Avenue Books, a Hillcrest mainstay for 30 years, which is closing its doors at the end of February, putting three employees out of work.

Owner Robert Schrader said his used bookstore, known for the size and variety of its inventory (40,000 titles), has been losing money for several years, most recently about $1,000 a week. While he had hoped the drought was temporary, he now sees it as inescapable: “The traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore simply can’t survive in the age of online book selling.”

. . . .

Sales of e-readers have flattened and the number of stores nationwide has risen, at least as measured by membership in the American Booksellers Association. Bookstore sales through the first 11 months of 2016 were up 3.4 percent compared to the same period in 2015, to about $10.5 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Book sellers are carving out specialty niches and emphasizing author events, hand-picked selections for customers, the “shop local” movement, and other features not available with online merchants.

. . . .

So where some see an inevitable march toward bookstore oblivion, others see signs of hope.

Which is why, in the same week Schrader was announcing the closure of Fifth Avenue Books, another used bookstore just a few miles away was marking a different milestone. Verbatim Books was celebrating its first anniversary.

. . . .

Used bookstores are in some ways the unwanted stepchild of the publishing industry. The only one who makes any money when a used book is sold is the seller — not the author, not the publishing house, not the printer.

But the stores consume a significant slice of the book pie. In a September survey by the New York-based Codex Group, about 11 percent of 4,600 people who had purchased books in the previous month bought them used. That compared to 33 percent who bought (or received as gifts) new books, said Peter Hildick-Smith, president of Codex.

“It’s always been a fairly busy little sub-economy,” he said.

And when the digital age disrupted the industry, used bookstores, with their lower prices, were better positioned to survive. That’s one reason San Diego, like many other cities, has more used stores than new ones.

Link to the rest at San Diego Union-Tribune and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Balancing the books: how Waterstones came back from the dead

From The Guardian:

Late on Thursday afternoon, would-be wizards across the UK dropped what they were doing to join the professors of Hogwarts for Harry Potter night. At 6pm in the basement of Waterstones’ six-storey London Piccadilly building, staff were scurrying around with bowls of jellybeans and bottles of raspberry lemonade, but the Harrys and Hermiones were nowhere to be seen.

A couple of elderly customers looked faintly disgruntled to find their favourite section closed for a private party. Two young sisters, Alex, 11, and eight-year-old Polly, fidgeted by the closed door clutching a box of quidditch balls, while Yang, a 22-year-old physics student from Korea, appeared baffled.

Five minutes later they started to arrive, threading their way through book-browsers on the hushed shop floor. Young women pulled Hufflepuff blazers and Hogwarts ties out of backpacks, a small girl produced an owl cage, a larger one donned scholar’s robes. Soon, the queue snaked up the stairs and across the ground floor. “I’m reading the fifth book again at the moment,” said 28-year-old

Alex, jiggling her wand. “This is the third event I’ve been to and it’s quiet compared with the launch of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last year, when they transformed the second floor into Diagon Alley.”

In many of of the chain’s 275 branches across the UK, similar scenes were being played out. “Our first wizards have arrived for #harrypotterbooknight” tweeted staff at the Bradford store, who had earlier professed themselves “totally giddy kippers” at the prospect of the night’s revels.

But Harry Potter night wasn’t the only cause for celebration for staff and customers of the 35-year-old company. A day earlier it had revealed that it had gone back into profit for the first time since the recession under the leadership of its very own wizard, banker turned career bookseller James Daunt, who was brought in to rescue the chain in 2011 after a buyout by the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut.

. . . .

With a mixture of tough love and an unshakeable belief in the power of the physical book, which seemed quixotic in the era of e-readers and online discounting, Daunt began to turn things around. He closed underperforming stores and fired 200 booksellers, at the same time as declaring that his managers would be given back responsibility for their own stock, because what sold in Hampstead might not go down well in the Highlands. One of his boldest moves was to inform publishers that he would no longer do business through sales reps and they could no longer buy window space – which meant turning his back on £27m a year.

Instead, a small team of buyers – in close consultation with Daunt himself – would select titles to feature as books of the month across all the stores, while individual managers were free to tailor much of their stock to their customers’ tastes. One of the centrally chosen books of the month for 2016 was a historical novel, The Essex Serpent, from Serpent’s Tail, an inprint of indie publisher Profile Books. Its author, Sarah Perry, had written one previous novel, which had been respectfully received before sinking beneath the waves.

. . . .

“Waterstones’ role in the success of The Essex Serpent is nothing less than extraordinary,” says Franklin. “They have – to date, and they haven’t finished yet – bought 100,740 copies of the hardback. And that gives them a 70.53% market share.”

. . . .

When a book has become as successful as The Essex Serpent, it’s easy to forget how it so easily could not have happened. For a tiny outfit like Somerset-based children’s publisher Chicken House Books, selection by Waterstones can make the difference between many thousands of sales and virtually none at all. Chicken House has had four of its titles selected as children’s books of the month – the latest being Maz Evans’ debut novel Who Let the Gods Out, a “freewheeling fantasy” in which a 12-year-old boy finds his home near Stonehenge beset by bumbling Greek gods.

Barry Cunningham, who set up Chicken House in Frome in 2000, points out that the relationship with Waterstones doesn’t simply involve selling the book. “They’re experts in how to catch the fleeting attention of buyers, so they’ll advise on how a book looks, the words on the back, or even the title. In this particular case, there’s a lightning flash running around the edge. They said they really liked that, but could we bolster it.”

Part of the new strategy has been to customise orders, so as to drastically reduce the numbers of unsold copies that are returned to publishers. A report from the US in 2013 revealed an average return rate across the bookselling trade of 15%. When Daunt took over, the percentage returned by Waterstones was “far higher than that”, but has now been reduced to 2-3%.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Waterstones back in the black after five years

From The Bookseller:

Waterstones has reported a profit for the first time under the ownership of Russian businessman Alexander Mamut and direction of its m.d. James Daunt.

Boosted by “better standards of bookselling”, the 270-store chain saw sales rise by 4% to £409.1m in the year to 30th April 2016, helping it achieve an operating profit of £18.8m, resulting in a pretax profit of £9.9m, after finance costs, compared to a pretax loss of £4.5m a year earlier.

Waterstones’ m.d James Daunt told The Bookseller that the company benefitted from a slow down in the growth of e-book sales and enticed customers back to its high street shops my making them “better, different, nicer” environments to be in. He stressed the importance of the booksellers. “Everything relies on bookselling and offering a better service around bookselling,” Daunt said. “People come into our shops for the knowledge and the service, the success of The Essex Serpent (Waterstones’ 2016 Book of the Year by Sarah Perry, Serpent’s Tail), shows you that. Our support meant a book which would otherwise have achieved modest sales became a bestseller in the most competitive month of December. That is all about the service from bookselling. It is not about posters on the underground, but individual recommendations.”

. . . .

Higher sales of non-book products also helped the chain, now accounting for 12% of the company’s turnover. But while Waterstones plans to grow this to 15% over the next three years, the company will always revolve around sales of books, Daunt said. “We are still absolutely 80% a seller of books. I think non-book product simply makes bookshops better. People want the option of buying a children’s toy or stationery as well as books,” he said.

. . . .

“Amazon is our only real competitor,” he said.

. . . .

Daunt said the company was not missing sales from its direct e-books store, after closing it in May last year to direct customers to Kobo’s. “E-books are a duopoly market and we never really competed in it,” he said. “It is a big boys game.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

College Accused of Monopolizing Textbook Market

From Courthouse News:

The local, off-campus competitor of an Illinois community college bookstore claims in court that the school is trying to put it out of business by selling textbooks below cost and withholding course book information.

Joliet Textbooks, which owns a store selling textbooks and related items across from the entrance of Joliet Junior College’s campus in Joliet, Ill., filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Will County accusing JJC of violating the Illinois Antitrust Act.

The off-campus store claims that JJC “engaged in a concerted scheme to thwart competition in the market for the sale of used and new textbooks and to destroy competition in the marketplace by undermining plaintiff’s business through anti-competitive pricing strategies.”

The school’s official bookstore, a half-mile from Joliet Textbooks, “enjoys certain institutional advantages over a private sector competitor like plaintiff,” such as not paying rent and not needing to generate a profit to stay open, the complaint states.

Both stores purchase their new and used textbooks from the same sources, says Joliet Textbooks, and the standard practice is to charge 20 to 30 percent above cost.

However, JJC has allegedly been selling textbooks to its students below cost and is giving out rebates and calculating sales taxes on the artificially lower price.

Link to the rest at Courthouse News and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG is not familiar with the Illinois Antitrust Act, so he can’t opine about the plaintiff’s chances in court.

He was, however, reminded, of an antitrust suit by the American Booksellers Association and a number of independent bookstores against Barnes & Noble and Borders in 2001. The principal claim was that the big bookstores received secret discounts from big publishers and distributors. The case was ultimately settled before a final verdict.

The Life Cycle of the Book

From Shelf Awareness:

A story titled “The Life Cycle of the Book,” even if it is set at a Wi12 panel, should have a great opening line, and Elizabeth Strout provided a fine one when she remarked at the start of Saturday’s session: “I’m the one who writes the book.”

Moderated by Betsy Burton of the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the panel explored the life cycle of Strout’s bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton from the perspectives of the author, her agent Molly Friedrich, her Random House editor Susan Kamil, Ruth Liebmann (v-p & director, account marketing, PRH) and bookseller Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Calif.

“I think that a lot of what an agent does is try to help the author manage expectations, focus on the work, the work; stay honest to the work,” Friedrich said, adding that with Strout’s manuscripts, “she’s been over that work so many times and with such lapidary attention that there’s very, very little to say except to be in a kind of swoon of admiration…. And with Lucy Barton in particular, it was kind of perfect.”

Kamil observed that “editors are like literary shape shifters. We become exactly what our authors need us to become,” and recalled that after reading the Lucy Barton manuscript for the first time, “I can’t quite describe the feeling to you, though as book lovers I’m sure you know what I mean when I say I was stunned and I was speechless…. I also knew it was a masterwork. It’s all about the book. And in this particular case, what a book! I had to get it into the hands of our publishing team.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Eason opens two new stores ‘despite fragile economy’

From The Bookseller:

Eason plans to continue to open new stores “despite the fragile economic recovery,” its m.d Conor Whelan has revealed, beginning with a store in Limerick and another in Dublin.

The 4,000 sq ft Limerick store opened in the Crescent Shopping Centre in November and the new Dublin store located at Clare Hall Shopping Centre on the Malahide Road also nearly 4,000 sq ft, will open in March.

The two stores combined will create 30 new jobs, the company said, and is part of the retailer’s €2million investment its store estate in 2016.

The two new openings when complete will bring its number of company stores to 65 in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Whelan said: “Despite a fragile economic recovery and ongoing challenges in the retail market, our ambition is to continue growing and developing the Eason business and we’re very pleased to add these two highly sought after locations in Limerick and Dublin to our store estate.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Why Local Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Need to Rethink Everything They Know

From Fortune:

I own two comic book stores in San Francisco. Despite being in retail for over 30 years now, I have to admit I’m worried the future of businesses like mine.

As Americans continue to do more of their shopping online, local brick-and-mortar retailers are suffering. I can already see the impact in my neighborhood, where there are fewer businesses that sell goods, and more that sell services. The four-block commercial corridor near my home is packed with restaurants, cafes, nail salons, and businesses offering financial services. Many of these spaces used to be retail stores.

If there’s any solution to reverse the trend, crowdfunding efforts and patronage programs may be it. In my immediate vicinity, a number of bookstores are already doing this, giving away benefits such as priority seating at author events and dedicated Wi-Fi to customers who participate. Beyond ongoing patronage, there are a tremendous number of “one-time” crowdfunded cash infusions, like this campaign to raise money for Video Wave, a local video store in one of San Francisco’s wealthier neighborhoods; this one to save G&O Family Cyclery, a bike shop in Seattle; and this one for Ray’s Ragtime, a used-clothing store in Portland.

. . . .

Despite the ease of online shopping, I believe many people still prefer shopping for physical goods in physical stores. In many cases, they’re even willing to pay a premium for the experience (I don’t sell a single product that can’t be found for a less expensive price online, and yet our customers and gross sales have strongly increased over the last 10 years). Still, none of that is enough to cover our rising costs. In San Francisco, where the already notoriously expensive rents continue to climb, the minimum wage will soon be increased to $15, a one-two punch for stores like mine.

Link to the rest at Fortune

Mall Owners Rush to Get Out of the Mall Business

From The Wall Street Journal:

Mall landlords are increasingly walking away from struggling properties, leaving creditors in the lurch and posing a threat to the values of nearby real estate.

As competition from online retailers batters store owners, some of the largest U.S. landlords are calculating it is more advantageous to hand over ownership to lenders than to attempt to restructure debts on properties with darkening outlooks.

That, in turn, leaves lenders with little choice but to unload the distressed properties at fire-sale prices.

. . . .

“We’re seeing a boatload of these kinds of properties coming to market,” said James Hull, managing principal of Augusta, Ga.-based Hull Property Group, which bought five malls from foreclosure sales in 2016. “There have been some draconian losses for the enclosed-mall business.”

. . . .

As mall property values sink below their loan balances, “some mall owners are more aggressively taking the step to walk away,” said Morningstar Credit Ratings Vice President Edward Dittmer.

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

Barnes & Noble: Read ’em And Weep

From Seeking Alpha:

For some unfathomable reason, shares of Barnes and Noble rose 32% over the past twelve months. In my view, the party is very much over, as the financial performance of this company has absolutely fallen off a cliff.

Perhaps this is the state of retail in the Amazon world, but it’s best for investors to avoid this name, as the party is soon over in my view. It’s not a controversial statement to say that this company is in the midst of an existential crisis because of Amazon. The competition from Amazon shows up in the poor financial showing here.

. . . .

Since 2012, retained earnings have dropped from about $586 million to $-81 million. When I input these variables in my online financial calculator, the software returned an error message that read “please use reasonable numbers.” Apparently the rate of decline that retained earnings have shown has been “unreasonable.” The revenue decline is more “reasonable” (at least from the calculator’s perspective). Sales have declined at a CAGR of -5% since 2012. In any event, equity is evaporating here at an alarming rate. The cause of this is obviously a decline in the company’s net income. Net income has been consistently negative since 2012, with the exception of 2015.

. . . .

Since the beginning of fiscal 2016, the company has paid about $68 million in dividends on common shares and approximately $4 million of dividends on preferred shares. I usually like dividends, but in the case of a company that is losing money, it strikes me as irresponsible. In my view, every dividend paid simply hastens this company’s fall.

. . . .

While the company was spending approximately $90 million giving money to shareholders (while destroying their retained earnings), it also took on approximately $191 million of additional debt. This is troublesome for two reasons. First, the weighted average of interest rates on this debt is approximately 8.21%, which is quite high. Second, the company is losing money, and at some point the intersection of declining revenues and net income on the one hand and increased leverage on the other will lead to a critical event that will be bad for shareholders.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Barnes & Noble Goes All In on LEGO Batman

From Investopedia:

In order to survive, Barnes & Noble needs to become more than just a bookstore — and be seen that way by consumers.

The company has embraced that idea by moving aggressively into the specialty toy space and by courting the maker community. Those two areas overlap, at least when it comes to LEGOS.

While the plastic bricks are clearly toys, they are also educational, teaching kids to build, to think creatively, and allowing for imaginative play once the building has finished. That’s a different learning model than reading, but it’s something the chain has embraced with in-store events.

Now Barnes & Noble has partnered with Time Warner and The LEGO Group for a three-month celebration of the upcoming animated LEGO Batman Movie.

. . . .

In theory, by having a three-month promotion with different events, kids will push their parents to bring them to the bookseller multiple times. That might be more tolerable to the adults than most kids events because Batman is a character that appeals to all ages and the first LEGO Movie was popular with grownups as well.

Barnes & Noble has planned trading card giveaways on Feb. 25 and March 11. In addition the chain is incentivizing people to go to all three special events by offering all six collectible cards to anyone who does.

. . . .

The LEGO Batman Movie looks to be a near-certain blockbuster for the same reasons the first LEGO Movie was a hit. Parents aren’t opposed to seeing it (and may even enjoy it), which makes them willing to take their kids.

This promotion should effectively piggyback off that, which will bring much-needed foot traffic into Barnes & Noble locations. Three months might be a little bit long for any promotion, but parents of young kids are often looking for free events to entertain them, and it’s easy to see some taking advantage of this.

Link to the rest at Investopedia and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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

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

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

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

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%

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s A Reason Why Indie Bookstores Are Thriving

From The Huffington Post:

At the tail end of last year, the New York book community was hit with unsettling news. BookCourt, the independently run store serving Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights, and readers willing to venture from their own neighborhoods for the sake of author events and stocked shelves, was closing.

For avid readers, the loss of a bookstore leaves a mark. Bookstores ― the brick-and-mortar variety ― foster so many chance encounters and reflective moments; true love of the glue-and-paper sort blossoms among their shelves. And, a shuttered indie doesn’t bode so well for the looming Bezospocalypse, even if their sales are increasing at a steadier-than-average clip compared with non-indie vendors.

But, like magic, the closing of BookCourt coincided with the announcement of another store, to be opened by Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers, The Vacationers and Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures. A onetime BookCourt employee and longtime lover of literature, Straub hopes her store will be “salve for the wound.”

. . . .

 When did you decide to open Books Are Magic!?

The second that we heard that BookCourt was closing. Which was mid-October. We found out earlier than most of the public in the neighborhood. Immediately, we thought, no, no, this can’t happen. We live a few blocks away from BookCourt, and we’re there, I would say, three or four times a week. I truly couldn’t fathom the notion that we would live in a neighborhood without an independent bookstore.

We know ― oh, yeah, this is our job to fix. So, we’re working on it.

In your announcement you highlight the importance of a bookstore to a community or neighborhood. How, in your experience, have bookstores played that role?

I work from home, and for me a bookstore is a place that I can always go. It’s a place I can go to find new ideas, and see old friends, and to read a poem, and to pick up a picture book for one of my children, and to buy a gift. Books are the only presents that always fit. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a book and thought, oh, god, this is just, the wrong thing.
Even when I don’t buy something, I always fondle a lot of things. As a writer, bookstores have been enormously important to me. BookCourt in particular, but also other independent bookstores across the country. There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like a bookstore. It falls in a certain in-between space, between public space and private space. Bookstores always feel intimate but welcoming. I think they’re important and necessary for people like me who have small children, and where it’s not always warm outside. It’s nice to have a place to go.

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

Riggio Reaffirms Commitment to Bricks-and-Mortar

From Publishers Weekly:

Barnes & Noble’s disappointing holiday sales have not diminished the retailer’s resolve to get its bricks-and mortar stores on firm ground, CEO Len Riggio told PW in an interview last week, following the announcement that comparable store sales fell 9.1% in the nine-week period ended December 31, 2016.

For the fiscal year ending in April, Riggio said B&N still plans to close a total of 12 outlets while opening four. In fiscal 2018, he expects B&N to be “store positive.” Riggio attributed the weak holiday results largely to a decline in customer traffic that affected many retailers for much of 2016. Riggio observed that with traffic down for many retailers, it was difficult for an individual store to build sales momentum on its own.

Riggio was widely quoted as predicting that store traffic would improve after the presidential election, but he acknowledged that this did not occur. “People were not in a celebratory mood,” Riggio said. In the four days following the close of the holiday period, sales and traffic did improve, but Riggio admitted it was hard to draw too many conclusions from such a small sample. Still, he still expects customer traffic to rebound at some point in the new year. “People will be looking to move on with their lives,” he said.

. . . .

With more sales moving online, Riggio said he was encouraged by the performance of, which had a 2% gain over the holidays. He acknowledged that the company had a hard time improving the consumer experience of the site, but believes the newest version is much more consumer friendly. “We finally saw an uptick [in sales] at It has finally been debugged,” Riggio said. “We have plenty of room for growth.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Stolen good books: why Canadian thieves outclass the British

From The Guardian:

They have a better class of book thief in Toronto. Whereas in the UK, Potters Harry and Beatrix, as well as travel guides, top the list of titles most likely to be stolen from bookshops, thieves working the aisles in the Canadian city are targeting Haruki Murakami’s work.

One bookseller said he was C$800 (£500) lighter after a shoplifting spree that cleared an entire shelf of the Japanese author’s work from his shop. “They took my Norwegian Woods, my Sputniks, all of them,” lamented Gary Kirk of the A Good Read Bookshop, telling broadcaster CBC Toronto that he doubted the thief had ever cracked open a Murakami.

In the UK, though the Booksellers Association keeps no records about “shrinkage” – as it quaintly refers to shoplifting – it appears shoplifters (shrinkers?) browsing its members’ shelves have less highbrow tastes. Philip Downer, former head of Borders UK and managing director of Calliope Gifts told the Guardian that thieves targeted “big brands – Harry Potter, Peppa Pig – where the thief can take a pile of the same title with an easy guarantee of being able to shift the goods.”

. . . .

But am I alone in feeling a bit embarrassed that our thieves can’t raise the bar a bit? Must they make us look so dumb compared with our Canadian cousins?

It isn’t as if our taste in knockoff books has always been books with a reading age of 12 and lots of pictures. As with our bestsellers, our stolen books have dumbed down.

Go back 40 years and any self-respecting book thief in London could be found at Soho’s Coach and Horses knocking back booze with Peter Cook, Lucien Freud and Tom Baker, according to Jeffrey Bernard’s memoirs. Their taste in quality art books and highbrow literary works makes them look like “gentleman thief” Raffles compared to modern-day thieves.

According to former “gentleman bookseller” Steerforth, whole shelves of Nabokov used to disappear from his Richmond shop. One thief, the notorious curmudgeon Roy Faith, who specialised in high-end art books, ensured so much business for store detectives that one firm sent a rep to his funeral. Another wore a specially adapted raincoat to lift copies of the Times Atlas – £75 a pop – two at a time.

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