Little Davids Take On Amazon Giant

So a few independent bookstores decided to sue Amazon and the major publishers who made a devil’s deal to control e-books. From the Huffington Post: “Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the … Read more

The Anonymity of eBooks

One of the things I remember from my time in school learning to be a librarian was something the professor in the Reference Services class I took during my first semester said: never apologize for what you read. This is just one of those quotes that is so simple and yet so true.  Why should you … Read more

Can Digital Books Furnish a Room?

Manchester Last Lion with ReidIf I were to make a New Year’s resolution for 2013, it would be to read William Manchester’s Churchill biography, the last volume of which was completed by Paul Reid in 2012, nearly eight years after Manchester’s death. Of course, I don’t make resolutions since there are more than enough failures to tolerate in life without me adding to the list. But Reid’s story is almost as interesting as Churchill’s. Reid was a college dropout who went back to school in his 40s, and at 46 became an intern at the Palm Beach Post. It was through his newspaper work that he met Manchester, who was ill and dying and unable to finish the last volume. Manchester unexpectedly chose Reid to finish the third volume, even though Reid had never written a book before, let alone a biography. He wasn’t even a historian. Yet Manchester saw something appealing in Reid’s background and approach, something a more conventional thinker would have missed. For me, the subject of middle-aged career metamorphosis has a new relevance; I am often asked why, as old as I am, would I want to recreate myself as a bookseller. The answer, which is hard to explain, is that I just didn’t see it as a big deal. I never thought of changing careers as being that strange. And neither did Reid. He seems to have moved from one thing that interested him to the next, taking opportunities that presented themselves and not spending too much time doubting himself. So, that’s one book I hope to read this year.

On the subject of doubts, one that I felt gently tugging at my sleeve as I prepared to invest myself into this new business was my awareness of the steady migration of book buyers from paper reading to digital reading. It was hard not to take seriously the threat to hard-copy booksellers implicit in headlines like this from the New York Times from January 22, 2012: “Tablet and E-Reader Sales Soar.” The article reported that the number of adults in the United States who own tablets and e-readers nearly doubled from mid-December to early January last year.

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Are e-Readers Just a Fad?

Closing Too Soon

 e-reader fadI just found a used bookstore for sale via the internet.  In the listing, the current owner writes, “Looking for a new owner who knows people read something other than the Kindle.”
I’ve seen a few bookstores liquidating inventory, listing their store for sale on eBay, and simply closing up shop.  My immediate thought isn’t, “Boy, it’s a shame the market shut them down” or “I guess the e-readers drove them out of business.”  My response is, “They closed too soon!”  I know of one former bookseller who closed his shop after 6 months of poor sales.  I tried to make suggestions about things he could improve, but he had already “checked out” from bookselling.  He was discouraged because another local used bookshop was closing down at the same time.  I told him that he’d be the only game in town, things would get better, and to think about the years of positive cash flow he had.  “Stay in there” is easy to say when you’re running successful shops.  With 5 stores, I can have a slow quarter at one location as long as other locations are staying strong.  There are many advantages to owning a multi-store chain.  However, I do think that the solo independent bookstore, new or used, can make it nowadays.  These booksellers need to stick it out, fight the good fight, and let this fad called “e-reading” subside.

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electronic readers comparedA philosophical president of Random House publishing, Gina Centrello, concedes that the industry is changing fast. She seems comfortable about it. It’s her contention that yes, e-readers will be a predominant way people receive their books, but that real books, with pages between covers will also remain. Her belief is that the best of both worlds will exist, and this is fantastic for the consumer because they now have choice. Up until now, the poor person who wanted to scan War and Peace– (my example)- had to lug this heavy clumsy thing whenever they needed to extract quotes for a book report, to make it look as thought they’d read it. In their back pocket folded into near oblivion is the Cliff Note. A Cliff Note on the other hand is skinny and practically featherweight-doesn’t matter–it too will be available on a e-reader, no doubt. She seems positively cheery about the prospects the future brings.

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Wal-Mart vs. Amazon

It’s hard to decide which of these two monopolies to dislike more. One wants to take over the retail universe, and the other strives to take over the retail universe. One is brick and mortar and treats employees less than admirably, the other is an online store and treats employees like a third world country. One sells various and sundries, the other sells various and sundries, and oh, yeah, books. One used to sell the Kindle pad, the other still sells the Kindle pad.

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Amazon Warehouse, Up Close

Warehouse in Lower Macungie Township in PA–the hot as hell warehouse inspected by OSHA.

Reading the interesting post of John Pollard, my memory kicked in, and reminded me of my up close and almost personal view of a real live Amazon warehouse, full of books to be pulled, and boxed and shipped to the various customers around the world. I happened upon it, as my husband and I often do, accidentally, while exploring a route to a giant something or other. Could have been a Catsup bottle or milk can or whatever, but after we found it, clicked enough pictures for posterity, I turned around, and low and behold a sign with the familiar word I’ve always associated with oversized super women, Amazon, appeared.  I had the husband adjust our direction to enter the parking lot of a long ugly warehouse with no visible humans, no openings, no windows, unless in the office part, and no activity. For around a minute I thought perhaps it was abandoned. But rounding the end of the warehouse we found a more congenial area, if congenial means one opening, with a couple of people handing out boxes, and, an area with one dinky picnic table, a couple of attached benches, and a lone individual eating. Oh, and did I mention, the spot was entirely caged with open fencing–up to the top–completely enclosed. By golly, no slimy picker person will abscond with the latest paperback, not from this joint!

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Thanks A Lot, Justice Administration

Thank you so much for protecting us from Apple’s attempts to monopolize the e-book industry. Sure, they set e-book prices and colluded with publishers to do so. And, maybe from the short term view of the consumer and U. S. government, that is a very bad thing. As if monopolies are non existent except for … Read more