Archive for the ‘book links’ Category

Bookavore sighting!

There are so few of us bookavores, we who eat books, that I feel a clan obligation to post any and all sightings of them.

Via the lovely Emily Pullen, please go watch this video of Blake Butler eating the first page of his book. I think he intends to eat the whole thing, so please also go recommend to him ways to make that a little easier.


e-ARC follow-up

After this article in Shelf Awareness last month, about the potential of e-ARCS for reviewing and especially indie bookstores, I got a number of very thoughtful responses. Several people wrote in to affirm that they definitely were not interested in e-ARCs at all and have concerns that for booksellers to start to work with e-books puts the future of the book at greater risk.  Several others wrote in to say they were very interested in e-readers, even though they love physical books.  And a few introduced thoughts that had never entered my mind! Below is a selection of voices that I think are crucial to the discussion:

Let me say I would dearly love an e-reader for ARC’s!! I will be anyone’s guinea pig on this! I find the amount of paper products in my office overwhelming.  Publisher’s catalogs, toy catalogs and then what-have-you catalogs. I have been known to purge so severely that my new catalogs are recycled with the old! (My reps just bring them now.)  The book sorting and sharing is never ending, as you say.  But you forgot to mention the book that has been out on the floor for 3 months and the ARC mysteriously reappears on the shelf to be re-sorted and weeded.”  —Andrea Vuleta, General Manager, Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop (CA)

The aspect that isn’t being discussed is that, as a collector, I like having ARCs in my collection. Yes, fewer of them are printed and, to me, that makes them more interesting. There are often changes in the art between the ARC and the finished book and I like having those differences represented- often I prefer the artwork of the ARC. There can be changes to the story or some other aspect of the text between the ARC and the finished book and, to me, that’s worth keeping. Being in the bookworld, I am lucky enough to be able to be many of them signed by the visiting author, so I have sets – the ARC and the hardcover – and I like that. Makes my shelves jammed, but I like it. In fact, if there are gaps in my collection, they are the ARCs of author’s earlier books that I don’t have.

“I recall one author bemoaning how some faceless copy editor decided that the last three paragraphs in the author’s book really weren’t necessary so they were omitted from the finished book. Until the paperback, the only way to read the full book, as written by the author, was in the ARC.

“In another case, an author was horrified to find that an earlier and inferior version of the manuscript was mistakenly issued as the ARC and thought reviews and reactions to the book were hurt by it. He wanted anyone who had read the ARC to read the book again, in hardcover. Otherwise, you hadn’t really read ‘his book’.

“These kinds of stories, along with the artifact itself, makes me value ARCs as a collector. And, for that reason, I’d hate to see them go.”  —JB Dickey, owner, Seattle Mystery Bookshop (WA)

“Being one who tends to see both sides of an issue simultaneously, I can certainly support your reasoning about reducing waste and being more ‘green.’ But I’m also concerned that booksellers need to ‘walk the talk.’ If they’re reading books — even if in galley form — on an e-reader, why shouldn’t more customers do the same?

One alternative solution that came to me is for publishers to use the same model with booksellers as agents do with acquisitions editors: present a one or two page summary, along with a sample chapter. Since we can’t possibly read all the ARCs that we get anyway, we could at least get a feel for the content, style of writing, and whether any of our customers would like the book. Publishers could then produce galleys with print-on-demand technology, should there be some requests for the book.”  —Mark Kaufman, Paz & Associates

The moment I heard of e-readers I thought they would be an excellent tool for me as a bookseller. Imagine seeing a book promoted on a television show, website or actually meeting the author that interested me. I could IMMEDIATELY go to the publisher website, enter my super secret spidey code and download a copy to start reading. If I didn’t like it… no problem… delete it. If I DID like it… start the buzz.”  —Deb Hunter, Chicklet Books (NJ)

And here’s a helpful link from Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media Partners, about a study they did for netGalley that looks at the costs to publishers of making e-ARCs available.

Any other voices out there in the ether that want to chime in?


Quick post to link to advanced.reader’s post suggesting the potential for publishers to help pay for e-readers for booksellers, with the understanding that they would primarily be used for reading ARCs (and thus cutting down on the ARC mountain).  She calls it a modest proposal and I think it’s definitely something that should be considered.  In fact, in my case, I think it would lead to increased sales–books I really loved I would go out and buy, instead of just keeping the ARC.  Lots of pros and cons discussed in the post.

I will definitely second the shout-out to Sony at the end.  

Sony, if you’re listening?  Get a booth at BEA if you don’t already have one.  If you can’t, get a sidewalk permit and sit next to the falafel stands outside the Javitz Center.  Offer anyone with a badge $100 or $150 off an online purchase of a Sony Reader in the next two months.  You’ll never have a better opportunity to get in good graces with some of the most prolific readers in the country.  As a side bennie, all the indie booksellers attending have a vested interest in your reader becoming and staying more popular than the Kindle.  And we read A LOT.

Thinking the unthinkable

This blog entry by Clay Shirky, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,” was floating around Twitter all day today, and I just can’t get it out of my head.  I’ll post some of the quotes that I’m really fixated on, though you really owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

“The problem newspapers face isn’t that they didn’t see the internet coming. They not only saw it miles off, they figured out early on that they needed a plan to deal with it, and during the early 90s they came up with not just one plan but several.”


“Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know ‘If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?’ To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.”


“The hard question Eisenstein’s book asks is ‘How did we get from the world before the printing press to the world after it? What was the revolution itself like?’

Chaotic, as it turns out. The Bible was translated into local languages; was this an educational boon or the work of the devil? Erotic novels appeared, prompting the same set of questions. Copies of Aristotle and Galen circulated widely, but direct encounter with the relevant texts revealed that the two sources clashed, tarnishing faith in the Ancients. As novelty spread, old institutions seemed exhausted while new ones seemed untrustworthy; as a result, people almost literally didn’t know what to think. If you can’t trust Aristotle, who can you trust?

During the wrenching transition to print, experiments were only revealed in retrospect to be turning points. Aldus Manutius, the Venetian printer and publisher, invented the smaller octavo volume along with italic type. What seemed like a minor change — take a book and shrink it — was in retrospect a key innovation in the democratization of the printed word, as books became cheaper, more portable, and therefore more desirable, expanding the market for all publishers, which heightened the value of literacy still further.

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.”


“Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.”


Shirky is very clearly talking about newspapers and journalism here, but I have to say, some of these quotes cleanly struck me as things that we might be saying about books someday soonish.  

In particular, in the first quote I selected, I’m struck by the truth that newspapers did, in fact, see change a-comin’, and they spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal with it, and they failed anyway.  This reminds me a lot of the conversations the book industry is having within itself right now—how much do we charge for e-books? should TPBs have a simultaneous release with HCs? are large advances totally and completely insane, or are they just a necessary-evil level of insane? &tc.  We know things are going to change and for the most part, we’re trying to figure out what we need to change in order to keep the jobs we love.  But this quote makes me wonder: are we so busy devilling with the details that we’re not considering that our jobs as we know them now might not exist someday?  Perhaps we’re not considering that trade paperback originals may not be the full answer—the full answer might involve a wholesale change in how booksellers, editors, writers, and other book people do their jobs.  Keep in mind that I’m in my twenties.  If I stay in bookselling until retirement age, whatever that’s going to be after Social Security nosedives, that’s at least four more decades.  I can’t even concieve of what the book industry will look like in one decade, let alone four.  Will it include the opportunity to make a living selling books to other people?  What sort of changes will I have had to make to get there?  What things can’t I see from my seat inside the inside of books?

Shirky: “Society doesn’t need papers.  What we need is journalism.”

Would it be too much of a stretch to say:

“Society doesn’t need books.  What we need are stories.”

Books have been around longer than newspapers, and I personally don’t think they’ll go away soon, or ever.  (For proof I offer up the sheer joy on a kid’s face when you hand them a new book.)  But reading Shirky’s entry did make me think that, if even for a little bit, I need to sit with the notion that books are not, in fact, crucial to existence.  This is nearly impossible to fathom, especially living in New York, where everyone I meet is connected to books in some way, I read twice as much, and I’m pretty sure there’s something in the water that is causing me to have dreams related to the publishing industry every night.  However, it might be the sort of thinking I need to open my mind to the possibilities that could keep my job around, in one form or another.  

The world has proven it doesn’t need newspapers. Will it do the same thing to books?

Another reason to love Joe Hill

I thought I only loved the guy for his fantastic fiction, including what may be one of the creepiest ideas I’ve ever read in a book.  The crazy scribbled-out eyes on dead people in HEART-SHAPED BOX still haunt me.  *shiver*

But now I also love him for declaring March “Love-Your-Small-Bookstore Month.”  He says, go pick up a mass market paperback—I say, pick up HEART-SHAPED BOX, if you haven’t already.  It’s in mass market paperback and totally worth it, even if you think you don’t like horror (I thought I didn’t, and this book just knocked that perception away completely).

Thanks, Joe!

Why indies can’t ignore online shopping

I know there are a number, perhaps even a lot, of independent bookstores that are very reluctant to take part in e-commerce—the reason is usually something like: “we want people to actually come IN the store” or “this is a neighborhood bookstore.”  Which are both very good reasons, and independent stores generally have a strong sense of mission and purpose that drives the people who own and work in them.  Many stores have, even though they feel like it’s giving in, put up an e-commerce website.  But very few indies (although there are notable exceptions) have done a solid job of harnessing their websites to really increase sales.  IndieBound has been helping with this in terms of getting the word out, but it feels to me like there are still a lot of booksellers who are on the fence about being online in a serious way.

I have been thinking for some time that this is causing indies to lose business, even among their best customers.  People who love to read tend to spend more time online—and most of online is littered with Amazon links.  In fact, there are a number of compelling reasons why people choose to shop online, whether we like them or not.  Of course, I am just one person and there’s no compelling reason to believe me, so instead, I invite you to listen to your (potential) customers.  Read the comments on this post on litpark, “Question of the Month: Amazon, B&N, or Indie?”  Resist the urge to chime in for a minute—I think this post is better off with customers stating their true preferences and booksellers not jumping in.

You’ll see that the majority of the commenters, as of this moment, really like indie bookstores, and do shop there when possible; many consider Amazon “a backup,” as Susan puts it.  They seem aware of how awesome a good indie store is, the benefits of shopping local, and the joy of browsing a well-stocked bricks & mortar store.  We talk a lot about needing to educate customers about the good things about keeping it local and indie, but these folks could teach a course in it.

They also almost all buy books on Amazon.  Why? Well, there’s a lot of reasons—read them.

Too many customers don’t know that they can have essentially the same experience on your website, if you have one.  They can have the instant gratification of BUY IT NOW and also support their favorite indie bookstore–why don’t they know that?  They can order a book online for in-store pickup, so they never have to worry if the book they want is in stock.  They can have all the convenience of shopping online AND all the things they are telling you they love about our stores.  Why aren’t we telling them?

The bricks & mortar experience is an important one, and I’m confident that with the right tools, we’ll get through this latest downtrun, and we’ll keep having the stores we love to go to every morning.  But it’ll be a lot easier to keep those stores open if we start re-capturing sales that we are losing everyday by stubbornly over-emphasizing our physical presence.  Show people how our in-store presence and service will extend to online purchases—show them they can have convenience AND service AND curated selection AND support their communities even when they’re too tired to go downtown—and we’ll see a change.  Go read the post.  You’ll see why I’m convinced that this cannot be ignored.

As an aside, one of the ways we can work towards this is to keep encouraging bloggers, publishers, authors, and other bookish folk to LinkIndie.  Utne Reader blogged about it yesterday—how cool!

(h/t @AnnKingman for bringing the link to our attention on Twitter, h/t also to many various tweets I’ve been reading by people who like indies but also use Amazon–I appreciate getting a peek at your thinking!)

Of blogs and blogrolls

There’s a whole lot of fantastic floating around the book blogs lately.  Let’s start with a guest post by Patrick of Vroman’s at Booksellers Blog.  As I have been saying in person quite a lot, Patrick and Vroman’s are, I think, the best example in indie bookselling of how to best use the internet to promote your store.  I don’t know if I will ever get to Pasadena, but I feel like I just KNOW what Vroman’s is like from their web presence (primarily the blog and Twitter, for me).  Even if you’re already clued into the fun and importance of blogging, I highly recommend reading this post.  And ladies (and gay men), even if you don’t give a honk about blogging, I recommend clicking through to look at the picture of Patrick, who is a very nice-looking man.  And then maybe read the post too.

Booksellers will also be interested in the latest post on Kash’s Book Corner.  We are all good at being cranky about the hoards of self-published authors out there (I’ve been tweaking an essay about self-publishing that I may, one day, develop the cojones to post)–this post is an important reminder that there are great writers out there who self-publish because they run headlong into the corporate structures of publishing.  And booksellers, you know you can sympathize with running headlong into the corporate structures of publishing.

Finally, I’ve been slowly but surely revamping my blogroll.  Fellow bookavore are book people, honorary bookavores are not book people.  Well, they might like books, but that’s not the gist of their blog.  Mandatory warning that most if not all of those links are absolutely NSFW, especially if you work at the RNC.

LinkIndie update: IndieBound comes through in a big way

You spoke, IndieBound answered.  If you are on the list to get updates from IndieBound, you know that this morning (or was it afternoon? now that I work somewhere that opens at 11am, my sense of time is a little messed up. anyway.) they sent out an email with several great updates. But the one that I am most excited about is Book Info Pages.  From the email:

“Now it’s easier than ever to link to IndieBound and support independent bookstores on your own website.  Just click on any book link or book result from our site search, and you’ll be presented with a separate page with cover art and a brief book description.

“Included on each page are links to buy the book online directly from a store near you, locate a store on the Indie Store Finder Map, and add the book to your Wish List, as well as a widget for linking to the book on your own website, if you’re an affiliate.  You can also just copy and paste the book info page’s URL–it’s a permanent link to the book.”

(Update: If you did not see the email, Matt has posted the same text on his blog, you can read it there.)

They suggest, and I do too, that you try it out with the Indie Bestsellers.

I will admit that I held off sending my emails because I was hoping this would happen.  This is exactly the first step we needed to make IndieBound links more internet-friendly. Major kudos to IndieBound and the ABA not just for doing this, but also for doing it at least partially in response to requests, and for doing it so quickly.  Even if I hated books, my job would be worth it just to have such a supportive and responsive trade organization.

Perhaps you were holding off too?  No more excuses!  Send them today!  Or perhaps you did not.  Anybody have any stories to share?

Bookavore in the Great Snowy North

Hello from the middle of nowhere!  I am taking a wee vacation with my mom before the insane rush of packpackpackNYCSaltLakeCityWinterInstitiuteNYCmovemovemove.  And wouldn’t you know, I checked my mail this morning, and read Shelf Awareness, and it’s a family affair for us today.  I’ve been quoted quite a bit in Robert Gray’s “Where Will You Be Reading Next?” This article is basically about what’s going to happen with e-books, and how that applies to indie store.  Please read and let me know what you think–this is something I just cannot stop thinking about and I am curious to hear as many opinions as possible.

My mom’s news is more interesting, though.  Chains won the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction!  I’m not linking to Scott O’Dell’s website because he only links to Amazon for purchasing the award winners. Instead, go to her blog and congratulate her on her sticker with the three dolphins.  And in other interesting LHA news, after hearing me talking about it all the time, she has a Twitter!

How do you read so much?

I’ve seen some posts on this tweet (“According to my records I read 462 books in 2008”).  I am not sure how many books I read in 2008 because I got lazy about tracking them, but I do average about a book a day.  I am often asked how.  Here’s my answer:

1. I don’t have a TV set up in my apartment.  This doesn’t mean I think TV is evil or I never watch it; in fact, my habit is to get obsessed with a TV show and watch a season a week.  (Right now I’m on the fourth season of what is at least my fifth run through The West Wing.)  What it does mean, though, is that I don’t turn on the TV when I get on and have it on in the background, I don’t have appointment TV (even for Lost, because I watch it online), and I don’t end up sitting down to watch L&O with dinner and end up sitting there until 11, which is what I did in college.   In other words, I have to watch TV on purpose.  This is probably the main way I make time for reading and writing.

2. I’m an obsessive reader.  If a book is anything more than very good, I find it nearly impossible to go to bed without finishing it.  There’s a reason I chose the name bookavore.  It’s the book equivalent of binge eating.

3. I’m not very good about doing household chores on a regular basis.  I’ve gotten better, but on the priority list it’s WAY below reading.

4. I read on my way to work, since it’s all sidewalks.  I expect to keep this habit after the move.  I start reading about a minute after I wake up, before I do anything else, to get my head back into the real world.  I read when waiting for people in bars, I read in line at the bank, I read on my lunch break.  It’s just the way I am. I am routinely shocked that I had to stumble into bookselling, perhaps the only career that abets my obsessive habit rather than battles with it.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing, though.  I would agree with people who think I read too much.  I do.  It is probably one of the better addictions a person can nurture, but it does get out of hand.  It interferes with my sleeping patterns a few times a week, it can make me anti-social.  I also, on looking at the pile of books I read this year, was embarrassed by the number of really shitty books I read this year when I wanted to read but my brain was tired, sort of like the embarrassment I would feel if somebody piled up the number of bags of Kettle Chips (Spicy Thai flavor) I had eaten this year.  I really need to stop reading shitty books just for the feeling of words passing over my eyeballs.  If I have a New Years’ resolution, I guess that’s it.

That said, anybody have tips for more ways to cram reading into the day?  I’m trying to learn how to knit and read at the same time, since family legend says I had a great-aunt who could do so, so maybe it’s genetic.