Archive for the ‘read review linkindie’ Category

Reviews of books you’ve already read

Over the holidays and even a bit after them, I took refuge in books with proven track records. The problem with mostly reading new books is that about half the time, I’m disappointed. And for the sake of my mental health, I needed the tried and true to get to mid-January unscathed. Unsurprisingly, I loved many of the classic books I read! Because the reason they’re classic is that many people have already loved them!

I feel a bit silly writing reviews for them, because they’re none of them very new (well, most of them), and in some cases I am literally a century behind the times. But indulge me. Perhaps you just need one more person to tell you to read one of the titles below. Let me be the catalyst, because these books all deserve as many eyes as possible.

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (Knopf). If you’ve been in my store at any point in the last month, I have probably thrust this book at you with the eerie vigor of a recent convert. That’s because I am one. This book has changed my life. Well, it’s changed my exercise habits. Which is now changing my life. I have gone from really wanting to enjoy running but secretly loathing it to actually lacing up my shoes on purpose and finding an odd zen in my own wheezing.

If you have no interest in running, have no fear, this book is also a fantastic adventure story of the highest caliber. Just don’t be surprised if you start wondering if you, too, could run an ultramarathon. (A thing I have begun to wonder every day.)

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I’m not sure what else remains to be said about a book so beloved that multiple people have told me that they re-read it on an annual basis.  Maybe you, like me, shy away from books with one or more precocious teenage narrators. Try to swallow back your bile for this one. I promise.

As a side note, I read this book on a dark and cold winter night. And, because I was so drawn into the story, I drank an entire bottle of cheap sweet red wine while doing so, much too quickly. I cannot recommend this experience highly enough.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When Bookdwarf said that this series might be better than the Harry Potter books, I thought she was crazy. Now I no longer think that she is crazy.

Moby-Dick: Or, The Whale by Herman Melville. People have been trying to get me to read this book for years and I have ignored them every time. I am not interested in whales or how they used to be killed, and every time I opened to a random page to get a feel for the writing, I got an eyeful of Melville pontificating on the nature of whiteness and purity or a whale chase.

If only someone had thought to tell me that it is FUNNY! (And that the pontificating on whiteness is actually genius, and the whale chases are actually enthralling.) I could have loved it years ago! If only I had listened to the people who told me that those random chapters on Melville spouting (ha! oh, c’mon, it’s funny) off about random ideas were, in fact the gems of the book. I hope you are not so stupid as me and have already read this book.

The Curse of the Appropriate Man by Lynn Freed (Harcourt). It breaks my heart that the only reason I picked up this book was because it was a remainder at Idlewild Books. I really should have paid full price for it. This is one of the finest short story collections I have read in maybe ever. I’ve already read it twice. Be aware going into it that it’s set in apartheid-era South Africa and so, is incredibly painful to read in places. The racism of the characters is so thick at times that I was cringing and squinting my eyes at the pages. But find it within yourself to accept the injustices of the time and place in order to read through the book, because at its heart this book gets closer to the dark and stormy and perverted parts of the female soul than most.

Also, I think we can all agree that is one of the top ten book titles of all time.

The Prisoner by Thomas Disch (Penguin). Like most thinking human beings, I love the original Prisoner TV series, even the stupid episodes like “Living in Harmony,” and found AMC’s recent attempts to remake the series tragic. However, after reading Disch’s novelization of the original show, I kind of understand where they were going with the remake. It is still horrible. But I see where they were going.

If only they had just remade Disch’s book exactly! I would have gotten cable so that I could watch it over and over. This is the first book I’ve read by Disch, but I’ll be going back for more. I ignored my family for a large portion of Boxing Day to read this book instead (and I actually like my family). I actually wish I had saved it for the train ride home, because this is the epitome of the perfect novel for traveling.

The Untouchable by John Banville (Vintage). Another writer who doesn’t really need my help, but here I am, giving it anyway. I love a good spy novel, so of course I loved an even better disgraced-spy-unmasked-and-hiding-in-his-house novel. Also, it is British. I find that novels about social disgrace are about ten times better when they are British (hi, Anne Perry and Penny Vincenzi!).

Written Lives by Javier Marias (New Directions Press). It is one thing when a book is laugh-out-loud funny. It is another when a book repeatedly makes you laugh out of SHEER JOY. I read parts of this while traveling and kept wanting to read paragraphs out loud to the other people in my train car (I did not, not that they would have heard me over their insanely loud phone conversations).

This book is, for those who love authors, the reading equivalent of dancing a sloppy tango in someone’s backyard after one too many beers on a cool summer night, the wind in your hair and all the good things about life floating around you. If you are a writer—or, through some fluke of nature, a person obsessed with books who is NOT a writer—you should call out sick, go get this book, and read it right away. Right away, I said!

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross (Picador). If Written Lives is a tango, The Rest is Noise is a sandwich on thick pumpernickel. Delicious! But very, very chewy, and almost certainly not something to be finished in one sitting. It might be different if you know anything about classical music and its history. I did not, except that I knew I really liked string quartets and Bach and cellos. So it took me two weeks to read through this, one chapter at a time. More than one chapter and my brain closed up shop for the day.

This is the first book I’ve ever read that I think might have been improved by being digital. As it was, I often stopped to go on Youtube and listen to songs and composers Ross recommends (for some reason I missed the fact that the book has a fantastic website until I got to the end). And then, using the music I liked, over time built a Pandora station with all the stuff I liked. I recommend doing this as well. It’s helping me to remember things about the book that I would probably have forgotten otherwise, and has also made my homelife much nicer-sounding.

So, that is the end of me telling you to read books you’ve probably already read. Hopefully you haven’t already read all of them. (But if you have: call me!) And then tell me what book I should read that I have probably already read.

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My favorite cookbook in the world

If you’ve ever visited me in a bookstore in person and asked for a cookbook recommendation, I undoubtedly started with How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. This is because it is the best cookbook I know of. However, often when I recommend it, people have looked at me like I am crazy. Not the Joy of Cooking? Better Homes and Gardens? Rachael Ray?

No, friends, no. Let me tell you a little story about last night that will help illustrate why I am so devoted to The Bittman (as I refer to it in my head).

By the time I got home from work last night, it was 10pm and I was starving. I had a whole pantry of nothing in particular and a refrigerator of wilted leeks and condiments. I saw a bag of whole-wheat pasta snuggled in the back corner of the pantry, so pasta it was. But it was going to be boring old nothing on it at all pasta. Blegh. Wait, I thought. I bet THE BITTMAN can save my meal! And o boy did it ever.

I flipped in the index (the completeness of which is one of my favorite things about the book) to pasta, then went the to appropriate page. Right there, a basic little recipe for oil and garlic sauce. Alright! This meal was not going to totally suck.

But wait! There were, as there are with almost every recipe in the book, several suggested variations on the recipe. Including one that called for toasted breadcrumbs. Which were also lurking in my pantry. And when I moved them, I found a small jar of tomato paste. So I toasted the breadcrumbs in garlic-y oil, added the tomato paste, and then added a cup or so of pasta water to thin the sauce out (a trick I learned from earlier treks through THE BITTMAN). Tossed it with the pasta, spiral pasta, which held the tomato-breadcrumb sauce beautifully, added salt and pepper, and holy shit, I had the best pasta dish I’ve made in months!

That is the beauty of The Bittman, for me. It has never let me down. It has endless variations that keep my meals from being boring. Whenever I panic and think, ack, how long SHOULD I boil these eggs/steam this broccoli/let this dough rise, The Bittman is there with its lovely index and personable and clear writing to keep me calm. I don’t worry when I see strange vegetables at the farmers’ market. I buy them with confidence, because The Bittman is waiting at home to give me five ways to prepare them.  You will feel like the MacGyver of cooking with this book.

In fact, it’s the only cookbook that I give a pass for not having any pictures (aside from some very helpful drawings for various skills like coring a cabbage, another thing I learned from The Bittman). Normally I like my cookbooks full of food porn. My other favorites—Nigella for baking, Ina for entertaining—oblige with glossy arty photos that make me drool, but that is not what The Bittman is for. It is a cooking tool, as indispensible to my kitchen as a paring knife and saucepan.

So when you’re looking for the right gift for graduation, housewarming, or for “hey dude maybe YOU could try cooking every once in awhile around here,” get The Bittman. If you’re a vegetarian, there is also How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, which is basically just as awesome. Get both, they look really nice together on the shelf and both have the satisfying heft of true wisdom.

As a bonus, below please find the recipe for my dinner last night, which I am naming Bookseller & Bittman Pasta to honor both my inspiration and the fact that it is pretty cheap to make.

You will need:

a bag of whole-wheat pasta (I used Trader Joe’s whole-wheat spiral pasta, forget what the Italian name for it is)

garlic, 2-3 cloves (I used this awesome thing I found the other day which is basically little ice cubes of crushed garlic, I think the brand name was Doret)

one little can tomato paste

1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs (I had some that came with herbs included, I highly recommend these. If not, you’ll probably want to add some Italian herbs into the recipe)

good olive oil

salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Start the water boiling. Add a lot of salt (I love salt, but even if you don’t, The Bittman instructs that a good amount of salt is crucial to the best pasta).

2. This whole step, keep the burner on medium heat. Get out a decent-sized saucepan and put in a few glugs of olive oil. (The Bittman recipe calls for 1/3 cup, but I hate measuring olive oil, it’s always such a mess.) Add garlic, let it do its thing for awhile, then add the bread crumbs, 1/2 cup or so. Then you’ll probably need to add more olive oil so they’re soaked through. Move the bread crumbs around enough to keep them from burning, but not so much that they don’t crisp up, for 3 minutes or so, until they start to smell really good. Add most of the can of tomato paste (you can probably add the whole can, I just didn’t). Mix it up until you have this kind of bread crumb tomato mush. Turn off the burner.

3. At this point your pasta water should be boiling. Add pasta. Go find your book and read for a little bit.

4. Five minutes later, look up in shock. Holy shit! The pasta! Fish a piece out, it should be done. (The Bittman has very wise words about how to tell when pasta is done that you should check out.)

5. Before you drain the pasta, dip a measuring cup in and take out a little over a cup of the pasta water (I used a 2-cup Pyrex measure, which was perfect for this). Put that water in with the bread crumbs and tomato, stir to make a thick sauce. Add more water if you want. Take out another cup or so of water. Drain the pasta.

6. Put the pasta back in the pot, pour the tomato sauce over top. You will probably need to pour in a bit more water so that it all comes together well. I added more breadcrumbs at this point, I don’t remember why. Salt and pepper to taste. The pepper isn’t so important, but the right amount of salt makes this perfect. I did not have cheese in the house (I know, very surprising!) but if I had, I bet some sort of Parmaesan with a nice bite would have set this off really well.

7. Enjoy! This made about four big bowls. Just as good as leftovers (eating it right now) as it was last night. Incredibly satisfying.

Worth buying in hardcover

I haven’t written book reviews on here in quite awhile, and I realized that yesterday after I finished The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time and that’s saying something, because I’ve been on a streak of great books lately.

Despite myself I’ve read almost nothing but new or new-ish releases lately.  I blame Twitter—everyone gets going on about a book and I just want to read it right away!  Not an awful thing, though, because right now over half of the books I’m reading are good enough to recommend to other people.  (This is way above average for my reading experience, because normally I’m just guessing with stuff I get from the stack of ARCs.)  On the other hand, I do apologize that most of these are only available in hardcover or not out yet.  Even though, as I note in the title, I consider them all worth a hardcover purchase.

These aren’t really reviews—as I’ve noted before, I am a bookseller by profession, not a book reviewer.  As you’ll see, there is a reason for that.  Let’s start with the book that inspired all this.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway (Knopf, already out).
I am still in that weird place with this book.  You know, the place where it’s all really fresh and you can’t talk about it coherently.  But I will say this—this book came with nothing but the highest praise from a number of booksellers I really respect, and they were 100% right.  It was hard for me to crack into because I’ve never experienced a voice like it before, and it took me awhile to settle into it, but it was definitely worth the effort.  This book is so good that on Saturday, when I had to put it down to get ready for work, I got MAD.  I was seriously angry that I had to put it down!

I was just trying to write any sort of summing-up of the book and I just can’t.  It’s still too close.  I’ll just say that I recommend it as highly as everybody else did.

As a side note, this is the sort of book it is still possible to sell in hardcover without begging.  This is because it is COOL.  Take a look at the cover image.  The cover and spine, wherever it is pink, it is FUZZY.  It is just too cool.  This is the sort of thing that I find is currently necessary to push a customer over the edge into dropping $30+ on a HC, especially for a name they don’t know.  I can sing all the hosannas I want, but the fuzzy cover really can tip the scales.

(As a further side note, this is why I am so bummed FSG is not re-printing 2666 in the cool 3-books-in-a-box edition.  People loved that.  A woman actually pouted at me on Saturday when I told her it wasn’t available anymore.  I don’t blame her, as I think I pouted myself when I first heard the news. ETA: THIS IS NOT TRUE! This morning I found out they DID decide to re-print, and this afternoon I rec’d 3 copies into our stock.  So ignore this!)

The City & The City by China Mieville (Del Ray, May).
Though I have heard people praise his writing many times, this is actually the first Mieville book I’ve picked up.  No idea why it grabbed my attention, but I’m glad it did.  I loved it so much that I added all his backlist to a recent order and will catch myself up.  Fantastic book.  Just the right amount of fantasy, in the sense that it can absolutely be cross-sold to people who don’t like it.  The concept—two cities literally on top of one another, two populaces that have spent their entire lives pretending not to see one another, and wondering who keeps it all rigid—is a beautiful and beautifully-executed one.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave (Simon & Schuster, already out).

What can I say about this book that this fantastic video does not?

Not much, except that it really does live up to the hype.  I follow a number of slightly-finicky people on Twitter who all seem to agree.

The Manual of Detection by Jebidiah Berry (Penguin Press, already out).
Another Twitter recommend, though the final push came from a customer recommending it to me.  (When the internet world and the real world tell me the same thing, I try to pay attention.)  This is a beyond-solid detective book with a great paranormal twist that only has a few flaws, all of which I chalk up to it being a debut and didn’t make me like the book any less.  Also a great cover.  I think this is a great book for summer—it starts light and gets darker, and I think I would have enjoyed trickling into the dark bits of the book while sitting in broad July sunlight.

For a creep-yourself-out trifecta, add

The Resurrectionist by Jack O’Connell (Algonquin, and, I know I’m late to the party on this one, but it really is great, and think of it this way, it’s the one book in this post in PB soon!) and

Darling Jim by Christian Moerk (Henry Holt, April), a book that is still giving me chills to think about.  This book is the literary fiction equivalent of a good true crime book, except you don’t have to feel guilty about reading it after you’re done.

Shimmer by Eric Barnes (Unbridled, June).
Another fantastic book for summer.  Luckily, I already tried to write a blurb for it for Eric’s website, so will just c-and-p that here: A lot of books are labeled “literary thrillers.” Most of the time that’s a lie.  It’s not when applied to Shimmer.  The book moves at a breathtaking pace, but I was purposely slowing my reading to enjoy both the writing and the structure of the book.  It’s a rare writer who can make you like the man at the root of Ponzi scheme that is technological, financial, and poised to ruin the lives of everybody he knows, but Barnes definitely pulls it off.  Shimmer is beautiful in the way that a collapsing building is; more beautiful, because throughout it you can cling to the hope that the building will somehow put itself back together.  A great book across the board that I would sell to almost anybody.
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel (Unbridled, June).

Ha! ANOTHER book I have already written something about!  Unfortunately for you, it was a very rambling email after I had just finished it.  And before I post the email, I can’t tell you how excited I am that WORD will be hosting Emily’s launch party.

“Maybe not the sort of thing I would have picked up on my own, but I’m glad you told me to read the first four chapters.  That was enough to get me hooked.  Actually, the first chapter was–in particular, “tracking a rare butterfly-like quotation as it fluttered through thickets of dense tropical paragraphs” (3).

What a strangely beautiful book.  I don’t envy whoever has to write the jacket copy for it, as I can’t even sum it up in my head.  But here are the things I was struck by: I found the scenes with young Lilia and her father moving (first time I’ve ever empathized with a man abducting his daughter, somehow even before I knew why it was justified), I found Eli’s love for Lilia beautiful, and just many little descriptive sentences that were lovely but did not feel the need to call attention to themselves.  It was almost like watching a ballet, a destructive ballet.  The piece of the letter he wrote to Zed, on page 240, brought me to tears.

And there were a few little things that endeared the book to me as well–I am a secret language nerd, so Eli’s thesis was interesting, and also as a person who avoided a lifetime of academia on purpose, I really identified with his frustrations with people just TALKING about things and deconstructing things and so on, and never really doing anything.  And yet, his discomfort with the woman he loves doing things, because it means he gets hurt.  I still haven’t talked about how much I love Graydon!  Even though I also didn’t really like him at all.  What a fascinating, maddening character.”

The Believers by Zoe Heller (Harper, already out).
Very very very funny.  I love books in which I hate almost all the characters.  Heller’s depiction of the rich snotty liberal is spot-on and worth the price of admission.  I was especially drawn to Rosa, because I am always interested in maybe converting to Judaism (although not Orthodox, as she is), and I found the scenes in which she alternately loves and loathes the strictness of such a faith to be some of the most compelling.  The ideas about belief and its types go far deeper than I expected.  I think this would make a good book club book for book clubs that don’t like super serious stuff but also want something with a little meat to it.

Laura Rider’s Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton (Grand Central, April).

Three reasons I loved this book:

1.    This passage:
“She liked to tell her friends, and on occasion her radio audience, how frightened Frank became if there wasn’t printed matter near his person.  Their car had once broken down, and for some unexplained—perhaps paranormal—reason, they’d had no reading material for the two hours they’d had to wait for rescue.  Frank had almost gone mad.  There had not even been the Saab manual.  He sweated and he paced, reciting all the soliloquies that were his set pieces, roving through Othello, Lear, Merchant, Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Hamlet, and a few sonnets as well” (37).

2.    A character who shares my name!  This is perhaps not the most shocking thing, as my first name is fairly common and my last name even more so.  But it has never happened to me before, and certainly never as a minor character who talks about gardens on NPR.

3.    It is awesome and bizarre and hilarious.  This is the sort of book that I fear won’t get great critical attention because it was written by a woman, hinges on ideas about relationships, and because the protagonist is writing a romance novel.  But it should.  This book is just FUN and a perfect read.

Trouble by Kate Christensen.
One of the cool things about Greenpoint is that we are home to several great authors, and one of them is Kate Christensen, who I loved long before I moved here.  Her latest is not much like The Epicure’s Lament or PEN/Faulkner Award-winning The Great Man—as someone put it to me, “it’s commercial, but I don’t mean that as an insult.” And indeed that is the case.  This is probably an easier sell than her earlier books, and I think that’s fantastic, because I’d love for her to reach a larger audience.  This is a great place to start if you haven’t read anything of hers before.  Her ability to tell a gripping story is very well-displayed in this tale of two friends who run away to Mexico to escape the messes their lives have become.

Also, the sex scenes are fantastic.  If kids were still naïve enough to pass around books with the sex scene pages dog-eared, this book would definitely deserve that treatment.  Fantastic enough to get their own paragraph.

Can’t wait to throw a party for this one, either (in June, Brooklynites).  Am still trying to find a way to responsibly incorporate tequila—hey, it’s very important to the book, okay?  At the least, sangria.

Did you get all the way to the end? Wow, I’m impressed, as I barely did. Here is your prize: what have you read lately worth recommending?

LinkIndie is about keeping your eyes open

Thought I’d share a little success story. Time Out NY recently linked to a WORD employee’s trailer for an upcoming film and talked about a great event we had last week.  He also referred to our selection as “solid,” which is awesome, and talked about the two books he bought here.  All of which is great, except–he hotlinked the two books he bought here by sending readers to the Amazon page.  Ack.

So, I wrote to the email listed on the page:

“Hello,

I’m writing to thank Drew Toal for his mention of WORD yesterday. We appreciate the publicity and are always glad to hear that people have had a great experience in our store!

However, I do have one small favor to ask.  In the future, when your blog writes stories about any of the fantastic independent bookstores in NYC, would you consider sending any book links to IndieBound?  I’d hate to think that someone might have seen the books you bought at our store by clicking on the Amazon link, and then bought them on Amazon instead of with us or another indie bookstore.  For example, the link to HOME LAND would have gone here.

Thanks for your consideration, and thanks again for the shout-out!”

I heard back from with him literally within minutes; he apologized and said he had changed the links.  And he did, see here.  That easy! I’ve seen a lot of booksellers and bookstores being proactive about this on Twitter, too.  Anybody else got a good success story to share?

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!)

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 IndieBound.org 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?

LinkIndie-related letter

In today’s Shelf Awareness:

“In the same story, Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said that the prospect that Amazon may be a ‘very dominant player who could squeeze most of the profits out of this new market is frightening for authors and publishers.’

“Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, wrote in response: 

“Perhaps the Authors Guild should suggest that authors not link only to Amazon on their websites. Acting as a sales agent for one dominant and frightening player may not be a wise long-term strategy. Many independent bookstores can fulfill orders as Amazon does, and IndieBound.org offers an affiliate program for authors and a connection to 200 independent bookstores.”

Yes!  

To the letter above it, in which the president of BookSite says that “Carolyn Reidy is right in her appraisal that popular titles should be priced similarly whether traditionally bound or e-book editions. E-books have not lowered publishing costs of new popular titles so why should they receive a special discount?” I have this to say: I’m not an economics major or minor or anything, but I do know that one of the rules about pricing is that you can only price as high as the market will bear.  And I can guarantee you that nobody is going to bear e-books being the same price as physical books.  So we’ve got to work something out.  If this industry makes the same mistakes as the music industry did, we’ll look even stupider than them, a rare feat.

To end this post, I have to tell you about a book, which I don’t do enough here.  Yesterday we got in a special order book that I read the first chapter of while receiving, and it was so good I had to put it under other books so I didn’t read it.  Normally, I would buy such a book and take it home.  Not an option in this case, because it was an SO.  And I didn’t want to wait to finish it.  So after closing down the store, I left one light on and carefully finished the book, reading it in that half-opened way one reads a book so as not to break the binding.  It was worth it.  The book?  FREAK SHOW, by James St. James (Speak, 9780142412312).  The story of a transvestite teen who is stranded in a uber-conservative Florida boarding school, and one of the best voices I’ve read in a book in a long time.  Order, ignore Perez Hilton blurb on front, and enjoy.

Read. Review. LinkIndie.

Alright, let’s do this thing.

As I explained in my previous post, my current project online is to promote IndieBound to authors and bloggers.  I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to, when using a link that is about a book, link to IndieBound.  I’m not asking anyone to stop linking anywhere, just to starting linking to IndieBound as well (although, of course, I won’t stop anybody who decides to exclusively link to IndieBound; in fact, I might kiss them). 

I’d also like to spread the word about the IndieBound affiliate program.  Many authors/bloggers link to Amazon because they earn a percentage of any sale that originates at their site.  IndieBound has a very similar program that I think most people just don’t know about.

How do we do this? 

Think about blogs you read.  (If you don’t read blogs, then no worries, think about authors you read.)  Which ones are most important to you?  Do they ever talk about books, review books, etc?

Write an email to the blogger or author.  Explain who you are, why you are writing (including that you’re a fan; can’t hurt), explain why local businesses and indie bookstores are important to you (and if relevant, state the ways in which you think they are important to the person to whom you’re writing), and state what you’re asking for.  

What are you asking for, anyway?  Well, if you’re me:

“What I’m basically asking for is that, when you and your fellow bloggers talk about or review a book, you include a link to IndieBound, not just to an online or chain bookstore.  Many people prefer to buy locally when they can, and this linking will make it easier for them to do it. [If relevant: From reading your blog for years, I know that localism and sustainability are important to you, and this is a small step you can take to extend that the practice of that belief to your audience.]”

Make sure you include links to whatever makes sense–to IndieBound, to this blog post, to the websites of authors or bloggers who already do this, to your blog, to your store, to your favorite indie, to an indie close to them, or to either of these two great resources for this project:

1. The ABA’s letter to authors, asking them to consider being a part of the IndieBound Affiliate program.  This letter shows how easy it is to join up and breaks it down to 7 steps.

2. An article from last week’s B0okselling this Week called “Easy Options Connect Authors to Indies.” Good examples of what people have already done; keep in mind that the word “blogger” could be inserted for “author” at basically any point in the article.

There’s no need to email tons of people, unless you want to.  I’m starting with 3 blogs that I’ve read for a long time: Feministing, Shakespeare’s Sister, and Boing Boing.  I expect that number will grow as I read posts in Reader that talk about books but don’t link to IndieBound.  This post isn’t a once and done thing; this is a starting point.

All that said, I do want to know who you’re contacting and what success you have (including if you don’t, and especially if they tell you why they won’t—I am dead curious to know why people won’t).  So please leave that information in comments, where we can all see it.

As for vocabulary, originally in my head I was calling this “Project Fairness in Linking,” which is awful, because I am shit at naming things.  Luckily, my mom not only came up with a beautiful portmanteau for linking to local businesses (sustainalinking), she also came up with the following phrase, modeled on IndieBound’s Eat Sleep Read.  What do you think:

 

Read. Review. LinkIndie.