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Namastechnology +

That’s right, this is extra credit, because I know that in a room of booksellers, at least half are the kid for whom the phrase “extra credit” sends a shiver up the spine.

As you’ll see in my latest Shelf Awareness column, I interviewed Fraser Kelton of Glue in order to write my article. Unfortunately, some of his thoughtful responses to my questions didn’t make the column; I ended up taking it in a different direction than I had anticipated. But I think they offer some interesting perspectives for indie booksellers to consider. This is a good guy to listen to—he’s smart about technology, he loves books, has been nothing but committed to helping indie stores out, and even has a favorite bookstore (Bryan Prince Books). If you live in NYC, I recommend checking out the Publishing Meets Tech Meetups that he organizes.

Bookavore: In what ways do you think independent booksellers could use technology to improve their business?

Fraser: I’m anything but an expert here, but I’ll toss out two ideas:

1) Use technology to create and nurture community. I bet that a major source of business is the offline community that an independent bookseller nurtures and grows. Technology enables independent booksellers to do this on a larger level online. The web is wonderfully efficient and effective for creating and maintaining relationships. These relationships could be with individuals who already frequent the bookstore (strengthening current connections) or they could be with someone hundreds of miles away (creating new connections). The past 5 years has seen an explosion in online social tools that enable one to tap into and join the conversation and it would be great to see independent booksellers embrace these tools.

2) Focus on providing the best experience possible for an individual. A single website will never be the sole resource for individuals interested in books. Even if the majority of people buy from a single online retailer we read reviews on other sites, check out what our friends are reading on various book social networks, etc. Our book experience online spans multiple sites and it’s naive to think that an independent bookseller will ever be THE site for books. With this in mind, I’d love to see independent booksellers embrace this idea and focus on providing the best experience for the individual. Link to other sites. Even competitors. Even Amazon. The better the experience provided, the more likely I am to return to the site. If I knew that an independent bookseller provided links to the best resources online for books I’d most likely continue to visit the site and with time I bet I’d start to transact through them as well.

B: What are the two or three things that you think all bookstores, indie or not, should be including on their websites?

F: 1) Answer the “What Book Should I Read Next?” question.

Offline, indie booksellers provide value by providing recommendations and curating content. By asking a few questions about previous books enjoyed they can provide a patron with personalized suggestions. An independent bookseller can use their relatively small online presence, when compared to Amazon, as a strategic advantage – they can provide these personalized suggestions online. Have a user fill out a quick form and then provide them with a short list of personalized suggestions within a stated period of time (say, 1 hour). This is a great way to build a permission marketing list and to engage directly with a broad base of potential customers. You should be so lucky that the service becomes so popular that you can barely keep up with requests.

2) Enable the community to curate and edit the book pages.

I want a single place that makes it easy to access the best resources online for a specific book. I want to read reviews from book bloggers, browse critic reviews, access summaries, browse inside the book, etc. There’s currently no aggregated page to easily access all of this information. An independent bookseller should publish book pages that are editable by their community. Imagine a blogger being able to add a direct link to their review, or an avid reader linking to a particularly insightful review from the local newspaper’s site. These actions would create a vibrant site and further strengthen the community. The indie bookseller would then become a go-to resource for all things book related. Google has become the dominant company on the web by directing people off of their site and landing them on information that’s most useful. I’d love to see an indie bookseller take this same approach to the book vertical.

What do you think?

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You don’t have to take my word for it!

Today the first of my new column, Namastechnology, appeared in Shelf Awareness.  The column–which was named by a fellow bookseller who I will mostly definitely be crediting next month, because he deserves for people to know how clever he is–will be about bookselling and technology, trying to bring them into balance with each other.  This first one is a guide to Twitter, and even if you’re not a bookseller, I hope it might help make Twitter make a little more sense.

I wanted to add something here, though–the article got long and we had to cut something, but I love it too much to let it go completely.  And we’re supposed to be adding value to everything now, right?  So here’s the added value for this month’s catalog.  It’s a quote from LeVar Burton, who has been dear to my heart since my PBS-riddled childhood, from a blog post about his discovery of Twitter:

“After lurking for a while (not in a creepy context, simply observing) it occurred to me that I had encountered in Twitter a bona fide community of individuals bound together by common interests and occasionally, ideals. Which brings me finally, to my point. If we are to get through these trying times in which we live, and I definitely believe it our destiny to do so, it is important for us all to remember that none of us is in this alone. It makes sense to me that we are going to need each other to get through this! During a time such as this when monetary resources are scarce, the one commodity we have unlimited access to is the currency of our compassion. It is, I believe, incumbent upon each of us to be willing to extend ourselves to those around us, to support one another through these interesting times. It seems to me that our willingness to engage one another on that level is as good a way as any, to bring a blessing from a curse.”

I love it because I think there are so many echoes of what indie booksellers have been saying for the last year or so—“individuals bound together by common interests”—I mean, you’d swear the man had read the Declaration of IndieBound!

Have you been using Twitter?  Why or why not?  Any good stories to share?

Food for thought

From Ask Nicola, a blog I found through Twitter:

“Do you want to leave literature in the hands of amateurs, poseurs, and lowest-common-denominator craphacks? If you’re not buying new books that’s what you’re doing.”

Don’t make the same mistake as many commenters did!  Actually read the whole thing and don’t get defensive.

Twitter

I now have a Twitter. Do you? Here’s mine: http://twitter.com/bookavore.

I haven’t decided what to use it for yet, though I’m thinking that if I tweet everything I read, rather than blogging it, I won’t end up with a sprawling and lethal pile of books by my bed that I continue to, however stupidly, think that I will blog someday.

Clarification

As I am not a professional satirist, I feel obligated to point out that I do not, actually, believe that booksellers should be able to invoke “rule of conscience.”  I am a strong believer in that famous quote oft-mis-attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”   Just wanted to point out how ridiculous a rule of conscience is at all!

It’s time to play…III

O yeah, I almost forgot, here’s today’s challenge.  We got more clues as it went on.  I’ll try to re-create the experience here.

Customer (a very nice lady, it must be said): “I’m looking for a book, by a father and son, that is very popular.  It’s a one word title.”  She didn’t know what it was about.

At a loss?  So were we.  Then we got: “I think their last name starts with Mc.”  As in, the father and son.

Three of us instantly figured it out.  Keeping in mind that when you play the bookseller game, not all the clues are necessarily accurate, do you know which book she wanted?

Shhhhh, it’s a Secret!

I just had to post this before I forgot!  If you had been in the store a minute ago, you would have heard the following:

Bookavore, while reading Shelf Awareness: “Head Buyer, did you see that next Tuesday the new Rhonda Byrne book is coming out?”

HB: “Oh, lord, what is it?”

B: “The Secret Daily Teachings.”

HB: “Oh, god.  It’s always the daily guidebook second.  Next it will be a journal.  And then a special version for teens.”

B: “The Secret for Men!  The Secret for Dogs and Their Owners!”

HB: “The Secret for Dangerous Cats.  The Secret for Men Who Play Too Many Video Games.  The Secret for Women Who Love Men Who Play Too Many Video Games!”

-hysterical laughter-

-fin-

Links that have nothing to do with one another

Firstly, I have never liked Emily the Strange.  And now I see that my visceral dislike may have been well-founded in the knowledge that she was STOLEN from Nate the Great! (via Journalista)

Next, if you have 20-30 minutes, this story by Paolo Bacigalupi is one of the better short stories I’ve read in a awhile, and it’s free! (via io9)

Finally, this might not be interesting to anybody but me, but: this is a very intriguing analysis of a comic series called Invincible–why it didn’t sell very well until issue #14, and what factors affected it.  If you’ve been wondering at all what the “Direct Market” (comic sales at comic stores) is like in terms of ordering and so on, this would be interesting to you.  (As for the comic itself, I liked it, but did not love it, although I know a number of people who do.  I prefer his other Image book, The Walking Dead, which I bet you would like too, even if you don’t like zombies.)  (also via Journalista)

10 Easy Steps to IndieBound

You may have noticed a certain bookavore lurking in this week’s Bookselling This Week in this article, “10 Easy Steps to IndieBound.”  Thanks to Paige at ABA for helping to make my incoherent rambling IndieBound to-do list into something that has the potential to be of use to other people!  In other BTW news, I found this article about maybe doing a reading marathon VERY intriguing.  I am fond of saying that if reading were an Olympic sport, I would represent my country with pride.  This is not the same thing, really, but still interesting.

And one more media link: an article in PW this week about Book Buddies, a program that I love being a part of!  Really, I get paid (by my store) to occasionally go hang out in another bookstore with other booksellers who I love.  How does one woman get so lucky, I ask you.

You know you’re an indie bookseller when…

you have a dream about explaining IndieBound to a customer.  You wake up, wonder about it, fall back asleep, and then have a dream about two booksellers (not from your store) you know getting married in a fabulously garish theme park wedding.  You wake up again, get weirded out, and spend the rest of the morning reading and eating mochi ice cream.

I mean, I dream about the store constantly, but these two dreams were definitely out there.  I know at my store dreams about bookselling are common; how about the rest of you?