A Solution to Amazon’s Counterfeiting Problem

Kenny Brechner -- August 22nd, 2019

In response to the recent New York Times article, Paging Big Brother, further exposing the proliferation of counterfeit books being offered for sale on, the company made these observations by way of rebuttal and explanation.

According to Amazon, and as reported in Publishers Weekly, “The solution for ensuring that no alternative books to titles that are still protected by copyright appear on Amazon’s—or any other bookstore’s site—is ‘a single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country,’ Amazon said. Such a source ‘would help all booksellers,’ Amazon added.”

There are two sources of these counterfeit (aka ‘alternative’) books. One are editions imported from countries such as India, which have different copyright laws than the U.S., and then are being illegally sold in the U.S. on Amazon. Second, there are pirated editions of copyrighted books being produced, usually though OCR digital scans which mangle the actual language, and which are subsequently published on Amazon’s Createspace platform and then sold. I have mentioned this situation here before. Some of these pirated counterfeits produced on Createspace are carried over into book industry databases such as iPage which feed the websites of some independent bookstores.

Independent bookstores, except for the pirated materials infecting industry databases through Amazon, do not have a problem with counterfeit books and would not be helped by “a single source of truth for the copyright status of every book in every country.” Nonetheless, in keeping with this new atmosphere of amity and mutual support which Amazon is clearly looking to establish between itself and all other booksellers, it is only right to return the favor and offer some guidance for them regarding these counterfeit books.

Here is a best practice that would help Amazon manage its two-pronged counterfeit book problem without having recourse to a highly complex international copyright law improbably materializing at some point in the distant future, particularly as that single source of copyright truth would not have any impact on the primary source of the problem, pirated materials published on Createspace.

Don’t engage in vertical book industry acquisitions aimed at monopoly.

Independent bookstores keep it simple. They are retailers who carefully curate the books in their store inventory. They purchase them from established book industry publishers and wholesalers, as well as supporting in person local authors who are distributing their own titles. Amazon, apart from being a retailing platform, owns publishing houses, a self-publishing platform integrated into, warehouse distribution systems, web hosting platforms, a marketplace for third-party vendors to sell their wares on, a proprietary eBook platform that is dominant in the marketplace, a dominant audiobook platform, a used book dealer consortium which sells through, and so on. If Amazon left publishing to publishers, and left off looking to leverage its monopolistic vertical assets to attain horizontal growth and monopolistic dominance, its problem with putting counterfeit books out into the book retailing ecosystem would vanish. It’s that simple and it would benefit all booksellers, which is our mutual goal.

Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 20th, 2019

Chaos Walking will be in theaters in 2020. Now’s your chance to read this extraordinary novel by Patrick Ness first!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Wizard of OzMary Poppins. Movies made from children’s books can mean blockbuster sales for Hollywood, and can be joyful, enduring touchstone experiences for families. Often, children may not even know that the movie they’re seeing is based on a book, or that—as in the case of Mary Poppins—the book may be markedly different in tone or content from the film. These days, producers hungry for good stories eagerly snap up film rights sometimes even before a book has been published, and the movie may hit the public scene shortly after the book’s publication. Is this a good thing? Do movies broaden the reach of a book, or are we losing readers to the silver screen? I think a little of both.

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Dear Bookstore Owner, P.S.

Cynthia Compton -- August 19th, 2019

I whined a bit in my blog post last week (Dear Bookstore Owner) about my frustrations when working with (mostly) self-published authors and their sometimes ineffective marketing techniques to promote their new books. As you may remember, I offered some advice on how these newly published writers could best approach independent bookstores and potentially endear themselves to the owner and staff, rather than antagonize or damage the relationship before it even begins. Clearly, this is a common concern among my bookselling colleagues, as I spent a good chunk of the weekend responding to their commiserating emails and messages, reading LOTS of humorous (and horrifying) tales of hand-to-hand combat…errrr…. promotion techniques used by authors on the prowl, and tut-tutting over the sadly lost time and energy that all of this can take.

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The Next Generation of Booksellers?

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- August 16th, 2019

Today was the first day of school in my household, which means we had three other days this week not filled with summer camp or any other pre-programmed activity for my incoming second grader. With my husband out of town for work, he agreed to come down to the store with me for a few days. The truth is he actually looks forward to it. He gets to read all day, we get to go out for lunch, and they serve chocolate milk in the café. It’s really not such a bad life! That being said, while I did work a little bit from home this week, he still put in about 18 hours at BookPeople, which isn’t nothing. Of course it didn’t hurt that he was here the week the newest Dog Man came out. Thanks, Dav Pilkey!

Staci, BookKids Inventory Manager, had the same situation with her seven and 11-year-olds this week, so it made me think about the life of these (not entirely voluntary) second generation booksellers. On the plus side, bookstores are great places for kids to hang out. We welcome kids into the store on a daily basis, so it’s not exactly disruptive to have a few extras around—and there’s no shortage of reading material to entertain them. On the flip side, whiling away six well-behaved hours in one spot isn’t on the list of top 10 favorite activities for most kids. So what’s a kid to do when their parent hauls them to the store for the day? We have a lot of parents on staff at this point, and we all benefit from our store’s kid-friendly work environment, so I decided to find out what some of the other booksellers’ kids have to say about their time here. The consensus? Sure, we put them to work sometimes, but they also get to grab a nap when they need one, discover a good book, or sometimes even get into character. Continue reading

The 2019 First Among First Day of School Books

Kenny Brechner -- August 15th, 2019

I am a little worried about our annual selection of the best new back to school book, DDG’s First Among First Day Of School Award. We’re always hoping to find a great new book to join the likes of past recipients such as Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School, and Steve, Raised by Wolves. My concern is that we have two such strong contenders this year and I would be galled to the quick to see the contest devolve into that darkest of ironies, a playground brawl.

Our two finalists are Mo Willems’s The Pigeon HAS to Go To School! and Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a School. Both books are already part of a store favorite book series. In the case of the Pigeon, Mo Willems said in 2014, that the Pigeon Needs a Bath was the last Pigeon book he would write. Pigeon fans were dashed. Mo spoke too soon. Pigeon was not done with him. With The Pigeon HAS to Go To School!  his many fans rightly rejoiced, as is a worthy new member of the revered Pigeon canon and a terrific First Day of School Book to boot.
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Dear Bookstore Owner

Cynthia Compton -- August 14th, 2019

Dear Bookstore Owner/manager/to whom it may concern,

I recently published my new book, THE BEST KIDS BOOK EVER WRITYN, and it’s already a bestseller on Amazon. I am offering signings and (limited) storytimes for bookstores, and am willing to offer you the chance to host an event. You can order copies from my website: or I have several hundred books stored at my home which will go quickly. The book is a retelling of a beloved family tale that my grandfather wrote and submitted to Reader’s Digest, and the illustrations were done by my incredibly talented daughter, who is in the 3rd grade (she is homeschooled). The story offers moral lessons of obedience, honesty, hard work and adherence to family values as it follows the story of a  lovable dinosaur and his pet fish, and will be popular for families and in classrooms. Please respond with your proposal for stocking and promoting my book in your store, and I will let you know when I will be available to make an appearance.


This author  (note: please do not respond to this email, as this is my personal account. My book website is: and I check those messages every Monday)
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She Knows What She Likes

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 13th, 2019

Every summer, we get the call. “Hello, this is May Tuttle. Will Elizabeth be in on Saturday?” They’re asking for me because we have a longstanding book relationship. The Tuttles (not their real name) are one of our favorite summer families, a couple whose daughter is a voracious young reader. They come in once or twice a summer to stock up; for years now, I’ve been helping her discover stacks of new books to take home and devour.

It’s one of my favorite sights of the year: this fresh-faced, lively, beautiful kid hops into the store and rushes up to the counter with a big “I’m here! And you’re here!” grin on her face. No matter how busy or stressful the day has been, it’s just turned into a great one. We head into the middle grade section to start exploring.

(For this post, I asked our young friend to create her own alias. As big a sports fan as she is a reader, she chose “Slugger,” which I love, because she may look delicate, but she’s also fierce!) Continue reading

Three Times the Charm

Cynthia Compton -- August 12th, 2019

I have been feeling a little blue for the last week or so, as most of my young customers have headed back to school, and the store is quieter during the day (see First Day of School Blues). Rather than retreat to my office to focus on fall orders and staff schedules, I volunteered to do the story times this week, hoping that a bit of time sitting on the floor “criss-cross-applesauce” would do some good for both my mood and my flexibility. The preschool crowd at our morning events has changed over the summer, and as we graduated a group of newly-minted kindergartners, suddenly toddlers from the spring have become “threes” — that stalwart group of story and playtime leaders who make regular visits to the shop, rotating adult in tow. As old hands now at the story time routine, they wait impatiently for their grown-up to pull open our front door (which is heavy, and jingles) and then rush in to take over their spot at the train table, doll play area, or blocks. They confidently pull all the diecast cars down from the display to drive on the rug, knowing that as long as the vehicles get put back in some random fashion, no one is going to mind. Busily rearranging all the impulse bins and pushing around the child-sized shopping cart, the three year old crew is happy to share their news, their opinions, and their emotional support. Continue reading

In Celebration of Wrinkles!

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- August 9th, 2019

In many stories, grandparents fall into categories of benevolent cookie dispensers, terrifying rule enforcers, or wise but enigmatic relics of a lost age. To be sure, not all real or literary grandparents fit those particular molds. But in our cultural iconography, grandparents (and older people in general) are too often reduced to supporting characters in the adventures of the younger people around them.

Luckily, we’ve recently seen a remarkably rich selection of books that meaningfully subvert those tropes. From Minh Lê and Dan Santat’s spectacular ode to the power of art in bringing people together to the Fan Brothers’ celebration of the bonds that connect one generation to the next after loss to Oge Mora’s warm-hearted tribute to the tradition of sharing food in her family, last year brought a bounty of books that dug deep into the ways our intergenerational relationships shape who we become in the world.

This season, a trio of quirky books from creators based in Europe poses a slightly different question. What if our grandparents aren’t actually defined by their relationships to us at all? What if they even (gasp!) have lives and passions and quirks of their own? Continue reading

Racism, Reading and an Act of Courage

Kenny Brechner -- August 8th, 2019

Evan gamely playing Waldo at our recent Waldo party.

Are children who read a lot of books more likely to do the right the thing in a tough spot, and if so do we then have a responsibility to make the real world aftermath more like a book’s narrative for them when they do the right thing? My assistant manager Karin’s son Evan certainly reads a lot of books. Last week he found himself in a tough spot analogous to many he had read about. The upshot made me ask our lead question.

Evan, who is a middle schooler, was at a playground with a group of friends. A black child either visiting or new to the area was there. One of Evan’s friends began making racist comments to the black child. Evan told him to stop. He did not. Evan continued to tell him to stop. Finally Evan said, “It’s okay when you are a jerk to me, it is not okay when you are a jerk to him like this.” The boy then punched Evan in the face, blooding his nose in such a way that his shirt and pants were also bloodied.

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