Score Another One For Physical Books

Josie Leavitt -- August 31st, 2015

Another article came out last week extolling the benefits of reading books, actual books with real pages. This comes as no surprise to me. MIC.COM ran the article summing up the studies that have been conducted. The benefits of reading not on a device can be easily summed up: readers remember more,  can concentrate better and are more empathetic than readers who use an e-reader. That people are still studying this surprises me. These gains seem obvious to me.  Continue reading

A Suggestion for Publishers’ Shipping and Credit Departments

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 31st, 2015

IMG_4540Every day, shipments arrive, many of which contain damaged books. We have to call the publishers to report the damages, and they issue credits or — occasionally — send a call tag for the more expensive items that arrive damaged. Damages are expensive for publishers and cost bookstores processing time and disgruntled customers (often, it seems that the $40 hardcover special order is the one that arrives with a torn dustjacket, squished corner, or bent boards).

Often, these damages are caused by preventable packing errors. Today, we had a paperback easy reader arrive curled in half because whoever closed the box during packing had folded the book into one of the flaps.


Often, book jackets are torn because of the way books slide and collide in the box. This one also came in today, from a different warehouse:


We learned a great shipping technique from one of our first employees, Roman, who had worked solely as a book receiver at a big Boston bookstore. He showed us that placing books spine-to-spine rather than spine-to-open-side prevented many damages because spines bumping against one another don’t do nearly as much harm as open pages and covers catching on each other. It sounds obvious when you think about it, but I rarely see books packed that way.

IMG_4542With the smooth spines next to each other and the walls of the cardboard box against the more vulnerable open sides of the books, the books are better protected.

You can see how, in the second photo, damage is a little more liable:

IMG_4543 Worst of all is this:


I have no idea how packing in the warehouses works. I can only imagine how quickly those hardworking book packers must be going in order to fulfill all the orders coming in, and it’s truly amazing to me how few fulfillment mistakes there are even in orders involving dozens of single titles. Maybe damages cost publishers less than it would cost to change packing methods or slow the packing process down a bit. But if our small store receives one to five damaged books almost every day, that’s got to add up with damages across the country.

It might also be worthwhile for publishers to see how books are getting damaged. If booksellers sent in a quick photo of their damages when they called the credit department, the visual information might be useful for warehouses to change some of their methods.

Maybe these ideas have been tried and rejected for various reasons, but speaking as a bookseller who hates to see ruined books — and hates to spend my staff’s time on reporting them, replacing them, disappointing waiting customers, and spending more time to follow up to make sure credits were issued — it seems worth a mention.

Patrick Ness Does It Again

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 28th, 2015

At BEA’s Author Speed Dating event this year, Patrick Ness was one of the authors who had three minutes to share his upcoming novel with a table full of booksellers. We were one of his last tables — which meant he’d given his pitch approximately 15 times already — but he was relaxed and fresh. He said (and I’m paraphrasing from memory): “You know how characters in all these YAs discover they are the Chosen One with a destiny to save the world? AND they always have really interesting names, like Satchel and Finn? Well, I wanted to write about the kids who aren’t the chosen ones.”

I loved this. The Chosen One formula starts to grate after reading too many dystopias or fantasies in a row, so I was charmed that a writer with Ness’s talent decided to take on the challenge of creating a world in crisis where the main characters are not the superkeys to salvation. Now, having read the ARC, I’m impressed with how cleverly he pulled it off.

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Saved by ‘Steve, Raised by Wolves’

Kenny Brechner -- August 27th, 2015

Given that Alice Cooper’s pronouncement that “school’s out for summer, school’s out forever” is only true for a month or so, it is past time for Back to School table displays to be up now. Our display is highly curated because if First Day of School books all attended the same classroom it would present an overcrowding issue. Though the table is largely populated by old standbys (our favorite remains Edda), it is our duty to scour the frontlist for great new books in this genre. Thanks to Jared Chapman’s Steve, Raised by Wolves (Little, Brown), this year’s quest for an outstanding new First Day of School book was not in vain.
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Bookworm Fitness for Kids (and Adults!)

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 25th, 2015

A boat like ours, only newer, from (click for original image)

One of my favorite summer pastimes as a kid was to pedal around the lake at my Indiana grandparents’ place reading a book. I’d drag this wonderful, scuffed old orange-and-white (actually, once-white) pedal boat down to the water and set off with my book in my hand and a plastic glass of iced tea or lemonade in the handy cup holder. Then I’d pedal myself along the shoreline to the next little connecting lake, around its perimeter, back out to Irish Lake, and then down Grassy Creek. It was idyllic.

Joi S pedal boat photo from yelpSure, I was a little lopsided without a right-side passenger, but I loved being so close to the water, with the sun on my face and a breeze in my hair and the promise of double adventure: in real life (who knew what turtles, fish, lilies, and potential cute boys in fishing boats might appear on my journey) and in my book. It was also a great way to get at least some exercise while reading. Truth be told, it was much better than reading in a hammock.

Flash forward 35 years…

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What’s a Little Freon?

Josie Leavitt -- August 24th, 2015

Every once in a while, stupidity borne of impatience gets the best of me. Like many bookstores, we have a small fridge in the back room. And like many shared fridges, ours got a little funky. There was a horrible smell coming from it and we were all afraid to use it. Afraid, in fact, to open the door, the smell was so bad. I did my best to clean it up one day recently, but the smell grew stronger.  We were all puzzled and were convincing ourselves that something had died in the back room. Continue reading

Another Reason to Read to Kids

Josie Leavitt -- August 21st, 2015

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran an article called “Bedtime Stories for Young Brains” and it confirmed what those of us in the book world know: reading aloud to children is a potent and very important thing to do. The article focused on studies that measured a child’s brain activity when hearing stories, and kids who had been regularly read to showed greater activity when listening to stories than kids who hadn’t been read to. Early literacy matters, as Perri Klass, the author of the article, states: “We know that it is important that young children hear language, and that they need to hear it from people, not from screens.”  To this is I can’t help but think, duh. Continue reading

Good Money After Bad?

Kenny Brechner -- August 20th, 2015

This week the NAIBA board, supported by a letter from their NEIBA counterparts, called for a renewed investment in the ABA’s indiecommerce website platform, and expressed pointed dissatisfaction with the current, recently upgraded status quo. The letter asserts that “the customer experience feels as if it’s at least a decade behind other online sites, highlighted by a completely inadequate search engine. We do not expect ABA to offer a site equal to that of Amazon or other online giants, but we do believe the current site is in immediate need of significant upgrades.”

Paul_Oesten_-_Les_DanaidesLet’s spend a moment thinking about how Tantalus and the Danaides spent their time in Hades. Tantalus, inflamed with an extreme thirst and hunger, looked upon a sumptuous feast that moved away from him whenever he reached out for something to eat or drink. The task of the Danaides was to fill a bathtub with water carried thereto with sieves dipped in a well some distance away, thus arriving at the tub with nothing. The strenuous attempts of the ABA, acting under a very strong mandate from members, and carried out by skilled and resourceful staffers, to invest and labor its way toward filling the online appetites and tubs of its constituents has closely mirrored the efforts of our underworld cousins.
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Guest Post: Straight Talk on Amazon and Communities

Elizabeth Bluemle -- August 19th, 2015

Today’s guest post, by Eight Cousins Bookstore founder and longtime bookselling lioness Carol Chittenden, is not to be missed if you want a rational, fact-filled, beautifully articulated article about the effect Amazon is having—beyond local bookstores—on entire communities.

In July, Carol was invited to address a community group at the Woods Hole (Mass.) Library’s annual meeting. The following is her talk, very lightly edited for length and to omit some specifically local content.

I was a bookseller in Falmouth through some challenging years. The reason Falmouth still has a bookstore, unlike many other towns, is because of loyal customers. There were six bookstores in town when Eight Cousins opened in 1986. The reason Eight Cousins is now the only one left is Amazon. Ursula K. LeGuin and others have spoken eloquently about the censorship issues connected with concentration in the publishing industry. Today I’d like to talk a bit about the impact of Amazon not on bookstores, but on communities.

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Is Five For Three a Good Deal?

Josie Leavitt -- August 17th, 2015

I’ve been doing a lot of frontlist buying the last month, and have noticed a lot of publishers are offering specials where buying five copies of a particular title will earn you an extra 3% discount. So, if a book would normally be purchased at 46% discount, you can get 49% on the ones the publisher is EXTRA_Stempelpromoting. I’ve often wondered just how much of a deal this really is.  Continue reading