Every 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:
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.
A boat like ours, only newer, from thewildernessreview.com (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.
Sure, 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…
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.
The Flying Pig has had remarkably low turnover in our 19-year history. We hire carefully, relying both on our interview process and gut instinct (and past experience) to tell us whether or not someone will be a good fit for the store, customers, and co-workers. We have had the most wonderful people at the Flying Pig, and so it’s always a joy to welcome a new member of the team.
I’m so pleased to introduce Lizzy, a college student and avid reader. We knew right away that she would be great with customers, terrific with kids, fun to work with, and knowledgeable about books. Golden combination!
On Sunday, I worked with Lizzy and our other college student staffer, David. I’d shown David one of my recent favorite picture books, Stick and Stone by Beth Ferris and Tom Lichtenheld, and David – a 19-year-old baritone sax player who gravitates to fantasy, science fiction, and books about jazz greats – fell in love with it. He started telling Lizzy the plot, and was so animated and charming about it that I grabbed my iPhone and said, “Wait, wait!”
Once in a while in retail, you have a charmed day. Every customer who comes in is pleasant and in a good mood, and there are customers who surprise you with extra charm. I recently had a day like that, and the highlight was a young tourist from New Jersey.
He was a little short for his age, so at first I pegged him at around 7th grade. He had brown hair and a husky voice, and he came striding up to the counter with purpose.
Recently, I went to see the movie Inside Out. I was charmed by its cleverness and intrigued throughout by the way it followed, raveled and unraveled its themes. What I didn’t love was the heartwrenching little four- or five-year-old’s voice piping up the movie theater aisle for an hour and a half, asking his dad again and again, “Is this Inside Out? Is this Inside Out?” He was confused by the movie, and a little freaked out, and clearly kept wondering when the kids’ movie he was excited to watch would finally come onto the screen.
I have no problem with Disney, Pixar, and co. making animated films for older audiences. Genre expansion and exploration, huzzah! But there are a couple of things going on here that do frustrate me.
Illustration used with permission. © Eliza Wheeler
The book world – the commerce end of it, at any rate – has changed so much in the past 20 years, it’s almost unrecognizable. When we opened the Flying Pig in 1996, the big issue causing a stir among booksellers was something (long gone now) called “vendor of record.” Barnes & Noble was only just starting to be a big threat, putting indies out of business by the score. Now, nearly 20 years later, B&N has somehow come to seem like an underdog (!) in the shadow of that other online behemoth, and internet sales and e-readers have further morphed the face of the bookselling landscape.
Now authors are looking at their contracts in the face of these changes. The Authors Guild – the nation’s largest and most effective advocacy group for authors – has begun to address some of these issues through its Fair Contract Initiative (https://www.authorsguild.org/where-we-stand/fair-contracts/).
The ability to binge-watch series on Netflix (and every network channel via app) has not been a good thing for books. Even the most avid book-readin’ fools I know are challenged to keep up their page rate with all the digital temptations flung their way. How do YOU do it?
I ask because this is what I am currently looking at:
If you’re wondering about the little white slips of paper sticking up from the books, those indicate starred reviews. Yep, I’m SUCH a librarian!
The top five shelves are ARCs I’ve brought home from the store to read. Mind you, this only goes up to October, and is only a fraction of what has actually come to the Flying Pig for us to enjoy, evaluate, and use as both buying and selling aids.
The other complicating factor for me is that I can’t multitask while reading (or pretend to multitask, or convince myself I am multitasking when I am not). Of course, this is a *good* thing — but I often feel guilty when I am “just” reading, instead of reading and cleaning or ironing or tinkering with a spreadsheet or whatnot. I can do those things while listening to an audiobook (hello, Elena Ferrante), but publishers have not yet started sending AAEs (advance audio editions) along with the galleys.
So I guess what I’m asking you fellow book lovers out there, especially those of you for whom reading is part of your work — how the heck do we get it all* read?!
*all being an absurd concept, so here “all” means “a goodly amount”
A couple of days ago, I received a phone call from a young woman asking us to set aside the new Sarah Dessen novel, Saint Anything. I told her we’d hold it behind the counter for her and asked for her last name. She said hesitantly, “I don’t know if you’ll remember me, but this is Ivy Madden.”