Category Archives: Uncategorized

An Interview with Spring

Kenny Brechner -- March 26th, 2015

Those of you who thought Spring would never come this year have been proven wrong. Here she is at last!

Kenny: I’m so glad to see you, Spring. It’s been a long winter. Thanks for coming.

Spring: My pleasure. It’s nice to be so appreciated; I owe winter one. What can I do for you Kenny?

Kenny: Two things really. I want to get your book picks for the Spring season, but first I’m hoping you can clear up some rumors I’ve been hearing about the historical background of the Easter Bunny.

Spring: I’ll do my best.

Kenny: Thanks. One story I’ve been hearing is that the Easter Bunny has an identical twin who, a la the Man in the Iron Mask, has been kept locked away from public view in a dank prison cell with his head encased in an egg-shaped mask. The rumor is that he led a failed uprising against his brother and that the dispute between the twins arose because the bunny we know as the Easter Bunny preferred distributing eggs, while his identical twin was in favor of distributing books.

Spring: Hmmn. On second thought, perhaps it would be best to leave the past alone. There’s no reason to disinter old bones.

Kenny: Are you saying that it did really happen?

Spring: There is some truth in that story, yes, but many aspects relating to it are questionable or inaccurate. For example it is true that the book-loving bunny led an uprising against his brother, but the pernicious stories of all his followers having been impaled on sharpened carrots after the rising are purely apocryphal.

One certainty is that the Book Bunny spent many years imprisoned and forgotten. The real question involves the report that one afternoon, when the Egg Bunny came to gloat over his brother, as he occasionally did, the Book Bunny turned the table on him and escaped, leaving his egg-favoring brother a prisoner in his place. However, I am not the best person to affirm the truth of that.

Kenny: Who is then?

The Book Bunny: I would be happy to clear things up for you.

Kenny: Aaah! Oh! I didn’t see you there.

The Book Bunny: Yes, well, centuries of tradecraft.

Kenny: I see! I’ll take you up on your offer. What is the truth?

The Book Bunny: First of all, there are five official Easter Bunnies at any given time. Individual Easter Bunnies tend to have specialties. Mine is books.

Kenny: Aha! So The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is a true story. There are five bunnies. That is news indeed!

The Book Bunny: Yes, apart from being the best Easter book of all time, The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is also a work of non-fiction and good for Common Core. Now these other tales you have been hearing about all refer to old disputes that occasionally have arisen between bunnies with different specialties over the centuries. Personally I don’t like to reflect on all the time I spent in that dank cell.

Kenny: I see. While I have you here is there any new bunny book you think is a real standout this year.

The Book Bunny: Oh, certainly. Wolfie the Bunny is just delightful. It is filled with humor, charming characters, and good bunny role models. I highly recommend it.

Kenny: Fabulous. What about the best new books coming out this Spring in general?

The Book Bunny: I only read kids’ books – you’ll have to get some adult picks from Spring. For picture books my two big favorites are Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Birgitta Sif, and Stick and Stone, by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.  Also there is a terrific board book original coming out, Yellow Copter, by Kersten Hamilton and illustrated by Valeria Petrone. It’s a sequel to Red Truck.

Kenny: I love Red Truck!

The Book Bunny: Exactly! Moving up from there, and considering that Spring is a kind of renewal after all, there are two fabulous sequels to be aware of, Dory Fantasmagory and the Real True Friend, by Abby Hanlon and Half Wild, by Sally Green. For Young Adults, An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir and Ask the Dark, by Henry Turner are two books that no one should miss.

Spring: What about The Penderwicks in Spring?!

The Book Bunny: I was leaving that for you.

Spring: Oh, right, good one. Okay my picks for adult books coming out this Spring are Church of Marvels, by Leslie Parry for fiction, for its well developed characters and intriguing backdrop. Fun! For non-fiction it is all about Pirate Hunters, by Robert Kurson.

Kenny: Yes I’m very excited to see a new book by Kurson. I understand that it features some of the same characters as his sensational Shadow Divers. Is it up to that standard?

Spring: Yes, it is another true tale set in the world of wreck diving, and John Chatterton figures in it prominently. Hmm. It’s a terrific read but perhaps a half notch below Shadow Divers. Speaking of piracy, another book you’ll want to be mindful of this Spring is Mathew Pearl’s Last Bookaneer.

Kenny: Great choices! Thank you both for your time and your expertise.I know people will be so pleased that you have arrived at last!

Spring: My pleasure! I know I should have gotten here earlier but I hope it will be as the old saying runs,”Need brooks no delay, but late is better than never.”

The Book Bunny This year Spring I think that “old saw (will) be proved truer than ever before men spoke with mouth!” 

Getting on the Family Calendar

Josie Leavitt -- March 24th, 2015

All bookstores struggle with getting people to attend events. Whether you’re a large store in a big city or a small store in a rural village, there is always pressure and anxiety about who will come to author readings. I hate poorly attended events, not for me, but for the author. I want all events to be great experiences for the author who might have come a distance to share him or herself with our community. It is impossible to predict how many people will not only come to an event, but sign up to coming beforehand.

This is where the family calendar is king. If an event makes it on the family calendar, then it’s very calendarlikely folks will actually come and not just think about going. The family calendar runs the lives of everyone I know. It has to. Families are so busy these days with children’s sports, play dates, tutoring sessions, etc., that there’s very little wiggle room for spontaneous additions. This is why getting a bookstore event inked in the calendar in advance can mean greater attendance for store events – making it to the calendar means someone in the family has committed to going to it.

In less than two hours last night we had upwards of 12 people RSVP for an event with parenting expert Vicki Hoefle on April 6th. (And three more people have signed up since I began writing this post.) We did not run an ad, nor did we do a radio spot. In fact, we spent no money at all. All we did was write up a modified press release for the event and post it on our local Front Porch Forum. This is the description of what FPF is from their website: “Front Porch Forum is a free community-building service. Your neighborhood’s forum is only open to the people who live there. It’s all about helping neighbors connect.” Its simplicity is genius. Its reach is vast and its cost is delightful.

The FPF goes to everyone nightly. It is often the only email people read because it is so local and it’s about your town and people you know. It’s not just about commerce or announcing tag sales, but it can help solve mysteries. For instance, everyone in part of my town heard a massive BOOM last weekend and many folks posted to FPF about it wondering what it was. Was it a train derailment? A frost quake? Ice shifts? Earthquake? Turns out someone had a party and set off a cannon. Yes, a cannon. Without the back and forth conversation that can happen on the forum, we’d all still be wondering. In the meantime we all learned a ton about big noises that can happen in winter.

Posting is simple: text only, no embedded images or links. We emailed our event listing in the morning and it was added to yesterday’s forum. Our announcement was towards the end of a rather long forum with lots of posts, but everyone read it through, as evidenced by how many people RSVPed. That kind of response is so gratifying. And the beauty of this is while you can only post to the forum in your neighborhood, other people can post your text to theirs for you, so you can cover the entire county for free if you have enough friends.

Knowing now how many folks signed up in one night is a great indicator of how successful the event will be. We will run the post three more times until April 6th and hope to fill the store and use the money we saved by not paying for advertising on bringing in more books.

Pencil Perfection

Josie Leavitt -- March 23rd, 2015

Elizabeth and I have had the bookstore for almost 19 years and we generally agree on most things we bring into the store. We’ve even said, quietly at the end of a long day when we’re dreaming a bit on what else we can do, “Wouldn’t art supplies be great?” Secretly, we both have a passion for art supplies. Why I’m not exactly sure. I can’t draw at all, but there’s something about a sketch book and nice pencil that delights me. Elizabeth is much the same, and she can drawCombine our love of all things arty, paper, pencils, crayons – heck, even good coloring books – and a brutally long winter where warmth never seems to take hold on sunny days, and you’ve created theIMG_2779 perfect storm for the great arts supply arrival.

As the sideline buyer, Elizabeth is responsible for bringing in some of our bestselling items: all of our cards, do-dads, toys, artsy things, and more. I am responsible for receiving these when they come in if she’s not there. I set about to receive two or three different sideline orders on Friday. They were all art supplies. At first I loved the idea of so many great pencils, pastel crayons, sketch pads, etc. But then I quickly became overwhelmed. I kept thinking, through my laughter, where are all of these going to go? I do not do displays, except the most simple ones. My skill is not in making things look pretty or necessarily funstuffinviting to the eye. Elizabeth dons her ubiquitous elf hat (we have a longstanding joke at the store that when Elizabeth stays late to rearrange sections, she’s “elfing”) and can make just about anything look good and suddenly people are buying whatever she’s put out.

I texted her a photo of what had come in. Partly to tease her but also partly for guidance. I was utterly overwhelmed. These boxes are all writing implements or sketchbooks. That felt like a lot to me. I was getting confused about how to group them and where they should go.  Elizabeth came in at two for her shift and we all had a good laugh. Then later that day and well into the evening (elfing is hard stuff that takes concentrated time with no customers) she texted me photos of the our new sections with handmade signs that say Spring into Creativity. And we are apencilselling them! How can we not? They all look so inviting. Doesn’t everyone loves the possibility of creation, of taking a blank page and filling it with lines and shadows to make a picture? And what better way to create young artists than with easy (and very affordable) and fun supplies?

Here’s the only thing: I took one sideline meeting a month ago when Elizabeth was out sick. What did I order? Pencils!

An Unexpected Wrangle with the Easter Bunny

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 20th, 2015

easter grass roundWe’ve always been surprised by how good business is around Easter. You’d think Valentine’s Day would be the stronger bookselling holiday, but the Easter Bunny brings better sales than St. Valentine and St. Patrick put together. Some of it is likely due to the optimism New Englanders feel in springtime; those newly sunny, springy days bring out happy shoppers. And some of it may be due to parents, these healthy Vermonters, wanting to pop something in their kids’ Easter baskets that doesn’t contain sugar.

For 18 years, we’ve had ads or a signboard for the store that says, Fill Their Baskets with Books. When there’s time, those words on the signboard are nestled in a festive drawing of a basket with eggs and a couple of books. When there isn’t, just the words suffice.

In the past, my concerns about the sign were only about whether it might be too Christian. After all, of course, many families don’t celebrate Easter Sunday. And even though the Easter Bunny is as far removed symbolically from the religious Easter story in the national imagination as candy canes are from the traditional Christmas story, it is still a Christian holiday. Occasionally, we’ve chosen a signboard that mentions both Easter and Passover, but Passover isn’t a gift-giving holiday like Hanukkah is, and we have never sold many Passover books beyond family Haggadahs and a few picture and board books, so it hasn’t been too worrisome to highlight Easter as a holiday with a big place for books.

So I was surprised when one of our staff members mentioned her discomfort with our sign because it might tip off kids old enough to read to the fact that parents, um, help out the Easter Bunny. As a kid who clung to a belief in Santa for a long time, I am sympathetic to the charms of childhood magic and am happy to uphold and protect children’s delight and belief in that magic. The current signboard has no images and doesn’t mention Easter at all; the words “fill their baskets with books” could simply mean, “fill their shopping baskets with books,” but its proximity to Easter is definitely suspect. On the other hand, it seems pretty easy to come up with explanations that don’t shatter the story. Perhaps the Easter Bunny solicits parental help for the non-egg, non-candy portions of Easter gifting, especially since it doesn’t know a child’s reading interests. Unlike Santa, who has armies of elves gathering intel, the Easter Bunny hops alone.

Yesterday, our bookseller who is uncomfortable with the sign received a phone call from a customer, a lovely person whose family shops often at the store and prefaced her concerns with the sign by saying how much they love our store. The customer’s daughter is nine, and though the child hasn’t seen our signboard yet, her mom is worried that she would read it driving by the store and begin to doubt. “It’s not a nice sign,” said our bookseller to us privately, and that gave me serious pause. Is it really not a nice sign? Aren’t there so many ads about Easter on TV, and so many displays in markets and drugstores that would send an even less subtle message about who is responsible for the goodies that show up on lawns and in houses across the country? Is our little sign really likely to be the big spoiler? I suppose that doesn’t really matter. I’m not responsible for the choices other advertisers make, but I am responsible for my own.

Perhaps personal bias makes me less sensitive about the Easter issue. I loved Easter as a kid — the hard fist-sized sugar eggs you could peer into, with miniature scenes inside! the malted milk robin’s eggs with their pale, pretty speckles; the Peeps, which I preferred slightly stale and chewy; the bright oblong candy eggs that held a center of spun fluffy sugar; the sugar sugar sugar! and the messy happy egg-dyeing. I clearly remember the eerie magic of going to my grandmother’s little house in Phoenix and searching for the baskets the Easter Bunny had hidden there — always behind the bedroom doors — for my sister and me. But frankly, the Easter Bunny didn’t rate like Santa. I was not strongly attached to the notion of the giant bunny and didn’t feel it had any particular interest in me as a person, unlike the jolly red-suited grandfather-type who invited a letter filled with my hopes and dreams once a year. And so perhaps I am not as attuned to sensitivities around this holiday.

Maybe we do need to rethink our signboard. Perhaps for many children, Easter Bunny magic might be overturned by the suggestion that parents help out with some of the goodies. It’s hard to let go of the sign altogether, though. Since books are such welcome additions to Easter baskets, but not necessarily intuitive ones, we have always felt that a little suggestion brings in a lot of business. But is it worth alienating families?  I don’t want to contribute to less magic in the world. One of the great joys of bookselling — of being human — is bringing delight and surprise to the lives of little people.

I suspect there’s a better tag line out there that might serve the purpose with less risk of spoiling the surprise — and I know which bookseller I’m going to ask to write it.

Booksellers and Computers

Kenny Brechner -- March 19th, 2015

I’ve known from the beginning that some people who possess core attributes of bookselling, love of books and the ability to express that love, who have good people and customer service skills, view machines as magical realms. In some environments this can be a charming and personable quality. In a microfichecontemporary bookstore this kind of magical thinking can be a danger to both to the store and the sanity of its owner.

This is particularly true, I think, in smaller stores where the ability to compartmentalize tasks is much more limited. In the early ’90s the only thing for most of my booksellers to be terrified of was the cash register, or possibly blowing a bulb on the microfiche reader by putting in the wrong slide. Oh, wait, that’s a subject slide, not an author slide…Kapow. Over the years the computerization of tasks has grown to the point where it is not possible to shield a bookseller from a fairly immersive experience in said machines.

I’ve thought about testing for magical thinking of this sort. Something along these lines.

Touching which of the following keyboard keys will cause the computer to be violently destroyed?
The End (of everything) key
The Pause- Break (everything) key
The F5 key (in the morning) and the F9 key (in the afternoon).
All of the above

The computer with the networked printer on it is plugged into a big black thing that keeps the computer running for a little while after a power outage. One day, when you try and print something, just as soon as the printer wakes up from sleep, the computer attached to it, its monitor, and the printer itself immediately shut down and the black box thing on the floor starts wailing like an enraged banshee. What you should do is…

Reboot the machine and then try it again.
Reboot the machine and then, since a printer virus is clearly at work, try to print from every machine to see if they are all affected.
Replicate the sudden shutdown as many times as possible to see if the anti-virus program will wake up and slay the virus.
Unplug that computer from the black thing and plug it into a regular power strip.

The truth is that in 2015 we want booksellers to be nearly ideal beings: wonderful with books, customers, and computers. Customers have access to immense amounts of information themselves. The ability to search databases and operate point-of-sale systems efficiently is hugely important. Magical thinking is important too, wonderfully important. Oh wait. hold that thought, My phone is going off. There is a computer crisis at the store.

Literary YA Enchanters: Laura Ruby and Her Kin

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 17th, 2015

Bone Gap

There are so many good writers for young people out there these days, writers whose strengths lie in great premises, pitch-perfect kid appeal, flawless pacing, intriguing world-building, irresistible humor, and more.

And then there are the writers who do some or all of the above, but with an extra magic. They spin their tales with fabulous language, a deft attention to cadence, tone, and atmosphere, a brilliant sense for the gaps and leaps, sparseness and richness, vividness and delicacy of narrative art. They are the writers who make other writers remember why they love writing.

I just finished reading Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap (HarperTeen/Balzer + Bray) and it created a kind of haunting mysterious gorgeousness that comes along once in a while and thrills a reader like me to the — well, to the bones.

I won’t say much about Bone Gap‘s plot except to say that it involves two brothers, fractured lives, a tiny, overly interconnected town, strangers both beautiful and monstrous, violence under a veneer of creepy blandness, and ominous corn. I couldn’t set this book down.

It spun a web around me in a way that reminded me of books by a few other YA writers whose gifts with language strike me similarly. They all have styles that are unique and mesmerizing. If you want to sink into language and beauty that is simultaneously stark and lush, add Bone Gap to your reading stack along with Julie Berry’s All the Truth That’s in Me (Speak), E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (Delacorte), and Franny Billingley’s Chime (Speak) (and her equally astonishing The Folk-Keeper (Aladdin).

While I don’t only love gorgeously written books, I do especially love them. But I’m extra picky about prettily written books, because there’s a line where ‘poetic’ becomes ‘precious,’ and I don’t like books that feel self-consciously or self-indulgently beautiful, books with no plot, or the kind that evaporate from memory the moment I’m done reading the lovely language.

Gorgeous books, to me, are the ones that reignite a blaze of appreciation for the subtleties and possibilities of language—the things you almost forgot words can do when strung together in dazzling, unexpected ways—and admiration of the fascinating elisions and collisions that happen in the narratives of confident storytellers. 

There can be a fine line between a soufflé and a mess of egg, and it’s a difference of artistry, practice, a lot of work, and maybe a little luck. All I know is, these writers have some kind of special hot-wired connection to a particularly wild and ungovernable Muse, and we are the charmed, haunted beneficiaries.

Publishers: If You Ever Wonder Why You Haven’t Been Paid by a Bookstore

Elizabeth Bluemle -- March 16th, 2015

Bookstores are many, many things. One of them is a morass of details. Sometimes we will hear from a vendor about a missing payment, and it’s clear the vendor is under the impression that we have actively chosen not to pay their bill. While it’s true that invoice juggling can happen with retailers (there are certainly lean cash-flow months and full cash-flow months), for us, this happens only with invoices for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, when we are waiting to be paid by a school or library before we can cut a large check.

Compounding this issue is that small indie booksellers may not have dedicated bookkeepers; bill-paying is just one of the hats bookstore owners wear. An important hat, of course, but one among many. On top of that is the fact that some vendors (the smaller ones) often just send a single invoice instead of the additional monthly statements sent by larger vendors. In an ideal world, one invoice would be enough. We do understand that it is costly and time-intensive to send more than one bill through the mail. Except. We get a lot of bills. Here is a couple of months’ worth of invoices, statements, and credits from vendors (Josie took some home, so this is not even all of them!):

stack of bills

As tall as the paper invoice stack is, the email “piles” are even bigger. Floods of emails pour into the bookstore every day. We deal with hundreds of vendors; I don’t even want to calculate how many invoices and statements that adds up to over the year.

For booksellers, the vast majority of bill-paying and email reading has to happen outside of store hours. During the work day, we are on the store floor helping customers, we are receiving orders and stocking the shelves and calling customers to let them know their books have arrived, we are answering phones and tracking down obscure requests and missing shipments, we are meeting with sales reps to order seasons of new books and sidelines, we are processing returns and damages, we are reorganizing sections and reshelving books customers have looked at, changing displays, and planning events.

So in case you’re a publisher or a sidelines vendor or an individual author waiting to be paid by a bookstore, this might give you a window into why your check hasn’t arrived just yet. We’re good for it, just running to catch up.

The Delight of Discovery

Josie Leavitt -- March 13th, 2015

It’s not often that changing sections of the bookstore actually occurs to me. Usually, this is Elizabeth’s area of expertise. I often joke that if it were left to me, we’d have exactly the same set-up we had the day we opened. The other day I had a moment of inspiration about graphic novels. I must confess, that this year is the first year I’ve really gotten into graphic novels. Why I’ve resisted them for so long is beyond – they’re wonderful, but that’s another blog post. Graphic novels had been in a spinner case towards the back of the store where we have the fantasy, sports, action adventure and young adult sections.

IMG_4236I got this idea looking at a case of books and thinking, “Hmm, I haven’t sold any of these in a while.” Graphic novels have been selling well, but people are always asking if we have them, which tells me they’re not seeing them. So I did an even swap for the action adventure books and the graphic novels. And everything fit in their respective new sections. There is nothing more frustrating than swapping out a section only to realize that I’ve misjudged and there isn’t enough room and then I have to re-shelve everything back where I started.

I liked how things looked. Putting graphic novels in the same area as fantasy seemed like a good fit. The thing with organizing a bookstore is working hard to have similar sections next to each other so that serendipitous browsing can happen. The delight of discovery should be a goal of every store. My thinking behind this shift will hopefully bear itself out. Just as graphic novels seemed to have a solid home, I felt equally strongly about the action adventure books. Kids who like the Alex Rider or the young James Bond series might also enjoy a rousing sports book. Again, put similar books where like-minded readers are likely to find them. This also works for people shopping for these kids. They might see a graphic novel on their way to get another book and think, “Maybe I should try that for my daughter.” The real beauty of the switch is having enough shelf space to face out more titles, which also translates to more sales.

I will check back in a month and let everyone how this switch has been in terms of increased (hopefully) sales and customer feedback. If your store has moved a section and it really worked, please share your success story in the comments. I’m always curious.

The Sense and Sensibility of Sorting Young Adult Titles

Kenny Brechner -- March 12th, 2015

For many of us, voracious 9-12 readers figure prominently among both our best and our favorite customers.  As with many things in life, catering to this group is not without its complications. HAfter all, children reading way above grade level are likely to be drawn toward books whose complexity may appeal to them even if these books contain graphic content that their parents, and even you as a bookseller, may not feel that they are ready for.

The importance and the currency of approaching this topic was visible in two places recently. One was in Elizabeth’s excellent post last week regarding booksellers as gatekeepers. The other was in a robust discussion on the New England Children’s Book Advisory Council’s listserv, in which various aspects of imposing classification and display of books for these strong young readers were bandied about.

Many booksellers have either applied or are considering applying a discrete section for these readers. At the same time potential problems with doing so were brought forward. These were expressed succinctly by Arna Lewis of Buttonwood Books. “I have been very close to sorting out the books this way but my issue is that I do not want to be the one deciding who a certain book is appropriate for and who it isn’t – and on what grounds? Sex? Violence? Topic matter? And how would I know unless I read every book? How do you all deal with these issues? Are you comfortable making these decisions? For example, would The Fault in Our Stars be in 14 and up even though all the 11 year olds and up are reading it? What about The Hunger Games that 9 year olds have been reading? Who decides?”

Good questions. As I see it, the ambiguity of classification is important to note, but should not dissuade us from sorting books for these readers. Just because something is hard to objectively quantify doesn’t mean it isn’t a real and important phenomenon. Take adolescence, for example. It is a real state? Yes. Can you firmly define where it begins and ends? No. That’s how it is with these lower Young Adult/10-14 books. The distinction is a real one, but it has fuzzy borders.

Such sorting of books can never be perfect. Take Arna’s example of The Hunger Games, which most of us consider to be around an 11 and up read. The third book in the same series, Mockingjay, is more of a 15 and up book. The Harry Potter books increase in content and complexity as the series advances too. No one, however,  is going to split series books between sections, of course. What to do? To answer Arna’s question, I decide, not perfectly, but still very usefully I think, because the benefits of sorting books for these readers are very large.

ya1What we have done at DDG is perhaps a little unusual. We have a distinct category in our inventory system for these rich in concept, lower in content, books called YA1. They have their own display unit but they are not labeled as such. The YA1 display is one of our two sections marked as Young Adult. The other Young Adult section is around the corner and contains 14 and up titles. I never felt comfortable labeling the YA1 section as Middle School or 10-14, being concerned about stigmatizing older readers drawn to the lower YA books.

We decided to see how this unlabeled sorting worked in practice before applying a label of some kind. It has worked very well. Most browsers seem to grasp and gravitate to their areas of interest intuitively. The fact of the segregation allows us to help direct or redirect parents and young readers accordingly as well. It also works well for library customers. We followed up by expanding the principle to displaying fantasy series books as well.

Our system is not perfect, obviously, but it has been a major improvement over our previously unsorted display environment. I personally prefer its deficiencies over what I felt were the drawbacks of labeling. If your systems are working really well for you, we would all be beholden to you for posting in the comments below!

Looking Bad Because of Vacations

Josie Leavitt -- March 10th, 2015

There is a rhythm to every day at the bookstore and much of that is determined by when the deliveries come in. These boxes, especially on Tuesday and Friday, have our distributor orders that often contain customer’s special orders. Our customers know this schedule and they notice when things are amiss.

It’s been a hard winter for predictable delivery schedules. Ingram’s Tennessee warehouse was closed for days because of ice. Baker and Taylor’s New Jersey center was socked in by snow, as was Bookazine’s. In the meantime, the weather up in Vermont was just really cold, but not stormy, so people wondered why their books weren’t coming in. People tried to be patient, but grew tired of explanations about the warehouses and their weather situations. They were seeking books to survive the brutally cold winter, so just as their need for books was at its height, we were hindered because of global warming.

The problem came when the weather seemed to be better and books still weren’t coming on the expected schedule. Why weren’t the books coming in? Our regular Fed Ex and UPS  drivers were on vacation, vacations that were well deserved and not begrudged at all. These people work extremely hard in jobs that are not easy. But when the regular man (we don’t have any female drivers) isn’t there, the timing of deliveries is off, sometimes, way off.

We are lucky enough to normally get our shipments by 12:30 (sometime as early as 10:30). This allows us to receive them quickly and call all the special order folks before they need to pick up the kids at school. Generally, we’re not as busy in the morning as we are in the hours between three and six, which allows us to haul through the receiving and focus only on that. In essence, this early unpacking of orders really does allow us to provide next day book delivery. However, when the deliveries come later in the day, it pushes everything back.

This might not sound like an issue, but in fact it’s one of the largest issues we face. When my Fed Ex deliveries show up at 5:15 we have lost the battle of being able to provide overnight delivery. There is no way we can get everything unboxed, received, sorted, shelved and more importantly, we cannot call the special order customers. We’ve talked about this as a store and decided it’s just rude to call someone at five to six, often during dinner,  and tell them their special order is here, but we’re closing in five minutes, so you have to wait until tomorrow anyway. So, books the folks expected on a certain day are now coming in a day later. You wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, but it is. And it’s utterly out of my control, which is the truly maddening part of the whole thing.

All this really serves to do is make appreciate my regular drivers all the more, which is why, come Monday, I’ll be leaping for joy to see Bart and Ray again.