I was away from the shop for a week, and re-entry to the early-morning-opening, no-room-service, shoes-wearing world of retail this Monday was tough. There was a TOWERING stack of mail on my desk, a line of post-it notes in every shade of neon requesting return phone calls right away, and a shopping basket full of damaged merchandise on the chair. My charming, hardworking staff held a clearance sale in my absence (see The Great Escape Sale) and there is a stack of boxes filled with the remainders that need to be dealt with. (Paging: the Island of Lost Toys, and bring that Abominable guy along, would you, to deal with some of these shipping damages?)
I had an ominous number of unanswered emails, a chorus of voicemail messages from sales reps and vendors announcing “the end, the VERY END, of all product promotions if my order was not entered immediately!” and we were out of toilet paper. And packing tape. And no one actually knows what happened in the microwave in the break room, but there is telltale popcorn-scented yellow coconut oil “product” on all the surrounding cartons, and that button you push to get 30 more seconds to rewarm your coffee is no longer a viable choice.
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Sure, we think of childhood reading as a safe activity, free from the kinds of dangers that might befall, say, a tiny skier or a skateboarding prodigy. But there is one danger that affects 4 out of 5 young readers whose reading abilities outstrip their life experiences… Continue reading →
It’s officially April, which means two things in Austin: bookmarks and bluebonnets abound! Our annual bookmark contest for grades K-6 brings in so much incredible art each year that I can’t wait to share. The contest also always gives a little glimpse into what’s being read in the schools. What did we see this year? There’s still a lot of love for Wonder and Crenshaw, and there were more than a few Dav Pilkey tributes, but we saw notably fewer Geralds and Piggies than in previous years, for some reason. Sorry guys, kids are fickle. Maybe next year!
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It is ten years this April that Elizabeth Bluemle took up the mantle of writing for ShelfTalker. Ten years of sensational posts. The mind boggles! Hundreds and hundreds of varied, insightful, meticulous, moving, entertaining posts. What does she see as she casts the regal Bluemle gaze back across her decade wide ShelfTalker sea? To get an idea I chucked some questions her way.
Kenny: Let’s talk about your prescience. If you could pick one post of yours to appear in everyone’s inbox ten years from now which would it be?
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This week is Spring Break for our local schools, and I have ventured away from the shop for a final mom & daughter spring trip with my last high school aged kiddo. As I checked items off the “to do” list last week, visited the bank and the office supply store, and filled the snack basket in the stock room, I thought to myself, “You’ve got this. Your staff is capable and responsible, you have covered all the potential disasters… and it’s SPRING BREAK. No one is actually left in town, anyway. Go have fun.”
My staff IS capable and responsible. They are also energetic and forward thinking, and have already copied and entered all of my future product order confirmations from my email account. They know EXACTLY how much merchandise I have purchased at winter shows, and how much room we need on the sales floor to display all this merchandise. “Cynthia,” one of my best booksellers asked, sweetly, “how would you feel about a clearance sale next week while you’re out of town? We could eliminate some items from the stock room, get rid of some of those boxes of slightly damaged books that you’ve marked “donations,” and just make some space?” And then she uttered the magic, magic phrase. “You wouldn’t have to do a thing. We’ll just take care of it.”
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The biggest boon and scourge for any bookstore just might be… storage space. What starts off as a godsend—room for book fair and author event boxes! a staging area for store reorganization efforts! square footage for excess sidelines! a waiting corral for sections out of current favor! a place for lucite spinners and counter displays not in the current rotation!—can, over time, become a coral reef of accreted detritus. We moved into our current location in 2006, and I swear, there are boxes in our basement that came with us in the move and haven’t been opened since. That is, until Jory.
Jory is our newest bookseller, and she has the energy of three regular people and the will of ten. Once she made her first pilgrimage to the basement and saw the boxes there sitting in near-perpetual limbo, she devised a plan. “What if,” she said to me, “we had a giant sale, and offered a sneak-peek breakfast and shopping for teachers before opening the sale to the public?” While the prospect of figuring out where to put all of the boxes and bins of books was daunting, I was already halfway in. And then she uttered some irresistible words: “You,” she said, “won’t have to do a thing.”
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In a move that shocked nations, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced Monday that he would be shifting the mega-corporation’s focus from consumerism to philanthropy. “We recognized that our practices were changing—and often destroying—local businesses and global economies, and it’s time to mend fences,” Bezos said in a Seattle press conference held at the company’s first warehouse, the garage of an early home he owned in that city.
“As the year 2020 approaches,” Bezos said, “we have done our own 20/20 re-visioning, and it’s looking helpy.” He outlined several moves that the company would be making in the coming year, including using its patented drone and AI technologies to deliver—not books and home goods to impatient U.S. city dwellers, but medicine, nutrients, and water to people in remote corners across the globe. “It’s an ambitious move,” he continued, “but given last year’s profits measuring in the billions, we realized that there are only so many jets, designer clothes, and expensive haircuts any CEO group could use in a lifetime—and most of us are bald anyway—so why not share some of our extraordinary wealth to ease needless suffering?”
Original investors are reeling in the wake of the announcement, but the news comes as a boon to those who initially resisted buying in because of concerns about the inevitable losses of jobs and tax revenues in local communities as a result of the online juggernaut. “Now we can give all our money to Amazon with a clear conscience,” said an anonymous new investor, “because they’re going to do good things with it.”
Some insiders question the decision’s motives, saying that it doesn’t seem in character for the richest man in the world. “Come on,” says one early investor. “It was a tell when Jeff originally wanted to name his company ‘Relentless.com.’ Do you really think he’s backed off his intention to control the world’s economy? This is just another move in the monopoly game.”
It remains to be seen what will come of this shocking April 1 announcement, but the world is waiting with bated breath, and just a little bit of dry mouth.
Happy April Fool’s Day, ShelfTalker readers!