The other day a two-year-old boy followed his mother around the store for 15 minutes or so. He had a camera held up to his eyes and took pictures the entire time with it. It rarely left his face. He literally was using it to both navigate and document his in-store experience. After they left I was very surprised to find the camera on the floor near the register. It came back to me that his mother had given him a book to hold and that he must have put the camera down thinking that it would stay there as at hand as if he had put it down on his living room floor.
It turned out to be an Olympus Trip 500, which you will rightly have assumed was a pre-digital model. It had no film in it, and its current retail value was somewhat dubious, but I fully expected to see them stream back in and claim it almost immediately. It suddenly occurred to me to take a picture of the camera before they came in.
Every year I’m usually the one at the store resisting putting books out before their appointed holiday time. I’m not a fan of rushing seasons, but as we get in more and more Christmas books, I can’t help feel pressure to at least get the Halloween books out, if for no other reason than to make room for the 2016 calendars and holiday books that are filling up the back room. I remember when I was a kid, Halloween candy came out in early October, not August. There is something inherently depressing to me about this rush towards these holidays. It’s like we all can’t just be in the moment without looking down the road to the next big occasion. As a bookseller, I’ve resisted this rush, but this year, I’m all in. Continue reading
I see this almost every day at the store: a child around age five comes in looking for a book. Their parent wants to get them an early reader, because they are learning how to read, but the kid doesn’t want “a baby” book. He or she wants a longer book, a book with a “story.” This brings up the interesting facet of bookselling: often the learning process of reading makes kids feel younger, and they don’t like that. Continue reading
Why oh why do publishers mess with beautiful book covers when creating anniversary editions?
From the publisher’s point of view, if there’s nothing different and new about an old book, there’s nothing new to market. I understand that they want to differentiate the anniversary edition as a special book with something new to offer readers, but by and large, the anniversary covers are uglier than the originals. Either the gorgeous cover art is squished smaller to make room for a border — n.b., a full border instantly almost always makes a book look static and dull — or a banner proclaiming the anniversary takes up precious art space. And, the books are almost always a couple of dollars more expensive than the perfectly good original — for no discernible reason except to pay for the revamped cover design.
Having survived Autumn’s attempt on my life, I decided to fulfill my pledge to write up Mal Peet’s final book, The Murdstone Trilogy, A Novel. It is the tale of an aging writer, Philip Murdstone, with an award-winning history of writing realistic issue books. Murdstone has always been a man of unflinching integrity. At present, with his sales in a pronounced slump, Philip succumbs to his cynical agent’s forceful suggestion that he get with the program and write what’s popular, an epic fantasy, the very thing he detests with all his heart and soul.
With all the recent press for a certain bedtime book that promises to send tots to sleep by virtue of repetition and, perhaps, dullness, that send children into a sort of hypnosis, I thought it might be helpful to compile a list of beautiful, timeless books that soothe little ones into dreamland without boring them there. These book recommendations come directly from the mouths of parents and grandparents with vast amounts of experience in the please-go-to-sleep trenches.
As we head into Labor Day weekend, many people will be spending time at the beach or a lake with friends and family. For me, Labor Day is the last weekend to curl up in the sun and read. I will be spending time with friends on Lake Champlain, and the only thing I’ve packed so far are books. The summer is the only time that it’s okay to sit outside and not do anything but read, so I’m going to park myself in a deck chair and do just that. Continue reading
With the Fall Season within hailing distance we are fortunate to be joined today by Autumn herself, who, though pressed for time, has agreed to share her top children’s book picks with us.
Kenny: Hello there, Autumn.
Autumn: Hi there yourself, Kenny.
Kenny: You mentioned to me how tight for time you were so I’ll just throw out one quick question before we begin. In the book industry Fall is the most important season, while for many people in the general public Summer is the most synonymous season for reading. How do you weigh the interest in gift-giving as opposed to the act of reading itself?
Autumn: We Seasons all understand the ebb and flow of these matters. Christmas gifts become winter reading. The books coming out in the summer all hope to sell well in the Fall. Indeed all books hope to sell well in the Fall — it’s just that those published in the Fall are more honest about it.
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:
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