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”
During the summer we don’t often see organized large groups of kids. Most of the local camps do not organize field trips to the bookstore. But this past Tuesday we were lucky enough to have 22 kids, ranging in age from 5 to 15, come to the store with their teachers. These kids are all New Americans who are in the English Language Learning program, and will be starting the local public school in the fall. Continue reading
When you’ve run a bookstore for 24 years you are as certain of thinking you’ve seen it all as you are of being wrong about that. Though that realization is often preceded by something one might prefer to make unhappen, there are also moments of sublimely unexpected charm for which one would gladly endure a hailstorm of previously unimaginable incivilities.
One of the most charming instances I can remember just happened recently. I was approached by the parents of a voracious but exacting nine-year-old reader. The lad in question was on the floor engrossed in assessing potential candidates. This was a vacationing family I had not met before. The boy’s mother asked me if I had anything to suggest for him involving mythology. I handed her the first books in The Ashtown Burials and the Fablehaven series, giving her an outline of why they were worthy of consideration.
I have been thoroughly enjoying reading a heap of young adult galleys this summer. Purely by luck, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with the very random stack of galleys I took home a few weeks ago. I’ve found two more great ones to add to my list books to order more of for the fall season. One is a realistic teen novel and the other is a dystopian thriller. Both are set in high schools and have a cast of very compelling characters that will appeal to a broad range of readers.
Carolyn Mackler’s Infinite in Between, due out in September, is a fast read that captures all four years of high school from the perspective of five very different teens who meet at freshman orientation. Each chapter is told in alternating voices and the book while seemingly just dips into a kid’s life- with a snapshot of what’s happening at any given time, it really does give the reader a well-rounded view of each person’s life. There is believable drama and romance and the book is peppered with humor and moments of sadness that had me reaching for the tissues on more than one occasion.
Mackler handles diversity well in this book. There is an out gay character (and how refreshing to have a gay kid in a book who is already out and comfortable with it) and a bi-racial student who grapples with issues of race as we get to know her through high school. This is not an “issue” book, so the characters exist in their school world first as themselves with their difference fully blended into their characters. This book is well written and really just keeps you reading until you’re done and the five students have graduated.
Willful Machines by Tim Floreen is a riveting read. Set in an exclusive, very elite boarding school, we meet Lee, the closeted son of the President of the United States, who is championing The Human Values Party, which most decidedly doesn’t welcome gay people. Lee meets the very engaging new student, Nico, who is also gay. As Lee and Nico try to navigate their feelings they must grapple with attacks from Charlotte, a man-made artificial human who has a conscience of her own and who begins terrorizing the American public. And what better way to make a point than to start attacking the President’s son. As the attacks move to the school, Lee and Nico must find a way to stop Charlotte.
There are complex layers to this book. Lee is still mourning for his mother, killed by Charlotte when he was a boy. The reader is left wondering just who Nico really is, and of course, there is a rollicking mystery to solved lest all be lost. This book will appeal equally to boys and girls and fans of dystopian novels; issues of sexuality are deftly handled.
Readers, what are some of the fall books you’re most excited about?
Boxes of books and toys get delivered every day to all bookstores. We organize our deliveries by publisher and distributor, and then if needed, further organize the shipment by boxes. We look at the shipping labels to make sure we’re receiving boxes in the same shipment, so we get all the boxes together that say 1 of 3 and receive them at the same time so our receiving matches the invoice. In a perfect world, this is a foolproof system. As we all know, the world is far from perfect. Continue reading
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.”
Two customers taking care of business.
In recent memory, nothing has brought the power of editing more sharply into focus than the complex relationship between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. As early reviewers have pointed out, Go Set a Watchman must modify our understanding of its predecessor, most particularly in our understanding of Atticus Finch. Complicating that notion, however, is the fact that Go Set a Watchman was not edited into a state of continuity with To Kill a Mockingbird. Inhabitants of alternate universes, they are intimately related and yet filled with discontinuities. The degree and nature of their connection to one another is nuanced, to say the least.
Today is the day many in the book world have been waiting for: the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. The book has been long-awaited since it was announced with much discussion about whether or not Harper Lee was of sound mind to actually approve the release. These rumors were quickly quashed by her legal team, but folks are still scratching their heads a little at the release of what is a draft of the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. Obviously, it’s great fun to have another book by Harper Lee to read, but was it the right thing to do? I guess that doesn’t really matter now. The book is here and opinions are flying.
People ask us to ship books to them all the time. This is usually a very straightforward process: the book or audio comes in, we process an invoice, and then ship the items out via the customer’s designated carrier. Simple, right? Then there are the times when things are not as easy, or economical as they could be. But sometimes through these travails greater things are revealed, like the heart of a bookstore. Continue reading