Monday, November 24, 2008

Link-Mad Monday: News & Reviews

Review of an imaginary book
As I was delaying getting out of bed this morning, I had one of those weird morning dreams. I was reading a YA comic book about a boy and a girl who were left in the woods for dead. They somehow returned to civilization with a mutant superpower: if you got too near them you sickened and died. But it worked very slowly, so for most people it just manifested as a faint nausea. Then the boy and the girl became rockstars (apparently inducing nausea added to their mystique), and played a kick-ass show in which one of them played a Smashing Pumpkins song and the other simultaneously played some hip hop anthem, producing a harmonious chaos. As the kids were both either black or Latino, it was in a weird way a positive depiction of teens of color, influenced perhaps by Ivan Velez' Dead High Yearbook, and maybe by the animated comic (the ALP says "We used to just call it 'cheap animation'") in the extras of the Hellboy 2 DVD I watched last night. I specifically remember thinking in my dream, "I have to review this comic on my blog!" And now I have.

Emerging Leaders Scholarship winners
Last week, the intrepid members of the ABA Emerging Leaders Council looked long and hard at the 50 or so applicants for the Emerging Leaders Scholarship to Winter Institute. Since each of us represents a region, we shuffled things around so that we weren't judging candidates from our own region. And with very little trouble (well, except in narrowing it down among the stellar entries) we chose six awesome young booksellers to represent the Emerging Leaders generation at Winter Institute and have their travel and lodging paid for. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Ingram Book Group, the following booksellers are going to Salt Lake City!

Alison Haimson
Carnegie Mellon University Bookstore
Book Department Manager

Kate Robinson
Brookline Booksmith

Rich Rennicks
Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe

Jess Ridout
Books Inc. Burlingame

Joe Eichman
Tattered Cover Book Store

Emily Adams
Third Place Books

Congratulations to all these winners! And thanks to my fellow council members Caroline, Megan, Sweet Pea, Emily, Jenn, and Jenn for being awesome and helping to make this all happen.

Riggio on the 4th Quarter
The Millions blog does their quarterly report on the Barnes & Noble quarterly report, which (though we indies may have mixed feelings about it) potentially offers insights on the state and future of the book industry. Steve Riggio comments thoughtfully on the decreased media coverage of books during election season, which will hopefully reverse itself now, but my favorite part is his articulation of the books=gifts strategy we've been talking about for weeks now:

"Books are fairly affordable and we hope that as consumers get into the holiday season they recognize that a purchase of $15 or $20 or $25 can give someone a fairly memorable gift."

"Fairly" used twice in the same sentence? Way to hedge your bets, Ridge old boy. But the silver lining is real enough, and it's good to hear it from the big boys.

Bookselling in hard times
Despite that silver lining -- or perhaps rather, in order to take full advantage of it -- we booksellers need to be at the top of our game right now to deal with the current and predicted hard times. Bookselling This Week has gathered all of their articles and other materials on "bookselling in hard times" - you can see them all together here. There's also an open invitation from American Booksellers Association CEO Avin Domnitz to arrange a one-on-one consultation with him. If you're having a hard time taking a hard look at your bookstore's weak spots, I highly recommend getting in touch with Avin. He's a successful bookseller from way back AND a lawyer AND a finance expert, and I've consulted with him a number of times as I've developed my business plan. I often feel a bit disheartened at first by his merciless practicality, but then I find I'm armed with the perspective and the tools I need to make necessary improvements. We can all use all the help we can get -- and talking with the ABA is free.

Obama and the book trade
Freelance book critic John Freeman (until recently president of the National Book Critics Circle, and a great friend to indie bookstores here in NYC) writes in the Guardian about how Obama's presidency will affect book sales. His prediction: we'll see bumps in the backlist titles that Obama, a great reader of history, mentions as influences, which will hopefully take the place of the anti-Bush administration books that have dominated our nonfiction shelves for years. That's not to mention the books by and about Obama, of course. The global news agency AFP has a similar story, which begins with the encouraging statement "The literati are back in charge of Washington." My fellow NAIBA board member Mark LaFramboise of Politics and Prose has a typically wry quote in the piece: after expressing gratitude that we have "a reader in the White House again", he notes "John McCain books are dead now. And we can't sell an Iraq war book now to save our souls."

At McNally Jackson, we have a display table sometimes referred to as "the Obama shrine": a dozen or more memoirs, audio books, photo retrospectives, hard policy analysis tomes, and children's picture books about the 44th president. And the shrine is selling very well, thank you. It's topped by our home-made signage using a photo of Obama and a quote from his election night speech: "Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow."

Books = Happiness
As if you didn't know this, you joyful booksellers. "A new study by sociologists at the University of Maryland concludes that unhappy people watch more TV, while people who describe themselves as 'very happy' spend more time reading and socializing." Maybe we can use this in our marketing as social proof?...

That's all for this Monday, kids. Happy reading!

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