Monday, March 31, 2008

Link-Mad Monday: Small Stores, Comics, and Anne

Lots of fascinating book news in the world today... of which the below is but a tiny, arbitrarily selected portion.

AM New York has an article on a new Brooklyn bookstore I have not yet visited: Babbo's Books, a few blocks away from me in south Park Slope. Despite the article's incredulity about an indie bookstore opening and staying open, the shop seems to be doing well on a small scale, and proprietor Leonora Stein has ideas for making it better. A field trip seems in order!

In the indie-bookstore-makes-good category, a coalition led by ABA president Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Books has been influential in keeping Wal-Mart out of their Hamilton, Montana community. After watching the documentary The High Cost of Low Price I'm even more impressed by their efforts, especially since they admit not everyone in town was convinced Wal-Mart was a bad thing. But check out the Wal-Mart exec's explanation of the pullback for classic villain-retreating-while-proclaiming-victory...

Title Page TV is back with a new episode of their author interview podcast -- this one features David Hajdu's intriguing-looking comics history The Ten-Cent Plague, as well as Mary Roach's already much-loved sex science book Bonk and others. Not sure when I can sit for an hour to watch the whole thing (and now I have to go back and watch Episode 2 since Sloane Crosley AND Keith Gessen are reading at our store), but now that I'm down to just one job maybe I can actually take a lunch break...

Speaking of comics commentary, Matt Blind at has a very thoughtful post on an issue on the minds of many in the book industry: what's going to happen now that Borders is up for sale? He's done his research and has both some careful analysis and some "raw opinion", and his list of links at the bottom makes this a great place to go to get some insight on the matter.

For more thoughtful commentary, you can hear my bookstore coworker (and novelist) Cheryl Sucher on New Zealand radio here. Cheryl's married to a New Zealander and energetically involved with her adopted homeland, and she's got a great take on subjects as wide-ranging as our governor's recent indiscretions, the presidential race, and the most commonly stolen books at indie bookstores.

For a bit of laugh, check out the winners of the annual competition from British magazine The Bookseller of the "oddest title competition".

And if I can take a moment to love on something totally old and un-hip: this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Margaret Atwood has a great reflection on the book's enduring popularity here. While I can see why some Canadians like George would feel a little eye-rolly about the whole Anne thing by now, I'll recommend not only the first book but the whole darn Anne series. I read those books straight through every summer from when I was about 11 to when I was 15 or 16, living through a whole life from orphan to beloved child to college girl to teacher to wife to mother, and even her children's adventures in World War I -- the last possible Anne story, it seemed to me, as the world just got too different after that, and uglier. I wrote a paper in high school defending Montgomery as a "literary novelist," though I'm not sure I would agree with that now -- as Atwood admits, the characters are mostly static, and the novels are more like fairy tales or romances than novels: the classic outsider who becomes the hero, wish fulfillment and fantasy. But, she adds,

This [wish fulfillment] is one of the reasons Anne of Green Gables has had such an ongoing life, but this in itself would hardly be enough: if Anne were nothing but a soufflé of happy thoughts and outcomes, the Annery would have collapsed long ago. The thing that distinguishes Anne from so many "girls' books" of the first half of the 20th century is its dark underside: this is what gives Anne its frenetic, sometimes quasi-hallucinatory energy, and what makes its heroine's idealism and indignation so poignantly convincing.

As one of those lonely, bookish kids, Anne opened up the world for me; gave me aspirations to virtue as well as self-creation. There were ugly things in the world, and difficult people, and things that you couldn't do anything about; but there was also deep friendship, and moments of beauty, and if you were lucky, as you got older, strings of happy ordinary days "like pearls slipping off a string." I can't quite do justice to the story; as with most things that influenced one strongly as a child, my feelings about it are strong but incoherent. But if you or some girl you know hasn't read the first book, pick it up with an open mind, and see if it doesn't have a kind of power, of imagination, and of the joys of ordinary life, and of old-fashioned unselfish love. Sure, it's a fairy tale -- but those are some of the most powerful stories we have.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Ambitions and Relaxations

It's been brought to my attention recently that I've been remiss in updating the ol' blogroll with some of the blogs I actually regularly read, and some of the bookstore blogs that I'm just discovering. So I have gotten at last off my tush and added some of my favorites-- read 'em (at right) and weep.

Book Soup has the best (obscene but true) tagline.

Word has the best Brooklyn stuff, natch.

Bookavore is a fellow Emerging Leaders type, a true book nerd -- her description of how she became a bookseller made me want to be her new best friend.

Wordsmiths has the best ongoing narrative (home town store makes good, moves into the bank building, graphic novels go in the vault!) -- and awesome event photos; they're my newest model for how I want to run my bookstore blog.

there is no gap is the thoughtful stuff you'd expect from Shaman Drum's Karl Pohrt.

Archimedes Forgets is the off-hours (but still awfully booky) project of the ABA's lovely Sarah Rettger.

The Inside Flap is a brilliantly done multi-author blog from the bookstore crown jewel of Wisconsin.

Bookninja is an always prescient Canadian litblog (and the source of half my links these days), run by a poet acquaintance of mine who used to live in New York.

There's more, of course -- explore, explore!

* * *

Today is also my last day as a BookStream employee. I'll be working for the company a bit on a freelance basis, but today I'm wrapping up loose ends and saying goodbyes. It's a bit melancholy, but I've already got new irons in the fire -- meeting to get to, phone calls to make -- in the pursuit of the Brooklyn Bookstore.

What I'm hoping for in between is a little of this. While I can't remember the last time I spent three hours in the tub, like the author of this Guardian piece, I agree 100% with the following proposition:

"Baths are one of the few pleasures body and self can appreciate simultaneously. This is entirely because reading in the bath is the height of civilisation."

It's a bit of a cold wet day in Brooklyn -- after I wrap up the work day, I'm looking forward to a little height of civilization. Since I'm a wimpy Californian, sometimes in the winter the bath is the first time I feel really comfortable all day, and it's all the better with something to read. Jessa Crispin of Bookslut also famously reads in the tub (in Chicago I don't blame her), and I suspect it's a widespread practice among bookish types (it's also as cheap as luxury gets).

My bathtime reads tend toward the New Yorker, or a collection of essays (I'm currently reading Michael Chabon's forthcoming Maps and Legends) -- I find a bit of wit, a turn of phrase, the path of an idea (though not too heavy), is just the thing for winding down in a hot tub. (And I agree with some of the commenters: a glass of red wine "perched death-defyingly on the rim of the sink" can sometimes improve the experience.)

What do you like to read in the bath, if you do indulge? If not, what's your height of reading relaxation/civilization?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Link Love (aka Shameless Plug)

Carolyn Bennett, my coworker at BookStream (at least for the rest of this week) and fellow (anonymous) blogger, is a big fan of "link love" -- the affectionate exchange of linkage between bloggers who read each other, in order to increase traffic for all. "Comment love" is another aspect of this, one I admit I'm a bit weak on -- though I read (and skim) tons of lit blogs, I'm often very lazy about posting comments, which is probably why this blog is not so commenty itself. But I'm resolving to be better. And how better to start off than with a link to a new website/blog I helped create:!

If you ever clicked on this URL before, you may recall a fairly staid page with contact information and company description. Now, however, you've not only got yer contact info and yer special title offers and yer bookseller terms -- standard company stuff -- BUT you've also got archived back issues of The BookStream Current, and book recommendations from Ken Abramson (reader extraordinaire) and Carol Chittenden (children's book reader extraordinaire), AND info on upcoming events like TitleWave and KidSplash. AND -- coolest of all for fellow bloggers -- the aforementioned fabulous Carolyn is posting juicy tidbits of Book News every day, especially that of interest to indie booksellers. How's that for link love?

The idea of this website was to combine the best of what a blog does, and the best of what a book wholesaler does: that is, become a conduit for information. Wholesaler gets books from publisher to bookstore; blog gets information from other sources to readers. And in both cases, it can go both ways. I love that BookStream is creating itself as an intermediary in more ways than one. And even when I'm not involved in creating content for the site, I'm going to be checking (and commenting!) regularly to see what Carolyn, Ken, Jack & Co. are bringing to the table from the world of books.

Take a look, and share the love!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Link-Mad Monday: Bad News, Good News, Other

The Litblog Co-Op is no more. The site's still there, but the membership has been quietly disbanded, and there will be no more "Read This!" picks. Dan explains why at The Reading Experience, and Levi shares his thoughts at LitKicks. I'm a little sad about it, but I can't say I'm surprised -- I was one of several former members who had to drop out because life just got too busy, and the project didn't seem to have quite the momentum or organization it needed to keep going. Luckily, though, nearly all former LBCers still have their own litblogs going strong, so there are plenty of places to find great book news, reviews, recommendations and hidden gems in the blogosphere.

Here's one thing that may be going away that I'm NOT sad about: Bruce Ratner's terrible Atlantic Yards project, according to the New York Times and the Brooklyn Paper. The slowing economy (he says) is putting the kibosh on the project, though I suspect the public outcry and the efforts of Develop Don't Destroy have also had something to do with it. Worryingly, while the affordable housing has been nixed, the gigantic arena is still on the table; here's hoping Brooklynites can continue successfully in their efforts to change this project into something that actually makes sense and benefits our borough.

And more good news: Lent is over, and spring is here, in name if not quite in weather. On a non-bookselling note, I gave up meat for Lent, and found it rather liberating. And Daniel at Old First gave a kick-ass Easter sermon; as a reader, I'm awfully grateful to go to a church presided over by a really good writer, as well as a good spiritual leader. (And the ALP recently made Deacon, so we're really in now...)

What else...

You can read my occasional column on Graphic Lit in Shelf Awareness today. This one's topic: great prose-to-comic crossovers.

My coworker Cheryl forwarded me this funny article from the Seattle paper The Stranger: a bookseller's experience with thievery. It's something all of us indie booksellers can identify with, and we've got our own successful (and not so) stories of indignantly pursuing book thieves. We've got a couple of guys on staff who have given heroic chase to thieves, and even the cafe staff has lit out after the perpetrators before. (One note if you're a New Yorker: don't buy books from the tables on Prince Street, or the ones near NYU. Their stock includes a high percentage of five-finger discounted titles, mostly stolen from stores by desperate folks, sold to the table guys no questions asked, and resold to tourists and college students. There are better ways to get a deal.)

Of course, when booksellers are bored... well, I used to read the New Yorker, but Lori's link is way funnier.

And PW has a neat article on indie publishers in the UK (thanks to the every-fascinating Bookninja for the link.) As in the U.S., their numbers are growing. My favorite quote from the article, which I'll leave you with today, could as easily apply to bookstores as publishers.

“The bigger you are, the more you're affected by the market,” says Tim Hely Hutchinson, CEO of U.K. market leader Hachette Livre U.K. “If you're small, you make your own success.”

Amen to that. Enjoy the good news.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A comic moment

I've had graphic novels even more on the brain than usual since last weekend's SPLAT! symposium at the New York Center for Independent Publishing. Not only did I get to speak on a panel with some of my book industry heroes -- Rocketship owner Alex Cox, Diamond rep John Shableski, PW Comics Week editor Calvin Reid, Jim Killen, the graphic novels buyer for Barnes & Noble, and freelancer/friend/fellow geek Evan Narcisse -- I also got to listen to Scott McCloud wax poetic with guys from the superhero and manga worlds, AND sit in on Brian Wood's session on place in graphic novels (where he talked about, among other things, using Park Slope in his Local series).

Favorite quote from Scott McCloud: "For years it was like we were beating a dead horse with this comics thing, just beating it and insisting 'no, there's life in that horse!' And then one day the horse opened its eyes and got up! And then SEVEN THOUSAND HORSES came running over the hill!" It's a great, funny metaphor for the sudden rise to prominence of my favorite genre/format/medium/category, and it was a thrill to be around so much good energy about it.

So, the ALP is always bugging me to read Comic Book Resource, which is where he gets all his good comic book info, and finally this week I went to the site. Because I'm lazy I was hoping for an RSS feed, so I wandered to the site's blog, Comics Should Be Good (an admirable notion, right?). And the blog had a link to a piece in Bookforum about Rocketship, which is really my favorite local comic shop. Amid the info about how Alex Cox and Mary Gordon founded and run the shop (which should be a how-to for anyone wanting to open a contemporary bookstore: cater to your local clientele! make it friendly! do events! support artists! make room for strollers! know your books! quality over quantity!) was this surprising bit of info:

"A 2007 Village Voice readers poll named Rocketship the best comics-book store in New York (this, among some seventy). "

Dude, there are SEVENTY comic shops in New York?!? That's like, more than all of the other bookstores I know of in the city put together. I know of maybe half a dozen comic shops in Brooklyn and Manhattan -- apparently that's less than a tenth of what's out there.

I'm impressed. Anyone else?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fair and Balanced Link Monday

For every story like this:
"A Thirsty Mind bookstore/wine bar in Lakeway, Texas -- an affluent suburb of Austin -- is closing March 28. The store was opened in November 2004, and co-owner Pam Headrick said that while Thirsty Mind broke even each month, it would've taken another year for the store to become profitable. "With the economy as bad as it is, we just didn't have the luxury to put more money into the business," she said....Headrick said that opening a combination bookstore and wine bar posed unique challenges....there were the ‘regulars.’ “Some customers would come in each afternoon for a drink,” said Headrick. “This meant that almost every afternoon I was hosting a party. There days you just don't feel like it.”

... there's a story like this (thanks to Shelf Awareness for the link):
"Come May — give or take a few weeks — Skylight Books will open a second space right next door in the 1934 building at the corner of Vermont and Melbourne avenues, promises general manager and co-owner Kerry Slattery....Unlike the development pressures facing Doug Dutton's store and the high-end retail rent at South Coast Plaza, Skylight has "a supportive landlord who is offering us the space for a fair rent," she says. "Ours is a walking neighborhood," she explains. "People are going to other shops and restaurants, the movies. I don't know that there are that many places like that any more around the Los Angeles area."

On the one hand, an unexpected clientele and general economic squeeze puts the kibosh on one bookstore; on another, a great location and supportive neighborhood mean another one is expanding.

And, despite gloomy economic forecasts, there's also this:

"Bookstore sales in January started off the new year nicely, rising 4.7% to $2.3 billion from $2.2 billion in January 2007, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. By comparison, total retail sales in January rose 3.9% to $343,938 billion."

Okay, it's not so fair and balanced -- I'm firmly partisan on the optimist side of the aisle. I think one day we might even get a majority. Congratulations, bookstores -- keep up the good work!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A little Friday good spirits

I went for a bit of walk in Brooklyn this morning, and man, it's a beautiful day. After a sleepless night of wondering what's next, it's good to let the spirit of spring-coming maneuver me into hopeful, happy frame of mind.

And y'all are helping.

Thanks for the comments on my Wednesday post about publishing and the environment -- you've reminded me of some things I already knew, and strengthened my resolve to learn more. Greg Albers reminded me (and all of us) about the Green Press Inititative, a great source for learning and advocating about what can be done to make publishing greener. P.J. Grath, bookseller at Northport, hand-sold me on Cradle to Cradle, one of the core texts for thinking about the environmental life and impact of products. (And look! It's spring in Northport, too!) Kristiana mentioned the wastefulness of paper publisher catalogs, which was a big topic of discussion at the ABA publisher forums -- many publishers are considering going to electronic catalogs (which the booksellers supported, as long as we can still take notes on the online pages!) A publisher voiced his own commitment to using green options when offered by printers. And John of BookFox reminded us that as with indie bookselling itself, we don't have to (and shouldn't) rely on pure ethics or good will to make the move to green -- there's marketing potential here, and if we let people know that what we have to offer is what they're looking for, this can be a business benefit as well as a long-term survival benefit.

Keep them coming. If you have thoughts on how, why and whether the book industry can be more responsible in terms of its environmental impact, I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment on Wednesday's post, or send me an email and I'll collect your comments in a future post.

In the meantime, I have to thank Amanda, my fellow bookseller and optimist, for sending me this article in Salon about why all is not lost in terms of literacy for the under-21 set. Doris Lessing put herself in the same disappointing camp as John Updike with her fear-filled Nobel Prize acceptance speech that equated embracing technology with losing literacy. Amy Goldwasser challenges that notion convincingly at Salon. She points out some more of that same-old-story logic:

The average teen chooses to spend an average of 16.7 hours a week reading and writing online. Yet the NEA report did not consider this to be "voluntary" reading and writing. Its findings also concluded that "literary reading declined significantly in a period of rising Internet use." The corollary is weak -- this has as well been a period of rising franchises of frozen yogurt that doesn't taste like frozen yogurt, of global warming, of declining rates of pregnancy and illicit drug use among teenagers, and of girls sweeping the country's most prestigious high school science competition for the first time.
Sure, it's weird that not all teens know who Adolf Hitler was. But today at least, let's rejoice at what they do know, and what they're doing, and what might yet be done. As Robert Gray writes in today's Shelf Awareness, let's keep "casting with ferocious hope." Today, I know there are fish in the stream.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Comment: Books and the Environment, or, Can we be proud of what we sell?

This is the tip of the iceberg of a huge conversation, but I just want to get it started.

This week at the ABA publisher forums, the first evening was a session where publishers answered questions compiled from a number of booksellers. One of the biggest was, of course, what publishers are doing to make their industry more green.

I admit to being a tad disappointed by their answers up there on the dais -- most of them had to do with making their offices more green, like not using water bottles and not printing out emails. That's good, but obviously the question really refers to the huge impact of the massive amounts of paper used to create their product: books.

I jumped up and made an impassioned (and okay, slightly drunken) plea that publishers start talking about whether we can be proud of where books come from, in terms of both the environmental impact and the labor impact. If books are being made from paper from trees cut down in the Amazon and printed and bound in sweatshops in China, we need to know, and it needs to change.

Nobody really responded to my question/plea (they didn't exactly ignore it -- the conversation just moved on). I wasn't sure whether it's because it was a dumb thing to say, or they just didn't have an answer, or they didn't want to talk about it. In talking the whole thing over later in the week with my buddy Steve, who works both the bookselling and publishing angles, I've realized it may have been all of those. And I also realized how little I know about where the books in my store come from.

First of all, Steve set me straight on the sweatshop printer thing. Most books published in America, he tells me, are printed in American printshops, because it's still a skilled labor thing, not the automated factory monstrosity I'd imagined. In fact, you can usually find out where a book was printed right on the copyright page. I'd never looked. Some books, though by no means all, actually have the name and address of the printer on the title page, and most say "Printed in the USA" or words to that effect. I guess that doesn't guarantee no one's being exploited, but Steve says in his visits to printers everyone seems to take pride in their work and think of themselves as artisans.

(Some glossy art books are printed in Italy, he says, where they have better facilities for that sort of thing. And my boss says that some four-color printing does take place in China, where standards for labor and environmental responsibility are much lower than they are here.)

Well then, where do the trees come from?, I wanted to know, clinging to my righteous indignation. That we couldn't answer, though he promised to look into it.

But he did send me this bit from Publishers Weekly -- talk about impact. "The U.S. publishing industry emits over 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, or about 8.85 pounds per book." I'm going to have to read more about that in PW this week.

Clearly that number ain't good, and we need to change things if we can.

At the forum discussion, one bookseller (the clearly brilliant Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at the Boulder Bookstore and proprietor of the blog Kash's Book Corner) asked whether publishers couldn't increase the price differential between returnable and non-returnable books. That would be an incentive for booksellers to buy non-returnable, which would mean fewer books returned to publishers. Returns often get pulped, destroyed -- massive waste of paper and energy. But would that result in fewer initial book sales, as booksellers are more wary of taking a chance on something they can't return?

Another suggestion (mostly posited by those outside the book industry I think) is the move to electronic books -- just get rid of that pesky paper altogether. While I'm intrigued by e-books, I think that's a false switch. Paper, at least, is recyclable and biodegradable (usually). While digital files don't have a carbon footprint exactly, the electronics to read them on are made with metals like mercury that don't go quietly back into the earth -- they're difficult to dispose of and sometimes literally poisonous. And electronics often come with "built-in obsolescence" -- they're designed to be tossed when the next big thing comes along, adding to the massive, scary amount of e-waste.

One thing some publishers are talking about is using paper from sustainable forests -- that is, those that are managed, replanted, not clear cut, and thus better for the ongoing health of the planet. And of course, there's always the option of printing on recycled or partially-recycled paper. But both of those options are more expensive than traditional methods, which might lead to jacking up the cost of the book itself, or a cut in profits to the publishers if not. So the move is happening very slowly, if at all.

All of these solutions are problematic, but it seems as though we've got to start thinking about it.

What do YOU think? Do you have knowledge to share about any of these factors or practices? What do you think makes the most sense for the book industry to do going forward? Any insights or thoughts would be much appreciated. It seems clear that this is the something we need to tackle as an industry, and something we should be better informed about as booksellers. I hope to talk more about this in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I feel lucky to work in an industry that's got enough idealists that we know we've got to do the right thing, even if it takes a little while to figure out what that is.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Turning a page: BookStream to Bookstore

Aren't we lucky, us book people, to have such a good built-in metaphor for change? The act of reading involves this moment of physical action where to move the story forward you have to cover up and leave behind what came before. It's not a renunciation or a rejection -- just a way to get to the next chapter.

Yes, I'm leaving BookStream, after all too short a stay on that particular page. I'm sending out the announcement today, and I'll be finished at the end of this month.

I wasn't expecting to win the Power Up! competition, nor all of the new opportunities that would come with it. But win I did, and come they did, and now I have to pursue and follow up on these opportunities or risk missing my chance to do the one thing that's been my goal all along: open an independent bookstore in Brooklyn. And I just can't do that in the free time I have now. Something's gotta give.

As I described it to the ALP, I feel like I've been expanding and expanding the things I've been doing, to get all of the experience and meet all of the people and gather all of the knowledge I could. And it's been wonderful. But now it's the time to bring it in, and start to focus on one thing.

I've still got a couple of projects I'll be wrapping up and passing along at BookStream: there's a new KidSplash event coming up, and another TitleWave this fall, and a very cool new website that should launch in the next couple of weeks. I'm grateful to have been able to put some things in motion that I hope will continue.

And I have every confidence that BookStream will continue to do what it does well. Providing added value to booksellers, through good relationships with its staff. Transforming the role of the wholesaler into something more: an intermediary between authors, publishers, booksellers, and book buyers.

They'll need someone to do what I've been doing, and more. A passionate book person, a writer, an organizer, a creator, someone in touch with what's happening in the book industry; but also someone who's able to do a bit more traveling, to engage more with booksellers and publishers, to work the customer service angle as well as the marketing angle. It'll be a dream job (and as usual, I half regret not being able to do it all). Jack and Carolyn and Ken and Lily and Felice and Carol and everyone else at BookStream are awesome coworkers, and they know how to make a job worthwhile. I bet somebody with the right kind of passion jumps at the chance.

And in a few months, or a few years, "Lord willing and the creek don't rise," as my mom used to say...

I'll be opening my bookstore, and placing my opening book orders with BookStream, and putting them first in the cascade. (If you're a bookseller who uses electronic ordering, you know what that means.)

As when reading a great book, it's tough to leave the good parts behind. But I'm awfully excited about the next chapter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Action Items for Booksellers & Others

I've been all about itemized to-do lists lately (whether I ever get to cross off every item is another matter). Here's my suggested list for you this week.

Action Item #1: Send a letter (or two) about e-fairness.

Okay, folks, I've been remiss in not focusing on this before, but here it is. and other online retailers, surprising as it is, are not required to collect sales tax on items sold (or else it's not enforced). Obviously, this creates a bit of a disadvantage for brick-and-mortar stores -- especially those of us in states like New York, who have to add a hefty 8.625% on to every purchase. It's not like we're making more money -- we're just collecting it to pass along to the state -- but from a customer's perspective, they just have to pay more when they buy from a physical store than from an online store, which can disincline some folks to buy local. And that also means that online sales aren't supporting infrastructure, arts inititatives, and all the other state-funded stuff that local business must (and should) do. Sound weird and dumb to anyone else?

Late last year, New York governor Elliot Spitzer (fresh from a career as an Untouchable-style Wall Street corruption cleaner-upper, and with a strong mandate to straighten out things in our state capital, Albany) declared that online retailers selling products in New York State would have to collect sales tax.

Then he reversed the ruling. WTF?!

So now, the American Booksellers Association, along with some other groups, is lobbying to get Spitzer and the state legislature to reinstate and enforce online sales tax collection -- a movement known as "e-fairness". The state budget (which potentially includes this new enforcement) is supposed to be approved by April 1, and there's a big lobbying effort scheduled for March 19 in Albany. In the meantime, the ABA is collecting letters from independent businesses supporting a new ruling.

That's where you come in. If you're a bookseller or other independent business in New York State, you can send a letter to your assembly person and senator to let them know where you stand. Bookselling This Week has an article that will link you to a letter template and contact information for your elected representatives. I know, I know, it involves digging out your letterhead paper and using a stamp -- but it's a way to support your fellow indie businesses and keep them viable in the contemporary economy. Come on, folks -- it's a few minutes out of your work day, and it could make a difference for years to come. Just make sure to make it happen before the 19th, and then let Dave at the ABA know you've done it so he can add your letter to the fat stack of paper they'll be taking to Albany.

Update/correction: Dave Grogan adds "One thing re: today's posting I did want to note ... Gov. Spitzer is on our side in this Internet Sales Tax issue -- the Internet Sales Tax provision in the proposed budget, in fact, is his proposal that we are rounding up support for.
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Action Item #2: Write about how you got started in bookselling.
This is for the bookseller/bloggers in the room, as well as anyone who's been meaning to start that blog. At the ABA publisher forums this week, the inimitable Sarah Rettger clued me in to the Carnival of Independent Bookselling: a call for stories about how you got started in the biz, via Blog Carnival. I wrote up my story recently on the Bookshop Blog, but I'm definitely resubmitting to be part of the Carnival (look for it here later this week). I can vouch that it's a fun thing to think about, and a good reminder about why we're all doing this.

Action Item #3: See an author interview on your lunchbreak.
I've just this morning become a fan of, a new website featuring long-form moderated author interviews. I've just started watching the first one, and even though I got to see Richard Price in real life at TitleWave, I'm totally enjoying Daniel Menaker drawing him out on his new book Lush Life, and can't wait to get to Charles Bock and Susan Choi. (I can vouch for Menaker's skills as interviewer -- he chatted with Gary Shteyngart last year as part of our Author/Editor series, which is very much the same engaging format as the Title Page interviews.) And how cool for those who don't often get a chance to hear authors speak! It's still a work in progress, and you can leave your comments, but I'm betting it's going to be worth checking out as often as a new episode is posted.

Action Item #4: Stay tuned for big news.

I learned some stuff at the ABA forums this week that I can't tell you about. But oh boy, is it cool. Get yourself psyched up for the big reveal at BEA -- it's going to rock.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Whew, this week sets a new standard for busy-ness. Debriefing and follow-up work on TitleWave is consuming at BookStream; there's a full slate of events at the bookstore; and biggest of all, Tuesday through Thursday I'll be taking part in the ABA Focus Group Meetings here in New York.

The funniest part: the meetings will be taking place for three straight days at the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge Hotel. So I'll be spending two nights in a hotel that's 15 minutes walk from my house. Ah well -- kind of a treat at that.

So that's where I'll be this week. Hope y'all have a good one -- I'll try to pipe up on Friday.