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Showing posts from January, 2009

Keeping Up*

Umm.... I guess I'm on Facebook now. We recently created a Facebook page for McNally Jackson -- I admit I groaned a little at first, but it's becoming a neat way to spread the word about events , extend discussion beyond the bookstore, and share the love. I had to create a personal profile to administer the store page, and well.... there are just so many cool people out there (that I do, actually know IRL**) that I now find myself friending with abandon. I think I'd avoided Facebook for a long time for the same reason I haven't read Harry Potter -- if everyone else is doing it, why should I? (In other words, I'm a snob, and it somehow seemed like something for kids with short attention spans.) And I still have my reservations about the procrastination potential, not to mention the idea that relationships can be maintained without face-to-face contact, and that "friend" is a verb... but I think perhaps I was just being stubborn by avoiding it altog

Good bookselling, good reporting

One of my oft-lamented pet peeves is the recurrence of media stories about books and independent bookstores that tell the same old story: indie bookstores are a dying breed, reading is the victim of new technologies, etc. So I must give credit where credit is due to two pieces of journalism today that present a more nuanced picture of the world of books and bookstores. Via Publishers Weekly, here's an LA Times piece on the uncertain future of the fabulous and venerable Hollywood bookstore Book Soup, after the too-young, too-soon death of its founder Glen Goldman. Even with this somber starting point, the LAT piece offers the most balanced and realistic picture of the actual business of bookstores that I've read in a national newspaper. Here's a sample: In recent decades, independent bookstores have become endangered, closing as chain stores move into their neighborhoods and market share is gobbled up by online booksellers such as Amazon .com. Some, like Dutton's B

Link-Mad Monday: Watch out when we get together...

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* As the world of indie booksellers knows, this coming weekend is the eagerly awaited Fourth Annual Winter Institute ! Due to the uncertainty of my own plans months ago during registration, I won't be there in person... but I'll be jealously following the schedule of every educational session, party and rep picks meal throughout the weekend. If anyone is live blogging, let me know... * And if you're at WI and of the under-40 persuasion, don't miss the Emerging Leaders Reception, Friday night at 9 PM in the charmingly titled Deer Valley room. Your intrepid Emerging Leaders Council will be meeting throughout the weekend to plan upcoming projects and programming, but on Friday night they'll do what they do best: drinking. I mean, networking with fellow booksellers, of course. The event is hosted by Unbridled Books , an emerging up-and-coming publisher itself, and will feature two of their promising new authors. The winners of the Emerging Leaders scholarships f

Book Futures

Clearly, it's time to read Lev Grossman's article in Time about the future of books. I expect to agree, argue, and quibble in various measures. In the meantime, GalleyCat has a good summary and analysis of the piece , especially as it pertains to us snobby NYers. In the meantime, Bookninja pointed me to an indie bookstore story from Britain that sounds like something out of a Frank Capra movie. An MP from Lancashire discovered that his beloved, homey local indie bookstore is closing because of economic pressure. So he storms into Parliament and tells everyone it's high time the government started supporting locally owned small businesses. And for good measure, he tells publishers they'd better be careful about relying too much on chains and online sellers, because "it's in their own interests to have a large number of outlets." Since when did a politician get so passionate, practical, and well-informed? Truly it is a new day in politics. Perhap

Gathering Around The Bookish President

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Happy Inauguration Day! I'm psyched that at the last minute we've decided to screen the event at McNally Jackson. It's the sort of thing you want to be around other people for -- the excitement just isn't the same by oneself. I'm also pleased that those who come to the store will get a chance to take a look at the new display some of our staff have been working hard to compile. Titled "How History Was Made: Books That Inspired A President," the display encompasses two groaning tables of political theory, fiction, history, memoir, and classics of world literature that make you wish you'd taken more cross-disciplinary critical thought-type classes in college. The books come specifically from a period in Barack Obama's 20s when he read voraciously and when much of his political thought was formed. My coworker John McGregor has done a ton of research to put this together, and it shows. Starting with Laura Miller's Salon article "Barack

Guest Blogger: The ALP

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Greetings literature lovers. The ALP here with some dispatches from that other pile of books on the purely metaphorical nightstand. Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that Book Nerd, within her "About Me" sidebar section, claims that I read everything she doesn't. Here's what Book Nerd hasn't read recently. Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race , by Richard Rhodes With his Pulitzer-winning 1986 book The Making of the Atomic Bomb and his 1995 follow up, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb , Rhodes pretty much staked out the nuclear era as his personal stomping ground. In his latest, Arsenals of Folly , he moves from the dawn of the Cold War Era into the lingering last days of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the end of the arms race. Where Atomic played like a tragic Promethean foundation myth and Dark Sun was steeped in the shadowy cloak and dagger paranoia of the early Cold War, Arsenals reads like a grotesque farce. Late in th

Trends, Counter-Trends, and Re-Evaluations

At the PowerUp! ceremony last night, I mentioned the headline of the (otherwise lovely) New York Times article on my bookstore party, which read "A Woman Dreams of Opening a Bookstore, and Defying the Trends." I asserted that the existence of the 75 stellar business plans in this year's competition suggest that my efforts to open an indie bookstore actually embody any number of trends: toward localism, toward idealistic entrepreneurship, toward communities taking charge of their own sustainability, toward valuing books, toward the growth of vibrant, savvy independent businesses. Thus, it was rather gratifying to read in book industry newsletter Shelf Awareness today that two major papers have been revisiting the common perception of the trends. The Wall Street Journal article "Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job" begins "A few years ago, public libraries were being written off as goners. The Internet had made them ir

Link-Mad Monday: The Good News

'Cause that's what we do around here. * In the New York Times , an interesting article on how small-scale and niche manufacturing in Brooklyn is prospering even as larger concerns suffer in the economic downturn: Many business owners interviewed said they were staying strong in this market by employing few workers and keeping their products specialized. “They tend to be very nimble, even in the downtimes,” said Mr. Kimball. “They can make it through a difficult stretch easier than the bigger players.” Manufacturing isn't retail, but I can't be the only one to see a parallel to the indie store which can make adjustments and cater to local clients as corporate sellers can't. We ARE all making those adjustments, right?... * Also in the Times , an article that evokes the great urbanist Jane Jacobs in discussing how internet forums and social networking, especially in New York City neighborhoods, can strengthen local bonds , not increase isolation: The Web was fi

Part 2 of What I Read On My Christmas Vacation; Or, How Books Make Things Better

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Part II: Engage! I didn't necessarily read all the escapist books first and all the inspiring/engaging books after that (and certainly most of the books I read over the 12 Days of Christmas had elements of both). But as I enjoyed the comforts of fantasy and adventure, I also found myself getting a bit fired up about interesting ideas. Since I had been a little worried that end-of-the-year letdown and disappointments would leave me lethargic and apathetic, I was willing enough to let these next books work their magic. Shop Indie Bookstores Berlin, City of Stones and Shop Indie Bookstores Berlin: City of Smoke by Jason Lutes Jason Lutes' Berlin series is one of those graphic novels that the ALP has been telling me I should read for ages, while I was more interested in the flashy superhero stuff (Green Arrow, for example). During the cold, quiet days of the year's end, I finally felt inclined to pick up the first volume, and within pages was immersed in a visio

What I Read On My Christmas Vacation; Or, How Books Make Things Better

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Part I: Escape! I didn't actually get much Christmas vacation: one day off for Christmas, half a day off for New Year's Eve and the same for New Year's Day. I admit I was a bit jealous of my publishing friends, none of whom seemed to be anywhere near the office from the 24th to the 5th. But I made the choice to stick around the store this year, and hopefully I'll take a couple days in the dismal months of February and March to make up for it. Still, it felt like a time out from the usual working year, and I chose my reading accordingly. The books I read during the 12 Days of Christmas (that's the 25th to the 6th, as the Inklings Bookstore was humorously reminded ) felt like a separate entity, separating the old year from the new year. It's also been a time when I've been struggling a bit against hopelessness and despair (which seems to hit me around this time of year, if last year's post is any indication). It's been a great year in terms of

Link-Mad Monday: Back to the Future!

Happy 2009! The time for year-end lists, including mine, is past -- time to look at some interesting new stuff again. Behold, the linkage! - New York Comic Con is a-comin' (February 6-8), and Lance Fensterman's blog is once again featuring genius lo-tech superhero promo videos. - Coming up even faster: Winter Institute IV ! (January 29 - February 1) I am so jealous of everyone who is going -- there is some good stuff going on, and I hope to participate vicariously through whatever virtual means possible... - The Leonard Lopate Show had a call-in segment devoted to changing reading habits on New Year's Eve that's worth listening to. For a piece about the "new" world of books, there's a fair amount of the same old doom-and-gloom. But IBNYC member Bonnie Slotnik has a great remark at the bottom of the comments that reminds folks that even in changing times "bookstores are here to stay." - I saw the film The Curious Case of Benjamin B