I’m off to Providence, RI on Thursday for the annual NEIBA conference. It’s a smaller version of BookExpo but more fun in a lot of ways. Booksellers from all over New England show up and have a big nerdfest about books. How could it not be fun? Also, I’m on a panel discussing the relationship between buyers and sales reps on Friday morning. I love doing panels though I tend to gesticulate a lot when I talk and always worry I’ll hit someone sitting near me. Wish me luck!
This morning on the train ride to work, I noticed two interesting things. One was the large number of pregnant women in my car–there were 8 of them! The other was that no one was reading any of the Stieg Larsson books. It’s the first time pretty much since the books exploded onto the scene that I haven’t spotted their tell-tale covers on the subway. Like most booksellers, I’m always checking out what the other people are reading whether I’m on the train or bus or sitting in a cafe. This morning there was: a lady reading Penelope Lively’s Family Album, one of the pregnant ladies reading what I think was The Art of Parenting Twins, a gentleman with PD James’s The Private Patient. The rest of the car was into their magazines and Metro’s. I mention all of this because one of the things I do on Monday mornings is compile the store’s bestseller list. The Stieg Larsson books have been on there for over a year. Today is one of the first times the two paperbacks haven’t been on it! Does this mean the trend is over already?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came out in hardcover in September of 2008 and did pretty well. It’s when the paperback came out the next summer a month before the The Girl who Played with Fire arrived in hardcover that the series took off. There are the Swedish movies directed by Niels Arden Oplev which got mixed reviews and are already being remade by David Fincher because you know, we don’t like to read our movies or something. I’m not really sure why they’re doing it, it’s a nasty Hollywood habit. That’s a whole other article though. I’m just wondering if we’re seeing the downward slope of the Larsson trend. Probably too soon to tell. The last of the Millennium trilogy isn’t even out in paperback yet after all.
Over the weekend, I read The Privileges by Jonathan Dee. It’s a fast read–I read it in about one sitting. It begins on the wedding day of Adam and Cynthia Morey and follows them as they become super rich. That’s pretty much all you need to know about it. It’s written from the perspectives of Adam and Cynthia and later their two children, April and Jonas. Reviews call it “intelligent” and “scintillating” which are both apt descriptions. At the end of the day though, I found it like reading a television script for one of shows on CW or Bravo. They’re super rich, but hey, they have feelings too. I like Dee’s writing style however. That’s pretty much what saved it for me in the end.
I’m realizing that I should have split this post up given the randomness of topics, but too late! I’m already on a roll! Over at The Millions Patrick Brown has posted a response to Flavorwire’s Top 10 Bookstores in the US list (and no, we’re not on it which makes me think the list is crap) that came out last week. One of his more interesting points, and there are a lot of those in the article, is this:
Another pet peeve of mine is when people consider their local independent bookstore a charity. Unless your store is a non-profit, it should succeed or fail based on how well it does as a business, not because of noblesse oblige on the part of your municipality. Allowing people to treat your for-profit business like a charity can have some unwanted side-effects. I’ve worked for stores that would occasionally charge admission to a reading. Typically, the price was purchasing a copy of the book, which seemed perfectly reasonable to me – you’re there to see the author, you buy the book, the store makes some money, the author makes some money, everybody wins! But all too often, people would look at me as if I’d just told them air was no longer free. “You shouldn’t be charging for these events,” they’d say. “They’re good for the community.” In other words, they were looking for an evening of free entertainment. Well, this isn’t the library, ma’am. We have to pay the bills somehow.
There are two great ideas in this paragraph. First is the idea that not all independent businesses are created equal. Some independent businesses just plain suck for a variety of reasons so you shouldn’t have to shop there if that’s the case. I’ve been to my fair share of bookstores in the US that were not very good. And no I won’t name names. I’m a strong believer in buying local if possible and by that I mean not only if there’s that type of store in your neighborhood but also that the store is the right one.
The second idea is about author events and ticketing. My store hosts a great deal of author events, some in the store, but many in other venues. Guess what? We often have to pay for the space and for the speaker and microphone rental and other stuff. Often we charge a $5 ticket but it’s also a coupon! Sometimes I’m surprised at the amount of people who balk at buying tickets to an author event but most people understand why we have to charge. They like us and our event series enough to continue supporting it. Last week alone we had events with Mary Catherine Bateson, Eliza Grizwold, Guillermo del Toro, Tao Lin, and Robert Reich. It’s one of the things we do best and I hope our customers appreciate the amount of energy we put into it.