Emme B wrote:
I’ve been following this thread since it started. I keep going back and forth on adding my two cents to the conversation (really there is no monetary value if someone is counting). This post keeps eating at me though. It's an invaluable commodity to have someone in your community available to help recommend books based on their knowledge of what books and authors exist as well as what a persons' specific likes and dislikes might be. I agree. We need to support those stores. My concern, and what's eating at me -- if you aren't going to recommend books to me -- no matter how much I'd like reading them -- based on who published the book -- or any other reason based on factors external to the quality of the book -- I'm not sure I'd trust that I was getting the best possible recommendation. I’m sure it’s a better experience visiting your bookstore than it is to utilize an online seller or a giant box store that employs people better at making coffee than they are at recommending books -- but I think integrity is an important quality for those precious few bookstores that can offer quality recommendations. For my experience, you've lost some of that integrity by refusing to work with one publisher -- no matter how valid the reason.
It is odd to me that so many people are having a hard time accepting that any given bookseller will make decisions to not stock this book or that book for any number of reasons. That we’re a specialty shop right away tells anyone that we’re going to be stocking, recommending and selling a narrow selection of books. That specialty shops can and do exist does not seem to be problematic. That we don’t carry military history, animal husbandry, atlases, photo books on the Royal Wedding or political tracts on the viability of communes doesn’t seem to rile people.
Similarly, there are authors we do not stock because they do not sell well –or at all – for us. That’s a financial judgment. To stock them all would tie up cash flow and shelf space, so we don’t. Some of these authors sell well in general shops or corporate shops, but not for us. No one seems to question this. Similarly, we’ve decided to not stock Harper’s new, expensive trade paperback editions of Agatha Christie. We have plenty of her books in used mass market for 1/3 the price. The $12.99 copies won’t sell well. Why tie up money in them? If someone else was publishing the McBain backlist, we probably wouldn’t stock them either. But, yes, we won’t stock the Amazon copies. It is ok to not stock particular books from Harper but not ok to stock books from Amazon? That makes no sense.
But if we publicly announce that we’re not going to stock an author due to the publisher, that seems to be a problem. If you’ve been following the thread, you’ve read comments from publishers who have written about Amazon’s unreasonable demands for terms. You’ve read other booksellers write about how Amazon has damaged their businesses. You’ve read our points that we’re not refusing to carry these books due to the author or the quality of the writing – only because of the predatory corporate practices of his publisher. This is not censorship. We’re not prohibiting the publication of the book. We’re just saying it would not be in our financial interests – short term and long term – to carry the books.
As for integrity, that’s a value judgment in the eye of the viewer. Most of the response we’ve gotten has been congratulatory for showing the integrity to not stock Amazon books. Is there no integrity in standing up for your views in the face of ridicule? - and that takes us to Jacob
After reading all these comments, I've decided to never buy from independent stores again. You don't like Amazon, fine, but taking it out on the authors who are the most important part of the entire chain, is unforgivable. I don't care where a writer publishes as long as I can get the book. Readers, Books Store owners, and publishers should be kissing the ass of every author who graces you with a book. Learn your place people.
And where just is our ‘place’? Because we're booksellers, we're now second-class citizens, mere servants to you who know better? Perhaps we should no longer be allowed to vote?
And as for not caring who the publisher is, if this particular author was being published by the National Socialistic Party Press and I refused to do business with them, would you feel the same? You’d really pay money to ANY publisher to get a book no matter if they underwrote child prostitution or the abolition of integrated marriage? If so, more power to you.
You are effectively banning books as well as depriving your customers of the works of those writers. That's sad.
No – we’re banning nothing. We’re saying it is financial dangerous for us to stock them. If you want to buy one, go ahead.
However, if you wanted to buy an e-version of this book, we couldn’t sell it to you. Amazon has that as proprietory. If you want to buy a copy for your Kindle, you have to buy from Amazon. Are they banning books if they do not allow other booksellers to sell their authors’ e-books? They have a monopoly and we're not supporting it. And we're the bad guys?
Beth D wrote:
You are absolutely attacking authors. You boasted about pulling ALL the books off your shelves by any author who dared publish with Amazon. God forbid these people (you know, the ones with the talent) refuse to be used and discarded by the NY publishers, and instead team up with a publisher who knows how to sell books. You need to support authors and not publishers. They are the ones who matter.
There is nothing I can say to change your mind. But you’re dead-on that we need to support authors. We do. We stock books by authors from small presses, authors who have printed the books themselves, authors whose books are out of print but who have copies and sell them to us so that we can introduce them to new readers, as well as authors whose books are published by specialty presses and the major publishers. We also order copies from overseas when US versions are no longer in print. We have signings with first-time authors and international bestsellers and we treat them all the same. (With a quick count I came up with 34 formal signings between Jan 1st and June 30th. In there were a number of stock signings as well as signed copies bought from self-published authors.)
But, in this one case, Beth, we agree – we’re not supporting this particular publisher.
…That said, JB, how can bookstores make getting books something more than just cruising in and grabbing said title off the shelf and swiping the debit card? I've asked myself this question every time I see these discussions. I love bookstores. I find them both peaceful and stimulating. They are generally just great spaces to hang out in. How can bookstores make the extra investment more appealing? Of course, being a specialty bookshop, you have a clientele of dedicated readers, who will always shop there, because you cater to their dedication, which is something an online presence like Amazon can't really duplicate no matter what their algorithms are. But how do bookstores do this for the more general reader?...
To be honest, I cannot fathom how a small, general independent bookseller can do it. I look through the publishers’ catalogs and see the mind-numbing selection of books and I do not know how they decide to order and stock this book but not that book. They have to know their customers and what their customers go for. They have to know that a yet another new diet book is probably a waste of time and money or not, and, really, now many memoirs by politicians who are planning a run at the presidency do they need? How many copies of a new book about Princess Diana are realistically worth carrying?
And, if they’re worth their salt, they’ll be quick to special order what their customers want that they don’t have – just like us. We order non-mysteries for our regulars all the time. You cannot have it all in the shop at the exact moment it is needed. You have to have understanding customers.
And, to be sure, there are people who open bookshops who are not booksellers. It takes passion and care and to some un-teachable degree, an innate ability to hand-sell books. Not everyone can do it. (Similarly, some authors are spectacularly good at selling themselves and their books – some are terrible.) It takes effort and time. Opening a bookshop is not a quiet, calm relaxing way to make a living. You have to work hard to make it look easy.
But the other part of the equation is that you, the customer, have to patronize the small independent. I would say that the vast majority of small independents who have closed in the last decade were forced to because their customers abandoned them. It takes effort on your part to – to get dressed, to make the trip, to talk to the booksellers, to spend more money there than if you stayed home, in your pajamas, to order on-line. Yes, you can save a lot of money ordering on-line. But if you do that you can’t shake your head and say what a pity the corner bookseller is gone. You, the reader and buyer, have to sacrifice convenience and price if having small businesses matter to you. If you don’t help them, you’re part of the reason they’re no longer around.
A successful independent bookshop should be a partnership between their loyal customers and the booksellers. But it takes both sides for it to work. If the customers stop coming in, it doesn’t matter how good the booksellers are, the shop will close.
If you don’t care that independents are vanishing, do nothing. Keep ordering from the corporate sites. If you want your independents to survive, the best thing you can do is spend your money with them.