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New Bookstore Fills Unique Niche

posted September 3, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling book design books trends

It’s supposed to be a bad economic climate for brick-and-mortar bookstores, and it seems booksellers are closing their doors left and right. It might come as a surprise, then, to hear about the opening of a new bookstore, one funded by the federal government. The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), responsible for all sorts of government publications since 1861, recently opened a retail bookstore in Washington, D.C. The store is actually a reopening of sorts, since a GPO bookstore has been in existence since 1895. The new store was redesigned to mimic more closely contemporary booksellers. The redesign and renovation were handled in-house by GPO employees.

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Bookstore Readings

posted June 15, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling book design books marketing trends

Amy Karol book reading

Do you attend bookstore readings? I am fortunate to live in Portland, Oregon, home to many bookstores, including the venerable Powell’s Books. I could probably go to a bookstore reading on a daily basis, and I often read through the listings in the local paper with great interest. The truth, though, is that I rarely go to bookstore readings. I never gave it much thought other than to attribute it to laziness, but then I saw this article, “The Dreaded Question: What is a ‘Reading’?” in the Huffington Post. The piece is by bookstore owner Alex Green, who talks about how the label “reading” is not quite accurate. He writes that “many of us are reluctant to attend a reading because we don’t know what one is, and we become afraid that something egregiously uncomfortable, or boring, is going to happen.” Green then goes on to explain that readings, at least at his bookstore, are engaging and lively discussions.

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An American and a Vegetable Walk into a Bookstore

posted November 4, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in Bookselling books world literature

Living in France, I hear a lot about how Americans are . . . from a French perspective. In general, despite reports to the contrary, Americans seem to be well enough liked, with some exceptions, at least in the south. The election of Obama has helped the reputation of the United States. There also seems to be a deep-seated love here for Starsky and Hutch.

Curiously “Starsky et Hutch” speak French.

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Publishing Prophet Chris Anderson

posted October 15, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in Bookselling publishing

Not long ago I was one of 50,000 people who made the pilgrimage to the book festival in Mouans-Sartoux, a small town in the foothills north of Cannes. Publishers from the region and elsewhere in France set up stands and showed off their titles. Writers, too, were there, waiting behind their little stacks, hoping to chat with a reader or sign a book. If we are about to enter a new era of electronic books and unlimited distribution, the festival was a reminder that most people are still living in a slower time of texture and paper.

So what is going to happen? The publishing industry is aswarm with utopian visions of an electronic, democratic future. Many find support in a theory developed by Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine, and described in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. The kernel of the idea can be said simply. In the past there were limited distribution channels (e.g., movie theaters or bookstores), meaning only a small number of products found buyers. But the Internet has created unlimited access to goods, making consumers aware of niche and obscure products and increasing demand for them. Using the terminology of the idea, demand is moving away from the head (the most popular products) to the long tail (everything else).

Here is Chris Anderson explaining the theory.

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Publishing Prophet of the Week: Richard Nash

posted September 29, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books publishing social media trends

Humans seem to be attracted to visions of great change, whether social, religious, or economic, especially during periods of instability. Publishing is not immune. With people reading fewer books and spending more time on the Internet, and with paper books, long the preferred container of long narratives, beginning to give ground to ebooks, there is a lot of speculation about what is going to happen to publishing.

Among the most interesting publishing visionaries today is Richard Nash, formerly editorial director of Soft Skull Press. Nash is one of many people who think traditional publishing is broken and needs to be replaced by the new tools and social habits of the twenty-first century. In Nash’s view publishing has to stop selling books as objects (wholly opposite to the current fetish of the object in literary publishing) and consider a different way to get writers and readers together, especially on the Internet.

Nash outlines that different way in a recent Publishers Weekly article. According to Nash, except for the 500 best-selling books, which will be published on the Hollywood blockbuster model, the future of publishing will be based on niche social communities. Reflecting this vision, Nash is starting a new publishing venture, Cursor, which will contain a “portfolio” of online membership communities to which people can subscribe. The first two will be Red Lemonade, a “pop-lit-alt-cult operation,” and charmQuark, a “sci-fi/fantasy community.” Nash explains these communities in Publishers Weekly.

Each community will have a publishing imprint, which will make money from authors’ books, sold as digital downloads, conventional print and limited artisanal editions—and will offer authors all the benefits of a digital platform: faster time to market, faster accounting cycles, faster payments to authors. But the greatest opportunity is in the community itself. Each will have tiers of membership, including paid memberships that will offer exclusive access to tools and services, such as rich text editors for members to upload their own writing, peer-to-peer writing groups, recommendation engines, access to established authors online and in person, and editorial or marketing assistance. Members can get both peer-based feedback and professional feedback.

Nash is looking for investors, so we’ll have to wait a while to see Cursor in action.

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