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Epic Coffee Battle

posted October 13, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in digital media marketing

So what does this video have to do with publishing or virtual offices? Well, nothing, really, unless you consider what a staple coffee is in the publishing industry as well as offices (I know, it’s a stretch, but I am taking it). In addition, it’s hard to think about the pleasures of reading or writing without also considering coffee.

I think you can also draw a parallel between the coffee industry and the book publishing/book selling industry. There are the giants, and then there are the small, fiercely independent outfits. To say that coffee is important here in Portland, Oregon, would be a gross understatement. There are dozens of microroasters and nanoroasters with their single-origin, medium-roast coffees. Sometimes, as with small publishing houses and booksellers, it can start to feel a bit . . . precious. That is why I appreciated this Coffee Wars video. I love coffee, and I love books, but I also think it’s important to maintain a sense of humor and not take things so seriously.

Lending a Hand to the Little Guy

posted January 11, 2010

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling books independent


Let’s say you’re a small, independent bookseller that unfortunately happens to be down the street from some giant megastore chain that offers deep discounts on the same books you’re trying to sell at full retail price. You’re probably out of luck and better off opening a hot dog stand, right? Well, maybe not. I just read an article about such a case in England.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Green Apple of My Eye

posted August 4, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in Bookselling E-books books

Amazon’s Kindle has stirred up its share of controversy. It seems people either love it or hate it. It would probably be safe to assume independent booksellers would lean toward the “hate it” category, but let’s not jump to conclusions. Green Apple Books, an independent bookstore in San Francisco, has decided to evaluate, with an open mind, the Kindle on its blog in a 10-part webisode battle of sorts. Each round explores different aspects of reading and compares how the book and the Kindle fare.

So far there have been three rounds. In the first the book and the Kindle test their mettle in the used-book-selling category. The second round explores the experience of purchasing a book. In the third the book and the Kindle go head-to-head in terms of borrowing or sharing a book. Spoiler alert: so far the book is in the lead 3-0. Care to place any bets on the final outcome?

So pop some popcorn and take a look at these clever and humorous webisodes. I can’t wait to see the final score!

The Book vs. the Kindle: Round 2

The Book vs. the Kindle: Round 3

Re-Imagine Bookstores, Too?

posted June 23, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling books

It seems impossible that Shaman Drum Bookshop, which has been a part of the cultural/intellectual lifeblood of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for nearly 30 years, is closing its doors on June 30. Just as it seemed impossible a year ago that Cody’s Books, that legendary Berkeley institution, was really disappearing off the map. How is it that two such esteemed and longstanding independent bookstores, proximate as they were to two of the world’s most prestigious public universities (and all of the students, professors, and inordinately literate citizens who circulate through and surround them), could be rendered unsustainable?

From the backside: 
“We feel that a good bookshop
[like a shaman drum]
is another way of facilitating a change of consciousness.”

When Cody’s closed last June, Andy Ross, who owned the store from 1977 until 2006, recalled that when Cody’s was thriving (through the end of the 1980s), independent stores claimed 40 to 50 percent of the bookselling market; in the new era of Barnes and Noble and Amazon hegemony, however, the independents are down to about 3 percent. In An Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller, issued in February, Shaman Drum owner Karl Pohrt explained that in an already unstable economic climate, the nail in the coffin for his bookstore came with the steep decline in textbook sales that resulted from a change last fall in university policy (requiring professors to post textbook ISBNs online a month before the start of classes, thus driving sales to online retailers). Even so, Pohrt acknowledged, “It has been clear to me for a while now that the current model doesn’t work.” As such, he concluded, “The question then becomes: What is the next version of a bookstore?”

After June 30 Pohrt will continue to promote literary discourse in Ann Arbor through the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center (GLLAC), a fledgling nonprofit (originally conceived as an outgrowth of Shaman Drum) that plans to provide a public forum for author readings, panel discussions, writing workshops, and other nonelectronic gatherings of people who are passionate about good writing.  As Carolyn Kellogg pointed out in her Jacket Copy post, however, even if the GLLAC fares well, “it still leaves the question of what role bookstores play in our communities today–and tomorrow.”  Looking ahead, Kellogg wondered, “Will our future literary lives be split between buying books online and hanging out at the local literary nonprofit?”