|Kurt Vonnegut display at BookPeople in Austin.|
I'm pretty sure that I see either a tweet or Facebook status update every single day that espouses the foodie movement. Eat local ingredients, shop at farmers' markets, zucchini tastes better than a Snickers bar, etc. I am a failing foodie, mostly because I have the palate of a seven year-old. I watch Top Chef because I like to watch passionate and talented people throw down with the competition...and I like it when CJ's broccolini (I don't know what that is, by the way, or if I even spelled it correctly) comes out of the cooking device looking like cat hackings. It's the same reason I love figure skating--nothing's better than Sasha Cohen going splat at the Olympics. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat! Excellent.
Where was I?
|Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado.|
Again, I realize that I'm personally invested in buying books from local bookstores because a large part of my job is selling books to these stores. My job is directly connected to the success of Random House titles at these stores, many of which we feature on this blog (and we'll continue to do so). The people who work in these stores are my friends. I want to make sure they keep their jobs. I also want to see that my community--I identify as both an Austinite and Houstonian, having lived in Austin while working at BookPeople and currently residing in Houston with my Random House job--thrives and doesn't look like every other place in the world of sprawl. I believe that my money should by-and-large support locally owned businesses and the people who toil in them everyday. I believe in paying taxes. Taxes pay teachers and teachers teach reading and readers buy books and book buyers keep me employed. Hakuna Matata and Circle of Life, etc etc etc. It matters. It matters when you buy a toy at a large retailer because you've been told it's cheaper in massive advertising campaigns, and then you decry how manufacturing jobs have been shipped to China. Who shipped them there? That retailer, by demanding that manufacturers devalue their goods to the point that sweat shop labor is the only way to produce those toys. The choices we make as consumers are the differences between failing and thriving, locally, nationally, and globally, as a country.
|Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi|
The book industry currently is a maelstrom of change.
At the same time, price wars for physical books among national retailers over the last couple of years have trained consumers that books aren't worth $25 but a fraction of that. In order to gain a customer following, they've regularly and deliberately sold books for a loss. Books ARE worth the prices charged. There are writers, editors, publishers, designers, printers, marketers, sales departments, human resources, warehouse workers, customer service representatives, and booksellers, etc, that all have to earn their livings from that $25. General retailers that sell a wide variety of products make up the difference in their losses by selling consumers toasters at a higher price; bookstores generally don't have that option. In order to stay in business, they need to charge what the book's worth, and keeping bookstores open is important because...? Remember the circle of life stuff earlier? Money stays in the economy, and we all keep our jobs and granny stays in the nursing home and junior doesn't end up as some illiterate beast-child.
|Judith, Tom, and Pippin the dog, at|
Octavia Books in New Orleans.
The prices? In the book world, publishers became concerned enough about the devaluing of e-books by retailers that they established what's known as the Agency Model. What it means for consumers is that publishers establish the value of an e-book. When The Blind Assassin e-book is on sale for $5.99 on Amazon, it is also on sale for the same price at BN and Apple and Google E-Books, the e-book provider for the local bookstores who provide an e-book service through their websites. You as a consumer aren't shopping for cheaper, so you can select where your dollar has the greatest impact to you, your friends, your community.
|Some books, like Sondheim's|
lyrics collection, don't work
as well in the digital format.
I'm often asked if I read e-books, and if I prefer a format. I would argue that I read books, and in a variety of formats. I read hardcovers, I read trade paperbacks (the size most of most of those book group picks), I occasionally read a mass market (the grocery store size), and I read e-books. I read many manuscripts for work, and it's more cost efficient and environmentally conscious for Random House to post digital manuscripts rather than Xerox thousands of pages for reps across the country. I also buy e-books occasionally. And I buy them from a local bookstore.
Several weeks ago I took up my Chuck Palahniuk reading challenge and, for the first time in about four years, I read paper books exclusively. I delighted in the tactile joy of reading books in this format. I will always be a book collector; in my mind, my books are a scrapbook of my life, and even if I read an e-book manuscript, I want to own the physical reminder of that book to mark that period in my life. I want the authors I admire to sign those books, like signing a painting. I buy my books from local bookstores, though, and I also buy my e-books from local bookstores. I owe it to my friends and colleagues and my community.
|Google provides e-book services|
for local bookstores, and for
most e-reading devices.