Round up #153: book deserts and B&N’s sales

Round up #153: book deserts and B&N’s sales

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

PEN America to hold “Literary Protest” at NYPL

According to this

Huffington Post article by Katherine Brooks

and other sources, PEN America is planning a demonstration in favor of freedom of expression on Sunday, January 15 starting at 2:00 PM at the New York Public LIbrary. It will feature famous authors (including two poet laureates) reading outside the NYPL. They will then go to the President-Elect’s residence to present a petition (which can be signed online) to “DEFEND THE FIRST AMENDMENT”.

PEN America is association with PEN International, which goes back to 1921. PEN now stands for “Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists”, although it was originally just Poets, Essayists, Novelists.

I think it’s worth taking a moment for me to explain when I choose to include stories (both here and in the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard) which are arguably political. Regular readers know that this blog strives to be open to people of all opinions…whether or not I personally agree with those opinions. I’m happy to say that I’ve been told that readers aren’t sure of my own political feelings…I don’t want people to feel like they can’t make any respectful comments here they want.

My standard is that the story has to be about the topics of interest to this blog…for me, this is a story about the authors who will be there, rather than about the President-Elect. The P-E is an element of the story, but if it was a demonstration by people who were unconnected to publishing, e-books, or Amazon I wouldn’t include it.

I believe I would be just as likely to cover it if it was a demonstration about the current President or any President.

Saying that, the authors appearing (and there are many and they expect more to appear) include:

  • Robert Pinsky (Poet Laureate Consultant)
  • Rita Dove (Poet Laureate Consultant)
  • Laurie Anderson (Margaret A. Edwards Award winner)
  • Art Spiegelman (cartoonist author of Maus)
  • Rick Moody (The Ice Storm)

The public is invited, and the first two on this list will reportedly read new poems.

Brick-and-mortar implosion

While Amazon has moved a bit into brick-and-mortar, it’s clearly to the advantage of Amazon for people to move more to online shopping (which is clearly happening).

I do believe brick-and-mortar stores of some kinds can continue to thrive…ones that give special experiences when people go there, and ones where the customers are consciously willing to spend more money to support them.

Unfortunately, it’s not good news from some famous brick-and-mortars. We’ve heard recently about significant closings of

  • Macys (68)
  • The Limited (all 250)
  • Sears (150 between Sears and K-Mart)
  • K-Mart

The Millions Great 2017 Book Preview

My guess is that this is going to be a big year for publishing, and this

The Millions article

does a nice job of going through month by month, and giving you a paragraph about each. My guess is that you’ll find something that at least intrigues you there. 🙂

Barnes & Noble’s holiday sales…as I figured

In this

press release at Business Wire

we see Barnes & Noble’s holiday sales report…and they were down 9.1% comparable store sales year to year. That’s a lot! They didn’t have any good excuses for it…”lower traffic” should be something that the store managers can affect.

They also note the decline in adult coloring books…that should have been entirely predictable (and I’m writing as a former brick-and-mortar store manager). It was a fad…doesn’t mean it entirely disappears, but it was the kind of thing likely to have a parabolic arc…or at least a turtle curve.

They’d better hope Leonard Riggio is right in describing the season as “unusual”.

A nice infographic on romances by Avery Burch

Romances, science fiction/fantasy, mysteries…fans of these genres sometimes read prodigious amounts. I’d say that’s especially true of romances, where I would have regular customers come in and buy easily thirty a month (mostly from Harlequin).

There is an infographic by Avery Bunch in this

EBOOK FRIENDLY post by Ola Kowalczyk

that has some really interesting stats about romance books…and who reads them. I’d love to have a bit more info and a bit less graphic, but still worth seeing.

Mike Shatzkin on challenges for publishers in 2017

I strongly recommend this

Idea Log article by Michael Shatzkin

Shatzkin programmed and moderated the first seven

Digital Book World

shows (the next one is January 17-19).

This is certainly represents an informed opinion, and as such, is more than just worth reading.

One thing: John Sargent of Macmillan, who famously clashed with Jeff Bezos some time back, will be speaking…and that’s only one of the presentations likely to make some waves.

“Book Deserts”


New York Daily News article by Naomi Moland and Susan B. Neuman

talks about “book deserts”…how disadvantaged neighborhoods may have a tiny fraction of the books available to buy in them compared to more affluent on ones.

One example they give:

“One middle-income neighborhood had one book available per every two children living in the neighborhood. In a nearby low-income neighborhood, 830 children would have to share a single book.”

E-books do make a difference…it’s much easier to get a variety of e-books into an area than it is to get an equivalent number of p-books (paperbooks).

It’s obviously easier to get e-books if you own your own EBR (E-Book Reader), but e-books are available if you at least have a computer available to you (although not as conveniently).

Even given that, it does sadden me to think about so many children who can’t hang out in bookstores, which was always one of my favorite things to do. Yes, there are public libraries…but they also are less common in poorer neighborhoods.

Do you have thoughts about any of these stories? Feel free to share them with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


17 Responses to “Round up #153: book deserts and B&N’s sales”

  1. Phink Says:

    One of my favorite things about this blog is it’s lack of political post. I love, love, love that. Of course if that’s all it had to offer I would not follow it. The fact that it’s interesting, informative and A-political is what I love about it. I think it’s amazing that you have kept politics out of this blog. That is a very difficult thing to do in today’s world. I’m not sure if it’s something you have done consciously or not but I sure am glad it worked out that way. Of course I also want a place where anyone can say anything but you do not cheer-lead one side or the other and it’s extremely rare that anything even remotely political is posted by you so my hat is off to you. I understand that sometimes it’s important to you and needs to go on here but it’s a rare thing thankfully.

    I have commented before that I am so thankful that I have no idea what side of the political scale you are on.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I appreciate that. 🙂 I discuss politics in great depth in my family (we have a private e-mail thread on that), and we are certainly not all in the same place. It’s all respectful with some deep analysis…while I’m more of an intuitive math person, math is an area of expertise for at least one of us, and we have depth of knowledge on things like election law and human behavior. 🙂 I just don’t think it belongs in this blog…and I didn’t consider that story a political story, but many people would run the same story for different political purposes.

      Censorship and freedom is a big issue for me, and I’ve said I would always err on the side of freedom…but that’s not tied to a political party or politician.

  2. Phink Says:

    Brick and Mortar Implosion

    I have been saying for a few years now that most brick and mortar stores are in big trouble. Someone asked me a couple years ago what would I do if I were suddenly CEO of Walmart? I said I would invest bookoos of money into the internet. I would figure out some way to compete with Amazon. I would come up with some type of Prime membership for a yearly fee that would give 2 day shipping to most items or same day store pickup without having to go through the check out line. I don’t think I said this at the time but I’d take a cue from Amazon’s locker system and install them in my stores if I could somehow find the room and as internet orders come in associates fill the lockers and have a goal of items being ready for pickup in 10-20 minutes (stock items). I’d shoot for 10 but that might be tough while keeping labor from getting out of control. I like the lockers because there are no lines and you are in and out quickly. To keep shrink to a minimum the items would be in special sealed bags that cannot open without tearing them. Then associates would know as folks were walking out that is the special bag and they are not walking out with unpaid items. Shoplifters always find a way however but it’d help I think.

    Walmart owns VUDU which is where I buy my digital movies for many reasons. I simply think they are the best and even better than Amazon. I said at the time if I could arrange it contractually I’d have certain movies for free and TV shows with my Walmart Prime service to compete with Amazon. Well, a month or so ago VUDU did start allowing streaming for free for about 2,000 movies with commercials.

    Anyway that was windy but I think Sears, Kmart, B&N and others are done. They are dead stores walking. I hope I’m wrong but we are witnessing the evolution of capitalism during this time period we are living in. It’s sad but it was also sad when Main St. died in the 70’s and early 80’s. I wish there was room for all under the tent but sadly it’s just not the case.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Excellent comment!

      Stores with expertise and experience are different from stores with selection and savings. Selection and savings stores are essentially doomed due to an inability to compete with online. The challenge for experience is going to come from virtual/augmented/merged reality in the next…five years. Expertise may be challenged similarly by v/a/m reality (I think I may start using “VAM reality” as a term, after I make sure no one else is using it in a conflicting way in public, and by chatbots/AI.

    • Roger Knights Says:

      Many of the former customers of closed B&M stores will migrate to Amazon, increasing its profitability and making it easier for it to continue to pressure the remaining B&M stores, which will additionally be having a harder time due to their declining efficiency due to their lower sales volume.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Roger!

        Yes, that migration is quite possible, especially in rural areas where there is less brick-and-mortar competition. Delivery can still be good in those sorts of areas. Specialized retail stores, “destination shops”, can do just fine. As I’ve said, though, I believe that if your market position was based on price and a large selection as a retail B&M store, you’re future is troubled.

      • Phink Says:

        Just five years ago there were there bookstores that I knew of within a 30 minute drive of my small town. Jonesboro, AR. had a B&N, Books a Million, and Hasting’s. They were all very large stores. Jonesboro has a population of 70,000 not including most ASU students. By the way in Arkansas ASU is not Arizona State LOL.

        At present, we are down to one store and every time I go to Turtle Creek Mall I wonder if this will be the time I see B&N have finally closed. I have no idea if they plan on closing it but I expect them all to close down in the near future. I hope I’m wrong. I truly do. I am a realist however.

        My point is I loved going to Books a Million even after getting a kindle. Right after I got my first one in 2009 I went to Books a Million with my wife who at the time was still in her ‘I just love the smell & feel of DTB’s to much to give them up’ stage. Knowing I was not going to buy anything I still just loved being in there. I did find a book I wanted and purchased it on my kindle in the store. I felt kind of guilty about that and said I would not do it again. I’m not sure why? I mean, is it any different than writing the name of the book on a piece of paper and buying it once I was off their property? It did make me feel kind of weird for some reason though.

        I’m going to miss book stores. I don’t think there will be any specialty book stores in our area. Besides Jonesboro it’s small town after small town as far as the eye can see around here. Yep, around here 70,000 is the big city.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        Definitely, some of my best times have been spent in bookstores as a customer. Even when I didn’t have much money and had to seriously debate buying a paperback for fifty cents, it was still an amazing experience…every time.

        Going to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, though, may become like going to an amusement park. By that I mean, it will be a destination, a trip, not just an errand. People in your situation would have to choose to travel to one. I suppose a vintage mall might become a destination like that…a bookstore, a vinyl record store, maybe a Woolworth’s, a soda fountain…interesting idea. You could pay significantly to enter, then pay a dime for a cup of coffee or a (replica) comic book.

        As to writing down the title, no, in a sense it’s not different. People certainly did that with a B. Dalton and a Waldenbooks, years ago. It’s referred to as “showrooming” in the case of Amazon (or other online retailers), and some people do feel it’s different. They think that e-tailers have an unfair advantage, by not having to pay rent, local taxes, or provide jobs. E-tailers, though, of course do provide jobs and pay taxes…not the same one, and maybe not as many in some cases.

        As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I don’t have a problem with that idea. People wanted to buy from my store in part because they wanted to support us…that doesn’t change with showrooming.

        Amazon’s own brick-and-mortar bookstores are designed to be showrooms…

  3. Roger Knights Says:

    If the Obama-phone program were expanded so that the poor were given (or could buy at a great discount) smartphones instead of flip phones, their kids could read free books from the library over them. Maybe only Trump could get a deal like this passed. (-;

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Roger!

      Seems reasonable for at least families to universally have mobile technology with internet access…but getting that is challenging in many ways, as you note.

  4. Karen Says:

    Happy New Uear, Bufo. I haven’t received this on my Paperwhite. Would you please check with Amazon? Thanks

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I really appreciate that heads-up! I don’t check the blog every day or even every week on my EBRs. I’ll follow up…thanks again!


    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Same problem here with my Voyage. The last ILMK I received was Thursday. The NY Times blog is still updating, but it seems to be a day behind. I didn’t get any updates for that one yesterday. This morning, I finally got Friday’s NY Times blog. Still no ILMK. Yes, I tried the “restart fix,” and it didn’t fix it.

  5. Karen Says:

    I receiced my update this afternoon as well. Thank you, Bufo!

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    A couple of comments.

    I looked at the list of Sears closures — it is far more about Kmart closures than Sears store closures. I can remember some years back when Kmart would be a place where I might shop for household things along with Target, Home Depot, and Walmart. Now I never think of them (of course my B&M shopping is getting asymptotically close to zero as I shop almost exclusively on Amazon :grin).

    For the past few years Microsoft has held their Build developers conference in San Francisco. I always attend. This year they are holding it in Seattle, and I will again attend. Many will take advantage of the nearby Microsoft campus in Redmond to hobnob with “real” developers. For me, however, this will be more an opportunity to visit some Amazon spaces. A Kiva warehouse, the Go store, and the two experimental warehouse stores. One of these will have an interesting wrinkle: you’ll be able to order Amazon Fresh type stuff which you can then drive to the warehouse for curbside pickup. The other seems to be more along the lines of a Home Depot, warehouse store that you can walk around and browse.

    I read the Shatzkin article about Digital Book World. My problem with it is that it looks at the world of digital book publishing from a traditional publishers perspective. This is understandable because tradpubs are the only ones providing any measurable statistics. The big issue is that Amazon and indie publishing are a huge component that Amazon provides absolutely no data on — it’s a black hole that they seem to be oblivious of.

    One humorous aside: he points to the leveling off of eBook sales (which is only that part of the eBook universe coming from tradpubs), and then he complains about the rise of many eBook prices above $9.99. We already know how price sensitive the book marketplace is. We now have many situations where the eBook price is higher than their mass market paperback counterparts. Should there therefore be any surprise that eBooks coming from tradpubs are levelling off? They create their own outcomes — this will continue IMO until tradpubs rationalize their cost structures.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Interesting thoughts! I’ll look forward to whatever you want to share from what you actually see of Amazon’s facilities.

      That issue of not knowing what is happening outside of the tradpubs is a really fascinating one for me. With tradpubs, we knew at least how much the bestsellers were selling. Now, even though there is a ton more data (including how many “pages” people read of individual books), we here almost none of it from Amazon, which may even produce the majority of non-tradpub e-book sales (although, with so many individuals perhaps selling things directly to readers with no in-betweeners, that might not be the case).

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