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February 3, 2013

Husain urges publishers: ‘act now to keep bookshops’

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:44 am

husain | By Lisa Campbell

The c.e.o. of Foyles has called for publishers and suppliers to support bookshops with better terms and consignment stock before it becomes “too late” as in the case of HMV.

In an open letter to The Bookseller, Sam Husain has said the bookselling model is broken and needs “a complete re-think” in the current climate before more retailers are lost.

Husain called for better terms from publishers and suppliers, aiming at an average of 60% discount instead of the average of 40% currently experienced—and “a level playing field” with supermarkets and online retailers, which he said can benefit by discount anything up to 15% higher than that given to booksellers, based on their volume of sales. Bookshops, however, are not compensated from the extra value they add as a showroom and advice centre for published works, he argued.

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January 24, 2013

Barnes & Noble, the Last Big Bookseller Standing: But for How Long?

011613-barnesnobleBarnes & Noble had a rough holiday season: Same-store sales fell compared to a year ago and revenue from sales of the Nook tablet stalled. Despite a heavy investment in the Nook business, Barnes & Noble is expected to have a three-year cumulative loss of more than $700 million, according to Barclays Capital — an indication that the bookstore’s multi-front war with online retailer doesn’t seem to be working.

On January 3, Barnes & Noble leadership acknowledged that the firm faces many challenges. The company said its holiday sales for the nine-week period ending December 29 were $1.2 billion, down 10.9% from a year ago. Same-store sales for the period were down 3.1% due to “lower bookstore traffic.” Nook product sales fell 12.6% from a year ago.

Barnes & Noble isn’t alone. Many traditional retailers are struggling against online powerhouse Best Buy has hatched plans to downsize its stores, focus on installation services and match Amazon’s prices. Target, too, has said it will match prices from Amazon and other select online retailers in 2013. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are battling a phenomenon called “the showrooming effect,” the consumer practice of checking out a product in a retail store and then buying it online at a better price.

“Barnes & Noble and Best Buy are places that are showroomed like crazy,” says Wharton marketing professor Stephen Hoch. Hoch predicts that neither chain is likely to survive Amazon’s assault because the stores don’t have the service levels to stand out. “Go into a Barnes & Noble or a Best Buy and you see big box stores that should know their businesses. What you find out, however, is that employees don’t know their business, and you don’t get great help.”

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January 9, 2013

A Catalog of Bookstore Cats.

maggieBy Richard Davies

Ever wondered what is the collective term for a group of bookstore cats? We think it should be catalog. Incidentally, a clowder is the term for a group of ordinary cats and a kindle (yes, really) is a group of kittens. AbeBooks asked some of our booksellers to describe the cats that inhabit their bookshops and we now have a gallery of fine felines. Cats and literature have mixed well for a long, long time from T.S. Elliot’s Practical Cats to Edward Lear’s Pussy Cat and Dr Seuss’ Cat in the Hat. Take a tour around these wonderful bookish cats, their owners and their bookstores. If you have a bookstore cat that should be featured in our ‘catalog’, send details and a picture to

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January 6, 2013

Re-inventing the indie bookstore — Menlo Park store tries hybrid business model

By Ileana Najarro

Independent bookstores in California are no longer just brick and mortar shops that sell books. To survive in the digital era, they are re-working their business models to provide something online competitors cannot: an engaging community space with non-profit partnerships.

The past few years of losses sparked the need for a change. Independent bookstore membership in the national trade group American Booksellers Association decreased from 2,400 to 1,900 between 2002 and 2011.

Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, understands the power of a supportive bookstore community in this day and age.

“The only communities that will end up having bookstores are communities that embrace the idea that they still need a bookstore,” Madan said.

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November 30, 2012

Writer Ann Patchett’s bookstore thrives in digital age

By Bob Minzesheimer

When novelist Ann Patchett opened a bookstore here in her hometown a year ago, she wondered if she was “opening an ice shop in the age of Frigidaire.”

One year later, Parnassus Books is thriving in an age of e-books when ordering and reading is a click away and browsing takes on a new digital meaning.

As the store celebrates its first anniversary this month, Patchett says, “People might not use ice to refrigerate anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still want some ice in their scotch and in their tea. There is still a real place for ice. And when the power is out, we are mighty grateful for a bag of the stuff.”

Parnassus doesn’t sell ice. It does sell books, $2 million worth in the past year. Most were the old-fashioned kind, paper and ink.

Ask Patchett, 48, if she’s bucking a trend, and she defiantly says, “We are the trend.”

Until early last year, she had been busy enough just writing novels. Six in all, including her 1992 debut, The Patron Saint of Liars, set at a home for unwed mothers, and Bel Canto starring an American opera singer held hostage by Latin American terrorists, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award in 2001.

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November 22, 2012

Horologicon tops indie Christmas tips

| By Lisa Campbell

Mark Forsyth’s follow-up to last Christmas’ runaway hit The Etymologicon (Icon) has been picked as the top title for booksellers to champion this December.

Publishers pitched alternative Christmas hits to booksellers at the Bookseller Association’s annual conference at Warwick University in September. The retailers voted for their favourites, with Forsyth’s The Horologicon (Icon) today (20th November) revealed as topping the Bookshop Originals list.

Two titles by John Murray made the indies’ choice selection, Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper, also on the shortlist for Waterstones Book of the Year award, at number two, and humorous title The Middle Class ABC by Fi Cotter-Craig and Zebedee Helm, in third.

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November 21, 2012

Indies tell customers: ‘We pay our taxes’

 |By Lisa Campbell

Booksellers across the country are displaying “We Pay Our Taxes” posters in their shop windows in a reference to rival company Amazon’s appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee last week (12th November).

The Booksellers Association has created striking red point-of-sale materials for its IndieBound members to encourage their customers to choose to shop at their local bookshop as opposed to using rival online site Amazon.

The first of the two POS styles reads: “Your Money, Your Bookshop, Your Community”, with a stack of pound coins followed by the message “We Pay Our Taxes”; the second features a Union Jack-patterned purse with the message “Can Pay Do Pay!”, followed by “We Pay Our Taxes.”

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November 17, 2012

Greenlight Bookstore Offers First Edition Club

Greenlight Bookstore is making it easier for bookworms to get the tomes the treasure.


To celebrate its third year in Fort Greene, Greenlight Bookstore has launched a new program. It’s a one-of-a-kind First Editions Club that focuses on the importance of physical books and their value as collectibles.

“We are so astonished that nobody had done this in New York City,” said Emily Russo Murtagh, 32, Greenlight’s First Editions Club manager.

The unusual idea comes from Mrs. Russo Murtagh, who said she got it when she was working at the Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley, MA.

“Independent bookstores are always struggling to find ways to keep up or rather compete against the big box stores like Amazon,” she said. “It is a way for them to showcase their expertise in selecting those new books that could be potentially valuable.”

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November 10, 2012

Turning the page at Shakespeare and Company

The ramshackle facade of Shakespeare and Co in Paris. Inset: proprieter Sylvia Beach Whitman

English-language bookshop Shakespeare and Company is the most famous bookshop in Paris, and maybe the entire world – but it’s going through some changes. Telegraph Expat meets owner Sylvia Beach Whitman.

By Leah Hyslop

Paris is a city filled with spectacular sights. But tucked away on the Left Bank, in the shadow of Notre Dame, there sits a ramshackle English-language bookshop which any literature-loving tourist will be almost certain to make a beeline for.

Founded by American expatriate Geoge Whitman in the 1950s, Shakespeare and Company is the kind of quirky independent bookshop you’d be forgiven for thinking had long ago disappeared. Crowded, crooked bookshelves fill the maze of tiny rooms that once formed part of a monastery, jostling for space with fraying chairs, old mirrors and – in one one room – even a wishing well.

Perhaps more unusual, however, are the makeshift beds tucked between some of the shelves. For Whitman, an eccentric ex-serviceman who travelled around the world before deciding to settle in Paris, didn’t simply own a bookstore. What he created was, in own words, a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookshop”: a bohemian refuge where down and out, mostly expatriate writers could mingle, write, and even bed down for the night – all in exchange for a few hours’ work in the shop, and on the strict understanding that they read a book every single day.

Over the years, famous figures from William Burroughs to Lawrence Durrell and Samuel Beckett walked through the shop’s tatty doors. Burroughs used its medical textbooks to research The Naked Lunch, while Anaïs Nin left her will there. Rather less illustrious writers abused Whitman’s legendary hospitality: the story goes that one English poet famously lived there for seven years.

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November 2, 2012

If you build it, they will come

By Denis Beckett

This is a tale of the Karoo, of a dry, dry, dusty, dusty bit of it. Ah, as I write I feel koppie beneath my feet; clear crisp view to forever.

This is a tale of the Karoo today, but it begins far away in 1960. Hay-on-Wye – un-dry, un-dusty, where England meets Wales – was heading for its 900th birthday and was in trouble. Time and change had swallowed its economy.

So it rebuilt itself, on books; on talking books, reading books, ogling books, selling books. It called itself “Booktown Hay” and it created a phenomenon. Its annual festival fills 100 000 beds. It became grandaddy of 28 booktowns from Jinbocho, Japan, to Archer, Texas, via Bosu-dong, South Korea, and Redu, Belgium.

There were booktowns in every continent except Africa.

And then, in 2007, along came a rare figure, an Indian professor of Afrikaans. Darryl David took leave from UKZN to tour SA looking for a booktown. He scrutinised dorp after dorp and explained per internet why this one, that one, the next one, wouldn’t do.

Then he came to Richmond, and explained why it would do.

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