Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Books & Books: A For Profit Business

Customers really don't understand the book business at all (given the upheavals it has gone through in just a few years, and continues to go through, some of us working here don't get it either).  As a customer, I don't really need to know the behind-the-scenes machinations which bring me an espresso to enjoy a caffeine jolt.  Still, I know every time Aaron buys espresso at Starbucks, and Dick buys latte at Seattle's Best, and Harry buys  whole bean at Dunkin' Donuts, there's not a big mountain of coffee somewhere with an office on top of it, gathering the funds and redistributing them to the coffee business as a whole. 

Because I understand these businesses are in competition, I'd never go to a tasting at Pasion del Cielo with a pound of Starbucks, or sit down to read at Cafe Demitrio with a mug of Anniversary Blend.  Who would?  People who believe there is a Book Fairy orbiting the globe, gathering book money wherever it's spent and sprinkling it over booksellers everywhere, that's who.

Before I tell this galling story, I'd like to acknowledge that I've used the words "business" and "competition."  I'm saving posts about the skewed playing field the A-word enjoys for a later date, so let's set all that aside to talk about the Book Fairy.

There isn't one.

One thing Books & Books has always wanted, and has been asked to start a time or two, is a reading group for young adults.  With YA the one part of the bookselling world which is still exploding, this wish / request seems more important than ever.  So when we were approached to host a YA book club, we said yowza.  

After a month of preparation, including a lot of back-and-forth with the Igirl running the club (and the Igirl mom) during our hectic book fair season, we were ready.  The turn out was excellent.  The decorate-your-own cupcakes portion of the proceedings was a huge success.  They chose one of the three recommended titles to discuss for next month's meeting.  You could cut the book excitement with a knife.     

Then our children's manager watched in horror as Igirl told the group they could check the book out at the library, or buy it on Amazon.

Are you kidding me?  Have you been calling or emailing Amazon four times a week for the last month about this event?  Did Amazon suggest the titles you were choosing from?  Did Amazon spend an hour-and-a-half making the bookmarks you snatched up?  Did Amazon get up at eight in the morning (on a Sunday) to bake the cupcakes you wolfed down?  Did Amazon clean up the mess you left?  You know what, Igrrrlz, if you love Amazon so much, have Amazon a clear one of their rooms and set up chairs for your next meeting.  Oh, that's right - YOU CAN'T.

Guess what?  The money you spend on Amazon doesn't go to the Book Fairy and then back to Books & Books, it goes to Seattle.  Meanwhile,  your community in general and Books & Books in particular both languish.  You've used us to play host, cost us time and money, and used our store to advertise on online retailer which really doesn't need the extra exposure.

Don't be surprised to find us less hospitable in the future.    


  1. what's an lgirl?

    I don't blame you for being put off.

    This afternoon a guy called in and asked me to verify the results another lab gave him. I did, he thanked me, and hung up.

    The difference is i don't give a shit about my industry, I guess.

    Sorry dude

  2. She's obsessed with all things Ipod, and named the reading group accordingly. She's since apologized, and a few people bought the book with us.

    Really, that's not bad. 10-25% of our reading group members buy the book with us; the rest bring copies from points unknown.

  3. you and me and beth. Pasion Del Cielo. soon.

  4. I keep wanting to "like" comments, Facebook-style