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the newest panic regarding bookselling


Interesting article about the recent crazy deep-discounting of new release books at the mega chains and Amazon. 

I think the panic is unwarranted. First, it's not new. When I was a teenager in Baltimore in the 70s, there was a department store called Korvette at the Perring Plaza that used to have ridiculous way-below-cost sales on LP records advertised every week. I'm talking new releases for $2.99 and $3.99 and so forth (this was when a new release typicaly cost $7.99 to $9.99). Now, the catch was they put the record section of the store upstairs, and way in the back -- so you virtually had to walk past everything else to get to the records. I was 14, so I never got suckered into buying new bedsheets or toaster ovens, but that was the idea. It's the same as this. These discounts are exactly the same as spending big money on advertising. Do little stores freak out when big stores spend more on ads?


Also, when I had my record shop in the French Quarter, I was competing with Virgin and Tower -- but I wasn't concerned with those stores. I was more concerned about Music Factory and Magic Bus -- because I knew my customers didn't want to shop at "mega-stores," they wanted to shop at a little mom & pop shop, full of character, love and expertise. I feel the same way about shopping at small bookstores. I don't think it's just me.


I wonder of anyone I know at small bookstores are really "feeling" this. Thoughts?


Also, I think any move that gets more people reading fiction these days is a good move. That's why I'm also OK with these electronic readers. It is best for everyone if reading, as an entertainment form, finds a way to keep affordable and modern.




There was an article in the T-P earlier this week or last week that the local NO indie bookstores are definitely feeling negative pressures from the new Borders and its discounts, that opened in the city a while back. The most space was given to Octavia and Garden District, but the others chimed in. It's definitely harder than it was, and it wasn't easy before.

What the Community Book Ctr. went through to re-open ... and now it's an anchor for that neighborhood, with restaurants and so on. In their case though, their customer base is so much what they say they are so maybe their speciality is safe.

But dayem, everything is working so hard against the New Orleans great indie bookstores -- and there's such a variety of them! who work so hard to serve their communities and New Orleans generally.

Love, C.
C, you're probably right.

Then again, I wonder if those same stores danced a little jig when the Bookstar on S. Peter Stret closed. It seems to me that the Borders more or less replaced that, and did a weaker job of it. Borers, as a chain, is really in its death throes anyway. I don't think it will last another year.

I don't think anyone in indie retail actually expects the big stores to go away and leave them alone. I've been and indie retailer in one form or another for 15 years. When the bullies pop up, you roll with it and adapt. My response with the record shop was to serve niche audiences that the big stores didn't have time to mess with. My approach was American Roots Music -- I sold no current hits whatsoever, but didn't focus exclusively on local music either(though I had a lot of that). I had a massive rockabilly section that people would specifically seek my store out for. I carried obscure import titles that you really couldn't find anywhere else.

When I went online, I had to deal with Amazon and iTunes. So I focused on carrying one of a kind music collectibes and other things that the big stores couldn't touch.

There's lots of ways to put music and books across to people and make a decent dollar without going out of business. I was never one to complain about the big stores because I always assumed they would be there. And I knew technology would be a problem, too.

All that being said, the indie bookstore scene is a very important institution, especially in New Orleans, and I hope they all can find a way through the current difficulties. I think they will, but I'm an optimist. If I wasn't, I probably wouldn't live in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, I haven't noticed any New Orleans bookstores closing, but I have noticed a few new ones opening up.
In our case as an indie record label, we shared because we had to one of the big distributors that had gobbled all the indie distributors and went it went belly up it went with a huge amount of our inventory and owing us hugely also. But the creditors took the inventory and then sent back TO US AS RETURNS TO PAY THEM. So we basically shut down too. Had to. We were as speciality as you could get -- the first U.S. label to produce and sell, via license, already recorded Cuban music, into the U.S., the only way you can do this legally in the U.S.

The fellow who owns Octavia told Vaquero things are a leetle nerve wracking these days. Garden District is feeling it even more so, and I could feel it myself, talking with them.

In the last six weeks or so, Vaquero's had events in just about every indie in NO -- including Hudson News at Louis Armstrong Airport, and according to him they are all very nervous. They all agree that its their local authors plus the books of local interest that are keeping them alive-O.

Otherwise it is all too easy and less expensive to go to amazon.

I've told Vaquero to announce on his list that if any members want an autographed copy of his stuff to order the titles from Octavia, Garden District, etc., and then they'll also have an autographed copy.

Love, C.

Love, C.
Well, that certainly doesn't sound good. I hope the indies come out of this ok.

Still, and this is me being hopeful, but I wonder of much of the nerve-rackingness has more to do with the recession than with Amazon. I'm sure it's both.
Indeed Depression II has a great deal to with it.

For instance as Garden District describes in the T-P article, they service the tours of the Garden District etc.

But tourism and thus tours, are way way way down.

Love, C.
I'm feeling the depression hammer myself;, don't know anyone who isn't. But I'm a whistle-through-the-graveyard type. You can cry or you can try. Or you can do both :)
While people might prefer the small mom & pop shops, will they spend more money to buy something they could get for less online or even just down the road at the megastore? I did hear of some small bookstores buying some of the super-discounted books online at Amazon or from Walmart and then using those to stock their shelves since it's cheaper than what they could get the books for from the publishers. Thought that was clever.
I used to do that same trick. If I was low on a title, I'd boogie on down to Tower and buy a few copies -- their sale prices were usually not much more than my wholesale cost anyway. And I never had a problem reselling it that way.

People really will buy from mom & pop shops, even if it costs a little more. Sometimes proudly so. People love to support the under dog, and take pride in it. They don't do it for charity, they actually appreciate the personal service and expertise that only these stores provide.

Of course, there are the jerks who come into the indies and soak up the service, only to make their final purchase at Amazon for a few bucks less. But those people are surprisingly few.
sound of building coffins cover

December 2009



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