Saturday, August 21, 2010

bookstores and Bookstores

There are oodles and oodles of bookstores housed in cool places. Old banks, Victorian houses, riverboats. You name it. My sister-in-law just sent me some pictures of a store she was at in Buenos Aires in an old theater that was renovated about 10 years ago. This place looks like trouble in a very good way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Field Notes

My previous post was all about books. I said we carry few items other than books. Today, however, we got in a new line of journals from the good people at Field Notes. They have a variety of lined, blank and ruled journals. They also have a new line of 'County Fair' editions for each and every state. Currently we only carry the MN edition. Each notebook has state facts and trivia and comes in a pack of three for $10.

From these little notebooks I've learned that MN has 87 counties. Tenney is the smallest town with a population of six. Eagle Mtn. is our highest point at 2,301 feet.

The three-packs come in a sharp combo of blue, red and yellow.

Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

There are days when it feels like what we're doing at Micawber's is an anachronism. We sell books and that is pretty much it. Sure, we carry some cards and magazines and blank journals. We don't sell reading glasses or stuffed animals or any other kind of sideline--all of which are markets that many small bookstores have made work for them over the past 20-30 years. The discount is often better on non-book items and if it works it works. But it simply wasn't something any of us were interested in doing.

From major media to industry publications to literary blogs the chatter is comprised largely, of late, about e-readers and electronic media and new ways to bring in revenue for publishers and bookstores. And while I don't thumb my nose at the Kindle/Nook/Ipad devices, it seems to me to be something best left to other to worry about. Just yesterday I read a very interesting piece about indie publishing. Like a lot of other industries, the book world is filled with subterfuge, evasiveness and blatant lies when it comes to what is actually selling. Publishers will say they are printing X number of copies of a book when it is actually Y. Bookstores will say they've sold twice as many copies of a book than they actually have. It's part of a larger disease--we all want to seem important and are willing to juke the numbers to make it seem so.

Over the course of time, I've taken a hard-line approach to this. When people ask about numbers of sales or attendance at an event I go with the truth. It's disappointing, at times, to certain people but it keeps things on the level. The craziest statistic, to me, from that post was the fact that the indie presses stated that 90% of their sales still come from brick and mortar stores. Even I was astounded by that figure.

But it cemented for me the idea that real bookstores can still help individual books and their sales. Convenience and price can be had on-line or electronically and there is something to be said for that. Yet the small press, the true defender of the new idea or the avant garde or the book that won't sell 50,000 copies but is important nonetheless still depends on stores to sell books. I found that heartening.

So, is the paper book dying? Maybe. But we still have customers from 10-20 and 20-30 who say they want books. And we still have E-Book users who also want paper books. The real answers to the book industry problems are in flux and unknown to even those of us in the industry. Time shall tell.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It is sweet and it is bitter

August 1st marked our seventh anniversary and it's something that we're happy about and proud of.

Sadly, we also got news yesterday of the death of Kevin Morrissey who had currently been the Managing Editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review--which he had helped shape into one of the finest literary journals in the country. Before that he had worked for the MN Historical Society Press and helped us immensely during our first year. He always thought of the one thing when we were convinced all angles had been covered. Kevin was a real book lifer and also worked at Hungry Mind and Gringolet locally. He was 52 years old and will be missed by many.

So as we continue onward and celebrate our small success we also must pay our respects to a very good man. Rest in peace, Kevin.