Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Quotation of the Day
Satisfied Powell's Customer: Bass to Wed Senator
While visiting Portland, Ore., last summer, in large part to see Powell's Books, Nancy Bass, owner with her father of the Strand, New York City, met Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D., of course). They browsed at Powell's, walked in a park and apparently hit it off. Yesterday the Senator's office announced that the two will marry later this year in a "small, private" ceremony. It is her first marriage and his second. They plan to buy a home in the Portland area, but Bass emphasized to the Oregonian that she will continue running the Strand and travel regularly to Washington, D.C., and Portland.
Wyden's father, the late Peter Wyden, was an author (Stella: One Woman's True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler's Germany; Day One: Before Hiroshima and After; The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler) and publisher, whose works Bass said she has sold. Noting that his father lived close to the Strand, Senator Wyden commented: "I'm convinced that my dad probably went in and talked to Nancy's grandfather and made the case for why his books should be in the front of the store, because that's something my dad used to love to do."
Preparing for Potter, Part 4
The first sale of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince took place late last week in Coquitlam, B.C., when a branch of Real Canadian Superstore, a grocery store chain, inadvertently sold as many as 15 copies of the book, a clerk's mistake, the company said.
Canadian publisher Raincoast Books responded with a carrot and a stick. For buyers of the book who temporarily return copies, it is offering plates signed by J.K. Rowling and "some gift items." At the same time, in a new kind of legal theory that might be called muggle muzzle, it obtained a court injunction barring anyone from discussing the book.
The Milwaukee Public Library's Central Library will hold a late-night party Friday with the usual activities, including a showing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. At midnight 300 copies of the new Harry Potter will be available for checkout. For those who want to own the book or are late in line, the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops will sell copies.
The San Jose Museum of Art in San Jose, Calif., will hold a Saturday morning Potter party for which Borders Express will provide books. (Members can arrive as early as 7 a.m.; non-members must wait until 8 a.m.)
Talk about a last hurrah. Although it closed for good over the past weekend, Branch's Bookshop, Chapel Hill, N.C., will nonetheless stage its long-planned Harry Potter party--at Cerebral Hobbies, a nearby store whose manager told the Durham Herald Sun, "They needed a location because they had a lot of people who had pre-bought the book."
In the U.K., pricing competition has gotten so unmagical that supermarket chains Tesco and Wal-Mart subsidiary Asda have discounted the book 47.3% to 8.96 pounds. (The suggested list price is 16.99 pounds.) Woolworth and Amazon.com.uk are discounting the title 47.1% at 8.99 pounds.
Once Harry Potter goes on sale in Australia (at 9:01 a.m. local time Saturday), a Brisbane FM radio station will broadcast a reading of the book in its entirety. Celebrities, locals and Potter fans will take turns reading 10-minute passages of the book from in front of a Borders.
The station received permission to do the reading from the Christopher Little agency, which required that the reading be continuous, for nonprofit use and not recorded.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Asian Identity
Tomorrow Leonard Lopate communicates with Nicholas Ostler, author of Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World (HarperCollins, $29.95, 0066210860).
David Plotz, deputy editor of Slate, continues to try to sow interest in his new book, The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank (Random House, $24.95, 1400061245), appearing tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show.
Book TV: It's Summer, Hoover Goes Fishing
Saturday, July 16
7 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In this segment, which originally aired in 1993, the late Nathan Miller, author of Theodore Roosevelt: A Life, discussed the life of the 26th president.
8 p.m. General Assignment. While a visiting professor at Princeton this past term, author David Maraniss taught a class called the Literature of Fact whose final project was a book of 16 essays. In this program, 12 of the students involved read portions of their work. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)
Sunday, July 17
11 a.m. Public Lives. In an event hosted by the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library in West Branch, Iowa, Kansas City Art Institute professor Hal Elliott Wert hooked the audience with a discussion about President Hoover's passion for fishing, as detailed in his new book, Hoover the Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors (Stackpole, $29.95, 0811700992). (Re-airs at 7 p.m.)
10 p.m. History on Book TV. At the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Gettysburg College professor Allen Guelzo talked about his book Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America (S&S, $14, 0743262972) and refuted several myths about Lincoln and the freeing of the slaves.
Ken Bowers' Post-Grad Work at Stanford Bookstore
In fact, at age 59, able to retire with nearly his full pay or the cash equivalent after 25 years as the head of the bookstore at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Bowers decided to forgo a Hawaiian idyll for what he called "a lot of new challenges." Last February, 25 years to the day after joining UCSB, he left and several days later became director of the Stanford Bookstore in Stanford, Calif.
Among the challenges and changes: while UCSB had one store selling 15,000 titles, Stanford consists of six very different stores. Besides the 62,000-sq.-ft. main store that has more than 130,000 titles, "one of the largest college book departments in the country," the "bookstore" includes the museum shop at the Cantor Center for the Arts; the Stanford Shop at the Stanford Shopping Center, a mall; the Stanford Professional Bookstore, a three-story shop in downtown Palo Alto that has had a medical and technical emphasis but that is now becoming more of a "community resource"; the Track House, a store next to Stanford's athletic facilities whose bestselling items are athletic apparel and beverages; and a convenience store in the student union. "No two are the same," Bowers said. "Just coordinating management is a lot of fun."
Another challenge: everyone in the executive team, including the textbook manager, trade book manager, general merchandise manager and assistant director, has held his or her position less than a year. "There is no institutional memory at the executive level," Bowers said. "But the good news is that they are all extremely competent and have great credentials. In time, they are going to be very, very powerful."
View from the Dark Side
The other great change is that Bowers went from an institutional store, in other words, one run by the university, to a contract management store, one leased by a chain, in this case Follett Corp.'s Higher Education Group, which, among other things, manages stores on more than 700 campuses. "One of the reasons I made the change," Bowers explained, "is out of intellectual curiosity. I've always wanted to see what it would be like. I had talked with Follett about doing something like this if the right job came along. The right job did come along, and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse."
Of course, contract management (the other main player is Barnes & Noble College) evokes "a lot of fear" among college booksellers, as Bowers put it. In fact, Bowers has been teased frequently about his "move to the dark side." A former National Association of College Stores president who is still involved in NACS and CAMEX activities, Bowers recently was presented with a Star Wars book and a Pez dispenser with a Darth Vader head on top by the NACS executive committee.
Concerning the Follett experience, Bowers essentially said so far, so good. "They've done everything to make this a smooth and successful transition. It's not at all the dark side a lot of people would like to think." Bowers described the differences from UCSB "subtle. There's no question that in a chain-store environment that more decisions are made at the home office. I don't view it as bad, just as different. The flip side is that in Oak Brook [the Chicago suburb where the Follett Higher Education Group's home office is], a whole team of professional people is there to help. It's a resource that's difficult to come by if we were a standalone store."
Bowers expressed a hope that eventually the fear of contract management would abate. "As time goes by and myths fade," he continued, "more people will be willing to work at a contract management store. The bottom line is that if you love the book business, the mode of ownership doesn't matter."
Bowers has several projects in the work; perhaps the biggest involves receiving. Bowers wants to lessen the store's emphasis on central distribution and have more "store-specific" deliveries, eventually working up to a just-in-time approach.
He also plans to put a stronger emphasis on commencement programs and offer more graduate packs. He'll introduce a product that he had at UCSB that worked so well it has been picked up by more than 100 other schools: a graduation stole, "sort of like a neck tie," featuring the school name and seal, that graduates wear over their cap and gowns. After the ceremony, graduates can give the stole to people who have made a difference, whether family members or professors or friends.
The Stanford Bookstore's flagship store and Ken Bowers (left) with Tom Peters, a keynote speaker at CAMEX last spring.
Bowers also wants to have more "event-related selling." Thus, at buy back and rush periods, the store will put up balloons and banners, have entertainment and music, to "introduce the element of fun and excitement. We need to create a party environment in the retail setting."
This is particularly important at the six buy back periods, he said, since "we have to have used books to sell used books" and we want the students to feel "we are not taking them for granted."
Besides taking on the new job, Bowers has made a striking change on a personal level. "We gave up a 2,700-sq.-ft. house in rural Santa Barbara County with 50-100 palm trees for an 18th floor penthouse in South San Francisco with no balcony, one living plant and windows that open just a little bit," he said with a tone of amazement. "We traded our scenic lush garden for a view of the bay and the bridge. Call me crazy, but I enjoy every day."