Notes: Cody's a Good Neighbor; Rowling's Words 'Ours Now'
"Only a few years ago, bookstores helped define neighborhoods," wrote John King in the San Francisco Chronicle. "They were physical and cultural markers on the landscape--showcases of what mattered, there and then. Now, instead of perking up when I step through the doors of a good bookstore, I wonder morosely how long it will last."
King explored the changing landscape of the indie bookstore business, focusing particularly on recent changes at Cody's Books, Berkeley, Calif., which have made the storied indie "lean but not mean."
According to Melissa Mytinger, manager of Cody's, "It's an antiquarian business model in a changing world." To contend with new challenges, she said, Cody's relocation could help downtown Berkeley evolve as a cultural destintion. "Our goal is to meet our sales targets long enough for the larger changes to occur."
King concluded with words of hope: "But a good bookstore is like a good city block: varied and rich, with layers that bear evidence of imagination and pride. There's a tactile connection to the ephemeral world of ideas. This is merchandise, but it's not something to be worn for a season or hung up on a wall; it's something to be discussed and shared, maybe even something that will shape your thoughts and actions. There's more going on than the creation of a scene. It's the slow formation of identities, of thoughts and passions and who knows what else."
The honor system used by Local Hero bookstore, Ojai, Calif., to sell newspapers before the shop opens was showcased by Boing Boing.
The emotional rollercoaster that the Harry Potter court case seems to be in danger of becoming (Shelf Awareness, April 15, 2008), continued when Steven Vander Ark "broke down and cried on the witness stand Tuesday as he faced off in court against his idol J.K. Rowling," according to the Associated Press (via USA Today).
Described in the article as stammering and "choking on his words," the man accused of infringing upon Rowling's copyright testified, "It's been . . . It's been . . . It's been difficult because there has been a lot of criticism, obviously, and that was never the intention. . . . This has been an important part of my life for the last nine years or so."
USA Today reported that Vander Ark "acknowledged that he, too, had substantial concerns all along about whether publishing an encyclopedia based on Rowling's Potter universe would constitute copyright infringement. He said he was talked into doing it by the publishing company [RDR Books]."
In an editorial entitled "J.K. Rowling may own Harry's world, but we own her words now," yesterday's Times of London (©News Corp.) offered this take on the issue:
"A generation has now grown up besotted (©Milton) with Quidditch and Hogwarts. However, it is not astonishing that J.K. Rowling is using a court case to remind the writers of a zany (©Shakespeare) Harry Potter lexicon, now making the jump from cyberspace (©William Gibson) to print, that it is not common property and she did invent it all. She may succeed in persuading the court that her copyright is violated by some parts of the proposed encyclopedia. Indeed, she may have a respectable commercial case, but not much of a cultural one. However, unless she employs a mole (©le Carré) to oversee our every conversation and written exchange, she should not try to suppress a collection of her invented words. For Voldemort, Muggles, Horcruxes and all Rowling's other serendipitous (©Walpole) coinages are ours now; it would be pig-headed (©Jonson) not to let us use them as we wish.
"English is so full of the neologisms of authors that if we had to credit each one, we would assassinate (©Shakespeare) our prose, and make readers chortle (©Carroll) mightily. Without being didactic (©Milton), Rowling can be assured that she is in good company in contributing words, gratis, to the language. The best she should hope for is that her words become as widely adopted as those of other authors. Perhaps the highest honour has been bestowed on the quark (©Joyce), used as the name for a sub-atomic particle. As there are quarks across the Universe, Joyce may be our most disseminated author. Rowling should be proud if Doxies, Thestrals or Butterbeer make it as far as a lexicon."
Nearly 20 years ago, Hank Maschal went to his local bookshop to request a copy of The Complete Guide to Starting a Used Bookstore. According to the Daily Review, "Little did he know the lady behind the counter would offer to sell him more than just a book."
"She asked if I wanted the store, too," he said.
And he did. For nearly two decades, Maschal, 75, has owned The Book Shop, Hayward, Calif. "You can never have enough books for everyone. How many other win-win businesses are out there?" he asked.
Shop manager Renee Rettig added, "Hank is doing a great service to the community by keeping an independently run bookstore open. It's a place for freedom of thought and freedom of speech. It has the basic pillars that make America great. It's a beacon of hope."
Back Pages Books, Waltham, Mass., celebrates its third anniversary this week, though the mood is mixed. The Daily News Tribune reported that owner Alex Green "has already made his way through a gauntlet of financial hurdles and is now turning toward others to sustain his Moody Street business."
After sending a recent "mass e-mail to over 800 acquaintances, business owners and book lovers, Green said the response has been tremendous, prompting him almost immediately to create a tiered member's reward program that offers incentives to shoppers who donate anywhere from $20 to $2,500."
"I love being in a store that is full of ideas," said Green. "You get something much better, much more honest, much kinder when you do something that can mix business, art and community. . . . I have a tremendous amount of faith that I don't think is misplaced that people will come forward and help. I would say it's a really promising start to things. We do still have quite a ways to go."
As part of a series spotlighting new local businesses, the Taunton Daily Gazette reported that Somethin's Brewin' Book Café, Lakeville, Mass., "offers patrons the chance to dive into a novel while enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tasty sandwich."
The café is located in a former library, so owners Lorraine Carboni and Kristen Scott stocked the built-in bookshelves with books for their customers to sample. "We’ve gotten a lot of donations from people. We also do trade-ins," Scott said.
Smelled any good books lately?
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Researchers at Glasgow’s University of Strathclyde are studying the smell of old books to 'sniff' out the chemical signs of aging. Books are placed for 24 to 48 hours in a sealed chamber, where 'material and compounds responsible for the odour from the books' will be extracted and analyzed . . . Findings from the analysis will be used to determine the best practices for storing old books--and may also explain where that musty old-book smell comes from."
Eric Svenson, a former Doubleday sales rep and longtime v-p of the Intimate Bookshop, which had stores in North Carolina and Georgia, died last Wednesday, April 9, according to the Charlotte Observer. He was 64.
Robert Kempe has joined Falls Media as director of marketing and publicity. Formerly he was advertising and promotions manager at Ballantine Books and earlier was creative marketing manager at Dutton/Gotham Books.