Notes: 'Nervous' Holidays; Vroman's Cancels Expansion Plans
Anticipation used to be one of the pleasures of the holiday shopping season, but this year has seen more headlines like this one in the New York Times: "Booksellers and Publishers Nervous as Holiday Season Approaches." It heralded a report that "most everyone in publishing is bracing for a difficult holiday season while trying to remain optimistic about the enduring allure of books."
In noting that "booksellers are trying new tactics to help ring up sales," the Times reported Elaine Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage bookstores in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Calif., "recently instituted a policy giving priority seating at book readings to those who purchase the book. Last month she sold 160 copies at a reading by Katherine Neville, author of The Fire . . . Still, Ms. Petrocelli said she had noticed an overall decline in foot traffic at her two stores compared with this time last year. As a result, she said, she has decided not to hire holiday-season help. Usually she hires three or four people part time."
Heidi Allwood and Holly Baracchini, co-owners of Little Bookworms Children's Bookstore & Boutique, Bradenton, Fla., recently opened "a glistening new [bookshop] aimed at older customers," the Bradenton Herald reported. The new store, Lakewood Ranch Booksellers, is located in the same block.
"It's always been a long-time dream of ours," Allwood said. "So far, the responses are wonderful. So far, people have been really enthusiastic."
Vroman's bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., has canceled plans to open a store in Old Town Monrovia due to the slumping economy. The Pasadena Star-News reported that "city officials and Vroman's representatives had been having discussions about the bookstore's possible expansion into Monrovia for months and had been close to an agreement."
Vroman's president Joel Sheldon said that even though the company was "very close to reaching an agreement to purchase the newly renovated building at 601 S. Myrtle Avenue, the more recent economic conditions and variances have caused our Board of Directors to adopt a more conservative approach regarding expansion at this time." The possibility of a future expansion to Monrovia was not ruled out, however.
The Desert Sun showcased two Palm Springs, Calif., bookstores, Just Fabulous and Latino Books y Mas, as examples of "small, neighborhood niche bookstores" that "offer book lovers a place to find unique offerings, including some titles you might not find in the big-box stores."
"A lot of women in this neighborhood don't allow themselves to dream of what is possible," Laurie Kendall, one of the co-founders of the Spiral Dance Womyn's Center & Bookstore, Baltimore, Md., told the Sun. "Nobody really understood us when we said we're starting a women's bookstore and women's center. They said, 'In this neighborhood?' I would say, 'Can you think of one that needs it more?' . . . Intellectually, I see all the problems here. But I also have a vision of a beautiful, multicultural community owned by the people who live here."
Local bookstores in Aiken, S.C., reported "mixed results on sales of President-elect Barack Obama's books," according to the Aiken Standard. which contacted Books-A-Million in Aiken Mall, Booklovers Bookstore and the Book Stall. Books-A-Million general manager Aleks Kragh said, "I can't comment ultimately on the final numbers, but we've definitely seen a positive response. We're getting plenty of phone calls and plenty of interest, and we just got a shipment of Time magazines, so we'll have those."
On the other hand, Booklovers Bookstore "hasn't seen any demand, but that was exactly what the staff expected, according to co-owner Angela Poe. Booklovers does not normally carry political books."
HarperCollins and the Wall Street Journal have formed a three-year publishing partnership to develop books written by the Journal’s editors and reporters on a variety of topics for a wide range of readers. The program will be overseen by Steve Ross, group president of the Collins Group, and Alan Murray, deputy managing editor at the Journal, in conjunction with the publishers and editorial teams from the Collins, Collins Business, Collins Living and Collins Design imprints. Both HarperCollins and Dow Jones & Company, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, are owned by News Corp.
The debut guidebook under the agreement will be The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street As We Know It: What You Need to Know About the Greatest Financial Crisis of Our Time--And How to Survive It by Dave Kansas, which will be published by Collins Business in January 2009. In a statement, the book was described as "a definitive guide for Main Street readers who want to make sense of what's happening on Wall Street." Collins Business also plans to publish The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management in early 2010.
Bad times forcing your customers to postpone travel plans this year? How about a staycation display? The San Jose Mercury News featured travel books "that make you feel better about staying home."
The Sunday Times reported that bestseller status for Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has produced a not-so-surprising geographical side effect. "I suspect few Americans had heard of Guernsey before my aunt's book," said Annie Barrows, who edited her late aunt's manuscript, "but now I've got postcards from Americans who read it and flew straight off to explore the real Channel Islands. They have suddenly become a bit obsessed."
Added Diana Vaughn, a librarian who runs a South Carolina book club: "Now my friends and I feel like we have lived there. It has joined Hogwarts and Austenland as familiar features in the British landscape."
In Pakistan, the "business of books survives uncertainties," according to the Daily Times, which quoted Islamabad bookseller Ajmal Khan observing that the "recent law and order situation, power cuts and inflation hardy affected our business. Our clients keep on buying books come what may."
And Hafeez Alam "said he took to book reading after spoiling his many years on net surfing. 'Internet, chatting and games on computer are a waste of time that consumed three years of my life. Now I have been pleased to start reading books,' he said."