Monday, February 28, 2005

Return of the Returns

America's most eloquent bookseller, Robert Gray, picks up on the topic of returns today at FRESH EYES: A Bookseller's Journal. My paraphrasing his views would only serve to illuminate the differences between nimble & not; and seeing as how I'm already well-supplied with sources for potential self-loathing, I'll instead give you a snippet of the original--here he speaks of the adaptability of indie booksellers--which, I have no doubt, will encourage you hop the e-train and enjoy Bob's essay in its entirety.

"The independent bookstores that survived the late-twentieth century decimation period did so by adapting to circumstances....We're bibliosailors, reading the breezes and the waves, trimming and unfurling sails, tacking when we have to, and, most importantly, keeping watch for unanticipated wind shifts. We survive, if we survive, by being alert."

--Monster Horror Theater Presents:Return of the Returns, Feb. 28, '05


Anonymous said...

Ah, Bob, again you speak so eloquently for so many of us booksellers! Thank you.

Max, Why independents? Are not the chains notorious for their returns?

Although I'm a bookseller with a small "b" not a capital "B" and therefore not quite as qualified to comment on some of these larger issues, except by observation, a few notes and thoughts: In our store, a hardcover stays on the shelf until either its corresponding paperback has arrived OR it's over a year old. Exceptions are of course made for books still selling in hardcover. We do, however, trim down excessive quantities over the course of the year as needed. I'd say that's more than fair considering the amount of new titles coming in every day (which I realize is another issue entirely) and our limited shelf space.

And Bob is right. We have survived by adapting and we will continue to do so. Bob is also correct about the success of events. I do the events for our store and an unsuccessful event sometimes belies explanation...all we can do is the best we are able with the resources we have (and hope that you all are doing the same).

And Max, how sad that you have never been recommended a book in your local independent bookshop...but have you asked for one? Handselling is an art as you know, and often is best executed by those extroverts on the staff who actively watch for opportunties to assist and recommend; but even our most reticent staff members will suggest titles when asked. Hmm. I would hate to miss this little opportunity... The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh coming out in May from Houghton Mifflin. Delicious. Exotic. Riveting. Thoughtful.

Jay said...

Ava, please don't be so modest, what's the name of your bookstore so everyone can visit and buy The Hungry Tide from the source?

Anonymous said...

Max, thanks for addressing the issue of returns. Sorry there haven't been more comments on the topic, but it was interesting to get the inside scoop (boy, I'd sure like to be a bug on the wall when one Publisher is having a meeting with another).

Anyway, thanks.

Mr. Entrepreneur

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