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Newsletter #127 September November, 2019

Award News

        The Nebula Award for best sf novel of last year went to The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal ($18.99).
        The Mythopoeic Award for best adult fantasy of last year went to Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik ($17.00).
        The Locus Award Winners included Best SF Novel to The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal ($18.99); Best Fantasy Novel to Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik ($17.00), Best First Novel to Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse ($17.00), Best Young Adult Book to Dread Nation by Justina Ireland ($9.99), Best Novella to Artificial Condition by Martha Wells ($16.99), Best Anthology to The Book of Magic edited by Gardner Dozois ($30.00), Best Collection to How Long ‘til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin ($16.99), and Best Non-Fiction Book to Ursula K. Leguin: Conversations on Writing by Ursula K. Le Guin and David Naimon ($14.95).

How’s Business?
by Don Blyly

        Nationally, book sales were down for five of the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. During that period, adult fiction fell 5.1% compared to 2018 (when adult fiction fell 4% compared to 2017). Barnes and Noble reported that their book sales fell 3.9% for their fiscal year ending April 29, 2019, while their sales of toys and games increased after Toys R Us closed. It’s not surprising that the Uncles have also experienced a small decline in book sales. But we continue to see used books accounting for an increasing percentage of our business, and the profit margin from used books is better than for new books, so we’re still holding on.
        Barnes & Noble has sold itself to Elliott Advisers, the same company that owns Waterstone’s, the largest bookstore chain in the U.K., and the man who is given credit for saving Waterstone’s will be moving from London to New York to run both chains. The major publishers seem to be optimistic about the move, but smaller publishers are concerned. Apparently Waterstone’s has been emphasizing major books from larger publishers and giving less display to slower selling books from smaller publishers.
        Pearson, one of the largest textbook publishers worldwide, has announced that for the U.S. market they are shifting to a digital first model. All future releases of their 1,500 U.S. textbook titles will be in e-book format, with an average price of $40 to rent only the e-book, or $79 for a package that includes the e-book plus a batch of additional digital learning tools. They report that 62% of their current higher education revenue already comes from digital products and services. Since they don’t need brick and mortar college bookstores to sell e-books, and would rather sell the books online and not have to share the revenue with bookstores, this is probably the beginning of the end for college bookstores, once a few more major textbook publishers join the trend.

        For around the last 33 years I’ve been the secretary of the local business association (which often includes neighborhood activists and representatives of neighborhood organizations, in addition to business owners, landlords, and property management people, representatives from the police department, and also used to include representatives for city council members and other politicians–but the politicians have been ignoring us for about the last 10 years). One of the problems that has been brought up periodically over the past 33 years that I’ve been taking notes, and probably for years before that, is prostitution on the streets around Lake St. Business owners don’t like it when a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers take over the section of street near their businesses, because customers for the businesses don’t feel safe parking their cars and walking to the businesses, and don’t like being propositioned while walking from their car to the businesses they want to visit. Neighborhood residents don’t feel safe in their homes with the illegal activities going on. The “johns” driving in from the suburbs often proposition residents of the neighborhood, including kids, who have nothing to do with the prostitution. Enough people get riled up enough to force the police to do some busts and some “john stings”, the problem becomes less severe for a short while, or at least the problem moves to somewhere else for a while. A couple of years ago some cops went too far in trying to get some arrests in “saunas”, and the Minneapolis police stopped enforcing prostitution laws for about a year while the administration came up with new guidelines for appropriate police conduct during enforcement efforts. Last year they were back to trying to enforce the law every once in a while. (It takes a lot of police time to conduct a “sting” operation, so other crimes receive less police time whenever a “sting” is conducted.) During the summer of 2018, almost all of the drug dealers, pimps, and prostitutes left Lake St. to hang out around the homeless “Encampment” near Little Earth. Home robberies, shoplifting, and other problems went way down around Lake St. and went way up around Little Earth. This year, the Encampment is gone, and many of the problems have returned to the Lake St. area.
        At the June meeting of the business association, the representative of the police department announced that there was a new police policy regarding prostitution. They had been arresting prostitutes and then offering them a diversion program that would help them get off drugs and into a healthier life style instead of going to jail. But supposedly all of the prostitutes said that they didn’t want to get off drugs, didn’t want to get off the street, and claimed that there was no pimp involved. This resulted in the police and the politicians believing that no “trafficking” was going on, that the prostitutes were entrepreneurs of legal age living the lifestyle that they wanted and earning a living the way they wanted, bargaining with willing buyers for what they wanted to sell. If “trafficking” was not going on, then no law was being broken as far as the police and the politicians were concerned. And if the police were not going to arrest the prostitute for being on one side of the contract, it wouldn’t be fair to arrest the “John” for being on the other side of the contract. (Besides, police management found it is “embarrassing” to ask female cops to go undercover on “John stings”.) Thus, the police would refuse to respond to any 9-1-1 calls regarding prostitution and would not make any efforts to arrest anybody in any kind of “sting” operations. This new policy was not well received at the meeting. A neighborhood representative said that if somebody called 9-1-1 because prostitution was going on in front of kids and the police refused to respond, there would be all kinds of trouble. She thought that if the police and politicians were going to do something this stupid, they ought to come up with a better justification than what she had just heard.
        At the July meeting of the business association, there was a representative of the county attorney’s office. She made it very clear that the county attorney’s office does believe that “trafficking” is going on and is very interested in prosecuting pimps and “Johns”, but views the prostitutes as victims of “trafficking”. But it is hard to prosecute the pimps and “Johns” if the Minneapolis police refuse to arrest them because the politicians ordered them not to arrest them. The representative of the police department said that a lot of discussion has been going on within the police department regarding the new policy, but he felt that he couldn’t tell us any details about those discussions.
        We starting using a family-owned printing plant in Shakopee for the newsletter 29 years ago. It has changed hands several times since then and has been owned for several years by Quad, one of the largest printers in the country. In the early years I took photo-ready pages out to the plant, they used cameras to produce plates for the press, and after it was printed I would haul all the copies back to the store, print out the mailing labels in the back room, and a bunch of us would stick mailing labels onto the newsletter, bundle them for the bulk mailing center, and I’d haul a van full of bundles and paperwork to the bulk mailing center. Things have changed a lot since then. For many years I’ve sent a .pdf file of the newsletter via the internet, and the printer handles printing addresses onto the newsletter, bundling them for the post office, filling out the paperwork for the post office, and hauling everything to the bulk mail center.
        A lot of printing plants have had many years of falling sales, as fewer companies print and mail catalogs. Some of the larger printing companies have been buying up smaller printing companies, and then shutting them down while trying to get the remaining customers of the smaller printers to switch their business to the remaining plants of the bigger printers. Although the Shakopee plant has been owned by Quad for many years, I’ve notice that I was sending my .pdf files to Shakopee for a few years, then I was sending the files for a couple of years to California, and then I was sending the files to Wisconsin for a few years. But the printing continued to be done in Shakopee, the mailing was done through the metro area bulk mail center, and I drove out to Shakopee to pick up the extra copies not sent to the bulk mail center.
        A week before this issue went to the printer, I received a call from Quad that they were going to be closing the Shakopee plant in a few weeks, so this will be the last issue printed there. Quad wanted me to shift the newsletter to another of their plants in another state, so that the newsletter would have to go through a different bulk mail center, and they would have to ship the hundreds of pounds of extra copies to me. But the person from Quad also said that there were 3 other printing plants in the metro area that would be capable of handling the job, and they will be sending me information about those other plants so that I can get bids from them to compare to the new bid from Quad for their plant in another state. A couple of decades ago the sales person I had been dealing with in Shakopee was hired away by Gannett, and the printing plant that produces USA Today for the metro area was looking for other jobs to keep the presses busy. At that time, a switch would have meant a lower grade of paper, a different trim size of the newsletter, buying and learning new software, but no significant savings, so I stuck with Shakopee. I’ll have to compare the different bids, see what kind of changes will be necessary (I don’t want to go back to printing the mailing labels in my back room again), and see if it even makes sense to continue the paper newsletter. If we do have a next issue of the paper newsletter, it will probably look a bit different.

Signed Books

        Patrick S. Tomlinson had a signing on July 6 on fairly short notice. We still have lots of signed copies of The Ark ($7.99, generation ship, hard sf/mystery crossover, Children of a Dead Earth #1), Trident’s Forge ($7.99, Children of a Dead Earth #2), Children of the Divide ($7.99, Children of a Dead Earth #3), Gate Crashers $18.99, humorous space opera), and Starship Repo ($18.99, humorous space opera).
        Lois McMaster Bujold just had a signing for The Flowers of Vashnoi ($25.00, a Vorkosigan Series novella that follows Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance). We still have some signed copies left, as well as signed copies of everything else that is in print and a few things that are no longer in print.
        Larry Correia often signs at Uncle Hugo’s, but when Monster Hunter Guardian ($25.00) came out, he had just finished his new house and was moving from his old house to his new house. Although he didn’t tour for the new book, he did sign a case of the books for the people who like to get signed copies from Uncle Hugo’s. As this goes to the printer, we still have a few signed copies let.
        D. J. Butler will be signing Witchy Kingdom ($25.00) and his other books at Uncle Hugo’s on Wednesday, September 25, 5-6 pm. He also writes young adult books as Dave Butler, and those will also be available.
        Naomi Kritzer will be signing Catfishing on Catnet ($17.99, due mid-November, a near future young adult thriller) and her other books at Uncle Hugo’s on Saturday, November 23, 1-2 pm.
        Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will not be appearing at Uncle Hugo’s for Accepting the Lance ($25.00, Liaden Universe #22, due early December), but they will be signing copies and shipping them to Uncle Hugo’s. If you let us know before November 10 that you want your copy personalized, we can handle that.

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