November 22


Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #116 December, 2016 February, 2017

36th Anniversary Sale

        December 1 marks Uncle Edgar’s 36th anniversary. Come into Uncle Edgar’s or Uncle Hugo’s and save 10% off everything except discount cards, gift certificates, or merchandise already marked 40% off. A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get 10% off from the discount card plus another 10% off from the sale. (Sale prices apply only to in-store purchases, not to mail orders.) The sale runs Friday, November 25 through Sunday, December 4, giving you two weekends to save.
        Small Business Saturday, which is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, also happens to be during the anniversary sale. On Small Business Saturday, we will be giving away an Uncle Hugo’s/Uncle Edgar’s bookbag (a $10 value) for free to anybody who makes a $100 purchase. For one day only, you can get 10% off with a discount card plus 10% off for the anniversary sale plus a free bookbag for a $100 purchase.
        We will also be having our annual inventory reduction sale December 26-31, but that will feature deep discounts on things we really want to get rid of. It will not be a store-wide sale like the 35th Anniversary Sale.

Award News

        The Hugo Awards included Best Novel to The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin ($15.99) and Best Novella to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor ($9.99).
        The Dragon Awards included Best Fantasy Novel to Son of the Black Sword by Larry Correia ($25.00 signed hardcover or $8.99 pb); Best Young Adult to The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett ($9.99), Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Award to Hell’s Foundations Quiver by David Weber ($9.99), Best Alternate History Novel to League of Dragons by Naomi Novak ($28.00, $7.99 pb December).
        The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature went to Uprooted by Naomi Novik ($16.00).
        The British Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel went to Uprooted by Naomi Novik ($16.00).
        The David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Novel went to The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence ($7.99).

        Many mystery awards were announced at Bouchercan:
        The Anthony Awards included Best Novel to The Killing Kind by Chris Holm ($15.99), Best First Novel to Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton ($9.99), and Best Paperback Original to The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney ($14.99).
        The Barry Awards included Best Novel to Badlands by C. J. Box ($26.99 signed hc or $9.99 pb), Best First Novel to The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan ($15.99), Best Paperback Original to The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney ($14.99), and Best Thriller to The Mask by Taylor Stevens ($24.00).
        The Shamus Awards included Best Private Eye Novel to Brutality by Ingrid Thofts ($26.95, $16.00 tr pb due early December) and Best First Private Eye Novel to The Do-Right by Lisa Sandlin ($16.95).
        The Macavity Awards included Best Novel to The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney ($14.99), Best First Mystery Novel to Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton ($9.99), and Best Critical/Biographical to The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards ($15.99).

Holiday Gift Ideas

        Our most popular gift option continues to be our gift certificate. We can issue one for any amount. It can be used at either or both Uncles. It can even be used for mail orders, and it can be purchased over the phone (if you have a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover Card) and we can mail it either to the purchaser or to the recipient, or we can just enter the balance on a credit file here in the store to avoid the risk of the gift certificate being lost.
        Calendars used to be a very popular gift item, but so many people are now using assorted electrical devices in place of a wall calendar that we substantially reduced our selection of calendars last year. Then our primary supplier of calendars really screwed us over last year, so we are not carrying calendars this year. We have special ordered calendars for a few people this year.
        We also have lots of signed books, art books, and humor books, including some that can be given to people who don’t read sf or mysteries.

How’s Business?
by Don Blyly

        We discovered in late September that we had a problem with our shopping basket. I received e-mails from a couple of customers asking why they hadn’t yet received their orders place on our shopping basket. I found that we had not received either order, and when I went to the secure website to try to find the orders I discovered that we had only received 3 orders for the entire month of September and no orders since September 6. We sometimes receive over 100 orders per month and always receive several dozen orders per month, so something was clearly wrong. I went to our shopping basket and placed a test order. The order was accepted, but not passed along to the store.
        Here’s the way the shopping basket has worked for the last 8 years. We pay a large company with lots of experience with computer security issues to host our shopping basket, paying them an annual fee for the service. They provide a basic shopping basket function, with some opportunities for the various merchants to do a bit of personalization to meet the needs of the particular merchant. A customer places an order, including credit card information. The large company then sends an e-mail to Uncle Hugo’s to announce that a new order has come in. This e-mail has all the information except the credit card information, and we get one e-mail for each order placed (sometime 30 or 40 in a single day, if we’ve just announced the opportunity to pre-order a personalized signed book by a major author). I then have to go to a secured website to get the full information about the order, which does include the credit card information. If everything on the order is already in stock, the order gets packed within 24 hours, and the charge is made when the order is ready to ship. But things are seldom that easy. Often, the order includes books that are not yet published. But we never run the charge until the shipment is ready to ship, for many reasons. Some customers order 3 months of forthcoming books at once, and say “send all the September titles in one shipment, send all the October titles in a second shipment, and send all the November titles in a third shipment”. Sometimes the publishers change the price of the book after we’ve ordered it. Sometimes books don’t come out when expected. (We are still holding an order for a title announced for Spring, 2015 by a small publisher, who now claims it will be out sometime in 2017, which is about the 10th time he has announce a new date for the book.) Sometimes a customer asks us to substitute used books if available, but the shopping basket order only shows the price of new books. And then there is the shipping charge. We charge a flat $6.00 charge for media mail to a U.S. address, regardless of the size of the order. On rare occasions, somebody insists on UPS instead of post office. For Alaska and Hawaii, media mail is so slow that some customers prefer priority mail. And international shipping gets very expensive and somewhat complex, and we need to have the books in hand to be able quote how much shipping is going to cost. And then there is the matter of sales tax, which is a complex mess in Minnesota. We have to charge sales tax on both the books and the shipping for books shipped within Minnesota, but the sales tax is different for Minneapolis (where we get hit with almost every sales tax under the sun, except for a few that only apply within downtown Minneapolis) than for St. Louis Park (where they don’t have to pay the Vikings tax) or St. Paul (where they don’t have to pay either the Vikings tax or the Twins tax) or Mankato (where they don’t have to pay the Vikings tax, the Twins tax, or the metro transit tax). The shopping basket adds the Minneapolis sales tax to orders within Minnesota, but I then adjust the sales tax downward for those outside Minneapolis, figuring that people won’t be upset if they end up paying a few cents less than expected.
        The hosting company we started using 8 years ago had a very high ranking when we started doing business with them, but now has a “mediocre” rating. The company was purchased by a much larger company, which decided to change all the rules in September. They stopped sending us e-mails when a new order is placed. (Not too hard to deal with–I now go to the secure site a couple times per day to see what orders have come in.) They changed to a different secured site that we need to visit to get the orders, without bothering to let us know about this change. When I finally got ahold of a customer service person, he claimed that it was impossible to let us know about the change to a different site to print out our orders because they didn’t have our e-mail address–even though the company used to send us up to 30 e-mails per day. We managed to get all of the orders that were placed after September 6. But we’ve since found other changes that were made to our customized shopping basket. They removed the buttons for “do you want us to substitute used books when available” and for “should we send in 2 or 3 shipments, or hold the order until everything arrives?” (We don’t miss the second button much, because about half of the people who ordered a single book then told us to send the single book in 2 or 3 shipments.) They wiped out the box for “special instructions for this order”. They instead put in a box for “comments on this order”–but when we retrieve the order, they don’t pass along what was placed in the “comments on this order” box. To say that we are displeased would be a significant understatement.
        We started looking for somebody else to host our shopping basket, and found that things have changed a lot in the past 8 years. We would have to completely redesign our website to switch to a new hosting company, and we don’t currently have the time to do that or the money to hire somebody to do it for us. (I recently read that Poisoned Pen Bookstore just paid $90,000 to redesign their website to make ordering easier.) The hot new thing in e-commerce seems to be for a person to set up a website to sell stuff the person doesn’t actually possess, but they have a contract with somebody else to drop ship the products to the customers. So, the hosting company takes the order, takes the payment immediately, passes the order along to the drop shipper, and the person who owns the website gets a piece of the action while building his next website(s). This model does not fit well with us, where we own the books, ship the books ourselves, and we don’t want the payment processed until we are ready to ship the order.
        We recently received a presentation from Dex Media on website redesign. (It was supposed to be a meeting to approve our yellow pages ad for the next year, but turned out to be much more ambitious.) They wanted us to pay them to redesign and host our website, and they were full of ideas we didn’t like. For example, they wanted to change the website so that a potential customer had to provide their phone number and e-mail address just to take a look at our website, so that we could then bury the potential customer with future advertising (with the help of Dex), and they assured us that most websites are going to this model (which I hope is not true). They also wanted to tie their redesign of our website to a new shopping basket hosting service that they are offering with PayPal, where only PayPal can be used for taking payment.         We are reluctantly sticking with our current shopping basket until we can find a better option. If you want us to do anything special (like substituting used books, sending the order in more than one shipment, asking an author to personalize a signed book for you, etc.), we can still do those things, but you should send a separate e-mail directly to with your special requests. I’ve heard from a couple of people who thought that they had to set up an account with a password in order to place an order at the shopping basket. That is not the case. If you just want to place an order, just place the order. If you want to be able to go back to the shopping basket later to see what you ordered in the past, then you have to set up an account with a password–or you can just drop an e-mail directly to Uncle Hugo and ask.

        I recently read an article about prisons banning books, some for understandable reasons. But the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has really gone crazy, banning about 11,000 books, including For Love of Evil by Piers Anthony, Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett, The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, and Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut. We’ve been sending books to prisons for decades, sometimes paid for by relatives of inmates, sometimes paid for by the inmates. We also used to sell books to prison libraries, but the money for that seems to have dried up a few years ago. We’ve never run into a “banned book” problem, but each prison has its own rules for what it allows to come in: some won’t allow used books to come in, some will only allow used books to come in if the book is no longer in print (I wonder how the prison guards determine this), and some consider used books just fine. The prison libraries certainly liked used books–twice as many books for their very limited budgets. Some prisons limit how many books can come in at once, some limit how many books an inmate can have in his cell. Most prisons only allow books to come in if they are mailed directly from a bookstore with the receipt enclosed. They probably found that if friends of inmates could send in books, some of the books were hollowed out to contain contraband.

        California has pass a new law that was supposed to address the problem of fake signatures on sports memorabilia, but the law went way overboard. The new law applies to ALL autographed items sold for $5 or more. Any such autographed item must come with a certificate of authenticity (COA). The COA must include lots of information about the dealer, whether or not the item was autographed in the presence of the dealer, specify the date that the item was autographed, and provide the name of a witness to the autographing. If the item was already signed when the dealer purchased the item (such as from a publisher or from a customer selling his collection), the COA must also contain the name and address of the previous owner. If a dealer sells an autographed item without a COA or provides a false one, the law provides a penalty equal to 10 times actual damages, plus court costs, reasonable attorney fees, interest, expert witness fees, and allows the court to add on additional damages. Booksellers are very concerned about this. Used book fairs and auction houses in California are finding that very few dealers are willing to risk selling autographed books in California until the law gets fixed. There is also a question regarding artwork. If the artist signs a painting, is the autograph an autograph under the law, requiring a COA (with the date the artist signed the painting and the name of a witness to the signing, etc.) or is it merely part of the painting?
        We sell a fair number of signed books to people who live in California. Some are bought from the publishers already signed. Some were signed at signing events at the Uncles over the years, so that it might be possible to look at old newsletters and determine when the book was signed (but not to come up with names of witnesses). Many were signed over the years at “drive-by signings”, where the author was in town for a day and dropped into a bunch of bookstores to sign stock, and it would be impossible to come up with the date. It would be impossible to match up used signed books with the customers we bought them from. We’ll continue to fill orders for signed books from California until we see if the state goes after any bookstores for selling signed books. If that happens, we’ll stop filling orders for signed books from California until the law gets fixed.
        Since we moved to this location in 1984, Fall has been marked by three events. (1) Crickets invade the store, hide under the book cases, and drive us crazy with their chirping. (2) Yellow jackets swarm around the trash dumpster behind the building. (3) Huge swarms of box elder beetles cover the back wall of the store for a few days. None of these events have happened this year, and I don’t know if I should celebrate or be worried.

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