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Newsletter #83 September November, 2008

Used Book Sale

        Every year our supply (oversupply) of used books gets larger. In addition to the piles of used books to the ceiling, we’ve been adding boxes on the floor for the surplus used paperbacks. We now have up to 27 boxes of used paperbacks per bay back at Uncle Edgar’s (with a list on the wall in each bay telling you which major author is located in which numbered box). This has made it easier for customers to find the used books they want, but has also made it more time-consuming for us to check fresh used books coming in, especially when the used book area is crowded with customers. If you are thinking about bringing in a lot of used mysteries during the sale, expect a long wait.
        All used books will be 20% off, whether you have a discount card or not. The sale includes used paperbacks, used hardcovers, used magazines, used audiobooks (Please, please take away some used audiobooks!), used gaming books, and bagged books. The sale will run from Friday, August 29 through Sunday, September 7. We will be closed Monday, September 1, for Labor Day, but will be open our regular hours all other days.
        We hope that you can get here the first weekend, before the RNC begins, and the second weekend, after the RNC leaves, but who knows about the period while the RNC is in town. We suggest that you stop thinking of the RNC as the Republican National Convention and instead think of it as the Republican National Circus, with one team of clowns performing inside the convention center and a different team of clowns performing on the streets outside the convention center.
        The sale will be for customers shopping in the store–it does not apply to mail orders.
                                


Award News

        The Hugo Award for Best Novel went to The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon ($26.95 hc or $15.95 trade paperback).

        The Locus Award winners include The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon for Best SF novel, Making Money by Terry Pratchett ($25.95 signed hc, $7.99 pb due early October) for Best Fantasy Novel, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ($7.99) for Best First Novel, and Un Lun Dun by China Mieville for Best Young Adult Novel ($9.00).

        The Private Eye Writers of America have announced the nominees for the Shamus Awards, which include the following.
        Best Novel: Head Games by Thomas Cavanagh ($24.95), Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman ($14.95), The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes ($24.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb), A Welcome Grave by Michael Koryta ($23.95 signed hc or $6.99 pb), and A Killer’s Kiss by William Lashner ($24.95 signed hc, $7.99 pb due early October).
        Best First Novel: The Cleaner by Brett Battles ($6.99), Keep It Real by Bill Bryan ($13.95), Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover ($23.95 signed hc), When One Man Dies by Dave White ($13.95), and The Last Striptease by Michael Wiley ($23.95).
        Best Paperback Original: Songs of Innocence by Richard Aleas ($6.99), Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong ($6.99), Stone Rain by Linwood Barclay ($6.99), Deadly Beloved by Max Allan Collins ($6.99), and Blood of Paradise by David Corbett ($9.95).

        The nominees for the Anthony Awards include the following.
        Best Novel: Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke ($7.99), Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child ($7.99), The Watchman by Robert Crais ($7.99), Thunder Bay by William Kent Kruger ($7.99), and What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman ($24.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb).
        Best First Novel: Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover ($23.95 signed hc), In the Woods by Tana French ($14.00), The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz ($14.00), Head Games by Craig McDonald ($14.95), and The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey ($6.99).
        Best Paperback Original: Queenpin by Megan Abbott ($13.00), Slide by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr ($6.99), Blood of Paradise by David Corbett ($9.95), Baby Shark’s Beaumont Blues by Robert Fate ($14.95), and A Thousand Bones by P. J. Parrish ($7.99).

        The nominees for the Barry Award include the following.
        Best Novel: Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman ($14.95), The Unquiet by John Connolly ($25.95signed hc or $7.99 pb), Down River by John Hart ($24.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb due early October), Dirty Martini by J. A. Konrath ($7.99), What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman ($$24.95 signed hc or $7.99 pb), and Red Cat by Peter Spiegelman ($12.95).
        Best First Novel: Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell ($24.95 signed hc or $13.95 trade pb due early November), Big City, Bad Blood by Sean Chercover ($23.95 signed hc), In the Woods by Tana French ($14.00), The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz ($14.00), The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees ($13.95), and The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey ($6.99).
        Best Paperback Originals: Queenpin by Megan Abbott ($13.00), Black Widow Agency by Felicia Donovan ($12.95), Choke Point by Jay MacLarty ($7.99), The Mark by Jason Pinter ($7.99), Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand by Fred Vargas ($14.00), and Who is Conrad Hirst? By Kevin Wignall ($14.00).
        Best Thriller: No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay ($22.00 or $6.99 pb due early September), The Cleaner by Brett Battles ($6.99), The Watchman by Robert Crais ($7.99), Volk’s Game by Brent Ghelfi ($14.00), Silence by Thomas Perry ($14.00), and Midnight Rambler by Jim Swain ($24.95 or $7.99 pb early September).

How’s the Book Business
by Don Blyly

        I’ve run across a lot of interesting news about the book business recently.
        While the number of new titles published by traditional publishers went up slightly last year, the number of new print-on-demand titles went up by over 600%. In total, over 400,000 new titles were released last year. That makes for some serious competition to get a new book into a bookstore, as well as serious competition for an older title to hold onto shelf space.
        A couple of recent studies show that independent bookstores only account for 10% of all the book sales in the country, and only 3% of best-sellers. But they account for 25% of mid-list titles, and some iconoclastic publishers find that independents account for more of their sales than the chains.
        Amazon.com bought a print-on-demand company a few years ago, but the company they bought reportedly charged more and had more quality-control problems than other companies in the industry, so few people were willing to do business with them. So Amazon.com announced that any print-on-demand books in the U.S. that were not printed by their subsidiary would have its “buy” button turned off at the Amazon.com website. This lead to complaints not only from print-on-demand publishers, but lots of industry groups that feared this was just the first step in a plan to seize control of the entire book industry. The contract that Amazon.com reportedly forced print-on-demand publishers to sign gave Amazon.com the power to dictate the retail price of the books, prevents the publishers from selling the titles at any different retail price even for copies printed at a less-expensive supplier, and dictated the discounts and terms at which the publisher could offer the titles to others (such as the authors, the chain bookstores, and independent bookstores). Some people believe that if Amazon.com gets away with this, the next move will be to force publishers who do not use print-on-demand to switch over to print-on-demand through Amazon’s subsidiary in order to avoid having their “buy” buttons turned off. There have been many calls for a federal anti-trust investigation, and perhaps the next administration will actually pursue an investigation. Amazon.com also tries each year to negotiate better terms from individual publishers, and in the United Kingdom they have made waves by using the removal of the “buy” button as a big stick to try to beat major publishers into giving them even bigger discounts than they demanded the year before.
        The same British weekly e-mail newsletter that covered in detail what Amazon.com was pulling also had an interesting report on a major chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom. The chain told all of the magazines normally sold in the supermarkets that each magazine henceforth would have to earn the right to be displayed in the supermarkets by either providing the supermarket chain with 2 pages of free advertising per year or providing 2 pages of favorable editorial content per year or pay the chain £2500 per year per magazine title for the right to be sold in the chain. The response of the magazine industry was not favorable.
        Amazon.com is buying Abebooks.com, where we have over 22,000 of our books listed (primarily used or signed books). We have no idea how we will be affected by the purchase.
        Borders has been in trouble for a number of years, and Barnes and Noble is looking into buying them. But a major investor in Borders is trying to talk Amazon.com into buying Borders, claiming that Amazon.com could buy the chain for $400 million dollars and get a distribution system that it would cost them a billion dollars to build from scratch. Borders was hoping to find a buyer by September, but the August 14 Wall Street Journal reported that Barnes and Noble won’t make an offer, and Amazon.com still hasn’t expressed an interest.
        The number of independent bookstores continues to decline. The American Booksellers Association lost another 56 members last year, bringing the membership down to 1,524. There were more than 5,000 members in 1990. On June 20 it was announced that the world-famous Cody’s Bookstore in Berkeley, California was closing after 52 years in business. The amount of concentration in the retail end of the book industry is becoming very frightening. If people don’t support the independent bookstores, a very few huge corporations will soon be dictating what we are allowed to read.
        Locally, Amazon Bookstore, the oldest feminist bookstore in the country, tried for about 9 months to find a new owner without success, and then announced at the beginning of June that it was going out of business at the end of June, after 38 years in business. In the middle of June it announced that it had found a new owner and the going-out-of-business sale was cancelled.
        Also locally, Dreamhaven will be moving at the end of August to a smaller location, will carry fewer items, will have shorter hours, and will fire all the employees. Greg said that after having the property tax go up over 300% in the last ten years while sales went down, he just couldn’t continue doing business in the old location with the old expenses.
        Here at Uncle Hugo’s, Jamie Blackman (who has worked part-time, usually Monday through Wednesday, for almost 5 years) has left to move to Louisiana, where his wife has been offered a post-doctorate position. At the beginning of September, Elizabeth LaVelle will be working full-time at Uncle Hugo’s, after years of managing Dreamhaven.
        Sales tax changes are driving us crazy, especially with regard to mail orders. It used to be simple: 7% in Minneapolis, 6.5% for the rest of Minnesota, and no sales tax outside of Minnesota. But new sales taxes keep being added on, with different boundaries for each new add-on. Sales tax is now 7.4% in Minneapolis, 6.9% for the rest of Hennepin county, 6.75% for four other counties in the metro area, and 6.5% for the rest of Minnesota and still no sales tax outside Minnesota. The state sales tax people sent us a list of zip codes to help us figure out how much to charge for each zip code, but 22 of the zip codes had an “*” next to the zip code to warn us that part of the zip code was in a 6.75% county and part of the zip code was in a 6.5% county. There’s no way to squeeze all of this onto our order form. If you mail order and use a charge card, we’ll do our best to charge you the appropriate amount of tax. If you mail order and send a check, try to get the tax correct, and we’ll understand if you’re a few cents off.
        For decades the book industry has been known for doing far less consumer research than most other industries that market to consumers. In May, Random House released some results of a survey that they hired Zogby International to do. Some of the results caught my attention. Online bookbuying was practiced by 77% of the sample, and 43% bought a majority of their books online; 49% of the sample buy some of their books from independent bookstores, but only 9% buy a majority of their books from independent bookstores. Democrats (56%) and independent voters (50%) are more likely than Republicans (41%) to do some of their book buying at independent bookstores. Democrats (58%) and independent voters (49%) are more likely than Republicans (41%) to say that book reviews make them want to buy books, but Republicans are more likely to buy a book because they heard about it on talk radio. Democrats (16%) are more likely than independent voters (6%) or Republicans (1%) to buy a book because they saw it on John Stewart (The Daily Show). When people go into a bookstore to buy a specific book, 77% say that they sometimes also make unplanned book purchases, 19% say they never make unplanned book purchases, and 4% are not sure. And 52% admit to judging a book by its cover.
        After many years of promises from the city, we finally have a bike stand installed in front of the store.
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