Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Publisher's Weekly covers National Bookstore Day

Here is a reprint of Wendy Werris article in Publisher's Weekly.

Among the many events held November 7 to mark the first National Bookstore Day was a program put together by Skylight Books in Los Angeles which held a wine and cheese reception for local booksellers--old, new and former--who came to celebrate the continuing relevance of independents across the country.Skylight’s owner Kerry Slattery introduced each bookseller to the gathering of customers and writers and had them say a few words about their store and its context in the Southern California book community.

Most of the speakers acknowledged the “interconnectedness” among booksellers and the allegiance toward one another that outweighs the idea of being competitors. Tyson Cornell, director of marketing for Book Soup, described an event at his store that had to be canceled due to a power outage. “Skylight saved the day for us, though,” Cornell said. “When I phoned Kerry at the last minute she told me to move the event over to her store, which we did, and then she insisted that Book Soup keep the profits from that night’s signing.” That kind of generosity of spirit also brought new customers to Skylight and an awareness of the choices available to the book-buying public in Los Angeles.Claudia Colodro, owner of Stories Books and CafĂ© in Echo Park and a former staffer at Dutton’s in North Hollywood described her store’s policy of selling both used and new books and holding events twice a week. Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City was represented by gift buyer B.J. Hegedus. “We’re now discounting all hardcovers 20% - all the time,” Hegedus told the group, articulating a possible sales strategy for the other booksellers. Every store at Skylight’s celebration is struggling with ways to bring in new customers as they try to compete with the price wars between Amazon and Wal-Mart.

Portrait’s book buyer Lucia Silva is a regular book commentator and reviewer on NPR. Also on hand was Julie Swayze, co-owner of Metropolis Books in the historic core of downtown Los Angeles. The store, surrounded by artist’s lofts, participates in the monthly Art Walk by having a signing, poetry reading or art-related event. Metropolis has a page on Goodreads.com as well as Facebook.Slattery, who opened Skylight 13 years ago, made nametags for the guests based on the paintings of their stores found in The Art of the Bookstore: The Bookstore Paintings of Gibbs M. Smith (Gibbs Smith). “If your local independent bookstore is out of a title you want, there’s no need to order it from Amazon,” she told the customers. “All of us have web sites with ordering capability, and we can also download and sell you the e-books you’re interested in.”

Adele Wallace opened Sisterhood Bookstore in Westwood in 1972. “We did wonder at the time if there were even enough books by and about women to stock our shelves!” Wallace mused. “But Alice Walker was coming into the mainstream then, and Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. Eventually we began running out of room for all the books on women’s studies.” Sisterhood, one of the first feminist bookstores in the country, was in business for 28 years before a Borders store opened across the street and forced them to close in 1999. “The great irony is that the very same Borders closed a year ago.” Now a librarian, Wallace remains a staunch supporter of indie bookstores.Doug Dutton, whose eponymous bookstore in Brentwood closed in 2007 after a 20-year run, seemed bemused by his current status of eminence as one of the legends of Los Angeles bookselling. “Perhaps it’s my gray hair that’s granted it to me,” he joked. Reflecting on the staying power of indie bookstores he said, “We share insights and common ground, and in spite of all rational thinking I’m considering getting back into it.” Dutton mentioned, too, that the book he’s reading – Atmospheric Disturbances, by Rivka Galchen (FSG, 2008) – came to his attention by listening to a review of it by Portrait of a Bookstore’s Silva on NPR.In other parts of California, the three-store Diesel Books chain co-owner John Evans said that all of his locations participated in the event, with staff at the Malibu store serving hot apple cider and pastries to customers who also enjoyed a special visit of support by Mayor Andy Stern. In Brentwood, customers who bought over $100 worth of books received free Diesel Books t-shirts to commemorate the day, and a quiz was held in the Oakland store with winners presented with $25 gift certificates. “We designed the questions to reward our regular customers,” Evans said. “We asked things like, ‘which staff member has been listed in a bestselling memoir (Evans, in Norman Ollestad’s Crazy for the Storm)?’ and ‘name three books published by Diesel staff members in the last five years.’ “We had a very positive response to National Bookstore Day. Several ex-employees stopped by, and customers were glad the event was happening,” Evans continued. “Everyone liked the concept of it. For us it was National Reader Appreciation Day as well.”