Saturday, December 22, 2018

‘I’d love to scream at them’: how showroomers became the No 1 threat to bookshops

Customers who visit stores only to research their online purchases are the biggest threat to the industry – and booksellers are taking a stand

Girl looking at her phone in a bookshop
 ‘Sooner or later, the public will wake up to the damage companies such as Amazon are doing to the creative industry’ ... Dave Kelly of Blackwell’s. Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

Of all the insults that booksellers stomach, the most awful is the newest. Gone are the days when it was someone shoving a book down their pants or defecating in the travel aisle that made your afternoon that little bit bleaker. Now it is “showrooming”: when customers go to physical shops only to research purchases they will make online. This is a particular bugbear of the booksellers who have been engaged in a David and Goliath battle with online retailers for the past decade.
Last weekend, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia, tweeted a rebukeof the “people taking pictures of books and buying them from #Amazon in the store and even bragging about it”: “This is not OK, people. Find it here. Buy it here. Keep us here. That is all.” The tweet, by the shop’s owner, Kelly Justice, has been liked 40,000 times and was met with support from booksellers around the world. But among customers, the conversation was divided between those who recognised the rudeness of the act and those who felt it was legitimate.
When I was a bookseller, I often saw customers whip out their phones to take photos of books they liked. Some had the decency to look ashamed; the worst would approach you to rant about how a book was a whole £2 cheaper online, as if we didn’t know. At least when someone defecates in your shop, they don’t say: “Look what you made me do.”
“I’d love just to be able to scream at customers who do this about tax and the treatment of authors and small publishers, but our philosophy is always to wow them with charm and knowledge, even when they are blatantly doing it,” says Dave Kelly of Blackwell’s in Oxford. “Sooner or later, the general public will wake up to the damage companies such as Amazon are doing to small businesses and the creative industry and, with a bit of luck, bookshops will still be here to supply the books that they love.”
Claire Williams of the London Review Bookshop presents a glimmer of hope. “Customers do approach you after taking a picture, but only because they’re keen to let you know that they’re making a note and not showrooming,” she says. “We’re lucky that people are vocal that they’d rather buy from us than Amazon. It is a shame, but showrooming is part of the landscape.
“If it is taken to the nth degree and we’re only used as a shop window, customers will lose all the knowledge and curation that goes into what they see in bookshops.”
Let’s see how Amazon handles the query: “I don’t know the title or the author, but it came out three months ago and the cover is blue.”

Friday, December 21, 2018

This was on Literary Hub yesterday. Sorry the text type is small. I tried. Also, I see that the photo doesn't show-up on the phone version. Sorry.

Margaret Atwood: If We Lose the Free Press, We Cease to Be a Democracy

On the Murder of Journalists and Stifling of Speech

“How many fingers am I holding up?” says the Party torturer, O’Brian, to the hapless Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984. The right answer isn’t “four” or “five.” The right answer is whatever number O’Brian says it is. That is how totalitarians and warlords and authoritarians of all kinds have behaved throughout the ages. Truth is what these folks say it is, not what the facts proclaim. And if you persist in naming a factual number of fingers, then into prison with you, or off with your head. That’s if the totalitarian has already seized power: if he is only in the larval stage, you may simply be accused of spouting fake news.

We find ourselves living in a new age of O’Brians. How many journalists and truth-tellers around the world have been murdered, executed after a quasi-legal process, imprisoned, or exiled? When will we build a memorial wall to them, with all of their names inscribed?

And why do they matter? Because knowing what the power-holders are doing—in our name if it’s a democracy, or in the name of some abstract concept—fatherland, blood, soil, gods, virtue, kingship—is the only way the citizens of any society can begin to hold those power-holders to account. If a society has any pretense to being other than a serfdom, a free and independent press whose journalists have the right to dig into the factual subsoil of a story is the primary defense against encroaching winner-takes-all powercreep.

We’re living in the midst of a war being waged against this kind of journalism: the evidence-based, truth-telling kind. In the United States, the president has admitted that he spews out non-truths to keep the journos spinning. His aim is to confuse the public, so that the citizens—not knowing what to believe—will ultimately believe nothing. In a country with no ideals left, high-level lawbreakers and corruption will have free reign. Who can even object to those who sell out their country if there isn’t much of a country left?

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The signals sent to the rest of the world by the United States have not been lost on authoritarians elsewhere. When it comes to pesky journalists who wash dirty political laundry in public, anything goes. But now there is at least some push-back. As its 2018 “Person of the Year,” TIME Magazine has named four journalists and one news organization who have suffered for speaking truth. Foremost among them is the murdered Jamal Al-Khashoggi, lately of the Washington Post. Maria Ressa has been charged and threatened with imprisonment in the Philippines for writing against that country’s president’s shoot-whoever-I-say policies. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were just doing their Reuters job, but were imprisoned for talking about a massacre of Rohingya in Myanmar. And the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland, shot up by a gunman who killed five. TIME said of them in its essay, “They are representative of a broader fight by countless others around the world—as of December 10, at least 52 journalists have been murdered in 2018—who risk all to tell the story of our time.”
How many journalists and truth-tellers around the world have been murdered, executed after a quasi-legal process, imprisoned, or exiled?

The suppression of writing and writers is naturally of central concern to writers themselves. Budding totalitarians always go after artists and writers early on, for two reasons: they are relatively undefended—there isn’t a huge armed posse of fellow writers acting as their bodyguards—and they have an unpleasant habit of not shutting up. I am among their number, so I have long taken an interest in attempts to censor writers’ work and deprive them of liberty and life.

My active involvement began in the 1970s, during the time of the Argentinian junta and the régime of Pinochet in Chile. Many journalists, writers and artists were killed at that time, including the major Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In the 80s I helped found PEN Canada (English), which I headed during its first two years. I have watched as PEN America has expanded its scope, placing the defense of journalists and the free press at the center of its activities.

Gone are the days when all we had to defend was the right of novelists to say the F word in print. Now it appears that it is the right of independent-minded journalists to exist at all that is at issue. Democracies ignore this crisis at their peril: if we lose the free press, we will cease to be democracies.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. The organization champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Information on many of the cases cited above is here. To support PEN America and the freedom to write, make a tax-deductible donation today.

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Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. She is the author of some 16 novels, eight collections of short stories, eight children’s books, 17 volumes of poetry, 10 collections of nonfiction, as well as small press editions, television and radio scripts, plays, recordings, and editions. Her lifetime contribution to letters and book culture include groundbreaking fiction, environmental and feminist activism, and service to community as a co-founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Reading is better than life. Without reading, you’re stuck with life.'
                 ― Fran Lebowitz 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Cold as it was this morning, I was glad to be with my sign on Chambers Street. People walk by bundled, a surprising number without gloves on, and cars go by, some with music thumping. The regulars say good morning. Some cars beep. New people say, That's right.  New people say, Absolutely. New people say, I'm with ya. New people say, Ain't that the truth. New people say, So true. New people give a thumbs up. New people nod church-like up and down. New people smile at the message. Some people say, Do you mind if I take a picture? The sign warms some people on cold days.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

'I think part of why I have so many books around me and why I read every day is because I mythologize the writer. I don’t do that with any other artists.'
                         ― Philip Seymour Hoffman

Monday, December 17, 2018

'I feel that the care of libraries and the use of books, and the knowledge of books, is a tremendously vital thing, and that we who deal with books and who love books have a great opportunity to bring about something in this country which is more vital here than anywhere else, because we have the chance to make a democracy that will be a real democracy.' 
                                                                                                                     ― Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Books are all I really buy. I don't feel a need to buy much else. No more drinks. Sometimes I'll buy a book a second time when it comes out in paperback just because I loved it so or I like the look of it smaller and want to read it over again in paper like when we were younger. Yesterday I bought the paperback of Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer. I started reading it again last night. It's as breathtakingly serious and smart and dazzlingly funny as it was the first time.