Nelson Fox: Perfect. Keep those West-Side liberal nuts, pseudo-intellectuals…
Joe Fox: Readers, Dad. They’re called readers.
Nelson Fox: Don’t do that, son. Don’t romanticize them.
I was thinking about the movie You’ve Got Mail this week.
I remember talking about this movie once, I think on Facebook, and got scolded by a few commenters who were upset that it was one of my favorite movies. That I was a traitor to the cause because it showed Kathleen Kelly’s (Meg Ryan) The Shop Around The Corner going out of business because of the opening of the monolithic FoxBooks, run by Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). And despite the fact that he’s killed her dream, ruining the best thing in her life (or is it?) she falls in love with him.
I was rather hurt to be scolded, actually, because I was as horrified as the next person that her adorable shop was closed. But it was the reality of the time. The big superstores WERE coming in and putting the little guy out of business. The Internet was a relatively new thing. Email was something we all salivated over – because we suddenly had instant access to our friends. It was unique. And love, well, I am a sucker for a good love story.
All that aside… I hope Nora Ephron is reading Murderati, because it’s definitely time for a sequel to that flick.
Here’s the set up:
Kathleen and Joe have a son, Joe Junior, who is heir to Fox Books. He grows up in an idyllic time, his father’s chain growing and growing and growing, his mother becoming a wildly successful author. And then come the ebooks, the advent of which means Fox is going under. In bankruptcy, his inheritance, his whole future suddenly murky before him, he is strolling the wonderful suburban neighborhood he grew up in on the Upper West Side, wondering what’s next, when he sees a small shop that has a For Lease sign. As he ponders what might work in the shop, an idea comes to him. Open a small, independent bookstore that caters to customers, staffs voracious readers, and has a deal with the GoogleBooks and the Apple iBookstore and Nook and Kobo to sell ebooks directly from the store’s cool, hip, inexpensive new website.
Of course, he must keep this venture quiet from his parents. He goes online to see what he can find about indie bookstores, and through Twitter, meets a smart, beautiful, knowledgeable bookie who happens to want to open a bookstore herself.
Their exchanges go something like this: (FYI: In Twitter world, the @ sign designates who you are talking to…)
@shopgirl I was walking down the street today…
@shopgirl I saw an empty storefront…
@shopgirl I think I should buy it and open a bookstore that specializes in both ebooks and regular books….
@shopgirl We can call it the Shop Around the Corner. Cause it’s around the corner from my Dad’s old store.
@shopgirl I’m serious
@foxyman That would be lovely. It’s something that I really miss.
@shopgirl Why? What do you miss?
@foxyman The simple charm of an actual bookstore, where you can go and talk about your favorite writers, sit in a comfy chair …
@foxyman and just hang out reading. It’s something people want. I miss it. Readers miss it too.
@shopgirl I was just playing around. You’re saying I really should open a bookstore?
@foxyman I’m saying, sometimes, people who are looking for coffee just want coffee.
Nora, if you’re reading, just give me a producer credit, okay?
In all seriousness, the high irony of this situation is that if bookstores can hold on to the marketshare Amazon is stealing, they’re probably going to make it through. Especially the indies. But across the board, that means, in addition to stocking print books, finding ways to connect your readers with ebooks.
I’ll say it again: Finding new and innovative ways to get your clientele to buy their ebooks through you will make all the difference. If you can cater to both the ebook and print book crowd, you’re golden.
So can independent bookstores manage with ebooks? I’m no expert, but look at this little deal I came across yesterday on Twitter, from Powells. That’s a good deal. It gets books in the hands of readers. It was a simple, easy click of a button, and boom: I have 25 novels on my GoogleBooks. Meanwhile, the actual store still caters to the people who come in off the street, but now, because of their clever promotion, readers from all over the country are getting product; booksellers, publishers and writers are all getting exposure.
Not bad. Yes, it’s a loss leader, but just like any sale, get them in the door and maybe they’ll buy something else. Spontaneity. That’s something that ebooks are capitalizing on, this feeling of oh, I want that, and 30 seconds later, you have it.
Also a very good use of social media, something indie booksellers need to focus on. I’m always surprised by how many stores don’t follow authors. Seems a bit counterintuitive, doesn’t it? We read too… (I’m @thrillerchick, BTW)
Anyway, I had already written my little Twitter play up there when I heard some great news yesterday: Ann Patchett is in talks to open a bookstore in Nashville. She makes my point below:
I think we’ve got to get back to a 3000-square-foot store and not 30,000. Amazon is always going to have everything — you can’t compete with that. But there is, I believe, still a place for a store where people read books.
Amen to that, sister.
When we lost Davis Kidd, I was heartbroken. DK was a part of my Nashville mythology well before I was an author. It was the first place my then-boyfriend took me when he brought me home to meet his parents for the first time. (Smart boy, showing me the incredibly fine bookstore I would have daily access to.) A few years ago, Davis Kidd moved their store to the Green Hills Mall, just around the corner from their original, quirky, UNIQUE (again with the unique) home. That homogenization really took some of the glamour out of going there. But go there we did. They had a café, so lunch was a weekly thing. The staff was still the same, awesome and amazing. And there was more room for signings. And a big ass fireplace in the middle, which was very cool.
But as part of the Joseph-Beth bankruptcy, the doors of Davis Kidd Nashville were closed.
Borders closed soon after, leaving downtown Nashville without an original bookstore. There are two great stores that will stock original books on special order (original versus used) but it feels wrong, somehow, not to have a store in downtown Nashville that is the real deal.
When my last book came out, it was right after Borders announced they were closing the store, and I had no place to go sign the books. Going to visit my book in the wild is one of the “rights of passage” for release day, along with Thai food and champagne.
I had no place to sign books.
I was very, very sad. Heartbroken, really. Nashville has an amazing library system, a huge literary community, and no bookstore.
< p>So hearing that Ann is getting involved makes me very happy. I will keep you abreast of the situation.
Today, let’s talk about our favorite bookstores. Even if it’s the Nook ebookstore… that’s fine. Just tell me what is special to you about where you buy your books. I’ll pick one commenter at random to win an ARC of my new book, WHERE ALL THE DEAD LIE (9.20.11). Just a heads up (a point I’ll be belaboring from now until September) this one isn’t a thriller, but a gothic style psychological suspense.
Ready, steady, go!
Wine of the Week: Daniel Gehrs Cabernet Sauvignon Deep, dark and luscious, with a really long smooth finish. Excellent.