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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Chapter Thirty-Four, in which One should be able to judge a Book by its Cover

Came the notification that a book for which I had been hunting--The Book-Hunter, by John Hill Burton--had become available from one of my fellow dealers. I followed the trail immediately and, lo, there in unmistakable text was a description of my quarry. The price was right for a Beggar and, despite the lack of an endpaper and possibly a title page, I claimed my prize.

The book arrived quickly and exceedingly well-packaged. When I opened the parcel, my first reaction was that I had been sent the wrong book. When I opened the cover, there was indeed no endpaper and no title page. What had been described as possibly the title page or an advertisement for The Book-Hunter was present, so I had received the book that was described. But the book was not as described, as any careful perusal would have revealed.

On the spine in gilt letters was printed The Queer, The Quaint, The Quizzical and below that the author's name: Stauffer [Frank]. This was the book I had received, whose title page was missing, and whose front matter contained a publisher's advertisement for another of its book's, The Book-Hunter, by John Hill Burton.

A quick check at OCLC confirmed the book's identity. And though this was not the book I had once wanted, it now was the book I wanted. Another check brought up no available copies of this edition, by this publisher, and only a handful from other publishers.

The best thing about this unexpected book is that it, too, is a book about books, among other tidbits, A Cabinet for the Curious. Apparently the Book Gods have smiled upon me, and delivered up to me bibliographic manna.

Now where is The Book-Hunter?

Chapter Thirty-Three, in which the Results of the weekend Sale are discussed

We did an average business for a Saturday last weekend. Unfortunately, we sold only about twelve science fiction. Now we are faced with all the science fiction we could force into the shop, and almost no better off than before in terms of space. Perhaps the sole benefit will be the culling of doubles, if they can be sold to another interested party. If there are any science fiction needs, feel free to send an email and we will see what we can do to fulfill them. As for now, the plans to do a Romance or Adventure sale next month, using the space freed from the Science Fiction sale, are pushed back. We have another category in mind, and the hope of better results.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Chapter Thirty-Two, in which Readers are urged to read a banned Book

Elect to Read a Banned Book

Throughout the country, most children are starting a new academic year. Teachers are sending out their lists of required readings, and parents are beginning to gather books. In some cases, classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mocking Bird, may not be included in curriculum or available in the school library due to challenges made by parents or administrators.

Since 1990, the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom has recorded more than 7,800 book challenges, including 458 in 2003. A challenge is a formal, written complaint requesting a book be removed from library shelves or school curriculum. OIF estimates that less than one-quarter of challenges are reported and recorded. Among the most challenged books are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Alice series; and J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Though some may see challenges as simply an expression of a point of view, they are actually an attempt to remove materials from public use, thereby restricting the access of others. Even if the motivation to ban or challenge a book is well intentioned, the outcome is detrimental. Censorship denies our freedom as individuals to choose and think for ourselves. For children, decisions about what books to read should be made by the people who should know them best—their parents.

In support of the right to choose books freely for ourselves, the ALA and Mad About Books in Oglesby, as well as thousands of other bookstores and libraries across the country, are sponsoring Banned Books Week (September 24 - October 2, 2005), an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. We should not take this right for granted: pick up and read a banned book. It’s YOUR freedom we’re talking about—celebrate it!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Chapter Thirty-One, in which Banned Books Week is publicized

For more information, contact:Jeff Hill

Banned Books Week Celebrates the Freedom to Read
Librarians, booksellers, publishers to mark event, Sept. 24–Oct. 1

25 September 2005 (Oglesby, Illinois) – Who decides what you will find freely available in your public and school libraries?

In the wake of proposed legislation and resolutions in several states this year to restrict or prohibit access to materials related to sexual orientation, the American Library Association (ALA) Council passed a resolution in June affirming the inclusion of materials that reflect the diversity of our society and encouraging libraries to acquire and make available materials representative of all people.

What ALA President Michael Gorman called “an extreme disservice” to readers is far more sinister—it is a gross infringement on the liberty of every American.

Many bookstores and libraries across the nation will join in the celebration of Banned Books Week with displays and readings of books that have been banned or threatened throughout history. These include works ranging from the Bible and Little Red Riding Hood to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Observed since 1982, Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take for granted this precious democratic freedom to read freely.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 547 challenges to books last year, up from 458 in 2003. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported. “Most Challenged” titles include the popular Harry Potter series of fantasy books for children by J.K. Rowling. The series drew complaints from parents and others who believe the books promote witchcraft to children.

Banned Books Week is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Association of College Stores. It is endorsed by the Library of Congress Center for the Book.

Mad About Books in Oglesby will mark this event by offering for sale many previously banned books and presenting related information. In addition, they will be donating 10% of all sales to the American Library Association.

To learn more and get involved, please go to www.ala.org/bbooks.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Chapter Thirty, in which The Beggar's personal Collection is surveyed

Following the thread of Golden Rule Jones and several others, I have taken a survey of authors in my personal collection to get a new perspective on who I read, what I collect, and an overall sense of my preferences. Like several others, my list appears skewed toward classics and men. Taking four books as the cutoff point, and including books about as well as by, there are 38 writers I own in multi-volume. The rest number in the thousands.

Christopher Morley—51
Max Brand—37
D.H. Lawrence—28
Thomas Hardy—19
Ray Bradbury—15
Gabriel Garcia Marquez—10
John Irving—10
Milan Kundera—10
Vladimir Nabokov—10
William Shakespeare—10
Will Durant—10
Kathryn Davis—9
Amy Bloom—8
James Fenimore Cooper—8
Salman Rushdie—7
Oscar Wilde—7
Jeanette Winterson—7
Italo Calvino—7
Johannes von Goethe—6
Fyodor Dostoyevsky—6
Alexandre Dumas—6
Scott Fitzgerald—6
Daniel J. Boorstin—6
Henri Stendhal—6
Emile Zola—5
Steve Erickson—5
Penelope Fitzgerald—5
Stephen R. Lawhead—5
Henrik Ibsen—5
James Burke—5
J-K Huysmans—5
John Barth—4
Graham Greene—4
Mary Stewart—4
Robert Louis Stevenson—4
Arturo Perez-Reverte—4
Arnold Bennett—4
Eugene Sue—4

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chapter Twenty-Nine, in which The Beggars sally forth alone

After polling some fellow booksellers, it seems as if we will be entering uncharted territory in the next month with billboard advertising. Newspaper advertising is logical in that it appeals to people who already read actively. However, not everyone receives the daily newspaper. We hope the billboard will reach some of those people, or perhaps even non-readers who either may be looking for a book for someone else, or who can pass along the message. And while a newspaper ad will run for a day, or a week, we will be getting, thanks to KA, our key connection, two boards that will be up for one month. The deal comes with professional design, and the result will be available for us to use elsewhere.

Along with this, we will begin a two-pronged advocacy/promotion/campaign. On all our publicity material and advertising and instore signing we will urge people to
Feed The Need To Read::Buy A Book A Week.

This is an enhancement of an old idea proposed by that great bookman A. Edward Newton in A Magnificent Farce. Whether it is eighty years too late, or its time has come, we like it and hope other booksellers will join in or adopt similar campaigns. The concept has worked for others (ie. eat five doughnuts a day, change your oil every three months or three thousand miles) so let's hope it has similar success among readers.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Chapter Twenty-Eight, in which a Study of Books is presented

The Convenience, Educational value, and Pleasure of Books

The 2005 Literary Guidelines for Americans recommend people read more books than any other printed matter. Healthy minds for most moderately active adults and teens should consume five pages of reading a day. The best way to instill in Americans the need to read is to encourage everyone to Buy a Book a Week.

Americans often cite convenience as a main barrier to reading books. Because of their convenience and value, libraries continue to be the most visited place for books. Unfortunately, many libraries are faced with restrictive budgets as well as space limitations, resulting in limited availability of updated material or the removal of old material to allow for newer. Bookstores more than fill this gap. A visit to your local bookseller once a week can be just as easy and quick as a stop at the library.

Both online and instore, booksellers have the ability to offer a far wider range of materials, and at prices that make ownership preferrable to borrowing. Industry insiders believe that the internet is playing an important role in making books more accessible at home as well as in schools. Ownership of books makes a house a home, and provides a lifetime of opportunity. Many avid readers think of books as friends, and having them on one's shelf where one can visit, consult, or reminisce with at any hour is, in the long run, more valuable and convenient than borrowing them for two weeks and then having to share them with others.

Sellers have widely adopted "Good Ethics Practices" through organizations such as the Independent Online Booksellers Association, which provide guidelines and criteria necessary to reinforce accepted and expected standards in the buying and selling of books. Booksellers are less retailers than doctors and mentors and confidantes. A good seller can help one build a useful and treasured collection, prescribe the right title to combat a case of greed or malaise, and even keep in the strictest confidence one's dislike of the latest chic-lit release.

There has been significant research to study educational values of books. Just like consumers at home, booksellers must store and handle the product properly to avoid spoilage. Sellers also know which varieties of books are best for certain situations or moods.

Educational Quality of Books Research Summary
There was no difference in educational quality between most western novels and epics and sagas. Pacatis et al, 1999. Lit. Nug. 15: 113-123.
Though romance was found to contain few facts, the overall effect of stimulating the mind and senses was similar to horror and comparable to science fiction. Aguivar C. et al, 2004. Book Chemistry 89: 69-76.
Attained the highest ratings of all categories, with no significant loss of educational value over time. Skgar I.T. et al, 1998. Hist. Sci. 64: 433-440.
Educational value can vary greatly depending upon the ability of the reader to translate and assimilate information. A steady diet of poetry may improve overall faculties for learning in spite of the belief of readers that they do not understand it. Chatapavasashoon S. 2000. M.S. Thesis University of Serendip.
Proven as well in sociological and cultural studies done at Mifflin University to be one of the key ways in which significant information about life and living is conveyed from one human to another, and unparalleled in breadth and depth of educational value. Dela Goure et al, 2004. BTL 64: 99-105.

News Reports on High Levels of Bacteria Found in Used Books
Books are living things; therefore they normally contain bacteria, but these bacteria are harmless to people. Dr. Barry Leuchat of the Center for Book Safety at Universitat Angstadt states: "High quality books will normally contain at least 10,000 harmless organisms per chapter and used books can range up to 10 million. That may sound alarming to people but it's the type of bacteria, not the numbers, that are of most concern."

It should be noted that bacteria and microbes are present on all living things, not just books, and some microbes can be beneficial for human health, like the bacteria found in many gardening books.

The Geometric Effect of Buying a Book a Week
Most books bought and sold in the United States are published in the United States. When one buys a book a week, one is not only enriching oneself, but also helping keep the economy strong. As knowledge is disseminated, craving for more begins to appear, and demand for more and better books spreads. The overall benefit of a nation of book readers and lovers to America as a society far outweighs any costs, as prosperity, wisdom, and a shared sense of purpose result.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chapter Twenty-Seven, in which the Silence of the Beggars is explained

Well, we have been busy making plans and arrangements. Preparing advertising in various forms, promotional material, and setting up for in-store sales takes time. We have also been doing a brisk business on the internet, which has helped to offset the slow sales in the store. Prospects are good though. We have been hearing about lots of word-of-mouth, which everyone claims to be the best advertising there is. We are stocking our shelves with better books in anticipation of the holiday season, and giving some care to other books that can stand a sprucing-up.

Our second advertising blitz will begin this week with mailings, newspaper ads, press releases, and the debut of our end-of-the-month, Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale. Details to follow.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Chapter Twenty-Five, in which the Month is reviewed

August proved to be an interesting month. Sales in the store continued to creep down, with a few days in the middle turning out nary a shopper or visitor. Since then traffic, at least, has picked up again. Internet sales, however, grew over last month as well as last year, despite a significant interruption in the performance at one major site. We entered another online market for the last ten days, and the month ended as our second best ever.

With all the sales online we still managed to increase our listings. More books continued to pour into the bookstore as well, with significant additions in Science Fiction. We also did a little rearrangement in order to feature a section for better, signed, foreign, rare, and coffee table books. We hope these will be good sales drivers with the approach of the holiday shopping season.

Though last year's growth was flat after August, we expect an improvement this year with a combination of more listings, better listings, and more sales channels. School shopping was nearly non-existent in the store, while healthy online. This is possibly the pattern the near future will take, with gas prices on the rise following Hurricane Katrina, and growing feelings on unrest and unease similar to those immediately following the WTC attacks. We foresee people once more hunkering down, after a fashion, staying closer to home, and appreciating the more basic amenities of life. And, unfortunately, a significant number of people no longer have an address at which to send a book, or read a book. At the same time, though the rest of the country may not hit the Bookstore Trail, internet sales may increase, as books regain some popularity as a form of entertainment and a tool to better understand the world.

As long as the Federal Reserve doesn't meddle too much, the market should take care of itself and the economy should not slip back toward the 1970s. Smart investors are taking much of their gains and moving into more stable environments. The one thing time has proven about collectible books: they hold their value through market fluctuations far better than nearly anything else.