Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday (In Which I’ve Buried the Lede)

Tracks go under the railroad bridge, by By DDOTDC
Tracks go under the railroad bridge, by By DDOTDC, via Flickr

Over many years (10 as of next February!) and many iterations, this blog has typically been reflective of my most passionate interests of the moment, and after an emotionally exhausting year of following the Presidential election back in 2008, I shifted gears to focus on publishing and marketing and have been on that track ever since. It’s been a particularly rewarding track that arguably led to my last two jobs (“platforms” are for more than selling books, you know), the latest of which has often found me too swamped to blog with the depth and frequency I tend to prefer.

Here, at least.

While Google+ hasn’t been the personal Facebook or Twitter killer I’d hoped it would be (yet), it has become my primary blogging platform of late, where I don’t feel as limited on topics nor as compelled to deliver in-depth posts. Unfortunately, Google still hasn’t seen fit to offer a native RSS feed, so it feels a little isolated, but I recently found a way to hack one together, and you can subscribe to it here if you’re so inclined.

Recent posts of note that I’d recommend:


Part of the reason I’ve not been blogging here as much is that I’m tired of talking about the publishing industry. It’s the same feeling that led to my departure from Digital Book World last year, a desire for more doing and less talking, especially as the topics and major players have barely changed (Gamechangers? There is no spoon.), and the tone of the debate is as short-sighted and dominated by those with little skin in the game as it ever was. I’m particularly bored with the reflexive “Evil Amazon” meme that runs through almost every tweet, blog post, and ill-informed bit of media coverage, as if some people seemingly really believe that fearing Amazon is an effective business strategy.

One of the more disappointing developments of late is the well-intentioned but seemingly misguided “Why Indies Matter” PR initiative that plans to feature and promote “unscripted and impromptu testimonials about independent bookstores from authors, customers, and indie supporters around the country,” and post them online in hopes that… um, they go viral and people suddenly feel guilty about shopping at Amazon?

Compare this:

The crucial role of indie bookstores to their communities, to publishers, and to the book world as a whole is front and center, however the campaign also allows leaders in community Local First movements to spread the “Why Indies Matter” message beyond the book world.

To this:

“Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.”

That “Local First” angle is what disturbs me the most, latching on to a legitimate movement whose most compelling hook focuses on locally sourced goods and sustainability, to support booksellers whose primary focus is usually selling the products of multi-national corporations who treat them like second-class citizens. The bookstores that are true pillars of their communities don’t need hollow slogans and dreams of going viral on YouTube, because they prove on a daily basis why they matter to their communities to the people in their communities.

It’s the old fashioned “show, don’t tell” approach, and it still works.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon is systematically disarming one of the more legitimate complaints against them, as they’ve recently come to terms with CaliforniaArizonaTexas, and now New Jersey on the sales tax issue, and they’ve turned each deal into a (politically speaking) win-win scenario:

It’s one more example (California was another) where Amazon essentially blinked in its standoff with a state that wanted it to begin collecting sales tax. Yet Amazon still wins, because it builds the new distribution centers it needs to expand its operations. Bezos has perfected the art of architecting the win-win situation.

Amazon isn’t indie booksellers’ main enemy, and much like the publishers who blindly lash out at them, the collateral damage is their relationship with potential customers who happily and strategically spread their purchases around and don’t think Amazon is evil.

But I digress…

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/tanehisi/status/208325304245157888″]


Next week is Book Expo America, right before which Team Library hosts two of our own events (LJ and SLJ‘s respective Day of Dialog gatherings), and then two weeks later, it’s time for the ALA Annual Conference. In the midst of all that, we’ll be launching two major new projects, one (Book Verdict) a complete overhaul of the review database we’ve had in closed Beta for the past 6+ months, and the other a backend platform that will ultimately integrate and manage all of our subscriber data, ecommerce, and digital product fulfillment. We’ll also be opening registration for our big annual virtual event on ebooks and libraries, with a more expansive program that looks at what’s beyond the horizon of the digital shift that’s making a mess of the industry I’ve worked in for almost 20 years now.

(Also, a quick shout-out to The Horn Book, the little sister of Team Library, who’s been kicking ass online ever since their relaunch last Fall. Librarian or not, if you’re a fan of children’s literature, check them out.)

Beyond the day job, my criminally neglected ebook, Handmade Memories, will be getting a little attention as I’ll be participating in the Bordentown Library Summer Reading Program: “Artists & Authors” series on July 5th, wherein I’ll read a few poems, talk shop, and answer questions. If I can find the time, I’m hoping to put together an old school chapbook, too, for attendees. If you’re in the area, mark your calendar and come say hi!

And finally, on a more personal note, I participated in my first Tough Mudder event this past April, and it was awesome! I’m planning to do it again this October, and before that, I’m doing a Warrior Dash event in July. If you’re into that sort of thing, let me know, especially if you’ll be participating in either event.


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