Here’s a link to share:
(one blogger was harmed in the making of this post following multiple exposures to Celine Dion without proper auditory precautions.)
Here’s a link to share:
(one blogger was harmed in the making of this post following multiple exposures to Celine Dion without proper auditory precautions.)
Do Not – *DO NOT* – spend any money with either of these turkeys. That’s not why I’m providing the links. There is no affiliate kickback, I’m not advocating either product, and I’m hesitant to directly link to either site because, you know, spam.
But what beautiful spam:
The damn thing is a syllabus for a course on psychology in advertising. I could almost do an hour lecture on each slide in the deck, not to mention the delivery.
But wait, there’s more! [sorry, couldn’t help myself.]
I was looking for a way to link/embed this caustic lump without actually benefiting the shill, so I right clicked on the vid; amazingly, the scammer site uses a plug-in video tool and clicking through led me to another 6 minute sales pitch:
These are both so polished, I have to ask: Who is writing these delicious scripts? Does the pitch writer have a website, where I can watch a six minute video on how their “expert team” can “distill your thoughts into a simple, but compelling presentation” “guaranteed to get you both the links, and the sales, you deserve”?
Once again, if you visit either site above (for education or edification) please DO NOT BUY OR SIGN UP FOR ANYTHING. But damn, what a work of art. Appreciate them ironically. Haul out your bingo cards and start clicking off boxes.
PLEASE do me a favor: DON'T pick out any gifts for your loved ones. Don't buy the book you know they'll love, DON'T get that one gadget you know they've been droping hints about for the last six months, DON'T even bother with gift cards.
You’re going to pick wrong.
I absolutely guarantee you’re going to pick wrong — just like you did last year, just like you’ve done for many, many years. Everyone has just been too polite to say anything.
And then I have to spend days of my life, after the holidays, doing nothing but processing returns. At least once an hour I’ll be asked, “Can’t I just get cash back?”
And sadly, the answer is no.
So let’s all agree: The Perfect Gift Is an Envelope Full of Cash.
I’d love to get cash. Anyone aged 14-28 would definitely prefer cash. Do a gut check: what do you want? Sure, that surprise gift, the exact right thing is great when it comes from the one person in your life (spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend) but for everyone else?
I say: If you’re not sleeping with them, they just get cash.
[If you are sleeping with them, this seems appropriate]
Imagine the time you’ll save. Imagine the lack of stress. If you think cash is too impersonal, put the cash envelope inside of a tin of home-made cookies. That would be fantastic because, c’mon, *cookies* (AND cash!) That would be a holiday gift I’d be talking about for decades. The folks in the retirement home will be sick of hearing about it.
[cash is even traditional in some cultures]
So do yourself a favor. Do your loved ones a favor. Most Importantly, take the pressure and the hassle away from the poor retail clerks who have to process all those damn returns for clothes and other crap gifts: Just give cash this holiday.
Thank you for you time and polite consideration. And I’ll be back in 2014 to repeat this message in RocketBomber’s next Holiday Gift Guide!
“Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, in touting Portland’s growth and development acumen, said Wednesday the region needs to continue to avoid the kind of sprawl that has plagued other American cities.
“Take Atlanta, for instance.
“‘Atlanta’s a mess,’ Hales said during Wednesday’s Portland Business Journal Power Breakfast. ‘Sorry, but Atlanta’s planned so poorly, it’ll take generations to change the shape of the place.’
“Hales was responding to a question about whether Portland’s penchant for transit-oriented development would translate to other places, including, hypothetically, Atlanta.”[/blockquote]
So, so true. And the city can’t really do anything in the infrastructure-improvement line until they finish fixing the century-plus-old sewer system — which they’ve been working on for decades.
Atlanta sucks. I know, I live here.
Atlanta differs from some other cities in that it experienced the greatest growth after widespread adoption of the automobile. The city mostly missed out on early (pre-1920) transit development — and the little we had was scrapped — the metro area was defined by the building of the interstates (I-75, I-85, and I-20) in the 1950s, then locked into its current configuration with the opening of the I-285 Perimeter loop in 1969. (While the I-285 Perimeter was meant as a bypass around Atlanta, it soon became a magnet for its own sprawl, spawning numerous edge cities, especially along the northern arc.)
Atlanta, like Houston, is a poster-child for sprawl, car-focused urban planning, and widespread general dumb-f*ckery when it comes to regional cooperation — about the only thing the smaller municipalities and neighboring counties can agree on is that no way in hell will Atlanta’s transit system, MARTA, be allowed to expand any further. And that is, dare I say, because of lingering racism and for no other reason. (Economic growth, reduced car traffic and pollution, and providing this essential service for their own constituents be damned.)
Needless to say, I have some strong opinions on this matter and the prevailing stupidity of local governments — there are more than 100 city and county governments; less than 1 person in 10 who lives in “Atlanta” actually lives within the city limits of Atlanta. The state government seems unwilling to provide leadership; the assorted regional commissions set up for transportation, planning, and “cooperation” are toothless.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales lives on the other side of the country, and even from 2500 miles away, our problems are obvious. Well, “obvious” unless you’re a local Atlanta-area politician.
Being an ‘object lesson’ for poor urban planning shouldn’t be a point of civic pride.
As I personally experience epic changes, the blog will of course reflect that.
For the past five years and more, I’ve been focused (more or less) on bookstores, and bookselling, and books.
I love books. Books are my personal friends. That will not change, and will not ever change.
My passion for books—and bookstores—will not change no matter what my employment.
My willingness to provide free advice to corporate booksellers: things they might be doing, or trying, or changing? Well, that ends today. No More Freebies. However, as I explore the expanded issues of urban renewal, repurposing old spaces for new uses, gentrification, building both walkable retail districts and walkable multi-use neighborhoods, making cities Work:
I think that’s a rich vein of blog topics for me to mine.
Even if I am no longer directly employed as a bookseller I don’t see much else changing here at RocketBomber.
[*sniff*] “so I got that goin’ for me, which is nice”
[What is it with me and the food analogies? I’m fairly certain I’m eating enough…]
When you go to college…
OK, so it’s more about when *I* went to college; I feel my experience is typical but may not be universal – but as in so many of my posts, I utilize the second-person while writing because I want to make it seem more immediate to my readers. Anyway, moving on:
When you go to college and for the first time are away from home and have to grub for yourself (no more parental guidance and/or mandates on that front), even when you have a (parentally supplied) meal plan via the college dining halls (hey, you’re a freshman, and Mom didn’t want you to starve) :
1st. You tend to go a little nuts with fast food.
2nd. You also explore the world of microwavable convenience foods.
3rd. You run out of money. You do the ramen thing.
4th. You finally give in and actually use your meal plan for a week.
5th. You figure out the worst, least healthful, most-fast-food-like options at the dining hall.
6th. You try cooking for yourself in the dorm kitchen. Once.
7th. You consider living on Mountain Dew and vending machine food.
and then finally someone clues you in on the cheap-fast-mostly-good pizza place (or multiple places) that will deliver right to your dorm.
Given your age at the time (late teens, still growing) and your finances: anything hot and covered with cheese is delicious* and the cheaper the better. College kids and pizza are kind of a stereotype, actually, and I’m sure while it’s not true of everyone: I know you recognize the type.
Maybe not pizza… But food delivery to dorms? I’m pretty sure that is universal. (in 1993 at Ga. Tech there was a pizza delivery place that also did chicken fingers — no, not wings — and would pair them with thick cut steak fries and a homemade honey mustard. For like $5! Those were amazing; I still miss those. The place that made them was bulldozed in 1995.)
Soon after you are able to make your own food decisions, you discover pizza delivery and it is literally the best thing ever — for a time — but then you grow up.
After a few semesters (or years) of fairly continuous pizza, punctuated only by late-night trips to greasy-spoon diners (if you were lucky; Krystal or Taco Bell if you weren’t) eventually you realize that this sort of diet is non-sustainable. That or you turn 30. Or you get married, and your wife has other ideas about what you should be feeding your kids.
Your tastes change, you discover a wider world of options, you find new cuisines and new restaurants, you discover the joys of sharing food with friends, you discover a conscience and think about where your food is coming from.
Even if you don’t become a full-on foodie, I think most of us would agree that supporting our great, local, small restaurants is better than shopping at nationwide franchises and chains. When we can find a great, local, small pizza place – that delivers! – then our conscience is salved and we can fall back on the old bad habits anyway. (In *my* neighborhood, I found one with a bar – best/worst thing ever!)
I think the main point I’d like to make, though, is that when we are young and everything is kind of new to us, we can go overboard on something that is tasty and convenient.
And after we grow a bit, while we’ll still do the easy thing that we know is bad for us — we just do it less. We order pizza every other week, or once a month, rather than 3 nights a week and every Saturday night.
Internet retail (yes, which 20 years old already) is still in that young-college-age phase where we do what seems easiest even when we know (or eventually learn) that it’s kinda bad for us and unsustainable in the long run.
“W00T! Amazon! I ♥ those guys! Anything I want, delivered fast, cheap, and I mean anything I want! W00T!”
As someone who worked as an RA in college: this is exactly how freshman reacted when they discovered the local pizzerias that delivered.
The market will continue to mature. Options that seem vague and mostly useless now will grow on you in time, and you’ll find yourself exploring more, trying more things. Options that seem stupid now, while your are still enjoying Amazon/CollegeDormPizzaDelivery, will slowly make more and more sense to you later as you consider the other costs (outside of just dollars) built into the ticket.
I know guys well into their 30s who never really grew out of that. (even after marriage, kids, etc. – it can take a diagnosis & prescription for cholesterol and high-blood-pressure meds to scare them out of it).
I guess what I’m saying is Amazon is fine, in moderation. But look around, be adventurous, explore, graze, and maybe incorporate some local options in your overall consumption diet.
* anything hot and covered with cheese is still delicious. I’m one of those guys in their 30s who never really grew out of that phase. I cook at home quite a bit *more* these days, though.
I do love me a good metaphor. This one is truer than most:
books = food
Bookstores = farmer’s markets
film, tv = processed foods, that require a steady stream of books to keep the factories churning
ebooks = hot pockets.
note from MB: this extended aside was written as part of a longer post on the Business of Bookselling – the idea was compelling (to me) but not a good fit for the larger argument I was trying to make. Not one to be wasteful, I decided to pull it out for its own post. There isn’t an argument here (at least not a complete argument) (or a firm conclusion), but I feel the analogy might give some folks a new perspective on just how tough it is to sell books these days.
The Pie’s the Thing.
Let’s say I save my nickles and pennies and decide to open up a restaurant. I notice folks like pizza, so I decide to make it a pizza restaurant.
To keep things easy (on me and my staff) even before I open, I also decide it’s going to be a pizza buffet – one of those all-you-can-eat types — we pick the top 20 favorite pizza-topping-combinations, we arrange to have at least 10 of those 20 coming out hot and ready to eat multiple times throughout the lunch and dinner service, on a easily-browsed buffet line where you can see what we have and grab it. Cashier is to your left.
We’ll cycle through recipes to keep things interesting, so the next time you come in, you might not see an old favorite, but it’ll be back soon. With the recipes, a small staff, and a plan: we’re good to go. We advertise the pizza buffet, we open for business…
And our customers aren’t having any of it.
Instead of grabbing a plate and taking pizza off the buffet service line, everyone who comes in just grabs a table and waits. They demand someone comes to the table to take their order, even though (from the sign outside, to the service line inside, right down to how the tables are arranged and the whole restaurant is set up) it should be obvious this is a take-what-you-want buffet-style dinner service.
“You sell pizza here, don’t you? As soon as you send a waitress to my table, I’ll order.”
“What kind of restaurant are you running here? No one has been by to take my order and it’s been 5 minutes!”
…but sir, this is a buffet, you can just help yourself…
“NONSENSE. If you sell pizza, you have to be a full-service restaurant. That’s obvious. That’s the only way to sell pizza. Are you sure you know what you’re doing? … I’m Still Waiting…”
This is the Booksellers Conundrum — we do everything we can, to make the books easy to find, and all day long the customers ignore signs, refuse to walk more than 20 feet, and generally flop around the main aisle,
“Oh your store is *So Big*! How does one find anything?”
On top of that, no one can run a bookstore unless we also provide the equivalent of a research librarian with a graduate degree. “I need a book comparing the economic impacts of solar and other ‘green’ alternative energy sources vs the so-called cost savings we enjoy because fossil fuels are an established industry where historic investments and other sunk costs have already been repaid.”
come again? Of course that wasn’t a real question: the customer asked “Where are the books on solar energy?” — I didn’t get to what the customer *really* needed (the chunka-text above) until we’d been looking through the bookstore for a good 15 minutes. Pro-tip: if you’re writing a graduate paper on it, there likely isn’t a book about that specific topic yet.
“Yeah, I don’t have a title or author, but I need anything you might have on the import-export business, logistics, and agile business management.” “Yeah, I just heard an interview on the radio but I didn’t catch the author’s name but the book sounded really interesting, do you have it?” “This is great, but do you have any books on organic ostrich farming?”
[bored]hi my name is matt i am your waiter how can i serve you today.[/bored]
“Great! So it turns out everyone at the table wants something different but we’re not sure exactly what; say, instead of this menu can we see the pizzas? and you do sell by the slice, right?”
So. um. We’ve set up a beautiful buffet, and instead of looking at it [browsing the bookshelves] you want someone to tell you what’s on there, then bring the options to you so you can then critique our selections and tell us how bad we are at our jobs?
Oh, I’m not done with the pizza metaphor yet. Two weeks into running our buffet/sudden-full-service-pizzaria, the phone starts ringing.
“Hello, yes, I need 2 lbs. of buffalo mozzarella”
“yes 2 lbs. of buffalo mozzarella, can I pick it up this afternoon?”
“Surely this can’t be the first time you’ve been asked; you do sell pizza, right? I just need 2 lbs of buffalo mozzarella and I’d like to pick it up today.”
We do sell pizza, but, um, you want us to just sell you the ingredients?
“YES. Man you’re slow.”
But sir, we’re not really set up for…
“AHEM. So. You sell Pizza, yes?”
“And you use mozzarella, yes?”
“And so you have mozzarella for sale, yes? …yes?”
…um, when you put it that way…
“So I’ll be by in 2 hours – ah no wait, I’ll be busy – I’ll send someone by in 2 hours, just have my cheese ready for them to pick up.”
What? Ah, sir we sell pizzas…
“Well you certainly won’t be selling them very long if this is your attitude toward customer service. Hmf!”
The bookstore is set up for discovery. You come in, you browse, you read the jacket copy, maybe a chapter or two, and eventually: you buy. The bookstore is an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Our customers no longer treat us as such. Customers come in, cruise right up to the information desk, and they demand books (and get pissy when we’re sold out of, say, The Cuckoo’s Calling) or they get on the phone and treat us like a pizza place: “I need 12 copies of Maxwell’s Failing Forward and Bob the unpaid intern will be there by 2pm to pick them up. Oh, even better: can I give you my credit card over the phone? You don’t deliver, by the way, do you?”
Oddly enough: we weren’t set up for that.
Before you say, “Well that’s your job, isn’t it?” — How many retailers have 4 separate phone lines to handle the daily customer call volume? And please tell me which other retailers have an information desk? No, not a customer service desk, but an honest-to-god information desk where a part-timer making minimum wage is expected to routinely make recommendations based on their personal comprehensive knowledge of Literature, History, Philosophy, Religion, Sociology, Psychology, Technology, Foreign Languages, Pop Culture, what the kids are reading, what Oprah is reading — oh, and of course, at least some familiarity with the sentimental poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine.
The question at a retailer is, “which aisle has Peanut Butter?”
I don’t know what bookselling is anymore, but it ain’t retail. Retail is the income producing activity that funds the rest, but our job is not retail.
We will try to accommodate you as much as we can, but you’re treating an all-you-can-eat, $4.99 pizza lunch buffet like a personal caterer and specialty grocery store. Instead of enjoying the local neighborhood bookstore for what it is, and relishing that, *reveling* in it: everyone wants their local bookstore to also be the internet.
Yes, your local bookstore can and does do special orders. Why is this the obligation of bookstores, though? Say you heard of a trendy lipstick, one not carried locally — do you demand your local CVS special order it for you, have a clerk call you when it gets in, hold it for 2 weeks so you have plenty of time to pick it up — and not charge you anything if you change your mind, or forget and never pick it up, or find it cheaper online somewhere so there’s no need to buy it?
[back to food analogies]
Sizzle vs. Steak
One can order certain cuts of beef online, frozen, [I hate to advertise for a specific company; a search will pull up multiple vendors, or at least the one very large vendor] and for as little as $4 a meal, you can get steaks and burgers delivered to your home (packed in dry ice) ready for skillet or grill. Going to a warehouse-style store (CostCo or similar) you can likely get the same cuts at a discount, as little as $2 a pound, if you are willing to do a little work yourself in re-portioning and re-packaging and freezing.
Even at the local supermarket, by watching sales, I can manage $6-a-steak for a large hunk-of-entree (boneless rib-eyes are a personal fav) that can be cooked at home with minimal fuss.
And of course: That same hunk of meat will cost you $16 minimum, and maybe $20 or $25 at a fine dining establishment.
Same cow. Same meat. Same cut. $25. “But it costs me $6 at the grocery store! and hell, I bet I could go on the internet and mail-order that same steak for $2!”
One could argue that at the steak house, you’re paying for the sizzle, not the steak. The presentation, the expert preparation, the ideal sides, the experience. One certainly can order a steak online, sitting at home, and with some work, yes, indeed, it’s the same steak. But that $25 buys you more, a lot more (subjectively), when you get the same steak at a steak house.
What does this have to do with books?
[besides an obvious parallel price point, he asked, knowingly]
When you buy a hardcover book, in its first week of release, even discounted [as they inevitably are these days] you’re still paying $20 for what-is-eventually-going-to-be-a-$7-book for what, exactly?
Well, obviously, it’s a physical book and you get to read it. As a physical book, others see you reading it. You can lend it out when you’re done, or leave it on the coffee table so your guests can see what you’re reading. When you put it on your shelf at home, visitors to your home can see that you didn’t wait for the paperback: you like this author enough to buy it in hardcover.
You spent $20 for the sizzle, not the steak.
In an age where the ebook releases simultaneously with the hardcover and immediately undercuts it on price (whether we’re talking $16 or $14 or $9.99) — the portion of the market that buys New-York-Times-Bestselling-Author hardcovers on the day of release is still the same. By analogy: the market for $25 steaks is not the same as the market for raw meat. There will always be a opening in whatever market for the “sizzle”.
And all other things being equal, why would someone buy a book at a bookstore when there is an e-book version available for less? That’s a philosophical question.
Why would someone buy a CD for $12.99 when the same music is available from iTunes for $8.99? Do they not use iTunes? Do they not like iTunes? Do they just want a physical copy that they own without the digital nonsense?
Maybe they like the flexibility of a book, not tied to a device. Maybe they’re my grandma, and they don’t have the requisite device.
Maybe they come to the bookstore because we stock books — a great big beautiful book buffet — and the fact that such a place exists in their neighborhood is reason enough to go there, and shop there, and yes, buy the so-called “overpriced” version.
There are a whole lot of folks (up to and including all of Wall Street) willing to conflate mail-order with retail – to the detriment of both. Analysts and journalists who aren’t really readers themselves (I can tell) are more than willing to dump all over book retail, present their own opinions as market realities, and declare the bookstore dead before they themselves even bother to walk into one.
A Wake for Google Reader
alt. title: In the wake of Google Reader
I’m still working on the next huge draft — a post on bookselling, oddly enough (yeah, yeah, I know) — but given that today is July 2nd and we are all waking to a Google-Reader-Free world, I thought I’d take a moment to celebrate that, or commiserate, or whatever.
So. Now what.
Simple, for most: http://www.purplegene.com/reader
…ok, so I’m pulling your leg. Yes, most of us are on Feedly and the transition is relatively painless. (Though go check out Purple Gene – it’s rough and tumble, but it might rub you in the right ways.)
For me, the past few months have been an opportunity to examine and re-examine my whole data diet: what I read, how I read it, why I read certain things, and why some people/sites/corporations insist on making it way more difficult than it should be. After all of that, and after months of navel gazing (here, read a ‘progress’ post from three months ago) I actually ended up unfollowing about 100 people on twitter, removed about a third of my RSS feeds, pushed another third into a new folder named “skippable” (guess why) and then conscientiously built a new data diet, adding a bunch of new feeds and sources until I’m back up to ~150 RSS Feeds in my ‘daily’.
[see also, re: information diet – http://www.informationdiet.com/ and the Clay Johnson book, isbn 9781449304683]
Some take-away thoughts:
…and now I promise to shut up about this particular topic on twitter. Promise.
…Oh, after I tweet this post. And maybe 1 RT in the morning. ;)