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Archive for June, 2011

Paying for Author Events?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The New York Times recently discussed a new issue that’s arisen for independent bookstore owners all over the country and their customers: paid admissions. It’s something that no one seems entirely happy about, but it is a response to a growing problem. Here’s the background:

The independents, feeling sales pressure from online retailers like Amazon, have begun selling selling tickets or requiring a book purchase for customers who attend author readings and signings. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online,” says one Manhattan bookseller, echoing what we hear regularly in Atlanta. Too many people show up for events having already purchased their book online for less money, they argue.

It’s hard to blame customers who want to buy books as cheaply as they can, and online sellers lacking brick-and-mortar stores can do just that. But how is it fair to the store that brings in authors, promotes and devotes its time, energy and money to the event? The solution for a growing number of booksellers — including here in Atlanta — is charging admission for the event or requiring a book purchase.

At the Center for the Book, we do well over 100 author programs each year, and we have independent booksellers at each one. At some of those events, particularly with very popular, prolific authors, we have joined with the bookstore in asking that anyone who wants to get theirbook signed agree to purchase it at the event. That has seemed like a fair compromise to us because it doesn’t bar anyone from attending the author’s talk. That remains free to one and all. To get your books signed, however, you’ll need to buy one at the program. It’s worked pretty well so far; we’ve had very few complaints.

Those few who have complained say they shouldn’t be prohibited from getting books signed because they spent money to buy it, whether online or not, just not at a particular store. In the old business model, they would probably get a little more sympathy. As it is, we feel that having a bookseller at our events offers a significant service for our audiences, as it also represents a major investment of time and money for the bookseller. 

And buying a book at the event seems to us an appropriate reponse to not just the bookseller but to the visiting author as well. Remember, in the case of the Georgia Center for the Book, a portion of your purchase at our events goes to help us grow our mission of spreading literature and literacy around the state of Georgia. Surely that’s worth a bit, isn’t it?

We welcome your views, as always. This is an issue that isn’t likely going away anytime soon.

Celebrating our Independence

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Let’s have a really grand Second of July celebration this year. Let’s have a blowout party: fireworks, picnics, parades, flag-waving, everything we can think of to celebrate America’s independence from Great Britain in 1776.

Wait a minute, you’re saying. You’re confused. You mean the Fourth of July, right?

Nope, I mean the Second of July, the date we really ought to observe as our national holiday. The date John Adams declared, “will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated .. with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”

So what happened on July 2, 1776, and why are we now celebrating July 4th? Well, July 2 was the date Congress formally declared independence from Britain by a vote of 12-0. Adams called it the most fateful question to be decided “in the history of the world.” But, as historian John Ferling reminds us, Congress hadn’t quite completed its work on declaring that independence. The vote was done, but consideration of the draft to be published was still necessary. “Sometime on July 4 … Congress completed its editorial work,” Ferling writes in his engaging new book “Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free.” The Declaration was finally read in full and approved and ordered published and distributed. But hardly anyone at the time thought that meant July Fourth would become the national day of celebration.

Congress set July 8th as the day for the official celebration of independence, and festivities were held in Pennsylvania where the delegates had been meeting. But it actually took a month for the news of the Declaration to reach Savannah, where citizens there were among the last to know they were now free of all links to Britain.

Ferling’s book comes highly recommended. It’s informative and readable and contains a wealth of material about how we moved from 13 highly independent-minded states to a unified Declaration of Independence. Whether you choose to recognize July 4th or July 2nd, it is a moment still central to defining our lives as Americans, and a continuing reason for celebration.

 

 

Summer Reading Time

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Summer is finally here. OK, it’s not really — June 21 is the day — but post–Memorial Day means it’s alright to wear white, and besides it’s over 90-degrees outside. So let’s get started on those summer reading lists.

I’ve always used the summer months as a reason to catch up on the classics, or at least one of them. I finally slogged through “Ulysses” many, many summers ago — though I don’t care to repeat the experience, thank you — and a few years back I got through some of the worst of Faulkner during the dog days. “Anna Karenina” fell to my visual assault one long July, and I even struggled with some Proust before determining that heat, sand, cold beverages and horseflies were just too much of a distraction.

This summer, however, I’m going for more fun. No huge challenges. Henry James can wait. This summer I’ve targeted a pair of World War II books that seem appealing: James Hornfischer’s “Neptune’s Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadancanal” and Michael Burleigh’s somewhat controversial “Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II.” Both promise some rewarding, informed reading. I’m also planning on John Ferling’s latest history, “Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free,” just in time for the Fourth of July celebration. (By the way, Dr. Ferling will visit the Center for the Book on June 20th.)

What about you? Is your summer reading always a light feast, maybe a Pat Conroy or Cassandra King book? Maybe with all the hoopla about the 75th anniversary you’re going to re-read “Gone With the Wind?”  Or maybe it’s mysteries, or biographies or some literary fiction? Whatever, there’s certainly no lack of titles to consider. Lots of folks have come out with lists you can enjoy, and while they are too exhaustive to reprint here, I’ll include some of the most oft-mentioned book that others are interested in:

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

Bossypants – Tina Fey

Joe Dimaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports – Kostya Kennedy

Carte Blanche – Jeffrey Deaver

Dreams of Joy – Lisa See

The Passage – Justin Cronin

The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris – David McCullough

Smokin’ Seventeen – Janet Evanovich

A Dance of Dragons – George R.R. Martin

Prodigal Summer – Barbara Kingsolver

George Washington: A Life – Ron Chernow

The Alice Behind Wonderland – Simon Winchester

Feel free, of course, to add plenty of your own. I’d enjoy knowing what your summer reading plans include and invite you to drop a note to this blog and share your lists with others. thanks. and good reading!!