Monday, November 13, 2006

March on, citizen soldiers

This Publishers Weekly article is rather funny in reporting the rhetoric used recently by booksellers at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) meeting.
"We want publishers to view booksellers as part of their sales team," explained executive director Eileen Dengler. "We're telling publishers that the reason they're [at the show] is to take selected books and to tell booksellers how to sell them, why to sell them and every piece of information they need to know."

I like this idea, seeing booksellers as part of the team. I mean, it's not 100% realistic, as the booksellers are going to be discriminating and support some books over others - as they should. But it's nice to see the idea of all being on the same side. But then we get this, from new NAIBA board president Joe Drabyak:
"My basic tenet and the tenet of my presidency," said Drabyak, "is that booksellers like myself are the frontline of a publishers' sales force. There's a great book by Stephen Ambrose called Citizen Soldiers about the resourcefulness of frontline soldiers in getting the job done. That's what we are, 'Citizen Booksellers.' And all we're asking for is education."

Again, love to see publishers and booksellers on the same side... but this war rhetoric seems out of hand. I guess the end of this analogy is what worries me - us against the reader! We must win! You're either with us or against us! They hate our freedom! Oh wait...

I was in the great Harvard Bookstore this weekend, and as I always note, I was once again impressed with their set-up. These folks know how to display books better than anyone. But I was once again reminded of the problem many bookstores face: the employees themselves!

When running an independent bookstore, it seems important to me that the owner and/or manager balances the staff so that they are friendly to each other but not too in-group oriented. Employees should not be so casual, so that customers are interrupting their conversations about what happened this weekend to get help finding a book. As someone that has worked in bookstores, I really find this irritating. I'm not demanding too high a service here. If booksellers are stressing about the average American not walking into bookstores, then look at the environment your employees are creating in their interaction with each other and the customers.

Maybe I prefer to think of booksellers on on-the-ground operatives, but that's the same idea. Hell, let them be citizen soldiers, and let a tyranny of literacy reign supreme!

Who am I?....

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