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18 November 2006

After Foreigners Take Four Top Book Awards


Is French Literature Burning? - New York Times: Jonathan Littell, an American writer whose novel “The Kindly Ones” won two major French literary prizes." (See photo at linked target page.)

Published: November 18, 2006
PARIS, Nov. 17

— French authors can hardly be faulted for not being productive: over the past two months, they have published no fewer than 475 new novels. Yet despite all this creative energy, probably the most striking feature of this fall’s literary season is that of six coveted book prizes, four went to novels written in French by non-French authors.

The New York-born writer Jonathan Littell took both the Goncourt and the Académie Française prizes for “Les Bienveillantes,” or “The Kindly Ones,” which has already sold some 280,000 copies. The Femina prize went to “Lignes de Fille,” or “Fault Lines,” by the Canadian-born novelist Nancy Huston, while “Mémoires du Porc-épic,” or “Memoirs of a Porcupine,” won the Renaudot prize for the French-Congolese author Alain Mabanckou.

French readers, critics and literary-prize jurors are now paying special heed to these so-called Francophone foreign writers. And one conclusion is that outside voices — and there are many more than this year’s prize-winners — are offering something absent in homegrown French fiction.

“It is not a coincidence,” said Mr. Semprun, a Spanish-born Francophone novelist who is also a member of the Goncourt jury. “These writers are more open to the world, more universal, less navel-gazing than some French writers.”

Britain: Lefty Book Places in the North-West


Tuesday, September 19, 2006 :: by Ben G

As smaller UK book shops in general are dying out, one of the saddest casualties is the general demise of the Radical Book Store (Bookmarks in London being just one example.) I fondly remember one such store in Manchester, Frontline Books in Rusholme, a great shop which shut down back in 2000. One key reason being it was full of skint and/or tight arsed wasters like me hanging round, gazing admiringly, and buying nothing but the odd post-card. "

Note that the British Spike Magazine's "splinters" blog pages have a zinelike presentation in their text, sort of trying to be with-it, hipster literati, but splinters staff of bloggers makes no bones about all the advertising-in-your-face. They pay their writers through sponsors and ad presentations.

To my mind, as long as they do not sneak around the issue while trying to be subtle about it, I feel comfortable. I believe the spin (almost) that these enlightened one are trying to furnish us with a subtext. Spike Magazine isn't bland, which is good to see in the Brits, their food certainly is bland. Maby all the flash can be subversive.

Or maybe that's complete hog wash.

Well, Spike content first floats the bloated and then shoots it (them?) out of the water. Browsing over for the presentation Spike serves up is entertainment for adult readers -- perhaps only the jaded lefty counter-culture types . . . Dunno. Go ask an adolescent after the experience -- they can smell Mum and Pop trying to be 'hip' a mile away.


White Smock: Not for Very Long, Handling Books Here


Back to Chat about My Used Bookstore Semi-Employment

I'm going out shopping for a white smock (a lab coat probably) to wear at work. Pure white on the outside to cover my darker soul on the inside.

That's just a tad melodramatic there, I'm not feeling down, I feel okay. It will just be an experiment. I want to see and show others outwardly how this is neglect is no way to treat books--especially not Cheap Priceless Editions!

Unclean conditions at this neighbourhood bookworks are making dirty what could be cleaner and neater. It would take only slight but steady effort. (Okay again, I'm back into my utopian dream world, it ain't gunna cum ta pass anytime soon.)

The idea of dressing in white popped in my head when I put on this sweater while heading out the door in a rush. I realised for the first time that this particular sweater is a top-of-the-line fashion in terms of price (I mean original price. I paid a pittance for it in a friperie).

Why ruin the Abercrombie & Fitch sweater in a workplace where no one has ever mopped, dusted or scrubbed one jot on a single surface for 8 years and where books regularly wallow on the floor?

Maybe I'll wear white gloves at work as well.

CPE Not Sharing Everything


Mea Culpa mia: To my mind, a good blog style is to share the daily mind meanders with anyone who hits the page on a browser. When I started this blog, I felt out of sorts.

I was phlegmatic about a bookstore (and the owner) because of frustrations working there part-time (I'm still going through a few). It was therapy for me. But it was also a process of letting go of my frustration by rethinking them as I re-read them in prose (I do go back and read what I write, not only to edit it).

But this struck me: narrating these disputes and dialogues by hanging out someone else's dirty laundry in public was like serving as the judge and jury for a person with both her own personal and public life.

So I went back and censored my posts, deleted several of them. Of course, everything is and was anonymous regarding which bookstore, who the owner is, even who I am. But as I blog on about other topics or other issues related to my daily life vis a vis books, in the back of this blog and in my conscience there is the thought that anyone on an Internet connection could land on a page full of accrimony and innuendo about a friend.

I'm not ready or able to tie up her loose ends and my own. Certainly not on a blog, though maybe in a short story, so I am going to censor myself about my daily frustrations at the bookstore.

A related issue: I will post photos from a community group I am involved in and share my blog address with members so they can see them via the Internet. So I can be personal on the blog without being confessional or using this 'space' to hammer on individuals who still frustrate me to no end.

I will not pretend that I have achieved serenity and a higher state of consciousness. But I have let go in the sense that I am giving my bookstore friends more space to carry on along the paths they have chosen without pretending that my prejudices should be of any great account. In my daily world of hands-on work in community groups or in local commerce and culture, I will try to share positive things. For the negative interactions and frustrations, in the future at Cheap Priceless Editions, I may just make up some totally fictional realm where I let loose without any intention to aim my darts.

As I turn over a new leaf, I would like to believe that readers do not try to read between the lines by trying to figure out who any barb of criticism I launch, in specific terms, is meant to pierce. I wish such harm on no one. Lord knows I could be the target of personal critiques on the order of "Boy does this Blogaulaire guy need to get his own house in order"!!

Buyers and Booksellers Unite in Revulsion against OJ's Book


Dept: Kettle Calls Pot Black: "Press Release from the King of B 'n' B"

In the post above, I will give a few of my own mea culpas for not sharing "everything" with you friendly bloggers and net surfers. I urge to make its own admission: ABE is spinning a "Press Release"story (plus an advertising blurb appended) to drive mainstream new-book buzz. ABE is thus promoting a new title or simply getting into the new book biz.

My prediction is that we will see much, much more of this as ABE in Europe moves more solidly into the new release market for paperbacks. The German website for ABE has moved into the 'New Book Title' market entirely, so what is to keep them from testing this territory in the North and South American continents?

"There's no bad news in Rock 'N' Roll" is what its all about. Diss a new book enough and everybody wants to read it. Draw in people from every walk of life, occupation and circle of influence -- whether you make them promises of pleasures that await them through PURCHASE of a new release or piss them off royally about some new cultural product's Burden of Sin -- either way the buzz that follows is expected to drive up sales of whatever PRODUCT.

(I only hope that negative buzz works for the book place where I work, viz: a messy, crammed-to-the-ceiling fire-trap of oddiments and bizaareries in books. Will our well deserved reputation serve as advertising to drive the curious in and buy more used books? What more can we do to drive the buzz to new heights in the community, put out a press release in three or four languages?)
Credit where credit is due department: Abe did a good job of polling people about the Simpson book. Here are some blurbs, some snapshots in quotes, from people polled:

“I would not spend one cent to put money in OJ’s pocket.”

“What a mockery of humanity. I hope no one buys this book.”
“All profits should be confiscated and given to the families (of Brown & Goldman).”

“OJ Simpson brings America to a new low with his utter lack of decency.”

“He (OJ) is a disgrace to the human race.”

“The idea of Simpson gloating and making a profit from a double murder is obscene.”

“He and his publisher have no sense of decency.”

A final query: in the title of the press release the formula "booksellers & buyers" rings true to the Advanced Book Exchange's target audience of users, or does it? It has a crass, no nonsense directness to it. Just two works conjoined: buy and sell, without either the word read or write places this press release smack in the middle of the "marketplace" of books. The prince of mass online vendor sites for books has gone out into the kingdom incognito to hear what his people are saying and comes back with a report on the state of the nation. It gives me a sense, only an impression mind you, that we live in a constitutional monarchy when it comes to life in the realm of bookishdom.



Dept: BookBlather: "OJ and Regan stink
In the last 24 hours, AbeBooks has conducted two polls of its sellers and buyers and found that that people are uniformly pissed about scumbags OJ and Regan's book and TV deal"

- Blogaulaire: the only reason I posted this was for the url to the current issue of bookninja. On the last bookish post from them above, the article was archived so deeply the reader could not find their way home - to November 17, 2006.

Why bnja headlines anything about a Simpson book is beyond me . . .

Bookninja - In The Magazine


Dept: HardVersuSoft Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer is the author of the newly released novel The Nettle Spinner and the widely hailed shory story collection Way Up. She is also now an editor here at

“bookninja” got down 'n' dirty about hard versus softcover books.

bookninja's Kuitenbrouwer 'did' the essay on paperback versus hardcover a year-and-a-half ago. The joy of finding her take on the topic online today makes up for missing this message that April day in 2005.
-- Blogolaire (of Cheap Priceless Editions)

Hardcover Logo: Confessions of a TPO
by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer

Your new book is coming out. You're excited and pleased with the work you've put in. Do you want it to appear in hardcover or trade paper original?

I propose that a brand new hardcover purchase has a seriousness to it. That its high price and strong architecture signal an earnestness, a solid worth, an implicit value that the consumer absolutely cannot do without, right now, and also that the book's author is necessarily substantial.

Globe & Mail Books Editor Martin Levin: the perception is that any author worth his/her salt will be published in hardback.
Westwood Creative Artists Literary Agent Hilary McMahon wonders: if there's a subconscious reinforcement that a book is less weighty, less of a 'big book' by the very fact that it's being published in paperback.

Insomniac Editor, Poet and Bookseller Paul Vermeersh: If we go on the assumption that it is primarily larger publishing houses that routinely publish HCs, and that these publishers have more money to spend on advertising than smaller publishers who routinely publish TPOs, then does it not make sense, albeit somewhat cynical, that the publishers of newspapers who routinely review books would be induced to give more coverage to front list HCs in the hopes of inducing the publishers of said books to spend their advertising dollars on ad space in said newspapers? Just asking, but as the old saying goes, money talks and….

. . .

I couldn't afford to feed my book habit at new stores so I was on the 'righteous' budget. At the antiquarian and used stores, I could get my whole course curriculum for under fifty bucks and still have a little left over for that leather softbound Kipling because it included "Beyond the Pale" which I knew was the absolute key to understanding Eliot's "Prufrock" – or was that "The Wasteland"? Oh, and the Italian/English quarter bound bit of early erotica/smut by Cornazano entitled Proverbs in Jest (published, 1888). You see, I was buying in fits of passion, with the incredulity of epiphany – that joy received through finding uncanny connections in the universe. What little I knew was coming together in unforeseen ways and I found this exciting. I found a Marie Stopes on early birth control. Hey, I had read about her in Germaine Greer! Hey, she was a pioneer of eugenics! The book was like a hot coal in my hand as I considered how many women had been sterilized on account of her theories. Creepy. I must own it. I found a first edition Everybody's Autobiography by Gertrude Stein. I found Venus On the Half Shell by Kilgore Trout. I found everything I could by Richard Brautigan. Did it matter what was hardcover and what was paperback? Absolutely not. The used-book stores that I browsed and in which I eventually worked, aided and abetted my book consumption. Far from undermining sales, these stores are an important link in the literary food chain. They circulate out-of-print books and service those who may in the future be able to afford 'new' books. How do the used booksellers feel about the hard/soft dichotomy?

17 November 2006

THIS is Rare?


Yesterday I bought an As New copy of Windows XP pour les nuls by Andy Rathbone (translated by ??) in the large paper format of IDG Books Worldwide, 2001 ed.

Look it up at Amazon in Canada or on AddAll (the dog-pile search engine for books). It is CAD $30. The only used copy I find is in Europe listed at a little less.

Email me if you are looking for the title here in Montreal. I thought the book was as common as the cold after all this November rain in Quebec.



MetaxuCafe: "Litblog HighlightsLitblog Highlights"

Cheap Priceless Editions will be browsing over to the MetaxuCafe web- and blogsites in coming weeks simply because they run a frontpage column with quotes under the rubrique "Litblog Highlights". This gives readers the flavours of content on blogs too numerous to visit one-by-one.



At BookSite, a Delaware book vendor's web page, I noticed this notice:

Please note that publishers frequently change book prices without prior notice. We do our best to provide you with the most current pricing. If there is a change in price, we will notify you prior to shipping.

Changing the price on a book without notice?

Many used bookdealers would like to get into that one. On several of their blogs, though, the used bookdealers are such a scrupulous, clean-dealing community of spirits, that they claim that changing a shipping fee for an order halfway around the globe is 'unprofessional'.

By the way and unrelated: BookStore offers a total package for a virtual (Internet hosted) bookstore. They call it their BookSite Core Service. Based on the descriptive list of what goes onto their subscribers' custom BookSite (cost: $200 per month), when you pay in and host this 'module' under a unique domain name, you look like you are in the same league as Powell's.

Newbie that I am to the world of selling books (as opposed to editing and production), I must be missing something.

This reminds me of an offer I once saw pitched to barkeeps: order an Irish Pub shipped in a kit for that 'authentic look'. Another ubiquitous oxymoron.

BookSite: "BookSite Core Services"

($500 set-up fee; $200/mo. operating fee)
Easy to Edit Web Page Templates
Virtual Hosting
3 million book database w/cover graphics and descriptions
Events Page
10 Feature Lists
Maintenance-Free Bestseller Module
6 Single Title Book Spotlights
Online Gift Certificate/Card ApplicationSpecial Request Module
Fast, Reliable Search Engine
ClubList E-Mail Newsletter Service
Custom Links
Add Graphics Module
Add Annotation Module
Store Review Module
Shopping Cart with E-mail Order Notification

16 November 2006

Ex Libris (blog) $28 for 135 Books


The Haul (An Overview)

This post and one above are a detailed account of what one bookdealer brought back from a Planned Parenthood booksale in Ohio yesterday.

Details. Give me details. Now how do you put the books in the hands of hungry readers?

I guess you could start by publishing a list of them on your own blog.

Cheap me, though, would pull out a calculator and divide $28 by 135, add a 20% mark-up, and try for 4 books for under a dollar.

Ex Libris: The Haul (An Overview): "135 Books"


Thank you, blogger on literature at THE READING EXPERIENCE (Merely Literary)
track back permalink

At the bottom of this post, I end it with a poem of my own. The review quoted is of an edited collection of Robert Frost's letters. This shows the Financial Times continues to offer solid lit-crit.

The Notebooks of Robert Frost
edited by Robert Faggen
The Belknap Press 25.95 pounds, 848 pages
FT bookshop price: 20.76 pds

The review of R. Faggen's editing of the collection was titled and credited:

Poetic justice

By Mark Ford

Published: November 3 2006 13:20

Difficult poetry of the kind championed by Eliot “butters no parsnips”, as Frost observed to a friend . . .

While those such as Eliot and Stevens shivered with distaste at the idea of writing poetry that was intelligible to the masses, Frost was determined to evolve a style that would appeal both to an average poetry consumer and, through its secret equivocations, to the more discerning reader. Ideally, it would educate the former, and transform them into the latter. His stay in England taught him much about literary politics; he established a firm friendship with Edward Thomas, skirmished sceptically with Pound and Yeats, and had his first two books published.

In 1915 Frost returned to the US as something of a celebrity, and shrewdly set about cultivating on the one hand a popular audience and, on the other, the esteem of influential critics.

The Notebooks of Robert Frost offer an intriguing insight into Frost’s mind.

Here is a poem I wrote about Robert Frost:

Robert Frost
Howling at the Moon

by Blogaulaire

Robert Frost not only
Owned five farms
He possessed them.

And they possessed him.

He knew he had to write
About the lives
As if undivided.

He gave up his,
Perhaps Elinor's too,
In trying his hand
At poetry.

What killed Frost
Was him falling to an
American Lit class
Walling him in.

Over half New England's
Human farm life
Moved to town
When the skeletons
In Frost's attic
Came down.

Which occurred in Canada too,
The Midwest went through it
With poets galore
Gloriously unaware.

Things got confused
More wars ensued
Frost would never
Come unglued
It didn't happen . . .
Is happening still.

You need an ideology
And suburbs
And outer space
To escape such gnawing terror
R. F. wouldn't face.

As we were taught
Everything in
That confusion
Driven away
From thought.

But turn away from
Frost or even textbook poets,
You'll be scorched if they ever burn them.

Who would say Frost
"Didn't know what's American."
Some folks would in retribution
If they understood him.

What a fool who knows true America.
You are barking up the wrong tree.
America's a big place, maybe
Bigger than two can see.

No poet can guide you
Till you see a storm brew.

Be done with it, move on.
Put your heart and hand in it.

R. F. will be lamp-lit
When I return,
To his farm.

15 November 2006

Fall Booksale Held in McGill's Redpath Hall


Or should that read Redpath Haul?

Shakespeare & Co. as a Drop-In Shelter


Author Jeremy Mercer, who literally lived in a bookstore, Shakespeare & Company in Paris, talks about the experience with Becky Kraemer.

The author, after a stint as a crime reporter here in Canada where Mercer was attacked by one of his sources, went nearly penniless to Paris, ending up sleeping, eating and doing chores at the famous bookstore Shakespeare & Co. for 3 months. At the end of 2005, Mercer did a whirlwind tour of independent bookstores in the US late last year. He praises used bookdealers, who are a community asset but must struggle to survive in a difficult market.

For this MP3 download, skip the news items (recorded on Tuesday, 20 December 2005). If you don't want stale-old items, slide the knob on the player's 'skin' over to the author interview. It is all very interesting -blogaulaire

New News about Used Books


Isn't NEW NEWS an oxymoron when it comes to the OLD USED book market? The way this newbie sees it, bookstore people are stereotypically standoffish when it comes to claims that something cutting-edge, some gimmick distilled into three or four buzzwords, will secure their future and their profession's unique niche far into the future of the communities we once called home.

There is a certain status, pride of place, accorded the used bookstore owner who never touched a computer's keyboard, let alone sold books on the Internet, yet who continues to pay the rent and put food on the table. I suppose an auto mechanic who only uses handtools to repair Mercedes is accorded high status in that trade.

I think that what would be new news for Québec booksellers, the ones who come from the English community and whose bookstores are in neighbourhoods where many Angophones live, that the 'new news' item that would shake them up with a challenge would be that the crossover trade to the Frenchspeaking and the multicultural market can not only complement the more traditional anglo trade but give that much needed infusion it will take to stay in business for a couple decades to come.

This is purely wishful thinking on my part, I'm certain on one level. Yet I believe that a huge portion of book sales, new and used, is driven by demographics. The demographic boom in nearly universal higher education for the middleclass North American changed 'books' from the late 1950s onward. That college town or urban campus demographic boom has been written and will no longer drive books to a higher plane.

I cannot read the tea leaves about the future demographics that will prove critical for Montreal or provincial used book dealers, but I suspect that the Internet boom we've been through is like the campus boom at the heyday of trade paper and the post-J. D. Salinger era in fiction. Over. Yet sustained at a lower momentum. No longer a boom.

It used to be that in the so-called ethnic book niche, like imagine Bulgarian ex-pats (this is a joke, sort of) running a bookstore and printing press for their confreres - - you get a taste of this in Skvorecky novels - - where the books become used they are so old and neglected. Well that image is old hat as it pertains to Montreal's booming Hispanophone and Arab communities. Stick your noses into one or two bookdealers boutiques in these communities and you may find they look more like the offices for a North American distribution headquarters.

When a United Church "building"is sold to another confessional denomination, to a churchless but soulful clan unrecognisable to U C'ers back in their day, you, the Anglo-Montrealer, know we now face a demographic sea change that will reverberate through the world of booksales, one way or another.

All I'm putting to words here is our regional and Canadian equivalent to the 11 million Hispanophones living in the US without papers. Yet it seems to me, (I'm an old transfuge from the US), that the Americans at least recognize and respond to the demographics of so numerous a neighbour better than we do in Québec. We on the west side of the Main are still stuck specialising in Shakespeare when we could sell more stock if we sold more Molière to Francophones.

I see used books in Arabic, Spanish and even Urdu more often than in Hebrew. That is a no-brainer today. But I can sell MORE textbooks and dictionaries to students studying Spanish than I sell French-English dictionaries to those learning French or ESL.

Let me be blunt: a multilingual Farci-Urdu, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese bookstore, with staff to serve clients in all three languages -- in the right location -- despite the 'birds of a feather' phenomenon of ethnic magnetism -- could have a similar liklihood of success as was enjoyed by the organic restaurant chain Le Commensal. Let your imagination grab onto that one: such a book enterprise could become a distributor.

(My daughter went to a summer daycamp where Chinese, French and Spanish were the languages - all spoken, of necessity, alternately. It WAS NOT some enrichment program, it was the nitty-gritty of demographics.)

If we end on a pipe dream, you should still try to see the writing on the wall. The next new news in used old circles may come from the direction of cultural fusion in the face of a very contemporary demographic infusion. Maybe to be a super-specialized Quebec book person is to deal in multilingual multiplicity?

14 November 2006

Selling Books (Weber Site): Q&A: How can I sell this scarce book?


Answer: Price it at $400 to $500 !

I can find only one copy of this book with the same title, offered by a bookseller in The Netherlands.

Even me, new at this game, discover books of interest as rare as this. But Steve Weber is more than impressed because it is a book about making commercial candy (maybe the holiday season adds to the energy with which Steve would get the book online and push up the price. (I wish I had that drive to thrive . . )

To quote the 'master adviser':

But I've never had the good fortune to have one this scarce, where there's virtually no copies available in the hemisphere. So I wouldn't think of listing it for under $200. There's just no good way to figure out the value, though, it's too specialized.

We know the 1978 book is harder to come by, and I suspect there may be some valuable patent information in it that doesn't appear in the 1960 book.

The seller in the Netherlands priced it at about $200. So I wouldn't have any qualms about pricing it at $400 or $500. If a candy maker needs this book, you're not going to blow a hole in their research budget.


After browsing over to weberbooks, are you as convinced as Steve that the title will sell so high on Amazon?

Custom outlets - US publishing's new holy grail



From the Guardian Unlimited . . .
. . . comes the latest regarding the marketing of books as complementary commodities, ever more cheek-by-jowl to point-of-purchase. If bookstores fail to bring in bigger sales, maybe hardwares stores or even kitchenwares jobbers can.

The one (in the GU's list of examples) that grabbed me was that of TV ads -- selling cookbooks to achieve fast-food taste results. The books sold like the Posture-Pedic(TM) mattresses:

"(with) the example of Penguin's Secret Recipes, by Todd Wilbur, a well-known series of cookbooks that reveal how you can make your own versions of big-name brands popular in the US such as McDonald's burgers or Outback Steakhouse BBQ Sauce. The books were not selling particularly quickly in bookshops so Penguin decided to try something new.

"It published a new collected volume of Wilbur's recipes as a one-off customised venture, and put it on the cable television shopping channel QVC. They billed it as a unique product that could only be bought there and then. In one day, with just five slots of airtime of six minutes each, they sold 100,000 copies of the volume.

'We've moved beyond trying to find new places where we can sell a book,' Ms O'Shea explained. 'We are now spending a lot of time thinking about different ways in which we can produce a book custom-made for the way in which it will be sold and promoted.'"

I'm a blogger on this page who doesn't have the cultural baggage of a Guardian feature writer when it comes to spinning a tale for a readership with inbred cynicism about The American-Way (I grew up in the core of a love-hate bind both in the inner-city and the burbs of North America). I also remember life on the editorial staff of Encyclopedia Britannica when it was a multi-volume, paper-based work printed at R. R. Donnelley's in Chicago. Back then the more literary members of the editorial team seemed obliviously unaware that their bread and butter came, to a quite large degree, from door-to-door sales of our printed prose.

Like others who take their Guardian with a grain of salt, I think that many of the books in the trade already LOOK AS IF they should be marketed on television, in hardware stores, or next to the lotto machines and bowling alleys of our continent.

But then we have all the big box computer and electronics chains, like those next to the toxic waste dump alongside Carrefour Angrignon. In those places they sell . . maybe not with enough of a monopoly on them . . books on the latest software programs and computing languages. I know of one bookstore (no details here) situated near several pharmacy outlets whose selection of titles is no better or worse than the drugstores . . . Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but close enough.

More and more, though, I feel open to offering books everywhere. When I go to garden centres, computer stores, hardware stores even, though that's a rare bird in Montreal, I would love finding them into books with someone in charge of that corner who knew what he or she was talking about. Think about cycling, camping, bird and nature enthusiasts or digital photography. We would love to have little villages scattered across more than Pointe Claire, Greene Avenue or Cowensville where amateur experts, equipment outlets and books (about same) were brought together within a short walk from each other.

Maybe the English and Europeans who spin consumerism as if it is alien to the booktrade and books as divorced from marketing 'product' can still turn to the independent shoppes, the boutique vendors. I somehow doubt it, at least as far as 'the masses' are concerned. Oh well, let them eat cake. And read the Sunday (Saturday here in Canada) supplements if they still read anything.

The Dble-Entry Book Pile Plunge


Antiqbook and Biblio both list the very same edition of Pynchon's novel 'V'. It's the book that gives a result of "2 found" for a search on AddAll of this particular title, with the keyword "Maine" (to narrow it down to one state).

In an open search for books that had multiple print-runs in their publishing history, expect to find hundreds of them being offered at the mega-online-book-vendor (MOBVs) websites.

This is just basic stuff. With all the booksellers, seemingly, listing on four to seven different MOBVs, when YOU jump from site to site checking out the book you're looking for you should realize that you will be looking at the same book and the same seller a multiple of times.

Where all of this starts to be less basic was illustrated by a customer in the bookstore who crossed town to pick up a cinema book for her daughter studying at Bishops. She had paid, first at one then at another online bookseller's 'check-out basket' on a MOBV. At the end of the week, no book. Both sellers informed her they, sorry to say, did not, in fact, have it. Sorry again. She went to the bother to put her request on the regional email board, we responded affirmatively, and I heard her story. She had not yet cancelled the credit card payment to the two other book dealers.

There are many reasons this thing can come to pass. Bishops is in a small town and maybe all the students ordered books for the course through the Internet. Maybe books sold at A were not removed from B nor C database. Whatever.

What I am wondering as well is just how many of the titles offered through multiple listings are not really in stock, not really there when the customer wants the book?

13 November 2006

GalleyCat : Passion for Pynchon



For an author who never does publicity and a book that won't have the massive marketing campaign as other lead titles, it goes without saying that Thomas Pynchon's AGAINST THE DAY is going to do well (really, really well) upon its release on November 21. I mean, just before a long weekend - that means a lot of diehards will be skipping out on turkey and football to devour the nearly 1100-page tome. So for those who aren't steeped in Pynchon-mania, what makes him so appealing to an ever-increasing cult of fans? The AP finds out more, talking with fans ranging from conceptual artists, web design consultants and 'independent scholars.

"Pynchon fans tend to take his work seriously I think because, beyond the intrinsically interesting subject matter and intriguing stories, his books are so rich and complex, touching on so many topics," says Pynchon fan Doug Millison, a writer, editor and Web design consultant based in El Cerrito, Calif. Pynchon is now 69, but time, and the Internet, have advanced in his favor. It's been nine years since his previous novel, MASON & DIXON, came out, and fans have fully digitized their passion, building an online community worthy of an author who as much as anyone brought a high-tech sensibility to literary fiction."

Using Books Weblog » Slash and Burn


Using Books Weblog offers a blog that strikes at the core of what Cheap Pricless Editions has been trying to express in some key posts with which we started the blog off so recently. Even the steady participants commenting on posts at Using Books are seasoned bookdealers. I'll be watching that blog with interest . . .

"I’ve been to enough Friends of the Library sales that I’m not usually surprised by the agressive tactics some dealers use to get an edge. But I was stunned by what I saw at the Friends of the Kirkland Public Library’s book sale on Saturday.

I arrived half an hour before the doors opened, earlier than I’d planned. There were a dozen people in line, most of them dealers and book scouts who I recognized. One group of four dealers were chatting together over the stacks of postal tubs they’d brought for hauling books.

A few minutes before opening, the sale’s organizer stepped out of the library (accompanied by a uniformed police officer) and explained the rules of the sale. Dealers should fill one box, he said, then pass it to one of the volunteers before starting on another box. He passed out some labels for people to use on their boxes and went back inside. The doors were opened in short order and everyone rushed into the small meeting room where the sale was being held. Then in a carefully organized fashion, the four dealers who I mentioned before each scooped up a boxload of books from the choice non-fiction tables and shouted, “Full box.” They handed off their filled boxes and, barely glancing at the spines, dumped the next pile of books into their next four boxes. “Full box!”

I’d say that at least two-thirds of the sale’s books were claimed within three minutes. It was entertaining."

The Slash and Burn post continued for several paragraph and so did the comments made by readers, fellow bloggers and bookdealers. Here is the comment I posted:

For neophytes in the used book business like me, I began writing up my own 'take' on the business being described in the post and comments here. Nobody mentions price above, but at two charity booksales I went to since last August it was the low, low prices being charged for high and low quality titles that really struck me.

The bookstore I work in has stuck itself in a cost-price bind by advertising $3.50 postal charges when these are higher for practically every order online. The owner keeps complaining about 'postal zones' here in Canada, where rates rise for deliveries in some byzantine system that's hard to fathom.

I don't like the carping about those who 'know books (33 1/3 rpm vinyl could be tossed in there as well), versus the experts'. In my humble observations to date I observe everybody at every level of the book trade constantly looking up prices and offers online. If they use a cellphone or a keyboard, what is the difference?

I photographed the McGill University Booksale last month. There were 'pickers' lined up along one corridor with their boxes and bags in cached piles. Nobody I witnessed used a scanner device of any sort. Canadians may be more polite (as in waiting in line early), but the first insider stories related to me by my mentors in this business were about miscreants WHO DO swipe "treasure caches" of competitors' at these booksale venues . . .

. . .a scene like in some empoverished countries flashed in my mind with a 'picker' hiring a 'native' lad to watch his books while he picked more . . .

To my mind, this bookdealer business will always have some who survive on low-margin profits for popular items versus those who survive on higher margins for rarer titles. And as the higher margins are squeezed by our ubiquitous Internet connectivity, the rare book dealers feel threatened, justifiably insecure about the whole technology.

November 13th, 2006 | 10:20 am

(link to review) DISGRACE, J. M. Coetzee


After the Fall
--- NYTBR (Published: November 28, 1999)

Published: November 28, 1999

By J. M. Coetzee.
220 pp. New York:
Viking. $23.95.

Coetzee's prose has . . . an accessible ease that belies the slippery nature of his work as a whole. . . . Coetzee is spare . . . so determined to avoid a fiction based on what he has called ''the procedures of history'' as to chance his own irrelevance.

''Disgrace'' finishes quickly with the question of judgment; its real interest lies in what comes after, when all one's days are stamped with the word of its title. And the way the novel develops suggests that . . . Coetzee, despite his resistance to a historically conditioned realism, (has a) deeply political mind.

--- blogaulaire here: much of the rest of the Gorra review goes into a plot summary; try the link, where Gorra writes:

"There is much one could say about this brief but oddly expansive novel, about the range of concerns that Coetzee has woven seamlessly together."

Coetzee won an earlier Booker Prize for ''Life & Times of Michael K.'' Last month's award made him the only writer ever to win it twice. ''Disgrace'' surely deserves such recognition. But that may, in time, come to seem among the least of this extraordinary novel's distinctions.

*Michael Gorra teaches English at Smith College and is the author of ''After Empire: Scott, Naipaul, Rushdie.''

12 November 2006

(continued) DISGRACE, J. M. Coetzee


Coetzee's novel IS redeeming itself. I'm on p 147. Since it deals with a 50-some man and his daughter (South Africa, not Québec, but still it connects with me), the attempt by the father to communicate with his daughter rings true and deep.

(I regret that I originally used the wrong title on this post. I called it "Despair". There is despair, maybe more than disgrace, in Coetzee's book. One of his novel's messages is that we will all leave this world, that our world, whether it declares its dispair or disgrace faced with new realities, is faced with finding some sort of grace to face its own demise. -- this parenthesis entered after finishing "Disgrace" - blogaulair)

All novelists must move their plot along. It seems that there are no 'devices' to do this other than to cut corners. Great lit cannot be conveyed by a review or a plot summary.

Events, in a novel that gets into conscious reflection inside the head of a character, are but scaffolding. Perhaps whodunits work when written by 'masters of plot'. Yet how many authors who connect with you and whose writing is a pleasure can be described as masters of plot. Seems to me as a reader that I can (Must?) cut the author some slack in one or the other department and with "Despair" I will let Coetzee use a popular device of slamming the scenario down bang, like that, so he can get into the meat of a character's in extremis attempts to get on with his aging life and relationship with people who remain central to his or her life no matter how messed up it becomes . . .

I recommend "Disgrace" for fathers and daughters past the infancy stage of family realities.

NYC Event courtesy of Coach House Books


LINK-BACK: NYC Event courtesy of Coach House Books at small.spiral.notebook

BLOGAULAIRE posted a comment on small spiral notebook
I 'clicked through' to view the Coach House Books site. Recent reading about the past half-a-century of Canadian poetry in English has made me curious about the origins of CHB in Coach House Press, which was dissolved in 1992 and with the 'Books' house rising like a phoenix sometime thereafter.

But I always get sidetracked by the contemporary lit, especially the poetry, and I lose the historical thread I started to trace back on my browser and in my books.

At the Coach House site, I enjoyed the reviews and blurbs about Jon Paul Fiorentino's book of poems "The Theory of the Loser Class":

Reading poems about consumer culture, the socially inept and super-loser Jerry Lewis, Fiorentino got lots of laughs from the packed crowd. Although he is best known for his humour book, Asthamatica, Fiorentino made it clear to his audience that his latest collection is not comedy. He did, however, jokingly point out that the real comedy lies in the fact that he is still attempting to write poetry.

Knowing that poets are the ultimate outcasts, and with self-effacing humour, Fiorentino ended the reading with the ultimate loserism: "I don't think this poetry thing is going to work out so, Mom, can I borrow a few grand?"