On Bookstores

I’ve hesitated in writing this post because I know it’s going to come across as harsh, and that’s not what I’m striving for. But the more I think about the reason for this post, the more I feel the need to get this off my chest.


Over the holidays and even as recently as last week, I’ve had numerous customers browsing through my bookstore, checking out all the books on our displays, then standing there, IN MY STORE, purchasing them from a big name online retailer on their phone. I’ve seen other bloggers say they’ve done the same thing. There’s even a post on our store’s Facebook page encouraging customers to sit in our cafe and use our free wifi to order the books they want online. As a full-time bookseller for the past 9 years, all I can say is…

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*Grabs my soap box and my megaphone*

I get it. Things are cheaper online than in the store most of the time. With the miracle of modern shipping from that major online retailer, it can be at your door in about 2 days.

I’m not going to fault anyone for wanting to save money. I’m broke. I. Get. It. Every dollar I save is more groceries I can buy. But to essentially spit DIRECTLY in the face of brick and mortar stores? Nope. I won’t have that. Cause that leads to me buying no groceries at all.

But there’s a question within this that I get all the time. Why are online retailers so much cheaper than brick and mortar stores? Let me break it down.

Online retailers buy wholesale from publishers, meaning they can charge less for each item because they’ve gotten a discount as a whole. Then those books sit on massive shelves in giant warehouses until you click that little Add to Cart button. Then it gets put in a box, stacked on a pallet, and sent out with the shipping company. A couple days later, it ends up on your doorstep.

Major bookstores, like the one I work for, also buy wholesale from publishers. They also sit on massive shelves in giant warehouses. They also get put into boxes with lots of other books. They get stacked on pallets and sent out with the shipping company just like your book did. Except instead of ending up on your doorstep, they end up in my store’s back room. And unlike your box of books, that’s not where their journey ends.

They then have to be unpacked, sorted, placed on carts, and shelved in their proper locations. Newer, more popular books are moved to displays for you to come in and peruse and hopefully take home with you. In the unfortunate event that a book doesn’t get purchased after a certain amount of time, it is pulled from the shelf, sorted into yet another box, and sent back to the warehouse, where it takes its place back on its original shelf again. It’s a lot of work. A single book may have been touched by more than a dozen different people in its lifespan from the warehouse to my store and back again. And my store is just one of hundreds across the country that go through the same process every. single. day.

Those books don’t sort and shelve themselves either. They don’t set themselves up on displays. We don’t have little elves that make everything look pretty while we sit around and read books all day. We have a staff of nearly 40 people who set up and break down those displays each and every week. We spend hours every morning putting out the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of new books we got the day before. We organize and pull books from sections to make room for the constant stream of new titles. We bust our asses so you can come in and find the book you’ve been dying to read, as well as the one you would have never picked up until you saw it on the shelf.

But all of that stuff doesn’t really matter. Robots could do that. What we have in store is our expansive knowledge and passion for books. Try typing “Blue book I saw on Dr. Oz” into Amazon and see what happens. Oh that’s right. Nothing. Ask me that and I’ll likely exclaim, “Oh yeah that one! It’s right over here!” as I walk you to the display and put it in your hand. Most days I’m part Sherlock, part Vanna White. Ask me what book to give at a baby shower. Ask me what you should buy for your 8 year old who hates to read. Ask me for a recommendation of a really good YA book. Cause I’m all over that. And if I don’t know the perfect book to hand you, chances are there’s someone in my store that does.

We’re an eclectic bunch. From the girl studying history in college who’s read the Hamilton biography twice for fun, to the girl who is so passionate about manga that she’ll tell you to your face that your favorite series is crap and you should read this other one instead. Or the manager who can talk to you for hours about business books, then walk with you to help pick out the right Bible. The ladies who will give you the next great thriller to read or the guy who will recommend at least 6 different urban fantasy and romance series as well as a book on computer coding. We know our stuff. And just try fangirling about Harry Potter at a Holiday Ball with Amazon. Oh wait! That’s right! They didn’t host one.

And there’s that whole physical building with lights and water and heat/AC thing too. Let’s not forget that. That’s not cheap. Oh yeah. And wifi.

So I get it. Retail prices are a bit more expensive. Because it has to be. There’s a whole hell of a lot more that you’re paying for in a physical store. Like me and my brain. And trust me. I’m %&*^ing worth it. 

Moral of the story– If you’ve ever walked into a bookstore and felt like you were in heaven, do yourself a favor. Buy a damn book there. Support your brick and mortar store, whether it’s a major chain or a local independent shop. Because if you take someone else’s advice and use us as merely a wifi hotspot to do your online shopping, we’re not going to be there anymore.

2017 Reading Goals

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Every year I set a reading goal for myself. And for the past couple years, I’ve failed. Miserably. I started out with a reading goal of 50 books a year. I figured I could definitely knock out a book a week. And for several years I did. Easily. So I upped my goal to 60 books a year. I was pretty close to it anyway, so I thought, what’s a few more squeezed in? That year I didn’t even come close to 50, let alone 60. I barely broke 20. It was pathetic. The next year was the same.

But I wasn’t going to let that happen in 2016. I was going to hit my goal. I was going to use this space to help me achieve that. I have a blog specifically for reviewing books for goodness’ sake! This should be a no-brainer! And then I failed. Again. I barely broke 30. I slacked on my blogging. I slacked on my reading. I slacked on life, to be perfectly honest.

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So 2017 will be different. (Hopefully..) I’m going to continue tracking myself on Goodreads, setting my goal there back down to 50 books again. But I’m going to add to my goal. It won’t just be about the number of books I read. I want to challenge myself to read outside my usual YA comfort zone. I say this every year, and every year I fail. But now I have you to hold me accountable. Someone (maybe?) is listening this time.

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2016 Wrap Up

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Well… I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in 2016.

I set myself a goal of 60 books to read this year. I ended up with… 33.

Ouch.

I’m staring at my list, thinking to myself, “That’s it? That’s all I read? That’s not much…” At least compared to previous years.

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So where did I go so horribly wrong with my reading? Well, I definitely struggled with the beginning and the end of the year. It took me until March to read ONE book, and I haven’t finished a book since October. (Although I’ve been making a lot of progress with my current read these last couple days! You know.. The one I’ve been reading since November..) The holidays seem to be kicking my ass the past few years, making it impossible to have time to read, and then it takes me forever to recover. I’m going to try a LOT harder next year. No more ZERO book months!

As I scroll down the list, I realize there are a lot of mediocre books on it. There are plenty of stories that were good, but not great, but there are some that I don’t even remember what they’re about anymore. And some I plain wish I could forget.

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Election Day

I was going to simply post this on Instagram to share. But then I realized how much I actually had to say, and decided to go ahead and turn it into a post.

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I’m not one to get political. Like at all. Much like religion, we all have our beliefs and ideologies that we live by. They may be the same, or they may differ, but we each have the right to our own thoughts and opinions and I respect that.

But allow me to stand up on my soapbox for just a moment. I’m not here to tell you WHO to vote for. Don’t worry. I’m just here to tell you to VOTE. And not just for the president. There is much more at stake than just the top seat of our government. Yes, that’s a big deal, but there are candidates and issues much closer to home that need your vote as well. Candidates that will represent you at a much more direct level. These aren’t candidates in some far off seat in Washington. These are the people running for public office in your own backyard. They will be the ones that create, enforce, and protect the laws within your communities. They’re the ones that will vote to put a stop sign in your neighborhood. The bonds on the ballot for your city will go toward funding the police that will pull you over for running that new stop sign. They will be the judges that preside over the court you have to go to in order to pay your traffic ticket. There will be levies for the schools in your community. Bonds that create and maintain parks, replace aging sewer lines, fix the road outside your home. You may not like the top of the ballot much, but there is a lot of important things going on down below that need your attention just as much.

But let’s talk for a minute about that top part of the ballot. Again, I’m not going to tell you who to vote for. But we all know that there was a LOT of drama surrounding this election season. On all sides. Very serious accusations all around. This is the 5th presidential election I’ve voted in, and I can’t remember one that was this polarizing and divisive. But before you cast your vote and hit that confirm button, take a moment to stop and think. Put all of that drama on the back burner for just a moment and take a deeper look at the candidates on your ballot. Think about the policies that they will enact as President. Think about what their presidency means for you, your family, your friends and coworkers, and the community around you. The next 4 years aren’t just going to be about hot mics and email servers. There are actual laws that will be created. There will be communcation, negotiation, and trade with other countries around the world. Think about that for just a moment before you push a button to cast a vote. Which of the candidates aligns with the beliefs and ideologies that you live by? You may not like anything about the other candidate, but does the one you’re voting for really represent you? The same thing goes for all the candidates below that top spot too. Do they represent the community you want to live in? Remember, they’re a lot closer to home.

I probably should have posted this weeks ago rather than halfway through Election Day. It’s been weighing on my mind for awhile now, but it finally bubbled over after I went to cast my vote today. I was going to wake up early and walk to my polling place, but I slept in. I didn’t leave my house until noon. But it was fine. I walked down the street to the church where I vote, telling myself I would use my stopwatch app on my phone to time my experience to see just how long it would take.

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Under 7 minutes. From walking through the front door to walking back out again, I was done in less time than I would have waited at Starbucks. It was an easy, painless experience. I was not hassled. I was not intimidated. Everyone was polite and courteous, from the poll workers to the other voters. I know my experience isn’t going to be the same as everyone else’s. I know there are people that will wait in ridiculously long lines. I know there will be people who feel pressured or intimidated by others around them. I wish that weren’t the case. I wish everyone would have the experience I had today. But regardless of the issues that may arise during your experience, I hope you stick it out, persevere, and allow your voice to be heard. There are many who came before us who have fought long and hard for our right to be heard. There are many who are still fighting for that right. Honor them by exercising that right.

There were 2 girls who were at the polling place at the same time who were voting in their very first election. Several of my coworkers are voting for the first time. And I’m excited for them! This is such an important election to allow your voice to be heard for the very first time. But I know a lot of my Bookstagram followers and people I follow aren’t old enough yet. To those who can’t exercise that right yet, I say– Pay attention. Just because you can’t make your voice heard this time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be watching. Use this election as education. Take this time to understand how important your voice is when it’s time for you to use it. Take a deeper look into the candidates’ policies and ideologies and see which one you start to align with. You may not know much about taxes and trade and foreign policy, but that’s okay. There are still issues I’m sure you feel strongly about already. Begin to recognize those issues, so when you’re time comes, you have a head start.

And I implore you, whether you’re voting for the 1st time or the 10th– vote with your heart and mind. Not anyone else’s. You don’t have to vote the same way your family does. Trust me. I’m the lone Democrat in a family of Republicans. But you also don’t have to vote strictly with the party you most identify with. After taking a couple hours to research all of the candidates on my ballot, I voted for nearly as many Republicans today as I did Democrats. Because I voted for who I felt was best qualified for the job and who represented my ideologies the closest.

So I’m not going to tell you WHO to vote for. I’m simply telling you to VOTE. With your own heart and mind for the candidates and issues that best represents YOU. This is your government. Make sure your voice is heard.

Long Time, No Write

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Oh hey. It’s been awhile. Like 2 months. I haven’t posted anything in 2 months. I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever. Okay, maybe not ever. But I’m not doing well with this whole keeping up thing. In fact, I was so far behind at one point that I had 9 books I’d finished just sitting on my desk waiting for me to get around to writing about them. Some of them sat there for so long, I actually forgot what they were about. In a desperate effort to force myself into writing, I put myself on a reading ban in order to catch up. No reading until I wrote at least 2 reviews.

And still they sat.

But it’s not that I didn’t try. I wrote nearly a whole post about one of the books, and then erased it. Then wrote another lengthy post about it. And erased it. I tried writing that post for 2 weeks–writing and erasing. Writing and erasing. I don’t know what it was about it, but I just couldn’t find the right words. I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to say. So I just gave up. Finally admitting defeat, I took them all back to the library. Along with some others that I just had no desire to read anymore.

But I’m going to try again. I’m going to try to get back on this blogging train. And actually write about the books I read again, not letting them simply pile up and mock me. I’m going to finally get to some of the ARCs I’ve received– most of which have already come out while I’ve been slacking. I’m going to try to get back to the enjoyment I had when I started this. Sorry it’s been so long. I’m going to try to be better.

 

Lit List: Fictional Worlds

A couple weeks ago I started writing posts that I’ve come to think of as my Sunday Musings. I wanted to add more to this space than simply posting book reviews, so I decided to talk about random book stuff. Why I read YA. Why I started this blog in the first place. What it’s like to work in a bookstore. (That one started to skew slightly towards ranting, so it’s cooling down in the drafts until I can come back to it with a more level head.)

Aaaaaand that’s where I got stuck. 3 ideas, and I’m spent. How could I keep up with my posts if I have nothing to write about? Hmm.. other blogs I follow post Top 10 lists. I could do that. I love lists! But 10 items? If you haven’t noticed already, I’m long-winded. There’s no way we’re all making it through a Top 10 list. Or even a Top 5. Top 3 might even be pushing it. So I’m just calling mine a Lit List. It might have 10 things, or maybe only 1. Depends on how I feel that day. So what do you say we kick this thing off!

This week’s Lit List– Fictional worlds I’d like to live in!

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Obviously, my choice is the magical world of Harry Potter. Who wouldn’t want to live there? There’s magic. And dragons. And unicorns! (Any place with dragons and unicorns is top on my list.) I could create things, transfigure things, charm things. It would be amazing. I wouldn’t actually have to clean my house like I spent all day doing– I could just magic it clean! A spell to wash the dishes. Charm the mop. The laundry folds itself! Oh the possibilities! Adulting wouldn’t be nearly as hard if I could just wave my wand and shout some words. And don’t forget the transportation options. Broomsticks, Floo Powder, portkeys. Late for work? No problem. Just apparate! No more sitting in traffic. Don’t have enough time to do all the things you want to do in a day? Grab yourself a time-turner. Tired of being a human? Learn to transfigure yourself and become an animagus. I’d be all about spending my day lounging around as a cat.

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Why I Book Blog

Eh. Not as fun to say as Why I YA. But you can’t win them all.

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While I may be fairly new to this book blogging thing, typing out my musings for the internet to read feels like I’ve finally come back home. I’m going to make myself feel and sound really old saying this, but… I started my first website while I was in high school. I ran a boyband fan page with 2 girls I met in a chat room on AOL. Back in 1999. I’ll give you minute to do the math. So.. Yeah. That happened.

Fast forward a decade.

January 2009, I posted my very first recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes on my brand new baking blog. For five years I taught myself the ins and outs of baking, posting my triumphs and failures with nearly 200 recipes for everything from cookies to cupcakes to the holy grail for baking blogs at the time, French macarons. (And dammit, mine had feet! On the first try! Take that fussy French pastry!)

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Pumpkin cinnamon rolls are ahhh-mazing. And it almost looks like I have some skill here.

But running a food blog is hard work. There’s a LOT of time involved. Figuring out what to make. Tweaking a recipe to make it your own. Procuring all your ingredients. Actually baking. Waiting for it to cool. Frosting your cake or cupcakes. Hoping that you timed it all perfectly and everything’s done while you still have natural light to shoot with. And then there’s the whole editing and writing and promoting and engaging. It’s exhausting! And extremely fattening. I mean, what else are you going to do with that entire cake you just baked? Certainly not just throw it away. Who throws away cake?

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