Acquiring, swapping, or selling books (plus donating, borrowing, and lending)
Great brick and mortar bookstores
Brick and mortar libraries
Selling books on Amazon
Buying and selling used books
Novels and memoirs about libraries and librarians
Resources for buying, selling, exchanging,
donating, or otherwise recycling books
Where to donate or recycle books
Donating books to prisons
Textbooks, new and used
Q&A with a bookseller
Books as art (or part of art)
Amazon vs. book publishers (monopolist vs cartel)
Making changes in Amazon.com listings (and deciphering rankings)
Bookcases and bookshelves
• 12 Authors Write About the Libraries They Love (Reading Room, NY Times, 10-15-18) Articuilate love notes to libraries, reminding us of all the reasons we also love libraries.
• Panorama Picks Under-the-radar books that are in-demand at U.S. public libraries. Panorama Picks provides local booksellers with quarterly lists of popular fiction, nonfiction, and young adult titles that are in demand at public libraries beyond their initial promotional windows—optimized for local interest via regional groupings aligned with the American Booksellers Association’s (ABA) regional associations. This unique program uses aggregated, anonymized hold list data from public libraries across the United States to identify recently published titles that have notably longer wait times for local library patrons—unmet demand that can help activate inventory, and identify opportunities for author events, read-alikes, and special promotions.
• Librarian blanket.
• Community Centered: 23 Reasons Why Your Library Is the Most Important Place in Town (Julie Biando Edwards, Melissa S. Rauseo, & Kelley Rae Unger, Public Libraries Online, 4-30-13)
Libraries as Community Builders:
1) Libraries help revitalize struggling or depressed neighborhoods and downtowns.
2) Libraries are important partners in sustainability.
3) Libraries’ special collections grow out of specific community needs.
4) Archives preserve historic artifacts, oral histories, digital history projects, and monographs relevant to the community, including minority groups.
5) Libraries are places where people come to know themselves and their communities.
6) Libraries serve as catalysts for addressing social problems.
7) Libraries, which champion, promote, and reflect important democratic values, are a part of the community’s political life.
8) Library buildings as architectural structures are culturally relevant.
9) Libraries provide important business resources, especially for small local businesses. And that's just section 1. See specific items under these sections, too: Libraries as Community Centers for Diverse Populations, Libraries as Centers for the Arts, Libraries as Universities, Libraries as Champions of Youth.
• To Restore Civil Society, Start With the Library (Eric Klinenberg, NY Times, 9-8-18) "...in New York and many other cities, library circulation, program attendance and average hours spent visiting are up. The real problem that libraries face is that so many people are using them, and for such a wide variety of purposes, that library systems and their employees are overwhelmed....Libraries don’t just provide free access to books and other cultural materials, they also offer things like companionship for older adults, de facto child care for busy parents, language instruction for immigrants and welcoming public spaces for the poor, the homeless and young people....For older people, especially widows, widowers and those who live alone, libraries are places for culture and company, through book clubs, movie nights, sewing circles and classes in art, current events and computing. For many, the library is the main place they interact with people from other generations...."
The Books of College Libraries Are Turning Into Wallpaper (Dan Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration at Northeastern University, The Atlantic, 5-26-19) University libraries around the world are seeing precipitous declines in the use of the books on their shelves.
• The most beautiful libraries in the world (Facebook images, on Thinking Minds)
• 'Twaddle': librarians respond to suggestion Amazon should replace libraries (Kate Lyons, The Guardian, 7-22-18) Librarians are in uproar after an article in Forbes magazine proposed replacing all public libraries in the US with Amazon bookstores, saying libraries ‘don’t have the same value they used to’ and cost taxpayers too much. Amanda Oliver, who has been a librarian in Washington DC for the last seven years, said the value of libraries could be seen in the services provided to a huge range of people. “It’s librarians helping people fill out free housing forms and visa forms and all things related to basic human needs,” wrote Oliver. “It’s shelter when it’s freezing or raining or scorching hot. It’s access to free newspapers and conversation. It’s so much for so many.” @mcmillen tweeted "Abraham Lincoln educated himself at a library. So did Malcolm X. Scientists, historians, researchers of all types depend on libraries. Compared to the funding that libraries receive, the payoff they provide is huge. You can't know which kid will go on to change the world."
• Libraries Preserve the Stories That Make Up a Culture (Susan Orlean in conversation with Paul Holdengraber, LitHub, 4-26-18) "It's nearly impossible to throw out a book, no matter how little you're interested in it." See also The Library Book by Susan Orlean. See Hillary Kelly's Q&A with Orlean (Intelligencer, New York, 10-17-18).
• In Praise of the Small Town Library (Steven Kurutz, Literary Hub, 2-6-18) In rural Pennsylvania, four bookshelves are a passport to the outside world. “How many other rural and small-town children have sought the outside world inside a library?” “‘Nose always in a book,’ some hardworking adult you knew would remark, not disapprovingly, but not exactly enthusiastically, either.”
• The Library Fire That Ignited an Author’s Imagination (Michael Lewis's review of The Library Book by Susan Orlean, NY Times, 10-15-18)
• The 12 Most Popular Libraries in the World (Emily Temple, Lit Hub, 5-10-18) No. 1: The NY Public Library.
• Rep. Elijah Cummings' on how Baltimore librarians helped him (60 Minutes Overtime, 1-13-19)
• 12 Ways Libraries Are Good for the Country (American Libraries)
• A Book Lover’s Haven Turns 100 (Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 1-17-19) The Grolier Club, the nation’s oldest society of bibliophiles, just celebrated the centennial of its grand Manhattan home. Yes, there’s a secret staircase hidden in a bookshelf. No, do not use gloves in its library.
• In Praise of the Small Town Library (Steven Kurutz, Literary Hub, 2-6-18) In rural Pennsylvania, four bookshelves are a passport to the outside world. How many other rural and small-town children have sought the outside world inside a library?
• Local authors write short stories for library fundraiser (Brenna Visser, The Daily Astorian, 4-4-18) As Melissa Eskue Ousley "read her excerpt about a haunted library on Saturday, the audience sat in anticipation with bidding paddles in hand, waiting to bid on a chance to become a part of the story. One of those bidders was Madeline Ishikawa of Portland, who for $50 now had to decide what she was going to name the character....The event brought together two causes: “Write on Seaside!, a writing conference and fundraiser for the Seaside Public Library Foundation, and the Little Free Library silent auction fundraiser to support Reading Outreach in Clatsop County, a program that subsidizes about 700 library cards for children who live in rural neighborhoods.”
• Gladstone's Library (Atlas Obscura) At the United Kingdom's only residential library you can sleep among the books. Sleeping among the books at this library in a small Welsh village is part of its appeal. After browsing the more than 150,000 items in its collection and spending the day snuggled atop the plush chairs, stayover guests can retire to one of the 26 boutique bedrooms on site.
• Frederick Wiseman’s Utopian Vision of Libraries in “Ex Libris” (Richard Brody, New Yorker, 9-13-17) 'The very subject of “Ex Libris” is the development and sustenance of an informed citizenry and an informed electorate, and Wiseman’s point is that an institution that preserves, fosters, and disseminates scientific and humanistic knowledge enables ordinary people to make reasonable decisions about their lives and about the country at large. (It’s also a matter of practical reason and empowerment, as in scenes showing readers using library computers and microforms to research colorectal cancer and to lodge a complaint about bank fraud.) “Ex Libris” is a vision of a virtual utopia of knowledge rendered accessible, and, like almost all utopian visions, it veers at times toward sentimentality.'
• On the Move With the Donkey-Powered Mobile Libraries of Zimbabwe (Christine Ro, Literary Hub, 10-2-17) "Dr. Obadiah Moyo, the founder of RLRDP, credits the organization with creating the world’s first donkey-powered mobile libraries in 1995—a model that has since spread to Ethiopia and Tanzania....Three of the RLRDP’s 15 donkey carts are equipped with solar panels which supply electricity for charging phones and powering a computer and printer."
• We the (Library-Card Carrying) People of ‘Ex Libris’ (Manohla Dargis, NY Times, 9-12-17) "hroughout “Ex Libris” both senior staff members and branch librarians speak about serving the public, service that has long extended beyond checking out physical books. In scene after scene, you are reminded that libraries serve as study centers, neighborhood hubs, babysitters and homeless shelters. They offer lectures and concerts, but also provide immigrant services, job fairs and internet service, including through a program that lets users without home access borrow mobile hot spots
"Mr. Wiseman never states outright what the library’s mission is; he doesn’t have to. It’s as clear as the recitations from the Declaration of Independence in one scene and in a passionate discussion of a racist textbook’s misrepresentation of the American slave trade in another. It is a soaring, Utopian mission in a documentary that builds with intellectual force and deep emotion as it shows, again and again, citizens — interested, questioning, seeking — joining together to listen to one another and to learn from one another."
• The Best Libraries in the World(Best Colleges shows and ranks 35 amazing libraries) Check out #19, the Danish Royal Library, for a departure from tradition.
• Beautiful Libraries (Guy LaRocque, Atlas Obscura)
• The USA's 10 Most Beautiful Libraries (Rachel Gould, The Culture Trip, 10-17-16) Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, The Boston Public Library, The Geisel Library, George Peabody Library, Hearst Castle Gothic Study and Library, Library of Congress, Los Angeles Central Library, New York Public Library, The Morgan Library and Museum, Seattle Public Library
• The Nation's Largest Public Libraries (American Library Association fact sheet) Lists top libraries by size of population served with total collection expenditures; by holdings; by circulation; by library visits.
• America’s Star Libraries, 2016: Top-Rated Libraries ( Ray Lyons & Keith Curry Lance, Library Journal, 11-1-16)
• A Peek at Famous Readers’ Borrowing Records From a Private New York Library (Erin Schreiner, Atlas Obscura, 2-5-18) The New York Society Library, a subscription library now located in a prim townhouse on East 79th Street, has been squirreling books away since 1754. Thanks to carefully maintained circulation info, we know when Alexander Hamilton checked out Goethe.
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• Q&A with a bookseller: Jarrod Annis from Greenlight Bookstore about community bookstores, bookselling, and how authors can help booksellers (Authors Guild)
• Interview with a Bookseller: Sarah Hollenbeck (Brittany Gloss, Read It Forward, 2018) Meet the dynamic new owners behind Women & Children First, a Chicago-area indie powerhouse store and a place of vibrant and progressive literary activism.
• Q&A with Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (The Bookseller)
• Q&A interviews with authors (The Bookseller)
• A Q&A With Jesse Mecham on Hacking Your Bookseller Salary (Liz Button, Book Web, American Booksellers Association, 12-13-17)
• Interview with a Bookstore: Blue Willow Bookstore in Houston (Literary Hub, The Guardian, 1-9-17) Celebrating 20 years since owner Valerie took over, Blue Willow Bookshop is equally split between adults and children’s books, and staffed with knowledgable booksellers who can do anything - including fixing vacuum cleaners.
• Interview with a bookstore: DIESEL, A Bookstore in California (Literary Hub, The Guardian, 1-2-17) DIESEL opened in 1989. Its knowledgable booksellers, possessed with ‘eerie biblio-intuitive skills’, share their formative bookstore experiences and why they love working there.
• Interview with a Bookstore: Biblioasis in Ontario (Literary Hub, The Guardian, 12-26-16) Dan and his merry band of booksellers talk about what they’d add to the store if they could and why janitors and taxi drivers are better customers than academics.
• Interview with a Bookstore: The King's English in Salt Lake City (Literary Hub, The Guardian, 12-19-16) Opened in 1977 as a space for two aspiring writers to pen their Great American Novels, The King’s English in Utah is now a full-time labour of love, home to knowledgeable booksellers and a children’s room in a treehouse
• Interview with a Bookstore: Book Culture in New York (Literary Hub, The Guardian, 12-12-16) Spread over three stores, Book Culture has an impressive selection of academic titles and literary fiction and customers so loyal they punch robbers in the face.
• Interview with a Bookstore: Blackwell’s Bookshop operating continuously since the 19th century (Literary Hub, 11-14-16)
• More Interview with a Bookstore interviews
• African American Librarians in the Far West: Pioneers and Trailblazers by Binnie Tate Wilkin
• The Archivist by Martha Colley. A young woman's impassioned pursuit of a sealed cache of T. S. Eliot's letters lies at the heart of this emotionally charged novel -- a story of marriage and madness, of faith and desire, of jazz-age New York and Europe in the shadow of the Holocaust.
• The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer
• By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates (a Lighthouse Library Mystery)
• The Borrower, a novel by Rebecca Makkai. In this delightful, funny, and moving first novel, a librarian and a young boy obsessed with reading take to the road.
• The Camel Bookmobile by Masha Hamilton. To do something that matters, Fiona Sweeney starts a traveling library in the arid bush of northeastern Kenya. But, encumbered by her Western values, Fi does not understand the people she seeks to help.
• Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
• Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein (a children's book)
• The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (a Thursday Next Novel) when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde's ingenious fantasy unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix.
• The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. An aging misfit, a "Girlbrarian," and her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother travel to Canada to see the Cat Parliament and find the misfit's biological father
• The Ice Queen: A Novel by Alice Hoffman. A small town librarian mutters a wish and is struck by lightning -- and starts an adventure.
• The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. A young archivist is at the center of this D.C.-based political thriller.
• The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure
• The Librarian: A Novel by Larry Beinhart
• The Library Book by Susan Orlean (coming in October 2018). See Libraries Preserve the Stories that Make Up a Culture (Paul Holdengraber interviews Susan Orlean, Literary Hub, 4-26-18)
• Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles
• The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel. In this personal, deliberately unsystematic, and wide-ranging book, he offers a captivating meditation on the meaning of libraries.
• Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston (a children's book)
• Murder at the 42nd Street Library: A Mystery by Con Lehane
• Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions by Alberto Manguel. "In June 2015 Alberto Manguel prepared to leave his centuries-old village home in France’s Loire Valley and reestablish himself in a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Packing up his enormous, 35,000‑volume personal library, choosing which books to keep, store, or cast out, Manguel found himself in deep reverie on the nature of relationships between books and readers, books and collectors, order and disorder, memory and reading. In this poignant and personal reevaluation of his life as a reader, the author illuminates the highly personal art of reading and affirms the vital role of public libraries."
• Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne Wiegand
• Reading Places: Literacy, Democracy, and the Public Library in Cold War America by Christine Pawley. This book recounts the history of an experimental regional library service in the early 1950s, a story that has implications far beyond the two Wisconsin counties where it took place. Using interviews and library records, Christine Pawley reveals the choices of ordinary individual readers, showing how local cultures of reading interacted with formal institutions to implement an official literacy policy.
• Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller (a children's book)
• Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg. "In this captivating memoir, Steinberg, a Harvard grad and struggling obituary writer, spends two years as a librarian and writing instructor at a Boston prison that's an irrepressibly literary place."
• The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Daniel, a ten-year-old boy, is taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, is told to choose one book, and to make sure it never disappears. A bestselling novel from Spain.
• The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
• The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course.
• This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson
• Unpacking My Library by Walter Benjamin (a talk about book collecting)
• Unpacking My Library: Artists and Their Books by Jo Steffens and Matthias Neumann
• Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price
• Where Are All the Librarians of Color? The Experiences of People of Color in Academia by Rebecca Hawkins and Miguel Juarez
• The World's Strongest Librarian: A Book Lover's Adventures by Josh Hanagarne. Although he wouldn't officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old when he first began exhibiting symptoms. When he was twenty and had reached his towering height of 6’7”, his tics escalated to nightmarish levels. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission using increasingly elaborate feats of strength. What started as a hobby became an entire way of life—and an effective way of managing his disorder. Josh became a librarian at Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting.
• You Could Look It Up: The Reference Shelf From Ancient Babylon to Wikipedia by Jack Lynch
"How marvelous books are, crossing worlds and centuries, defeating ignorance and, finally, cruel time itself."~ Gore Vidal
• Don't forget the "friends of the public library" organization in your own community, a good place both to donate and to buy books. Another resource for improving literacy in areas where children might not have access to books: Little Free Libraries, which are also great for adult readers. (See entry below on Little Free Library.)
• African Library Project coordinates book drives in the United States and partners with African schools and villages to start small libraries
• Better World Books (Mishawaka, Indiana) All books in good condition welcome; money from sales used to fund world literacy programs. Find a drop box Read CNN article about them.
• Big Hearted Books & Clothing Inc. (Sharon, MA) A socially conscious, for-profit, book and textile reuse company. Our mission is to keep books, media, clothing, and other reusable items out of landfills by getting them back into the hands of people who can use them.
• The Book Farmer of Botswana (Salley Shannon, More magazine) A former teacher finds a new life bringing books to Botswana.
• Bookmark: The impossible task of culling books (Laurie Hertzel, StarTribune, 10-26-14) In getting rid of books, Hertzel found that the toughest books to pass on to others were those in which there were bookmarks from long-gone bookstores, grocery lists, etc. "The dust made me sneeze. The ephemera made me remember." In this sense, books were like diaries.
• Books for Africa (Saint Paul, MN--goal: to end the book famine in Africa.) See book donation requirements. "Books For Africa is a simple idea, but its impact is transformative. For us, literacy is quite simply the bridge from misery to hope. — Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary-General
• Bookstruction, by the Naughty Librarian, delightful book art made from least-used books in libraries, ready for recycling and not moving at book sales.
• On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books (Summer Brennan attempts Marie Kondo's approach to tidying up her library (LitHub.com)
• Books for America (Washington, DC for mid-Atlantic region). Building and improving libraries in schools, shelters, prisons and more. Supporting reading and education programs. Providing children with their first take-home books. Contact: To schedule a pickup in DC, Maryland, or Northern Virginia.
• Books for Soldiers (operated by Red Grail Ministries, a non-denominational, interfaith outreach ministry and a 501(c)(3) charity)
• Donate books to charity (through Donation Town, find a charity that will pick up your donations for free). And remember, many libraries collect used books and either re-sell them at a low price regularly or have a big book sale.
• For the Love of Stuff (Lee Randall, Aeon) "I am my things and my things are me. I don’t want to give them up: they are narrative prompts for the story of my life " "Who are my people? Open my front door and the first thing you notice are books. They line the walls, hover overhead, and stack up on tables. Each is a chunk of autobiography, a clue to who I was while reading it..."
• Housing Works (New York City--drop off at thrift shops)
• International Donation and Shipment of Books (American Library Association) Tips and contact info.
• I Saw the Figure 5 in Steel (Luc Sante, Paris Review, 6-14-16) On the appeal of junk shops. Luc Sante argues that junk shops are uniquely disposed to teach the attentive visitor about the history of sadness, of futility, of vainglory, and of the ad hoc and the pro tem.
• Little Free Library -- "a 'take a book, return a book' gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories. In its most basic form, a Little Free Library is a box full of books where anyone may stop by and pick up a book (or two) and bring back another book to share. See also
---The Most Magical ‘Little Free Library’ Is Built Right Into a Tree Stump (Cara Strickland, Atlas Obscura, 1-28-19) A rotting 110-year-old black cottonwood gets a second life. Fabulous images.
---10 Little Free Libraries in Gorgeous Warm-Weather Locations and other stories about this wonderful phenomenon. (Margret Aldrich, Must Read Resources, Little Free Library, 2-1-19)
---Little Free Libraries: Inventive, Award-Winning Designs (diynetwork.com) Add a little free library to your community with inspiration from top designs around the world.
---Front Yard Libraries With Curb Appeal (HGTV) The Little Free Library is a national movement to share the joy of reading via a front yard lending library. Click on the arrows to go through the gallery of photos.
---How to make a little library out of cardboard boxes (Kris Coronado, WaPo, 6-17-19)
---The Question of Little Free Libraries (Megan Cottrell, American Libraries, 1-2-18) Are they a boon or bane to communities? "Detroit’s Little Free Libraries are standalone entities run by individual volunteers, but many public libraries across the US have gotten into the Little Free Library business themselves. Friends of the Bismarck (N.Dak.) Public Library secured funding to purchase 13 Little Free Libraries to spread throughout the city. Instead of waiting for residents to install their own, the library took applications from patrons who wanted to be caretakers and chose them based on location to ensure the book exchanges would blanket the area.
---Our Little Library (Lawrence & Linda Tabak, 4-21-14).
• More Than Words (donate clothes and books through dropboxes in the Boston area)
• NYC Books Through Bars (all-volunteer-run group that sends free, donated books to incarcerated people across the nation)
• Open Books (Chicago, supporting literacy programs)
• Operation Paperback (Helping our troops escape into a good book since 1999--collects gently-used books to send to American troops overseas, to wounded warrior programs and veterans hospitals located within the United States, as well as USO centers at US Airport transit points) In Pennsylvania
• Wonder Book Blog. Wonder Book is an amazing book recycling facility in Frederick, MD. See Eve of Destruction (a blog post showing how Wonder Book operates).
• Project Night Night (San Francisco) Distributes Night Night Packages to homeless children ages 0-10.
• Sending Books to Needy Libraries: Book Donation Programs (American Library Association) Lots of information of various types -- such as where to donate your old National Geographic magazines.
World Book Night (spreading the love of reading, person to person). Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people in the UK. go out into their communities and give out a total of half a million free World Book Night paperbacks, with a focus on reaching those who don’t regularly read, and are gifted through organisations including prisons, libraries, colleges, hospitals, care homes and homeless shelters, as well as by passionate individuals who give out their own books within their communities.
"Reading a book is only the first step in the relationship. After you’ve finished it, the book enters on its real career. It stands there as a badge, a blackmailer, a monument, a scar. It’s both a flaw in the room, like a crack in the plaster, and a decoration. The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait. "~ Anatole Broyard
Things Found in Books (Richard Davies, on AbeBooks.com). "Aside from all the letters, torn out newspaper articles, shopping lists, business cards, and postcards (send and unsent), other objects discovered by AbeBooks.com booksellers include" 40 pressed four-leaf clovers, 40 $1000 bills, and a strip of bacon. Check the insides of those books before you donate or sell them!
• Prison Book Program Encourages donations to Other Books to Prisoners Programs (lists programs all around U.S. and Canada)
• Donating to Prison Libraries (American Library Association, links to programs for donating books to prisons).
• A Day in the Life of a Prison Librarian (Andrew Hart, Public Libraries Online, 10-20-17). See also Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg. "In this captivating memoir, Steinberg, a Harvard grad and struggling obituary writer, spends two years as a librarian and writing instructor at a Boston prison that's an irrepressibly literary place." "Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison. The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note."~Goodreads
• Jail and Prison Library Service (Kathleen Hughes, Public Libraries Online, 9-12-17)
• Book Donation Programs: Donating to Prison Libraries (American Library Association) Links to places to donate.
• National Prisoner Resource List (provides information about places where prisoners and their families can find support, advocacy,health care information, and outlets for their creativity). More book projects listed, but also just a very useful guide to available resources for people in prison.
• Amazon’s Curious Case of the $2,630.52 Used Paperback (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 7-10-18) Third-party vendors can distort Amazon book prices in order to try and make a quick buck. By making the books appear artificially scarce, they can justify the prices they set. Peter Andrews, a former Amazon brand specialist, states: “If I’m selling a $10 book for $610, all I need to do is get one person to buy it and I’ve made $600. It’s just a matter of setting prices and wishful thinking.” Members of the Authors Guild recently discussed various reasons for very high prices of some of their own books (copies of which are still available at regular or low prices): algorithms gone wild, sellers purposely posting a high price on chance someone will chose one-click ordering and the charge will go through ("there is no law against selling at a very high price"), and possibly money laundering.
• Pennies from Hemingway (Pat McNees, Money, Washington Post, 4-8-82) Reality-checking how much all those books you want to get rid of are worth. See also sidebar on what books fetched in 1982: Making a Deal (Washington Post). Wearing my investigative-journalist-shopper hat, I took 19 hardcover books to 11 used book shops in the District, Maryland and Virginia, purposely including a few first edition novels of known value. Ten of the books were of very little value in anyone's eyes. The other nine, including first editions of modern fiction, were of some value to a few dealers and of little or no interest to most. Only a couple of shops recognized valuable books.
"After 10 years, the jacket is probably worth as much as the book," says Allen Ahearn, whose Bethesda shop, Quill & Brush, specializes in modern first editions. "After 10 or 15 years, the jacket is sometimes worth four or five times as much as the book. A Fitzgerald novel from the '20s and '30s without a jacket might sell for anywhere from $50 to $100; with a jacket, from $400 to $1,500. That's because you don't find a Fitzgerald dust jacket any more, so when they show up there's a tremendous premium on them."
• How to Avoid Buying Counterfeit Books on Amazon (Nancy Mertzel, Mertzel law firm, 7-10-19) Some books (especially reference books, which carry a high price tag) sold on Amazon are counterfeit. How to avoid buying them (generally, buy books shipped by Amazon, so you can get your money back).
• Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It (David Streitfeld, Week in Review, NY Times, 12-27-08), on the rise of a network of amateurs selling books from their homes.
• AddALL (Used and Out of Print Search)
• Bookburro.When looking at a page about a book, this Firefox and Flock browser add-on tells you which online resources, libraries and stores have the same book.
• The Books We’re Drowning In: A Bookseller’s Lament (Margaret Kingsbury, Book riot, 9-14-18) The types of books used bookstores are drowning in: political tell-alls, nonfiction titles made into movies, '80s and '90s fiction paperback hits, James Patterson, and Christian fiction greatest hits. (She names them.)
• New York’s Used Book Stores Are Having a Moment (Anne Kadet, Wall Street Journal, 7-15-16) In a city where used books are ubiquitous, bookstores selling second-hand stock are multiplying and thriving -- doing the labor-intensive work of handling of stock from the "relentless, inexorable flow of review copies, uncorrected proofs, used paperbacks and discarded textbooks." 'The Strand, meanwhile, hosts a booming business selling and renting books “by the foot” to decorators, set designers and homeowners. Purchase rates range from $500 a foot for antique leather-bounds to $15 a foot for paperbacks.' "Oversize art books, at $250 a foot, are the most popular option, says department manager Sky Friedlander. Some buy based on color, bringing in swatches to match. Popular shades include white and sea-foam green." Rising rents are a bigger threat than Amazon and eBooks.
• Searchable Booksites (Books and Book Collecting, Trussel.com) Links to ABAA, ABE, ABookSearch.com, AddALL, Alibris, Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble, Biblio.com, bibliophile.net. Biblioroom, BookFinder.com, FetchBook.Info, Galaxidion, ILAB-LILA, isbn.nu, Pandora's Books, Powell's Books, SearchBiblio.Com. TomFolio.Com. UsedBookSearch.
• Out-of-Print Book Search Services (Books and Book Collecting, Trussel.com)
• Your Old Books. The Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries answers frequently asked questions about rare and older books and their value. (For example: What makes a book rare? What is the difference between a rare book and a secondhand book? What kinds of books are usually not rare? What is the difference between a first and limited edition? How can I ascertain a fair price? Who might accept my old books as a donation?) You can also download a compact PDF version of same FAQ answers.
• The Book Thing (an enormous warehouse of booksalong Vineyard Lane north of downtown Baltimore, Md. (Listed in Only in Your State--see if there's anything like it in your state!)
If you purchase anything after connecting to Amazon through one of the following links, this site gets a small commission on the whole sale -- which helps support keeping the site going.
• Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online by Joe Waynick
• The Home-Based Bookstore: Start Your Own Business Selling Used Books on Amazon, eBay or Your Own Web Site by Steve Weber
• Sell on Amazon: A Guide to Amazon's Marketplace, Seller Central, and Fulfillment by Amazon Programs by Steve Weber (being more specific!)
• How to Sell Books on Amazon: The Stay-at-Home Mom's Secret Guide to Selling Used Books on Amazon by Christine E. Miller
• Amazon Top Seller Secrets: Insider Tips from Amazon's Most Successful Sellers by Brad and Debra Schepp
• Barcode Booty: How I found and sold $2 million of 'junk' on eBay and Amazon, And you can, too, using your phone by Steve Weber (who must have made a fair amount just publishing these books--in this case a book about using cellphone apps to check the value of "finds" at yard sales, retail stores, outlet malls, warehouse clubs, wholesale dealers, bargain basements, and online bulk suppliers)
• Selling Used Books Online: The Complete Guide to Bookselling at Amazon's Marketplace and Other Online Sites by Stephen Windwalker. One reviewer suggests that it needs updating to include services such as Scoutpal, Sellerengine, Aman, Mail Extractor,etc., which allow online sellers to batch-edit large parts of their inventory
• Buying Books Online: Finding Bargains and Saving Money with Booksense Stores, Amazon Marketplace, and Other Online Sites by Steven Windwalker
• The PayPal Wars: Battles with eBay, the Media, the Mafia, and the Rest of Planet Earth by Eric M. Jackson
• The Perfect Store: Inside eBay by Adam Cohen
• Wonder Book and Video: Fast-Growing Reseller Navigates the Changing World of Online Commerce ("Twice-Sold Tales" was headline in print paper) (Bob Thompson, Wash Post, 12-29-08) To Chuck Roberts, "the Web book business is literally the Wild West." And if you can't beat your competition to the draw -- by rethinking the way you operate "every six months" -- you're dead." The "story of how Chuck Roberts came to fill up those 54,000 square feet of warehouse space is also the story of how swiftly the once-sleepy business of selling used books has been remade over the past decade.
• ABC for Book Collectors by John Carter and Nicholas Barker
• Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books 3rd edition, by Ian C. Ellis
• Collected Books: The Guide to Identification and Values (4th edition, 2011) by Allen and Patricia Ahearn, authors of Collected Books: The Guide to Values (2002)
• The Official Price Guide to Collecting Books by Marie Tedford
• Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions, compiled by Bill McBride
• Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone
• Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century by Nicholas A. Basbanes (a who's who of booksellers and book collectors, with information on what questions to ask, how to use the Web, why book fairs and book dealers are invaluable--a guide to "gratifying a passion in a sensible way."
• A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, also by Nicholas A. Basbanes. A "celebration of books and the people who have revered, gathered, and preserved them over the centuries" -- a history of book collecting that will educate you also about the history of bookmaking.
• Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy (also by Basbanes).
• The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, a History by Lewis Buzbee
Where things are going in book publishing, part 1, Mike Shatzkin's important "What I would have done in London (part 1)" blog entry, a follow-up to his major Stay Ahead of The Shift blog essay. Starts with things "coming right up" and continues with the view of the next 20 to 25 years. Essential reading for booksellers and buyers.
Why digital natives prefer reading in print. Yes, you read that right. (Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 2-22-15) “I like the feeling of it,” Schembari said, reading under natural light in a campus atrium, his smartphone next to him. “I like holding it. It’s not going off. It’s not making sounds.” Bookstore "owner Marlene England said millennials regularly tell her they prefer print because it’s “easier to follow stories.” Pew studies show the highest print readership rates are among those ages 18 to 29, and the same age group is still using public libraries in large numbers."
• 6 Top Apps for Pricing Items and Selling Online -- let you quickly check pricing info, list sales online, and check sales performance. Profit Bandit, TeraPeak, ScanPower, iBookSeller, SellerMobile, Amazon Seller.
• AbeBooks.com (search indie used-book-sellers)
• Amazon.com (the elephant in the room)
• American Bookseller Association search site (search for ABA member booksellers)
• Australian Online Bookshop at http://www.bookworm.com.au/
• Bartleby.com (great books free, online)
• Barnes & Noble
• Best Indie Bookstores on Twitter
**Biblio.com (a good place to buy and sell rare and "collectible" books). Helpful articles on Biblio.com's site:
---Collecting Signed Books
---Storing a book collection
---How to clean, repair, and protect leather books
---How to remove library markings from books
---Identify, prevent, and remove mold and mildew from books
---Book trade associations
• Bibliophile Bookbase lists several million antiquarian books, rare books, used books, and out-of-print books, plus antique maps, atlases and rare prints.
• Bigwords (buy, rent, or sell textbooks--with focus on lowest price)
• Bookbub. Get free and bargain ebook bestsellers for Kindle, Nook, and more. Follow on Facebook and Twitter. From the author's viewpoint: If you are selling the first book in a series through BookBub, it can be a great way to attract new readers to the other books in your series. If BookBub has the right to sell all of the books in a series, you could be getting 99 cents for the later books, instead of the full price or at least more than the 99 cents. So be strategic in what you agree to.
• A Book Buyer's Lament (Ken Kalfus, New Yorker, 6-25-15) Why do we buy new books, order titles from the library, while there still are unread books on the shelf? And then there's the guilt we feel when we buy online instead of at the local independent bookstore.
•Book Collecting, more info on (RBMS, Rare Books and Manuscripts Section, Association of College and Research Libraries, ALA).
• Book Crossing: In This Club, Books Free to a Good Roam (Christina Ianzito, Washington Post, 8-11-09), story about Bookcrossing.com, a catch-and-release program, "leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise." From the Post story: "The best BookCrossing journey has to be that of a copy of Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity,' placed by a Scottish BookCrosser on the summit of a 'wee bittie hill' in the highest village in Scotland six years ago. According to journal entries, it was picked up by someone with the name explorer-21, who wrote, 'hopefully I'll be able to help it on its journey, maybe onto a much bigger hill.' A week later explorer-21 reported having left it on the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The book's last entry is from a German physician, who described receiving it as a gift from a patient while he was working at a Tanzanian hospital. ('Thanks for the book!' the doctor wrote. 'It looks a bit battered but still ok.").'
• 30+ Awesome Artworks You Won’t Believe Were Once Dusty Old Books on a Shelf (Kelly Richman-Abdou, My Modern Met, 4-6-17) Amazing.
Art made out of books puts new spin on concept of book art.
• Artist Breathes New Life into Old Books by Turning Them into Stacked Book Sculptures (Kelly Richman-Abdou, MyModern Met, 1-9-19) Mike Stilkey, the Los Angeles-based artist, 'crafts striking sculptures that breathe new life into overlooked stacks of old books. Stilkey’s one-of-a-kind creations range in scale, materializing as both table-top arrangements and monumental installations. While he often experiments with size, he always employs the same subject matter: “a melancholic and at times a whimsical cast of characters inhabiting ambiguous spaces and narratives of fantasy and fairy tales.”' Browse through a collection of Mike Stilkey’s amazing stacked book sculptures.
• Mike Stilkey’s 24-Foot Tall Book Art Sculpture + More! (Katie Hosmer, My Modern Met, 7-19-12) "After spending time creating a high-end retail boutique exhibit in the city earlier this year, he decided to take on an even bigger challenge and cover the entire ground floor of Hong Kong’s Times Square, a 12-story major shopping center and office tower complex."
• More Whimsical Book Paintings by Mike Stilkey (7 pieces) (Alice Yoo, My Modern Met, 3-18-11) "Stilkey uses a fine mix of ink, colored pencil, paint and lacquer to create works of art that are filled with fantasy. Witty and wonderful, they certainly breathe new life into old books."
• The Man Who Paints on Books (5 pics) (Eugene Kim, My Modern Met, 9-6-10) A photo of Mike Stilkey himself, with early works, 'his signature “stack of books” pieces, as well as two large pieces painted on a flat mosaic of vintage book covers, a first for him.'
• Books as Art (Kathleen Lang, Art a GoGo, 2000) After two years of meticulous preparation, Welsh artist Donald Jackson has placed the first word on the first page of the new Bible. "The Bible is the calligraphic artist's supreme challenge, our Sistine Chapel," said Jackson. See The Saint John's Bible
• The 9 Books Every Artist Should Have on Their Shelf (Artwork Archive)
• Book Depository.com and Book Depository UK. Prices differ, but both offer free shipping worldwide.
• Bookfinder.com. Find used books, rare books, textbooks, new and out-of-print books. Compare book prices, including shipping, from over 100,000 booksellers worldwide. Good source for serious books.
---The 100 most sought after out-of-print books of 2014
---2013 report: Most in-demand out-of-print books
---BookFinder's list of most-sought-after out-of-print books, 2011
• BookFinder4U (you give it a title and it scans 130 stores and finds best price for that title; it also rates the stores)
• BookMouch.com (exchange used books: earn points for giving a book away; redeem points to get books you want)
• The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered. Clive James' classic poem about about literary schadenfreude, as posted by Dwight Garner on the NY Times Paper Cuts blog about books.
• Book Spot (book information online good for searching for book-related content such as bestseller lists, genres, book reviews, electronic texts, book news and more)
• BookRenter.com (rent textbooks and save money)
• Bookstore Guide (an amateur guide to book shopping in Europe)
• Book Stumpers and the Search for Lost Memories (Andy Bowers, NPR Weekend Edition, 1-25-03) Web Service Helps Readers Recover Favorite Childhood Works. (Loganberry Books, Stump the Bookseller, find a children's book title for which you have only partial information)
• The Book Thing (in Baltimore--"Our mission is to put unwanted books into the hands of those who want them.") Get rid of books you no longer want, or get books donated by others, free. Open Saturdays and Sundays.
• The Co-op Book Shop (Australia, online)
• The Extraordinary World of Ex Libris Art (Simon Rose and Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend, Nov. 2009) Ex libris bookplates (beautiful examples shown) range from the simple to the decorative and elaborate, the obscure or even bizarre and surreal. Sometimes ex libris is more valuable than the book containing it.
Indie Bound, a community of independent bookstores. Click here for information on how to link to the site, or be an affiliate (getting a fee for sales that come through your recommendation). Many websites link to Indie Bound as well as (or instead of) Amazon and Barnes & Noble, to give regular brick and mortar bookstores a chance to survive. Information here on becoming an Indie Bound affiliate : Link to books on our website or become an affiliate.
Find-a-Book.com, a searchable database of antiquarian books, maps, prints and autographs offered by the world's leading booksellers, affiliates of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). Website also lists international book fairs of interest to antiquarian book dealers.
• First Edition Book Values: How Much Is a Book Worth? (Denise Enck, Empty Mirror, on determining value via online sources) See also Enck's story, How to Identify a First Edition Book
• Frequently Asked Questions (of Sellers and Buyers) (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America)
My life story is written on my bookshelves (Tracey McGillivray, The Globe and Mail, 2-7-12) "Our books show what we’ve cared about, where we’ve visited (or perhaps wished to visit) and the challenges we’ve faced. How could I give that away?"
NovelRank (track your Amazon sales rank)
Oyster (a Netflix for ebooks)
Paperback Swap. a Netflix for used books. For a monthly fee, trade in your used books for credits that can be used to buy the used books of other members. Sister sites: SwapaCD and SwapaDVD.
Paying More to Send U.S. Mail at U.P.S. Stores . Ray Rivera, NYTimes, 12-20-09, investigates wide-ranging markups on U.S. postal service rates at UPS stores. UPS stores charge whatever markup they like, and one Manhattan store suggested prices of $19.90 and $21 on an 8-pound package that cost $8.80 to ship at the post office across the street. Packages sent via UPS and the U.S. postal service both arrived in two days.
Textbooks.org. Check the inventory of popular online bookstores (such as Amazon, Half, and Chegg) and compare prices on all available new, used and rental textbooks.
Used Books for Those in Need (Sondra Forsyth, Family Circle, Feb. 2013) Susan McNeill has made it her mission to put used books in the hands of those who need them, especially children.
"Reading a book is only the first step in the relationship. After you’ve finished it, the book enters on its real career. It stand there as a badge, a blackmailer, a monument, a scar. It’s both a flaw in the room, like a crack in the plaster, and a decoration. The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait."~ Anatole Broyard
• A small bookstore pondered its future after a day without a sale. After a tweet, it became overwhelmed with orders. (Cathy Free, WashPost, 1-31-2020) After more than 100 years in business, the Petersfield Bookshop in Hampshire County, England, did not have a single sale one day, saddening bookseller Robert Sansom so deeply he decided to tweet about it. Sansom’s tweet went viral and was retweeted by author Neil Gaiman to his 2.8 million followers, prompting thousands of people to inundate the shop’s website with orders.
• Can Britain’s Top Bookseller Save Barnes & Noble? (David Segal, NY Times, 8-8-19) James Daunt (who worked his magic on the Brit bookstore chain Waterstones) fought Amazon and rescued the country’s biggest bookstore chain. Can he now make it flourish? His guiding assumption is that the only point of a bookstore is to provide a rich experience in contrast to a quick online transaction. Among his interesting ideas: Stock the books local customers are likely to want, not the ones publishers pay a hefty "co-op fee" to stock the store with the books publishers want to sell. That lowers costs because not so many unsold books would have to be shipped back to publishers and the store is likelier to carry the books their customers want -- and can now "discover" in the store. "[Waterstone's in Britain] has largely persisted by selling the pleasure of bookstores first and books second. Because if a store is charming and addictive enough, goes Mr. Daunt's theory, buying a book there isn't just more pleasant. The book itself is better than the same book bought online." Interesting piece and more power to Mr. Daunt.
• A Real-Life Bookseller Weighs In on 7 Fictional Ones (Electric Lit, 10-5-18) Shaun Bythell examines the stereotypes of booksellers in pop culture in The Diary of a Bookseller (his book about a year of buying and selling books in his shop in rural Scotland) and other books starring booksellers.
• Every Trick In The Book: How Local Bookstores Build Community (Kojo Nnandi, NPR, 7-1-19)
• You Could Run a Bookstore by the Sea: The Open Book Scotland Q&A with Jessica Fox, cofounder of The Open Book in Scotland, an Airbnb bookstore residency program that allows guests to rent the shop and apartment and play Scottish bookstore owner. The Open Book is set in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town — a village of 900 people and 16 bookshops right by the sea in an area called Galloway.
• Betting on Books: Can the Indie Bookstore Revival Last? (Max Graham, The Politic, 2-4-19) In 2010, Graham's parents bought Politics & Prose, a celebrated Washington DC bookstore. 'One experienced owner cautioned my dad, “You should be prepared to lose your entire investment. If you’re O.K. with that, then go ahead and buy the store. It could at least be fun!”...So far, my parents’ approach has been effective: P&P has posted revenue gains every year since they bought it, with 2018 as the most profitable yet. But even a comparatively successful bookstore like P&P cannot count on continued growth at a time when in-store shopping and brick-and-mortar retail are suffering across the board....Ryan Raffaelli, a professor at Harvard Business School...who has conducted hundreds of interviews with bookstore owners, customers, publishers, and authors, attributes the success of indies to the “three C’s”: community, curation, and convening. Independent bookstores forge connections with their local communities; they offer a more personalized and hands-on browsing experience, enabling a sense of discovery lacking online; and they provide a gathering space, hosting author talks, book signings, and school events....In a November 2017 Harvard Business School video, Raffaelli, with boyish hair and a suppressed grin, remarked, “What independent booksellers do for us is that they really provide us with a story of hope.”
'Joyce Carol Oates once tweeted that P&P is “someplace between a bookstore & a small college.” Ann Patchett, the prolific author and herself an indie-bookstore owner, wrote in The New York Times that P&P is “where the movers and shakers of our nation’s capital come to see what’s really going on.”'
• Once-endangered bookstores are booming again (CBS News, 4-23-18) Between 2009 and 2015, more than 570 independent bookstores opened in the U.S., bringing the total to more than 2,200; that's about a 35 percent jump after more than a decade of decline. The surprise recovery may hold lessons for other small retailers.
• Why the Number of Independent Bookstores Increased During the 'Retail Apocalypse' (Paddy Hirsch, All Things Considered, NPR, 3-29-18) The phoenix rises from the ashes. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of independent bookstores grew by 35 percent. This happened during the so-called "retail apocalypse," which has pitted Amazon against every retail outlet in America.... Retail "developers are starting to look at independent bookstores in a different way....Real estate developers are actually willing to give deals to some of the independent bookstores because the independent bookstore is a mark of authenticity." Read the transcript.
• Iceland has the best holiday tradition for bookworms (Corinne Purtill, Quartzy, 12-22-18) In the Nordic nation of Iceland, "some 350,000 people observe an annual holiday tradition known as jólabókaflóð, or the Christmas book flood. Even in a time of smartphones and dwindling book sales, books remain the country’s most popular Christmas gift. Many Icelanders get down to the business of reading their new titles as soon as they open them, typically on Christmas Eve, and pass the holiday season lost in new books" (some of them bought in this fabulous bookstore in Reykjavik).
• Why you should surround yourself with more books than you’ll ever have time to read (Jessica Stillman, Fast Company, 12-17-18) An overstuffed bookcase (or e-reader) says good things about your mind. "The best way to get smarter is to read....So, stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes." (Thank you for that, LL)
• How Do You Move A Bookstore? With A Human Chain, Book By Book (Laurel Wamsley, NPR, 10-30-18)
Over 200 residents of Southampton, England banded together to help October Books, a small radical bookstore move, book by book, by passing the books down a human chain. (Did you hear this delightful story on NPR? Now you can see what it looked like.)
• Small bookstores are booming after nearly being wiped out (Jill Schlesinger, CBS News, 11-23-18)
• The Storied Bookstalls of Paris Fight for Survival (Sam Schechner, WSJ, 9-14-18) 'Books have been sold from wooden cases perched along the banks of the River Seine for centuries, in perhaps the most celebrated display of France’s bibliophile tradition. But now even France is falling out of love with the printed book. The internet is forcing the closure of bricks-and-mortar bookstores across the country, and Paris’s open-air booksellers, icons of the city and its reading culture, also are struggling to adjust. Mr. Callais and the city’s other 200-some riverfront bookmongers, or bouquinistes, find themselves at a crossroads. Some have donned the mantle of free-market realists, pushing aside some of their books to make room for more profitable tourist knickknacks like Mona Lisa magnets, baguette-shaped bottle openers and Eiffel Tower keychains."...Not everyone agrees with Mr. Callais’s call for purity. Mr. Robert argues that curtailing souvenir sales could drive many bouquinistes out of business. “We need to be hybrids,” he said. “Being on a list won’t keep us alive.”'
• Data-Driven Amazon Bookstores Can’t Compete with Indies (Anton Barba-Kay, Lit Hub, 5-4-18) "...the reviews of the new Amazon store concluded on a note of relief. With all its gizmotopian technosyncrasies, it cannot actually compete with your neighborhood shop. It stocks too few books, its approach is too robotically data-driven, its employees are not remarkably knowledgeable about books, it is selling toys and e-gadgets as much as (or more than) books, it is not a cozy place to browse or to discover something you did not already know about....In an independent bookstore, especially in a used bookstore, every single book on the shelf represents a studied judgment by the store’s buyer . . . In the Amazon bookstore, taste has been crowd-sourced.”
• 62 of the World’s Best Independent Bookstores As recommended by Atlas Obscura readers. (Eric Grundhauser, Atlas Obscura, 4-27-18)
• The 10 Most Famous Bookstores in the World (Emily Temple, Literary Hub, 3-16-18) For Dedicated Tourists Who Also Want to Buy Books
• Indie Bookstores Are Back, With a Passion (Francis X. Clines, Opinion, NY Times, 2-12-16) The decades of trauma suffered by independent neighborhood bookstores — damage from bargain megastores, the ascension of the e-book and Amazon’s flash delivery of cut-rate reading — hardly hindered Chris Doeblin’s search for the right place to open his fourth independent bookstore in Manhattan.
• The Case of Hong Kong’s Missing Booksellers (Alex W. Palmer, NY Times Magazine, 4-3-18) As China’s Xi Jinping consolidates power, owners of Hong Kong bookstores trafficking in banned books find themselves playing a very dangerous game.
• The Best Bookstores in All 50 States (Mental Floss, 3-25-19)
• Once-endangered bookstores are booming again (CBS News, 4-23-18) Between 2009 and 2015 there was a 35% jump in the number of bookstores. The rebound is about more than just books. With over 500 events a year, including comedy shows, bookstores like Anderson’s in Illinois are becoming a community cornerstone. “You talk to people, have someone treat you like a friend, and something they love, they’re going to share with you, too, and you’re going to love it, too. You can’t get that online.”
• Shakespeare and Company Is Coming Back to the West Side and the Village (Aimee Lee Ball, NY Times, 3-13-18) A branch of Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Greenwich Village closed several years ago, but a new one will open there and on the Upper West Side this year.
• First impressions of an Amazon bookstore (Mike Shatzkin, The Shatzkin Files, 5-29-17) "You’re there to select from the most popular possible titles displayed for very rapid scanning and choosing." The titles are all "face out." There are a few special sections, like "rated 5 stars." And you can pick up and handle the Amazon gadgets.
• Ann Patchett’s Guide for Bookstore Lovers (Pursuits, NY Times, 12-6-16) Parnassus Books in Nashville (her shop); several knock-out stores for children's books; Destinations stores; Tiny stores; the Venerables; and the Personals.
• Charming and Unusual Bookstores Around the World ( Kavita Mokha, Smithsonian, 2-19-15). Great photos, bookstores from Mexico City to Melbourne.
• Most Interesting Bookstores of the World (Mirage Bookmark)
• 7 Writers on Their Favorite Bookstores (Travel, NY Times, 12-7-16) Geraldine Brooks (on Fullers Bookshop, Hobart, Tasmania), Ta-Nehisi Coates (Eso Won Books, Los Angeles), Pamela Paul (Hatchards, London), Juan Gabriel Vásquez (San Librario, Bogotá, Colombia), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (The Jazzhole, Lagos, Nigeria), Dwight Garner (The Strand, New York City), Russell Shorto (Boekhandel Van Rossum, Amsterdam).
• 50 Unique Independent Bookstores You Need to Visit in Every US State (Rebecca Johnson, The Culture Trip, 6-9-17). Title a little misleading--one bookstore per state.
• Temples for the Literary Pilgrim (Travel, NY Times, 12-7-16) Great bookstores in Porto, Portugal, Hangzhou, China; Paris; Santorini, Greece; Victoria, British Columbia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City; and Kalk Bay, South Africa.
• 20 Amazing Outdoor Libraries and Bookstores From All Over the World (Emily Temple, Flavorwire, 4-25-13)
• A Trip Through Amazon’s First Physical Store (Alexandra Alter and Nick Wingfield, NY Times Media, 3-16-16)
• Twelve of the world's most beautiful bookshops - in pictures (The Guardian, 6-19-15) From an underground carpark in China to a converted theatre in Argentina, take a look at some of the most stunning bookshops around the world
• The 10 best independent bookshops in the world – readers recommend (The Guardian, 6-19-15)
• In the age of Amazon, used bookstores are making an unlikely comeback (Michael S. Rosenwald, Wash Post, 12-26-15)
• The Bookstore Built by Jeff Kinney, the ‘Wimpy Kid’ (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 5-22-15, on An Unlikely Story, in Plainville, Mass.)
• Top 10 Coolest Bookshops in Britain to Visit on Your Next Trip – The Bookshop Tour of Britain (John Rabon, Anglotopia, 5-4-15)
• A Different Kind of Book Tour (Emily Raabe, Wall Street Journal, 12-26-14) Let literature lead you to some of the country’s coolest towns—by heading where independent shops are thriving
• Truly Novel Bookstores (Jemima Sissons, WSJ, 7-12-13)
• How 'Indie' Bookstores Survived (and Thrived) (Peter Osnos, The Atlantic, 12-2-13)
• 6 Independent Bookstores That Are Thriving — and How They Do It (Boris Kachka and Joshua David Stein, New York, 4-13-14)
• Bookstores in Seattle Soar, and Embrace an Old Nemesis: Amazon.com (Kirk Johnson, NY Times, 4-11-14)
• America's most literate cities (2013, annual survey
• Why Indie Bookstores Are on the Rise Again (Zachary Karabell, Slate, 9-9-14) Borders and B&N tried to compete with Amazon, and failed. Independent stores can’t even try—nor do they have to. Sales at indies have grown 8 percent a year over the past three years, which exceeds the growth of book sales in general.
• 10 Great Independent Bookstores (Sue Douglass Fliess, Education.com 4-3-14)
• America's Best Bookstores (Sarah L. Stewart, Travel + Leisure, Jan 2013) (Square Books, Oxford, MS; Prairie Lights, Iowa City; Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL; Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C.; Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO; Bookbook, New York City; Powell’s Books, Portland, OR; Faulkner House Books, New Orleans; The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle; Crow Bookshop, Burlington, VT; City Lights, San Francisco; Chapter One Bookstore, Ketchum, ID; Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA; Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver;
• The novel resurgence of independent bookstores (Yvonne Zipp, CS Monitor, 3-17-13) Defying the onslaught of the e-book revolution, many small bookshops see a rise in sales, aided by savvy business practices and the 'buy local' movement.
• Tsundoku: The practice of buying more books than you can read (Melissa Breyer, TreeHugger, 8-1-18)
Would you pay $27,500 for book proofs? Emma Mustich, Salon.com, on the high price of pre-publication copies of literary classics, from "1984" to "Harry Potter"
• Bigwords (buy, rent, or sell textbooks--with focus on lowest price)
• DavesCampus.com (compare prices for new and used college, high school, and homeschool textbooks etc.)
• DirectTextbook (enter ISBN, title, author, or keywords and DT searches 200 online bookstores for cheapest used textbook)
• eCampus (buy and sell new and used books and textbooks)
• GetCheapBooks (cheap books and textbooks)
• Get Textbooks
• MyBookBuyer.com (sell used textbooks -- free shipping)
• Textbook Superstore (Half.com), an eBay company
Great bookseller blogs (and newsletters)
(hurrah for brick and mortar stores and the
booksellers that still hand sell books)
• Aaron's Books (Lancaster County, Lititz, PA)
• Barbara's Byline (Politics & Prose, DC)
• Bauman Rare Books
• Bookman's blog (Ten Pound Island Book Company, old rare, and out of print books, manuscripts, and charts pertaining to the sea) A blog about the antiquarian book trade. This entry: What is a personal library, anyway?
• Books that sell themselves (Boswell and Books)
• BookPeople's blog (Austin, TX)
• Books @ Bromer (Bromer Booksellers, rare and beautiful books, Boston)
• Boswell and Books (Milwaukee)
• The Boswellians (Milwaukee)
• Carla Comments Politics & Prose, Washington DC
• Empty Mirror (this bookselling site specializing in the Beat Generation writers and modern poetry quickly morphed into an online arts magazine)
• The FineBooks Blog (this entry about Raptis Rare Books in Palm Beach employing DNA technology to authenticate books)
• Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn)
• Independent Online Booksellers Association member blogs
• Inkwell Bookstore Fallmouth, Massa)
• Island Books newsletter (Mercer Island, Washington)
• Journey of a Bookseller (Jo Ann Hakola, The Book Faerie, Las Cruces, NM, a homebased business selling online only)
• Kash's Book Corner (Boulder Bookstore--check out recommended book lists along left side)
• McNally Jackson (Prince Street, NYC)
• Message in a Bottle (Mercer Island, WA)
• Mr. Micawber Enters the Internets
• Off the Shelf Boulder Book Store
• Paz & Associates (The Bookstore Training Group, sharing bookstore best practices)
• Pistil blog
• PowellsBooks blog I didn't expect to talk about the Internet so much, before I started this column: I am still very dedicated to analog literature, bookshops, and IRL book clubs.
• The Regulator Bookstore (Durham, NC)
• RiverRun Bookstore (Portsmouth, NH)
• Sam Wellers (new, used, out of print)
• Scribbling in San Antonio
• Secret Bookseller (Musings of an Indie Bookseller, UK)
• Skylight (Los Feliz neighborhood, Los Angeles)
• The Strand
• There is no gap (Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor--closing?)
• Vroman's Bookstore Blog
• Wonder Book Blog. Wonder Book is an amazing book recycling facility in Frederick, MD. See How Wonder Book & Video Helped Frederick Become the ‘Book Capital of the Country’ and "Eve of Destruction (a blog post showing how Wonder Book operates).
• 21 Booksellers Who Blog (Abe Books)
Resurrecting the Book Market of Baghdad (Aditi Sriram, Narratively, 12-30-13) When a car bomb obliterates Iraq’s millennium-old literary heart, a bookseller seven thousand miles away resolves that the voices of Al-Mutanabbi Street will not be forgotten.
Al-Mutanabbi Street was like so many streets all over the world where books are sold, bought, browsed, thumbed through, read. “Anywhere where someone sits down and begins to write towards the truth. Anywhere where someone picks up a book to read. That’s where Al-Mutanabbi Street starts,” Beausoleil says, explaining how the project got its name.
The original entry here has been expanded and turned into a blog post, which can be found here:
Amazon vs Book Publishers (Do Writers Win or Lose?) Do read the comments!
See also additional related posts below:
• What I Learned Poking Around Amazon’s Bookstore (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 6-28-19) A lifetime of browsing offers lessons in spotting disinformation. There's a little customized and temporary price-jacking?
• Cheap Words. Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books? (George Packer, a long piece for the New Yorker, 2-9-14) A thoughtful piece on "the relationship between the book industry and the retail giant that represents both its most important sales channel and its most dangerous antagonist." Thanks for the lead from Jeff Bercovici, whose short piece Amazon Vs. Book Publishers, By The Numbers (Forbes, 2-10-14) provides some interesting numbers, observations.
• How One Independent Bookstore Succeeds in the Amazon Age (Susan Kitchens, WSJ, 4-28-19) A Cappella Books has survived, even thrived, the same way other indie bookstores have: by rethinking the way it makes money. Frank Reiss’s business as an antiquarian bookseller spent 10 years on the edge of collapse, and he occasionally sells a rare book for a five-figure sum, but Amazon killed the rare book market. Then author events, including book signings, often in other venues, saved the store and with the demise of big-box stores like Borders and readers' growing sense of Amazon's evil influence on the book industry came a resurrection of indie bookstores. Fascinating piece, particularly on how the author events worked.
• Why Borders Failed While Barnes & Noble Survived (Yuki Noguchi, All Things Considered, NPR, 7-19-11) "The big-box store was a glorious thing while it lasted. To people in many parts of America, they were a kind of Aladdin's cave," says Dan Raff, a management professor at The Wharton School. 'At Borders, people could access literary variety, contrary to smaller, independent bookstores. With Barnes & Noble staking its future on digital technology, Raff says, it's likely the big bookstore will only live on in big cities.'
• From Amazon, a Change That Hurts Authors (Douglas Preston, NY Times, 10-12-17) Last March, Amazon quietly changed the way it sells books. An obscure and seemingly harmless modification to its website has opened the door for some third-party sellers to deceive Amazon’s customers by selling books as “new” that may not come straight from a publisher or its wholesaler, thus depriving authors of royalties they should have earned from the sale of a new book. Amazon decided to allow third-party sellers to be featured atop the primary purchase button for new books, a spot previously reserved for Amazon’s own inventory, which comes directly from the publishers. Approved third-party sellers “win” this placement through a secret algorithm that considers, among other things, price, availability, seller’s rating and shipping time. In doing so, Amazon abdicates its role as the prime retailer on its own website. The main requirement is that the books offered by the third-party seller must be “new.” Authors: Read the whole article!
• Against Amazon: Seven Arguments, One Manifesto (Jorge Carrión, Literary Hub, 11-15-17) I don’t want to be an accomplice to symbolic expropriation. “As far as Amazon is concerned there is no difference between a cultural institution and an establishment that sells food and other goods.” I don’t want to be accomplice to a new empire. “Amazon censors or privileges books to suit its own interests.” I don’t want them to spy on me while I am reading. “The great advantage of a print book is the fact that it is permanently disconnected.” And so on.
• At Amazon’s Bookstore, No Coffee but All the Data You Can Drink (Francis X. Clines, NY Times, Editorial Observer, 5-27-17) "A non-virtual, real-life Amazon bookstore opened in Manhattan on Thursday with no obvious signs of corporate guilt at having driven countless independent bookstores to oblivion with the scythe-like power of the company’s e-book discounting. The store opened to a crowd waiting outside, some of them curious about the retro spectacle of a big-box bookstore, as if resurrected from the dead, selling actual books over the counter instead of the internet. All in the name of Amazon, the Colossus that ate the Indies."
• The Amazon Bookstore Isn’t Evil. It’s Just Dumb. (Alex Shephard, New Republic, 5-30-17"This is what publishers and booksellers warned would happen when Amazon released its “Price Check” app: that bookstores—the lifeblood of the publishing industry—would become de facto showrooms for Amazon....Seemingly no longer content with that, Amazon is now entering the showroom business, giving bookstore owners and publishers even more reason to stay awake at night. ....But if Amazon Books’s raison d’etre is “discoverability” and the blending of online and offline commerce, than its utility breaks down—it doesn’t do either thing particularly well. They certainly don’t justify the high overhead expense the company is taking on."
• A selected list of Manhattan bookstores (Vakerie Peterson, The Balance, 7-17-17)
• Types of Booksellers: A Survey of Where Books Are Sold (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 2-24-17)
• Borders Group History - The Creation Of A Bookstore Chain (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 2-24-17) Brentano's, Walden and Borders - The Beginnings of the Borders Group
• Amazon and the future of physical retail (Mike Shatzkin, The Shatzkin Files, 9-20-17)
• Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age (Kevin Roose, NY Times, 9-18-17)
• What if Barnes & Noble went bankrupt? (Nathan Bransford, 8-28-17) A conversation with Mike Shatzkin. "Barnes & Noble has an uncertain future as a print bookseller, as its revenues decline and it transitions toward diversifying its products toward games and toys. It didn’t take long for B&N to go from being the bad guy in You’ve Got Mail to the equivalent of the little shop on the corner everyone is rooting for. What impact is this going to have on publishers?"
• Amazon Is Quietly Eliminating List Prices (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 7-3-16) With a majority of Amazon products, the presentation of a bargain used to be front and center. Now, in many cases, Amazon has dropped any mention of a list price. There is just one price. Take it or leave it. This piece is interesting as a discussion of the psychology of getting a bargain vs. lawsuits over fake discounts.
• Pulp Friction (Alex Shephard, New Republic, 6-20-16) If Barnes & Noble goes out of business, it’ll be a disaster for book lovers. "If Barnes & Noble were to shut its doors, Amazon, independent bookstores, and big-box retailers like Target and Walmart would pick up some of the slack. But not all of it. Part of the reason is that book sales are driven by “showrooming,” the idea that most people don’t buy a book, either in print or electronically, unless they’ve seen it somewhere else—on a friend’s shelf, say, or in a bookstore. Even on the brink of closing, Barnes & Noble still accounts for as much as 30 percent of all sales for some publishing houses."
Unlike Amazon, "often takes very large initial orders. For books it believes will fly off the shelves, initials can reach the mid-five figures—hundreds of thousands of dollars that go to the publisher before a single book is even sold. That money, in turn, allows publishers to run ads in magazines and on Facebook, send authors on book tours, and pay for publicists. Without Barnes & Noble, it would become much harder for publishers to turn books into best-sellers."
• Legal challenges over online reviews seek to separate fact from fiction (Julianne Hill, ABA Journal, 7-1-16) When Robert Allen Lee complained about his NYC dentist on Yelp and DoctorBase, claiming the dentist overcharged him and did not furnish the treatment records that would allow him to make an insurance claim and be reimbursed, she sued him, citing a privacy agreement she made him sign before treatment. Four+ years later, Lee won, the court calling "the privacy agreement null and void, calling the contract 'a deceptive act or practice in violation of New York General Business Law,' which bars deceptive business practices."
"As online reviews grow in influence, a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game is evolving," writes Hill, in this important piece. “Whether a company buys fake reviews or prohibits consumers from putting up complaints, they are trying to accomplish the same result—deceptively manicuring what their public ratings look like,” says Aaron Schur, Yelp’s senior director of litigation in San Francisco.
• Amazon Lowers the Boom on Discount eBook Sites (Nate Hoffelder, The Digital Reader, 6-15-16) Amazon-owned Goodreads launched its discount ebook service last month...now that Goodreads has its own discount ebook service (and now that Amazon has no ebook competitors left)...Amazon has been lowering the boom on e-book discount sites that were violating the Amazon affiliate terms of service.
• A Penny for Your Books (Dan Nosowitz, NY Times Magazine, 10-16-15) A good explanation of those "used books" selling for a penny on Amazon (plus $3.99 shipping, which covers Amazon's cut, too). "Penny booksellers are exactly the sort of weedy company that springs up in the cracks of the waste that the Internet has laid to creative industries. They aren’t a cause; they’re a small, understandable result. Penny booksellers expose the deep downside to efficiency capitalism, which is that everything, even literal garbage and rare high art, is now as easy to find and roughly as personal as a spare iPhone charging cable."
• Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace (Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, Business Day, NY Times, 8-15-15). The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions. This article that dominated news talk one week in August 2015.
• Jeff Bezos and Amazon Employees Join Debate Over Its Culture (David Streitfeld and Jodi Kantor, Business Day, NY Times, 8-17-15). Jeff Bezos says Amazon won't tolerate 'callous' management practices.
• Data-Crunching Is Coming to Help Your Boss Manage Your Time (David Streitfeld, Technology, NY Times, 8-17-15)
• To Gain the Upper Hand, Amazon Disrupts Itself (David Streitfeld, Technology, NY Times, 12-1-14)
• Amazon’s Shrinking Profit Sets Off a Seismic Shock to Its Shares (James B. Stewart, Common Sense, Business Day, NY Times, 4-25-14)
• Tips for Writing Amazon Reviews (Penny Sensevieri, 1-7-16) Authors: share this with your fans, friends, relatives.
• Amazon, E-books, and the Future of Publishing (Writers and Editors, 11-24-12)
• Who wins and loses from DoJ's suit against Big Publishers and Apple? (Writers and Editors, 4-15-12)
• What's up with publishers not selling ebooks to libraries? (Writers and Editors, 3-19-12) Times have changed since this piece?
• Amazon.com (Gorilla) and the Future of Book Publishing (part 1) (2-1-12)• Amazon.com and the Future of Book Publishing (part 2) • The Dish Model (The Dish, 3-6-13) on whether a blog should link to Amazon for book titles to generate affiliate revenue.
• Should Every Book Link To Amazon? (The Dish, 1-17-13) Refers us to the next link, where "Hairpin editors Nicole Cliffe and Edith Zimmerman debated the merits of the Amazon Affiliate program, where sites get a cut of the money spent at Amazon when a reader follows a link from their site."
• A Conversation About Books and Money (Nicole Cliffe, The Hairpin, 1-11-13) " I’ve gotten some nudges from readers (and there’s also this thing Emily Gould wrote) about the merits of linking to Goodreads instead (or a better option if it arises)." (Of course, Amazon now owns Goodreads.)
• Worried about the future of books? Here’s what you can do. (Emily Gould, Medium.com, 1-8-13)
• E-book fire sales: the death knell for publishers? (9-29-11)
This section was migrated here from the website of the late, great Sarah Wernick, by permission of her husband, Willie Lockeretz. Updated January 1, 2007. I have not tried to update this since then, but leave it here in case it is helpful. Tell me if it is not!
If the Amazon.com listing for your book is incorrect; if the page omits features that might improve sales, such as sample content or laudatory reviews – or if a reader review is defamatory or obscene – authors or publishers can request changes. Here's information about updating your listing, as well as links to information about the Amazon sales rankings.
What if Amazon has omitted the subtitle of your book or misspelled the name of your co-author? At the bottom of Amazon's page for each individual book is a Feedback box. One of the links is to "Update product information."
Click on the link. This takes you to the Catalog Update Form. You will be asked to log onto Amazon to verify your identity. Once you've done that, you'll be allowed to proceed to the update form, which already has the title of the book and the ISBN filled in. You can correct any of the following by checking the relevant box and following simple prompts:
- Publication Date
- Number of Pages
If you experience difficulties or delays (more than a week), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the ISBN and title plus the correction. Indicate that you are the author.
If that doesn't work, try the telephone: 206-266-2992 or 206-266-2335.
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If you want to add descriptive material to the page for your book, you will need to fill out the Books Content Form. Though the form is geared to publishers, authors may use it too. Have your ISBN and the new text ready ahead of time to simplify the procedure.
Here are the types of material you can add with the Book Content Update Form:
- Publisher's comments
- Author comments
- Author bio(s)
- Table of contents
- Inside-flap copy
- Fair-use citations from reviews (source plus up to 20 words per review)
- First chapter or other excerpt
After you enter the content, you'll be given the opportunity to edit it. Before you sumbit the material, use your browser's copy function to keep a record of the final version.
Once you've sent your additions, a page will come up saying that the additions should appear within five business days. If you experience difficulties send an email to email@example.com with the ISBN and title plus the additions. If that doesn't work, try calling Amazon: 206-266-2992 or 206-266-2335.
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Dealing with Inappropriate Reviews
Amazon.com allows readers to post reviews – including negative reviews – of books. Most authors would not wish to censor legitimate reviews, even if we disagree with them. However, we do have the right to protect ourselves from reviews that violate Amazon's policy prohibiting content that is illegal, obscene, threatening, defamatory, invasive of privacy, infringing of intellectual property rights, or otherwise injurious or objectionable.
If an objectionable review appears on your page, you can ask to have it removed. For example, a reader posted a "review" of my coauthored book, Strong Women, Strong Bones, which is about osteoporosis, claiming - I assume as a joke - that it contained "wonderfully graphic photographs" showing a gaping hole burnt into the palate of my collaborator from "hooting" calcium. Needless to say, the book contains no such photographs. I drew the review to Amazon's attention and they deleted it.
To deal with an inappropriate review: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the title and ISBN of the book, as well as the review to which you're objecting. Identify yourself as the author and explain your objection. You might find it helpful to read and refer to Amazon's "Conditions of Use," which lists forbidden review content.
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Deciphering Amazon's Sales Rankings
Amazon ranks all of the books in its inventory in order of their sales. These rankings provide useful information for authors, from the proposal stage, when the rankings pinpoint our competition, to the post-publication stage when they help us assess the effectiveness of publicity and predict the likely content of our next royalty statement.
For a detailed look at how sales ranks are determined and what they signify, see Surfing the Amazon - Decoding Sales Ranks, by Morris Rosenthal. If you haven't read the article recently, check it again: Rosenthal updates it from time to time. Also check out his blog, which discusses rating-related developments at Amazon and elsewhere.
If you become obsessed with the Amazon rankings of your books (or those of your competitors), you can subscribe to a service offered by Books & Writers, which provides email updates weekly, daily, or even hourly. The cost is $10 per year for a single book, $20 per year for two to ten books, and more for additional books. You can try the service free for a month.
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Updated January 1, 2007
Amazonfail. Craig Seymour in his blogpost Is Amazon.com homophobic? Amazon.fail and you're done launched a spring 2009 controversy about which there has been MUCH Twittering. Amazon later explained to the press that its de-ranking of all gay and lesbian literature as "adult literature" was a "glitch," but it felt like censorship policy to most of the tweeters. Among tweets (under the hashtag #amazonfail, and apologies in advance: I don't know protocol on crediting these):
"Suggestion: make content filtering a selectable OPTION, much like Google does."
"Irony: a company named for a band of lesbian warriors considers lesbian content morally objectionable."
"Don't let Amazon decide which books you need to be 'protected' from."
"The revolution will be tweeted."
Seymour followed up on his initial post later with My AmazonFail Timeline.