Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Lots of things to update, so here goes:

1. I related a while back that our AC units were stolen at the Midtown location, causing us to baste in our own juices. Well, one of the units is now back and functional, with promises that the other will be fixed this week.

2. The Elves are hard at work, gearing up for the new store opening (More on this below) and continuously refining our Midtown Location.

3. Later this month we will unveil our new website (www.memphisbookshop.com).

4. We came to a critical point in the build out of the new store, and had to make a decision. We could open on June 1 with a decent, functional store, or we could delay one month and have a store we could be proud of. After much deliberation, we have chosen the later. It is possible we will open earlier, and if so, we will be sure to let you know right here, but no later than July 1.

I am sure there is more, and I will keep you up to date.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Back on track

Sorry for the delay in updating, but I have been as busy as a [ insert favorite simile here]. Loyal Book Elf Amanda went out of town for a week, right on the heels of our losing our cataloguer, so I had to be pulled from my oh so comfortable supervisory role and pressed into actual work.

One day, I had about an hour of unscheduled time at the store, and had a brilliant blog post all ready. I sat at the computer, went to the correct page, and then realized I had forgotten my password. Undaunted, I hit the very cleaverly named GET PASSWORD button, which then told me it was emailing the password to my email address. Of course, when I opened this blinking account, I used an email address I could only check from home. No matter, I said to myself, I shall just do it upon arrival at home. Can you guess what happened? During the 2 hours between the above events and my arrival at home, I forgot what I was going to post. Totally left my brain.

We got a lot of books in over the weekend, both curent fiction and a lot of history and other non-fiction. I am also getting a box lot (around 100 books) of Civil War material in the first part of next week. Please come by and check it out at the Midtown location.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Romancing the book

This is an easy business to romanticize. After all, we deal in books, and what are books but the revelation of men's souls? It is easy to get wrapped up in the romanticism, the joy of placing the right book to the right reader, the bright colors of the dust wrappers, the smell of the paper...

Yes, it is easy to do, and I fall victim to it all too often. Just the other day, I went to Davis-Kidd on my day off. I do this fairly often, primarily to see what other people are reading and to steal er... learn merchandising techniques. I look at how they display books, how they cross sell, cetera. After all, if they can make money on the pitiful margins new books bring, they must know something, right?

So I am there, and the store is packed. People are moving about, and the lighting is just right, and the colors on the jackets are everywhere, and it sinks in to me that I am surrounded by the collective wisdom and thoughts of thousands of men and women, that all that I like about the world was around me, that I liked the customers there more because they were readers, that joy that I got seeing children running around the kids books section carrying books, asking parents to buy them... it was a truly joyful thing. I felt truly at peace (something very rare for me, what with ADD raging and all) and realised, not for the first time, that the way I feel surrounded by books is the way someone better than me would feel in church.

I have always loved books, and no doubt, the books have loved me back. They have fed me and mine for several years now, and I want nothing more than to be a bookseller for the rest of my life. I feel true joy when someone comes in raving about the book I recomended them, or how much their mom liked the book I sold her. Perhaps my best memory is of the day I was in Brother Juniper's and I overheard the conversation at the table behind me. It was a young couple, and he was raving about the coolest book he had ever bought, and how it really changed his life, and who would have thought something written so long ago would still be valid, and so on. Then I turned and saw the book he had was a Hardback of Emerson's Essays that I had hand sold it to him about a week before.

I resisted the urge to go over and say hello, or even to wave after getting their attention. I just smiled, finished my omelet, and left, thinking what a truly lucky man I am, and what a good thing it was I don't romanticize the book business.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

For our new Visitors

A recent (OK, it was this morning, actually) study of our statistics shows that now over 100 sites link to us here (primarily other bookseller's blogs...how cool is that?) and we get way more hits per day than I ever believed possible. (Tell the truth...some of you are telling your friends about us, aren't you?)

So, I thought periodically, it would make sense to remind you (and to inform the newbies) that while you are all waiting patiently for the opening of Downtown Books, I encourage you to come to our Midtown location, called, appropriately enough, Midtown Books. We have a wide range of books in stock, from out-of-print Histories to recent bestsellers. We have Shelby Foote's personal copies of some of his greatest work, all signed by him (with his penned-in notes) for sale and on display. The Book Elves (AKA the staff) has been voted (admittedly, by themselves) to be the nicest bookstore staff in Memphis.

We are located at 2027 Madison Avenue, just up from Overton Square, across the street from the Blue Monkey. We open at 11 during the week and on Saturday and at 1 on Sunday (we are closed on Monday).

If you need directions to the store, please give us a call at 901-726-0039.

Friday, May 12, 2006

My apologies to the crowd

I know I am running a bit behind with the updates on the downtown store progress... We lost our internet clerk last week so guess who has been shipping out those books people all over the globe have been ordering? That's right, Amanda has. But someone has to supervise, don't they?

Seriously, we have had some turnover in personnel and it has hurt us a bit in the timeline department. But, we have high hopes to be open in the next few weeks. Of course, you will hear about it here first.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Talking to the man

We have went prime time!

OK, so I exaggerate a bit. Not prime time, but we made the news. Fittingly enough, the print news [We could have made the TV news as well, but I would not know, as I do not watch TV].

Yesterday morning, less than 6 hours after posting the previous post [after weeks of silence on my part], I received a call from the daily paper about...the subject of my previous blog entry. The only conclusion I can draw is that my humble blog is read in the upper echelons of the Commercial Appeal management.

Well, I answered his questions truthfully and, while I am always a bit nervous about talking to the press [comes from my experience years ago when I worked for the Memphis Fire Department. If you were at a given place, and a reporter was at a given place, you could bet $100 they would take a picture of you at the exact time you were breaking some inane regulation, and you could further bet that the day the story ran would be the one day of the year your supervisor would buy a paper and read it], I felt he was being straight with me.

I told him nothing I have not told you, gentle readers, here in the pages of this, my humble blog. I did not bash anyone, I resisted the impulse to go into Saturday Morning Wrestling mode and tell how I am the greatest. Actually, I talked more than anything about bookselling [my favorite subject].

So, if you see my name in print this weekend, have no fear. I will still be humble and will not let it go to my head, and I promise to never wear tights and challenge anyone to a cage match.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bookselling in Memphis

I have delayed writing on this, as it just seemed bad taste to do so, but since it has been in the paper and is thus no longer a "secret", I guess it is time.

Burke's Bookstore, that fine old establishment, is in trouble, financially. They recently sent a letter out to their client list asking for help and "cash donations". In the letter, they blame superstores, 9-11 and the internet for decreased sales.

Several things:

First, Corey and Cheryl are my friends and they have helped me immensely as I made the transition from financial planner to bookseller. I like them both personally and professionally, and think they have a great shop. I will not "bash" them or try to find fault with their business. I have all I can do trying to figure my own business out.

Bookselling is hard work. The image of the doddering old bookman who smokes a pipe and reads all day is as far from reality as one can get. Books are heavy, and dusty. They cost money, as does the rent, the utilities and the people to put them on the shelves. Many booksellers find themselves reading less than their customers.

Things have changed, no doubt about it. In the old days (defined as about 6-8 years ago), you bought a book, you priced it and put it on a shelf. If the customer wanted it, they bought it from you, or they did without. What has been great for the consumer has hurt the bookseller; the internet. If you want a copy of The Sun Also Rises, you can zoom over to Amazon.com and get you one, without ever leaving your chair.

Of course, by doing that, you do not see the "fictionalized biography" of the same period by Hemingway called A Movable Feast sitting next to it. You won't run across the book on tempera cooking sitting on display that would make the perfect gift for your mother-in law for her birthday next week, and you miss seeing the display of Hardy Boy's books that look just like the ones you read as a child, and wish your children would read. You miss all that, but, on the plus side, you don't have to get out of your chair.

We sell on the 'net, and it has been good for us, no way around it. And, if you need a specific book, it is hard to beat. But for browsing, for looking for "something to read", it is hard to beat your local bookshop.

Sad fact of the day: Memphis has 3 bookstores that stock used hardback books. 3. Nearly a million people in the area, and 3 stores to buy good used books.

Hey, do yourself a favor. Support your favorite bookstore, would ya? If you don't, one day there won't be any.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Thank God! We are Saved!