Monday, July 20, 2015

Powells Outlives Kindles, Finally Found Closes, Island Books Passes the Torch and Uprooted by Naomi Novik

All I can say to this article is AMEN.

Why Powell's Bookstore Will Outlive the Kindle'

In a piece headlined "Why Powell's Bookstore Will Outlive the Kindle,"
Conde Nast Traveler profiled Powell's City of Books
so vast that visitors find their way around via fold-up maps (free
souvenir alert) and giant directory boards that resemble the
arrivals-and-departures signage at the airport.... The best way to visit
Powell's is with lots of time and no agenda whatsoever.... Landing a job
here is competitive, even for the most devoted bookworms; if you're not
sure what to read next, the 'staff pick' tags with hand-written
recommendations are always solid bets."

"Take the bookstore in your brain and multiply it by 10--then you're
close," said CEO Miriam Sontz in describing the visceral experience that
is Powell's. She added that the bookstore sees 8,000 visitors a day.
"It's all about growing a reading culture."

I was a regular at Baker Street Books in Black Diamond, and I watched Mr Charles struggle to survive in that out of the way spot in a small town, until he sold the store to Todd Hulburt, who then changed the name to Finally Found and, realizing that he wasn't going to get any more foot traffic, moved the store to Auburn. While the location in Auburn wasn't ideal, it was larger, and I attended their grand opening. Unfortunately, I can't find my way there myself, and it seems that it is too out of the way for most bibliophiles, though Todd sought to create a Washington Literacy Foundation non-profit that would keep the store open. I am saddened and frustrated that now there won't be a bookstore for miles anywhere near Maple Valley. The closest bricks and mortar store is going to be Barnes and Nobel, a chain store, in Issaquah. 

Finally Found Books to Close

Finally Found Books, Auburn, Wash.,which has struggled financially since opening in 2013, was put up for
to become a nonprofit, has announced that it will close

On Facebook yesterday, owner Todd Hulbert posted: "It is with very sad
hearts that we must inform you of the closure of the store. Our revenues
over the past three months have fallen by over 30% and we can no longer
keep it going, even to wait on the non-profit.... We sincerely thank you
all for your patronage and support over the years. We will miss you!"

Meanwhile, Island Books, which was my favorite bookstore when I was a reporter at the Mercer Island Reporter from 1997 to 2005 (it was mere steps from the Reporter offices), quietly continues to flourish, thank heaven and Roger and Nancy Page. I adore the Pages, and have spent many a blissful hour wandering the stacks at Island Books, having bookish conversations with Roger, interviewing authors and celebrities at the store, trying to weasel ARCs from the treasure horde in the back room and discussing science fiction with Cindy. I got to know most everyone on the staff, and Roger knew which of my relatives was getting what book for Christmas for years. When I left, Roger and Nancy gifted me with a generous gift certificate that I used for over a year, just to ensure that I'd be coming back in for visits. Unfortunately, as the years have passed, I've not been able to make the trek out to Mercer Island as often as I'd like, so I was surprised and heartbroken by the news that the Pages have turned the bookstore over to a young woman who has always wanted to run a bookstore (not unlike myself). But I do understand the need to slow down, and the Pages have earned a rest and time away from the pressures of running a store. They will still be working part time at the store for awhile, but it won't be the same when they're not there. Still, welcome Laurie, and thank you for your many years of stewardship, Roger and Nancy!

Island Books Passes the Torch
A couple of years ago on a Sunday in August a young  mom and her toddler came into the kid’s section where Nancy and I were working. She looked vaguely familiar to us and we greeted her. It turned out that she had grown up on the island and had just moved back to the neighborhood; she was now introducing her own child to the playhouse. “You know, you can never close this store,” she said with warm sternness. “It has to be here forever.” Now, Nancy and I had heard this kind of talk before. We took it as love but not too seriously.

We had no intention of closing the store. We were in the second of the three best years of its over forty-year history. We were busy every day. I’d had over thirty stimulating years since I started as a gift wrapper, and the last fifteen years with Nancy working beside me in the shop were just plain fun. But the heartfelt words of that younger generation got us wondering what kind of plan we should make for the future.

Time on our lease was dwindling; we were getting grayer; our kids had left the nest. We could manage a few more years of traveling over hill and dale from Ballard, but not forever. So we began to ask two questions: What would it take to create new chapters for our story? And what kind of person should we find to help write those chapters? We spent a year talking to other bookstores and consultants. We realized, perhaps not surprisingly, Island Books was beloved common ground on a diverse island and that it would benefit from a local person who understood and loved its varied and unique character. We also knew that running a retail shop and a bookstore in particular would take someone with an adaptive, can-do spirit.

We set about creating a detailed description of how we operate, secured a longer lease, and got a great new neighbor in Homegrown. We were almost ready to solicit the community when … we got lucky. A familiar and well-liked customer sort of hinted one day about her dream of running a community-oriented business. We sort of hinted back. After a couple of months we were talking. Then we were planning. For the last three months, Laurie Raisys has been working in the store. On July 1, we officially passed the torch, and made her the fourth fortunate owner and steward of Island Books.

Laurie is a longtime Mercer Islander who has the warmth, creativity, integrity, and confidence that the store needs to carry it far into the future. She also has our trust and affection. We have signed on to stay and will be working for her, just trading hats. She will wear the hat decorated with the joys, dreams, and challenges of ownership. Nancy and I will be in bookseller caps, trying to entertain the masses and do right by you. The staff is staying too. You can pester all of us: Cindy, Lori, Kay, Marni, James, Marilyn, Miriam, Laurie, Nancy, and me. It's musical chairs, not a curtain call or a revolution.

And so, members of our beloved community, old friends and new faces alike, let's celebrate the continuation of our shared legacy. We can't thank you enough for the years of goodwill and generosity. Looking forward to swapping more stories.

See you at the counter,

Uprooted by Naomi Novik was one of my Powells purchases, and I'd heard many good things about this fascinating fairy tale. Here's the blurb:
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I enjoyed that the protagonist was the village "pig pen" and outcast, because she was clumsy and unafraid of living near the wood. That said, she allows herself to be intimidated and treated like an idiot servant while under the Dragon's care for far too long. Her fear of sex and sensuality also seems a bit out of date and ridiculous, but I suppose it is meant to make her seem like the country bumpkin that she is, as well as an "innocent" girl. Yet suddenly she falls in love with the Dragon, and all of a sudden wants to have sex with him. The turn around in attitude comes out of nowhere, though it is a welcome sign that Agnez (I called her that in my head because her name is unpronounceable otherwise)is maturing. Her powers stem from a natural earthiness, but for most of the book she struggles to use her powers and make them useful and not weak or wild. Then, out of nowhere, at page 217, the book that I have had a completely different book chapter printed right into it, about 32 pages long. So it interrupts a paragraph, and then when Uprooted begins again, its in the middle of a completely different paragraph, though the reader doesn't seem to have missed much. Still the other book pages are a story that seems to have nothing to do with the magical world of Uprooted. I tried reading some of them, but since it was plucked out at random, I was unfamiliar with the characters or their background, and I soon gave up and just moved on to the Uprooted text. I do not know if this was a misprint, or done on purpose for some bizarre reason that I'm not aware of. It was confusing and made no sense to me as a reader, if it was intentional. If it wasn't Powell's owes me a clean copy! The prose was elegant and the characters well drawn. The plot moved along smartly and the story didn't lag, except for the ruined chapter. I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to those who like fairy tales and legends. 

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