Tuesday, November 30, 2010


ANATHEM, by Neal Stephenson.

In some ways, I'm surprised this book exists. Surprised that it was written, surprised it was published, and surprised that it apparently has an audience. I mean, who is the audience for this? Philosophers who like science fiction?

I tried to get into this book at least three time, and twice I was put off by the made up words, the heavy subject matter, and the archaic phrasing. But I've loved Neal Stephenson's books, even the Baroque Cycle, which seemed to put off many readers for ... well... the above stated reasons.
Sure -- Quicksilver might have been about Isaac Newton and his scientific discoveries -- but it was also about pirates and sultans and harems and magical gold.

So I was determined to get far enough into the book the third time to get hooked, and I'm glad I did.

The trick with Stephenson for those of us who aren't as smart as he, is to read the books for the story and try to pick up as much as you can of the complex themes.

I'd describe this book as a Adventure in Philosophy -- or a Philosophic Adventure. Add to the mix, science and religion, and he's tackling some mighty big subjects. If you were to lay out all the philosophers he mentions, I'm pretty sure you'd find a chronologically correct historical philosopher and or philosophical movement -- and religious, and scientific -- in the real world. If I wanted to work at it, I'm sure I could go back and read the original thoughts.

And yet, at the same time, it's a page turner once you absorb the terminology and understand what he's getting at. He writes beautiful prose, fully fleshed out and sympathetic characters, rousing adventure, intricate plots, and imaginatively described settings.

A typical passage might be about an adventure through a crevasse filled mountain pass, and dodgy companions, and -- at the same time -- almost every page will also contain an illuminating philosophical discussion.

It's brilliant.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Banking the fires.

I think I just enjoy the challenge of trying to do the same job with less money. It's possible to do, if I use a little ingenuity and savvy. It's a matter of timing, a matter of making every dollar count.

For instance, it might be possible to sell 8 of an item by ordering 12. A couple of the 12 are more or less wasted through lack of attention, or inability to display, or using them as samplers or...any number of reasons. Maybe I have a customer I'm courting, or a customer I want to keep coming in and I give them a copy for cost. A couple more, I might sell for an extreme discount, or as an add-on to a large sale, just to get the numbers down. So I end up really only making good money on the 8.

However --

I might be able to sell 6 of the same item by ordering 6, and getting the full margin for each and every one.

Now, if business is booming, I don't mind the first technique. A little extra flow of material isn't a bad thing, even when I don't make money on every item. The occasional sampling, the occasional discounting can prime the pump. Because I'm busy, it just give me the chance to go on the next thing and the next without over-thinking it.

If sales are on the increase, I don't even worry about it -- I just figure that it will all even out in the end, which -- because I can count on increased future sales picking up the slack, is pretty much true.

But when I can't be sure about the future -- it's better to order exactly what I think I can sell. So, I can make nearly as much money with 6 items, by ordering 6 without the risk, as I used to make ordering the 12 items and selling 8. But it requires being completely on top of it. Making sure that I don't run out too quickly, making sure that I have complete sell-through. Making sure that there isn't a disappointed 7th or 8th customer out there, and if there is, trying to get the other 2 items without it costing too much.

So the second technique is more work, not quite as loose and generous and easy-going. But it can end up doing the same job, and making the same money. And I sort of enjoy the efficiency of it,
when the challenge presents itself.

The one thing I wish I could do is keep up this level of efficiency when times are flush. But I don't know if that's possible. And I'm not completely sure that would be desirable.

I've made the case here more than once, that a growth strategy is different than what I call a 'maintenance' strategy. There is a built in inefficiency to growth, because I want to be sure that I don't run out of material. As I mentioned above, I spend more time cultivating customers, trying new things (which may or may not work out), and so on.

When the store is in a growth stage, I'm stoking the fires, throwing more wood than absolutely necessary, and letting the sparks fly.

When I'm trying to maintain the store, I'm banking the fires, making them last, keeping them going, conserving them until I can stoke them again.

Responding to the challenge.

So what can you do when business slows down?

I see four options. (A fifth option of adjusting your spending levels to your revenue, goes without saying.)

1.) Increase your promotional efforts. This option I think is the least effective. I don't think advertising for Pegasus Books works in the best of times, and works even less in the worst of times. Except, perhaps, when you do option:

2.) Decrease prices. Have a major "Sale!" Give product away, and advertise the fact. Thing is, while this may help you raise funds in the short run, it effectively damages your inventory in the long run. Except when you sell product that you got at discount yourself, and which you have no intention of replacing it. Which you can only do when you do option:

3.) Buy more product. This is my preferred option; get more stuff. Back during previous slowdowns, I'd try to get product from my suppliers and try to get better payment terms. I'd try to get longer periods to pay, for instance. But having lots of product to sell, and having the option to offer customers a discount (in most cases, in a one on one situation) seems to work.

4.) More service. I mean, much more service and knowledge, because if you've been a viable business for any length of time, you are already probably above and beyond the call of duty.
Often, this ties into #1, above, the promotions. Free space, free time, free events, etc. etc.
After 30 years, this is my least favorite option. I fear burnout more than less sales.

I tend to do mostly Option 3.) Buy more product. Unlike the old days, I'm being offered deals all the time, and my strategy is to be as opportunistic as possible, all the time, not just when it's slow. If I can get something at half the normal price, I can sell half as much or take twice as long to sell it. So I do everything I can to keep the store well-stocked, which in the long run the customer can feel and will respond to.

I'm trying to stretch every buying dollar, leverage my budget to the maximum. Of course, if you give away too many discounts, you lose the advantage. Still, I will also do Option 2, Decrease prices. But only on product I get a deal on, and only when I have to, and only if I don't replace it. I tend to offer these deals on a one to one basis, because I know whether I can do it, and whether I need to do it.

Selling off perennial product, (best-sellers, must have in stock) , just to raise capital, is a muggs game, obviously. It takes 4 or 5 turnovers to both make the original margin and keep the product in stock -- and that's when you get the 40%. If you sell it cheaper, it takes much longer.

So far, I've managed to get good product replaced, and bring in a constant flow of new product, and still get everything else done. So, I'm feeling like a management success.

Why the Hell am I so upbeat?

Why the Hell am I so upbeat? Really.

Other than the fact that I think it's a personality characteristic that is a necessary part of being a shopkeeper. Being a bit of Pollyanna. Goldilocks. Pangloss.

Despite having my slowest month since 2005, I feel like the store is in good shape. I still turned a profit this month, I kept the bills paid, I kept the store up to a very high standard of inventory. I have plenty of ammunition left to fire away at Christmas.

You just get a sense of when things are all right, and when they're not. Sales are not the only standard to judge by.

I'm still excited to go to work every day. I still think the future looks interesting.

I'm ready for the challenge. For some reason, it gets my juices flowing.


I was bemoaning the lack of promotional opportunities last week with Cameron.

"I've told you before," he said. "I'll put up a Facebook page for the store."

Long pause. My defenses crumble.


"Really!" I could see the excitement in his eyes. "I'll get started tonight!"


Sunday morning. A sign on the counter. "We're on Facebook! Please sign up!"

"Were you in on Saturday?" I asked Cameron. "That was quick."

"No....Matt must have put up the sign. We've already got a whole bunch done!"

"How did Matt know about it? Did you call him?"

"No...I Facebooked him."



Cameron shows me our Pegasus Books of Bend Facebook page, and it looks like a proper website. Lots of good looking stuff on there. He and Matt have been tossing ideas back and forth, and they're getting Jasper involved.

I'm letting the three guys run with it, with a bit of oversight, but mostly I want to see what kinds of things they can do. They've already done more than if I had tried to dictate what to do with the page.

"One thing," I said. "I want you guys to keep the site up-to-date. I don't want you abandoning it in a few weeks when you get busy doing something else."

"No problem," says Cameron.


So there you have it. The store has been Facebooked. No doubt, I'll look back and wonder what too me so long.


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Weekend results.

Credit where credit is due. You've got to hand it to the mass market. They've done a hell of job of claiming Black Friday -- Black Weekend -- to themselves. Hijackers.

20 years ago, these two days were huge for us. Now? Not much better than average....

I may think the chainstores have accomplished the dirty deed with Smoke and Mirrors, but...well, they've done it.

(You know, either those discounts are impacting their margins or they're not. If so, then all those increased sales won't turn into lots of profits. If not, then they are a big phony deal that we've all fallen for...Smoke and Mirrors.)

I actually had a lot of people in the door on Friday. My sales were slightly over last year, but way below what we used to do on this day.

Sales were down on Saturday. The weather really didn't help there.

I'm sort of expecting an average Sunday.

Overall, we were down from last year, but not by much. Since my expectations were nil, I'm pleased overall. November, however, pretty much sucked. Over the last five years or so, November has turned into my slowest month.

Interesting -- what happens is that these kinds of weekends tend to spring loose my regulars -- so that I make more money, but it's the same people as usual. Plus their families. Because, it's seems to be my kind of people this season.

My evidence is -- during busy times, my comic and graphic novel sales tend to be about 45% of my total sales. During the off season, they tend to be between 50 to 55%.

In November, comics and graphic novels have been 65%. Which means the drop off hasn't been so much among my regular customers as it has been the 'Off -the-Street.'

I wrote the middle part above in the middle of the day on Friday, so I think I need to revise it slightly. I did have tourists and locals spending Christmas money during the day. So, like I said, I'm pleased.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Adventures in the Obvious.

I'm shocked -- shocked, I tell you! -- that Willie Nelson was caught smoking dope. In Texas!


Sales were up on Black Friday. Really?


It snows in Bend. Sometimes it snows in Bend all Winter long. Get used to it.


"Don't worry. Sales will be better at Christmas." Wow. Thanks for the information. I would never have made that part of my planning, if you hadn't told me.


"Burlesque" is apparently not a great movie. Tell me it isn't so, Cher!


"Marines most resistant to openly gay troops."



Flat screen T.V. prices are going down. Just like they did last year. And the year before....


Father to three boys who start to open the door to the store. "You don't want to go in there! You don't even read!"

Gee....I wonder why.


"Couch Potatoes Resistant to Change."

Could that be because they like to stay on the couch?


Friday, November 26, 2010

Four Year Blog Anniversary.

Four years of blogging, my friends.

Every day. (Well, I did have a "Go Ducks!" entry, but it still counts, right?)

Who knew I could do that? I think the discipline of doing it every day has been good for me, and I've been leery of giving it up. Like -- if I miss even one day, it'll all fall apart...

Turns out, I have a rather facile ability to make up something to say every day. It's more or less just talking out loud, to me. At first, I actually limited the number of entries, because I didn't want to wear out my welcome. I would go to bed at night trying to figure out what I was going to say the next day. I was worried about saying something insightful and surprising and entertaining.

Now....I just pick up the paper, ruminate on the day ahead, and usually something comes to me. (And some of you are no doubt thinking, "Yeah, and so much for being 'insightful and surprising and entertaining.')

When I started, there was a bunch of blogs who talked about the local economic conditions. Now, I feel like I need to be a platform for those who still want to talk about it. I don't think Bend is through the woods yet, by any means. In fact, I think we've still got a ways to go.

This blog has been tightrope when it comes to how much to reveal, about myself and especially about my business. I mean, it isn't worth a thing if I'm going to dissemble about what's going on, but then again, I've found that being too revealing about my successes or my failures can be counter-productive. Still, I think, so far I've been able to keep a nice balance of candidness and "it's none of your damn business."

This balance between being self-revealing and keeping my cards close to my vest has always been a bit of struggle for me at the store, so it's played out on this blog in the same way it's played out in my life.

My store was reaching a real maturity level just as the economy was about to tank. So it's been an interesting ride. The last four years have been my most profitable years, which is kind of strange, you know? But....it took a long time to get there, a whole lot of mistakes, and I think I've been able to manage the current conditions pretty well.

Fortunately for this blog, my mood has been pretty good over the last five or six years -- I admit to being a tiny bit grumpy for the middle part of my career as I was trying to pay down the debt and keep the store alive and pretty much working everyday.

Despite the Great Recession, my stress level has been nothing like what it was during the collapse of the sports card market -- and the non-sports card market -- and the card game market -- and the comic market -- and pogs -- and beanie babies -- and pokemon -- and...

In comparison, these last four years have been a walk in the park. (A very dangerous park, with muggers and falling trees, but at least it isn't Escape From New York...)

I'm not happy with what the sales levels have been recently, but I understand them, and strangely enough, they haven't hurt me because I've constantly adjusted my spending. In the background, Linda and my economic situation changed enough so that we aren't quite so near the edge -- but that hasn't really affected either store, much. Just sort of a reassurance, behind the scenes.

It's a weird thing to be grateful for -- but the fact that I've been through such downturns before, and know how they affect my business and my moods and my life, and how to respond to them, is a real blessing. I'd hate to have discover all this for the first time, again.

I think the tone of this blog has been relatively moderate and thoughtful -- surprising both myself and probably most people who knew me in the stress filled years immediately proceeding this blog. I made a few early missteps, possibly because I was trying to live up to my rancantour image, but mostly because I didn't realize just how available my musings would be to the world at large -- and especially (since search engines are so effective) whatever I might say about individuals. I have no desire to hurt people's feelings.

Writing a blog has allowed me to reflect on what I'm saying before I push the "Publish Post" button. In some ways, it's allowed my better nature to emerge. Which has probably affected my everyday thoughts and words at the store more than I could have ever expected.

There is still a whole lot of new things to discover about business and Bend and the world, so I intend to just keep blogging along.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving....grumble, grumble.

Being the ungrateful wretch I am, I thought I should point out the news item that Bend had the second worst drop in housing prices in the country in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, I didn't get my weekly shipment of comics yesterday, which means I won't get them until either Monday or Tuesday. Since these shipments represent about 70% of current sales, this is a bit painful.

Still, I keep a stocked store, so I'm not really that concerned. Nothing I can do about it anyway.

It used to send me up a wall. Every Holiday, we get this. I think it's because of 'temp' packers and 'temp' drivers and so on, and also because of the weather. But in both cases, there isn't a darn thing I can do about it.

So, what I'm grateful for, I think, is that I take these kinds of hits so much better than I used to. I've tried very hard to internalize the Stoic philosophy. Generally, when I walk out that door, I quit thinking about the store, which is healthy.

My life is so much better than I ever thought it would be, that a missed shipment of product shouldn't be allowed to affect my mood. It's just bizness.

Everyone have a great time this weekend, and don't forget us little shops downtown!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reading at the store.

For most of my career, I've had a general policy of not reading at the store. Oh, I'll pick up an occasional comic and skim it while I'm standing there, but flat out concentrated reading, not so much.

There are a couple of reasons for this.

1.) I don't like being interrupted while I'm reading.

2.) It doesn't look professional.

I haven't been a dick about this with my employees. I've told them it's O.K. to read, but ONLY if they immediately lay the book down when someone walks in the door. There have been other stores I've wandered into where the clerks acted like they didn't care if I was there. Bad message.

But things have gotten slower, and I've found myself a little too often doing nothing at all.

So, I decided with snow on the ground and plunging temperatures and it being Tuesday in November and all, I'd let myself read.

The mistake I made was -- I was reading Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins, the second book in the Hunger Game series.

If you haven't heard of this series -- you will. Let me be the first to tell you about it. I think it's going to be the next big thing -- the next Twilight, if you will. The next Harry Potter. Maybe not as big, but it's getting there.

And I was hooked. The second book is even better than the first.

Customers were walking in, just as Katniss was ready to take someone down, defy President Snow, save the helpless. Great stuff.

I'm a little annoyed by the romance motif -- she loves Gale, no she loves Peeta, no she loves Gale, no she loves Peeta -- but then she takes out a bad guy and all is forgiven.

So, I'm not sure about my experiment in reading at the store. Maybe I just need to pick less addicting books.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Santa knows -- the future.

I think I write this blog entry every year. Not because I plan to, but because every year around this time I start reading these inane predictions for Christmas.

This year, they -- the media pundits and "experts" -- are predicting a better Christmas. "Shoppers are Back!" "Retailers are Bullish on Christmas Sales!"

The cover to Barron's proclaims, "Here comes a Holiday Surprise."

Here's the thing. There is no conceivable way they know that. It's total guesswork. They might as well use the I-Ching to give them answers.

Hell, half the time I don't know what kind of Christmas I'm really having at Pegasus Books until the ACTUAL WEEK OF CHRISTMAS!!!

Customer polling? Really? Personally, I have no idea how much I'll spend -- it'll depend on what I find, and how much it perfectly matches what I think my friends and family want, and the price, and ...well, there are no end of variables.

I'll go so far as to say, "All shopping is local." Sure, there may in the end be a national average, which will be up or down a few percentage points. But it comes down to individual towns and individual stores.

The weather, for instance, can play a huge role. A couple a pristine inches of snow on the ground and 35 degree weather might be perfect for shopping. 8 inches of snow, and zero degree temperatures, not so much. 8 inches of snow and a light rain, and sloppy slush, even worse. (You know, throw in 25 mile an hour winds....)

By the way, that last forecast is the actual Bend forecast. Heavy snow, low temperatures, followed by rain and slush and wind. Whooopeee.

Try to guess that two months in advance when you're doing your Christmas ordering, or two weeks in advance, or even two days in advance.

I'm just saying, it's all nonsense, and I don't know why they bother. They just needs something to write about, I guess. I suppose the retailers are hoping to start some sort of mindless stampede -- but at the same time, they are so manipulative and so obvious about it, that the herd is getting more skittish every year.

And I'll say again, as I say every year, it isn't about the sales, it's about the profits. If they give away the store by discounting heavily, they make higher sales; or if they hold the line on prices, they make lower sales, but better margins.

It's all so obscured now by manipulative pricing, that even Black Friday is beginning to lose all real meaning. Can you really trust that fighting the crowds will get you the best deal? I kind of doubt it. I suspect the same exact deals will be around a couple weeks later, and probably even better deals the week before Christmas, and even better deals the week after.

This year, the retailers are once again showing their short-term vision, by starting all the "Black" sales early -- which I think is going water down their effect. Hell, I've been immune to them for years -- because I think they're mostly B.S. -- and eventually the average consumer is going to catch on.

My advice?

Buy something of quality for your loved ones, look at the pricing --sure, do that -- but more importantly buy something nice, and that they really want. Not something that's cheap because it's cheap. Add your time and stress level into the cost of something you buy, and you might find it more fun to shop next Tuesday, take your time and enjoy yourself.

I guarantee you -- there will still be stuff to buy.

Enough Kindle to start a fire?

RDC responded to yesterday's post by saying, "You should be happy. If everyone was really interested in minimizing time spent, they would just order online and not bother to go to the store"

Well, I have a theory about that, too. (I have a theory, right or wrong, about everything...eh?)

Here's how I perceive an online customer, whether it be Amazon, or a Kindle customer:

They want a book. A very specific book. They go online and order it or download it.

Here's how I perceive a Pegasus Books customer:

They wander into the store, they see a book they never knew they wanted, probably a book they didn't even knew existed, and they buy it.

Here's how I perceive a Bookmark customer:

They come to look at all the books, they see a book they remember that they once wanted, or a book by an author they like that they've never seen before, or a book that looks interesting, and they buy books. Mostly in multiples -- because they're getting them usually for less than 25% of the original cost, and because they are often old and out of the mainstream system. These customers like being in the presence of, and surrounded by, books.

In some ways, those three customers are three different types, with three different goals. (Obviously, lots of cross-over; sometimes you're one kind of customer, sometimes another.)

I've been saying for a long time now, that our customers, both mine and Linda's, are not the people who come in looking for a specific book or even a specific author -- they come in because they are readers and want books. Or they know that we have a selection of a lot of types of books.

Books -- not book? Get the difference?

These people are almost by definition, browsers, people who enjoy the process of shopping, who like feeling and touching the books and talking to the proprietor and who are capable of being surprised and coaxed and influenced.

The customer who wants the latest Oprah book? Who is told by a friend or relative they just MUST buy this one book because it's so great! Who see a book on the best-seller lists, and decide they simply must read it?

Those people are mostly lost to us already. They are already buying from Amazon, or at Costco, and I suspect that Kindle is just the next step in the process.

It's amazing how often people come in and are looking for a single book -- and we don't have it. I mean, that's not really on us, it's not really a failure, it's just a factor of there being so many books in the world. That they often walk out without finding that one book (and without buying anything else) -- well, that's already happening. They are most likely going to Amazon or Kindle.

Besides, if they are truly only looking for that one book? If it's new and hot, it probably hasn't even reached us yet....or conversely, it's old and rare and only available online anyway.

But wandering in and soaking up the books, like at the Bookmark? Or wandering in and being surprised by the quirkiness and uniqueness of the titles, like at Pegasus Books?

Now matter the price or the convenience or selection -- Kindle really can't do that. It's like having a picture of a nice fireplace on your big screen T.V.

Or having the real thing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"I'll make you a deal, ma'am".

"This is honest offer. I really mean it.

"So here's the offer. You have just turned down the three new Edward Abbey books I have in stock, which are 14.99 each. Desert Solitaire; Monkey Wrench Gang; and Abbey's Road.

"I want to you keep track of your time, starting this minute. Then I want you to go to all the other used bookstores in town. One is just down the block, Dudley's. The other two you'll probably want to get into your car and drive to; the Bookmark and the Open Book on Greenwood. If you drive, I want to you to estimate your total mileage, there and back, you know, including looking for a parking spot.

"I will pay YOU the FULL price of any used copy of these three Edward Abbey books you happen to find, even if you find more than one copy of these three books. If you find one, I'll buy it for you. If you find three, I'll buy them.

"In return, I only ask that you pay me minimum wage for every hour you spend, and the current costs of gas and mileage.

"What do you say?"

The above is what I wanted to say, but what I really said was, "Well, Edward Abbey doesn't show up used very often, and when he does, he tends to sell."

I decided to follow this up on my own, just for fun. I'm going to act like the above customer and take up the challenge. (I wanted to visit the bookstores anyway, so this will be a treat.)

I even called my guy, Jasper, at my store, and Alisha, at Linda's store, and told them to "I'm running a strange little experiment that has nothing to do with you but has to do with my blog. I'm going to come in and wander around a little and then come up to the counter and ask you for a specific author. I want you to treat me like you don't know me, and that I am just another customer."

Employees: "......uh....O.K." (weird boss...)

Here goes.

Wish me luck.

*****DISCLAIMER: I understand, as Linda pointed out, they may just enjoy the thrill of the hunt. I enjoy the hunt, too, though I have a rather large list of favorite authors and books; and I especially enjoy the fruits of hunts that I didn't expect to find. I also understand, that it may not have been an urgent request. You know, they happen to be in a bookstore and just ask about an author. Though that they asked for a single author and then left certainly testifies to the specificity of their request. *****

I think it's a fair experiment.

12:14. Pulled out of my home garage. I'm not going to count the time and energy I spend getting to my store, though it might be fair to.

12:26. Parked in garage. (low traffic.) 3 miles.

12:29. Reached Pegasus Books. Jasper says, "If you're looking for used books, we have them on the other side of the store."

"Is this all fiction?" I asked.

Jasper gives me a spiel, telling me where everything is. ("way to stay in character, I whisper...").

Then he subverts the process, and asks if I'm looking for a particular book. "I'm looking for Edward Abbey...." (I had planned to look around first, and then ask...)

"What kind of book is that....?"

"Oh, he wrote fiction, non-fiction, essays, that kind of thing. Environmental sort of stuff."

He leads me to the fiction, and there -- low and behold -- is an Edward Abbey book, The Best of Edward Abbey, for 5.00. Now -- I assumed since the woman had been looking at that section, that we didn't have a book. Stupid assumption on my part.

12:36. Leave Pegasus, and walk to Dudley's, arrive one minute later. I look throughout the store, check the nature/fiction/science/mysteries/environment/ etc. Finally go up to the counter and ask. Clerk looks it up on the computer, says he can 'order' it, I thank him and leave.

12:45. Leave Dudleys.

12:49. Leave Garage.

12:54. Arrive at Open Book. 1 mile.

Look around store, check all the different categories, then check literary fiction. Find 3 Edward Abbey books. Abbey's Road, for 4.50. Voice in the Wilderness, for 6.95 and Beyond the Wall, for 7.00.

1:09. Leave Open Book.

1:11. Arrive at Bookmark. "Hi, stranger...." I say to Alisha, while she looks at me quizzically.

1:21. Have checked entire store. Ask Alisha. She shows me all the areas she thinks they might be, and I take a second quick look, don't find any.

1:25. Leave Bookmark.

1:30. Reach Garage, again. 2 miles.

1:35. Finish up biz.

1:46. Back to garage.

2:03. Back home. (way more traffic.)

So...what did I learn? It was fun to visit all these stores as if I was an innocent customer who knew nothing about the stores. All four stores were worth visiting in my eyes. I wasn't surprised that the Open Book had some of them, I've always thought they are a good bookstore. Bookmark is a bit more eclectic, maybe. But the Open Book has lots of good books. I think Bend is lucky to have four such used bookstores.

So, if we stick strictly to the one book of the three that I set out to find, the 4.50 copy of Abbey's Road, the lady customer would've saved 10.45 from buying a new book.

Playing fair, and assuming she would've checked all 0ther three bookstores, it would've taken her about 3 miles, and about 50 minutes to find the one book she was looking for. She wouldn't have found the other three books, but she would've found two other Edward Abbey books instead.

Total minimal cost? (And I do mean minimal, in that I went directly to the right stores and directly to the right sections.) It would've cost her about 7.00 to 7.50 overall. So, 4.50 for the used book, plus 7.50 in time and money: 12.00.

Total savings on Abbey's Road? About 3.00 for a used copy versus a new copy. To me, an hour of my time is worth considerably more than that.

Now, by my bet, it would've taken an extra 10.00 minutes, and if you also include mileage cost, all savings are pretty much gone. If you figure the actual driving distance to and from downtown, it would've cost even more.

The point of this experiment?

People don't really accurately calculate in real terms the time and energy it takes to accomplish things. That people are less than rational in their allocation of time and energy when it come to a perceived "saving a few bucks." Indeed, I doubt the above fictional customer would even agree to work at minimum wage, nor take the minimum energy payback.

And I would submit, that local stores would be doing much better if people were a little more rational about their buying decisions.

It's has become price, price, price, even when it's irrational to chase it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Downtown Comings and Goings.

Perspectives is a new art gallery where Diana's was. (Not sure about the plural.)

Toth Art Collective is a gallery/tattoo place where Finders/Keepers was.

Boken has taken the spot where Lola's was at. (I believe that's one K, and I think it's an eatery.)

Ina Louise on the Leaving list.

I've taken Urban Minx off the Leavings list, because there is no sign in the window and they don't appear to going anywhere. Next time I'll just wait until they actually vacate. (if...)


Bond Street Bar and Grill, 12/1/10.
Perspective(s), Minnesota Ave., 11/20/10
Toth Art Collective, Bond St. 11/20/10
Boken, Breezeway, 11/20/10
Dalia and Emilia, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Antiquarian Books, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Giddyup, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
The Closet, Minnesota Ave., 8/11/10.
Showcase Hats, Oregon Ave., 8/11/10,
Red Chair Art Gallery, Oregon Ave. 7/13/10.
Earth Sense Herbs, Penny's Galleria, 7/12/10.
Mad Happy Lounge, Brooks St., 6/2910
Common Table, Oregon Ave. , 6/29/10.
Looney Bean Coffee, Brooks St. , 6/29/10.
Bourbon Street, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
Feather's Edge, Minnesota Ave., 6/22/10
The BLVD., Wall St. , 6/13/10.
Volt, Minnesota Ave. 6/1/10.
Tart, Minnesota Ave. , 5/13/10
Olivia Hunter, Wall St. 4/5/10.
Tres Chic, Bond St. 4/5/10
Blue Star Salon, Wall St. 4/1/10.
Lululemon, Bond St. 3/31/10.
Diana's Jewel Box, Minnesota Ave., 3/25/10.
Amalia's, Wall St. (Ciao Mambo space), 3/12/10
River Bend Fine Art, Bond St. (Kebanu space) 2/23/10
Federal Express, Oregon Ave. 2/1/10
***10 Below, Minnesota Ave. 1/10/10
Tew Boots Gallery, Bond St. 1/8/10.
Top Leaf Mate, 12/10/09
Laughing Girls Studio, Minnesota Ave. 12/7/09
Lemon Drop, 5 Minnesota Ave., 11/12/09
The Curiosity Shoppe 11/5/09 25 N.W. Minnesota Ave, Suite #7.
Wabi Sabi 11/4/09
Frugal Boutique 11/4/09
5 Spice 10/22/09
Cowgirls Cash 10/17/09
***Haven Home 10/17/09
Dog Patch 10/17/09
The Good Drop 10/12/09
Lola's 9/23/09
**Volcano Wines 9/15/09
Singing Sparrow Flowers 8/16/09
Northwest Home Interiors 8/5/09
High Desert Frameworks 7/23/09 (*Moved to Oregon Ave. 4/5/10.)
Wall Street Gifts 7/--/09
Ina Louise 7/14/09
Bend Home Hardware (Homestyle Hardware?) 7/1/09
Altera Real Estate 6/9/09
Honey 6/7/09
Azura Studio 6/7/09
Mary Jane's 6/1/09
c.c.McKenzie 6/1/09
Velvet 5/28/09
Bella Moda 3/25/09
High Desert Gallery (Bend) 3/25/09
900 Wall
Great Outdoor Store
Luxe Home Interiors
Powell's Candy
Dudley's Used Books and Coffee
Game Domain
Subway Sandwiches
Bend Burger Company
Showcase Hats
Pita Pit
Happy Nails
(Fall, 2008 or so).


Giuseppe's, Bond St., 12/1/10.
Ina Louise, Minnesota Ave., 11/3/10.
Laughing Girl Studios, 10/21/10
Dolce Vita, Bond St, 10/21/10
Diana's Jewell Box, Minnesota Ave., 10/15/10.
Lola's, Breezeway, 10/8/10.
Oxygen Tattoo, Bond St., 10/3/10.
Great Outdoor Clothing, Wall St., 10/3/10.
Volcano Vineyards, Minnesota Ave., 10/3/10.
Subway Sandwiches, Bond St. 9/2/10.
Old Bend Distillery, Brooks St., 6/19/10.
Staccato, Minnesota Ave. 6/18/10.
Showcase Hats, Minnesota Ave., 6/1/10 (Moved to Oregon Ave., 8/10/11.)
Cork, Oregon Ave., 5/27/10.
Wall Street Gifts, 5/26/10
Microsphere, Wall St. , 5/17/10.
Singing Sparrow, Franklin and Bond, 5/15/10
28, Minnesota Ave. and Bond, 5/13/10.
Glass Symphony, Wall St., 3/25/10
Bend Home Hardware, Minnesota Ave, 2/25/10
Ciao Mambo, Wall St. 2/4/10
***Angel Kisses 1/25/10 (Have moved to 'Honey.')
Ivy Rose Manor 8/20/09
***Downtowner 8/18/09 (moving into the Summit location)
Chocolate e Gateaux 8/16/09
Finders Keepers 8/15/09
Colourstone 7/25/09
Periwinkle 6/--/09
***Tangerine 7/21/09 (Got word, they are moving across the street.)
Micheal Cassidy Gallery 6/15/09
St. Claire Coffee 6/15/09
Luxe Home Interiors 6/4/09
Treefort 5/8/09
Blue 5/2/09
***Volcano Tasting Room 4/28/09** Moved to Minnesota Ave.
Habit 4/16/09
Mountain Comfort 4/14/09
Tetherow Property 4/11/09
Blue Moon Marketplace 3/25/09
Plenty 3/25/09
Downtown Doggie 3/25/09
***King of Sole (became Mary Janes)**
Santee Alley
Bistro Corlise
Made in Hawaii
Stewart Weinmann (leather)
Kebanu Gallery
Pella Doors and Windows
Olive company
Pink Frog
Little Italy
***Pomegranate (downtown branch)**
Pronghorn Real Estate office.
Speedshop Deli
Paper Place
Bluefish Bistro
(Fall, 2008 or so.)

Stupid procrastination

I'm going to have to put in the air vent covers in the foundation of the house today. A ten minute job. Which I could have easily done when things were warmer and dryer. (There's snow on the ground, and the temps are supposed to drop below zero in the next few days...)

I also didn't get the lawns mowed that one last time, so the grass is going to be a little long for the winter. Now, I'm reading that longer grass is a bad thing to leave in freezing temps.

We have a whole bunch of handyman jobs that need to be done around the house -- and I'm no handyman. It's good to recognize your weaknesses, you know? I have a friend who will do the jobs for me in trade for his comics -- and because of the slowdown in work around here, I don't feel so bad about pulling him away from real, paying jobs.

We are finally getting our second couch back, that was being refurbished. We both liked these couches, and we decided it was better to get them reupholstered than to buy couches we didn't like so much.

They are a little less bulky than the couches we currently have. We're also getting rid of the massive coffee table. Linda went out an bought a couple of much more simple tables from the Amish store. Funny thing is, the one she picked for "her" couch is really tall, and she looks like Judge Judy when she's sitting behind it. I'm going to buy her a gavel for Christmas.

We never did get the wrap around sound system set up for our giant T.V. Procrastination stretching into never getting it done.

The futon mattress is on the floor, and I like it that way, but I have no place to put all the extra linens and blankets and pillows, so I'll probably be forced to make the futon frame.

As soon as I get around to it....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Signs of something...

...but I'm not sure what.

Lots of Big Doings in the little burb of Bend, and surrounding sagebrush.

Jeld-Wen sells both Eagle Crest and Brasada Ranch. Since we don't really know the terms, it's hard to say who came out best on that one. The development firm sounds like the real deal, not just a place to park the properties. Though, as I've often mentioned, I'm skeptical of new owners announcing extensive "renovations" that later on turn out to be mere face-lifts.

Also hard to know if Jeld-Wen sold the properties because they weren't doing well, or sold the properties because their core business wasn't doing well, or neither or both.

Meanwhile, Cascade Banks has glommed onto some major mulah, and the stock price immediately jumps to more than double it's lows.

I can't tell, does this mean that the original investors -- who are also half of the new money -- come out better because of the stock price price, or worse? I mean, does it make the new money buy less? It would certainly seem to make the old money worth more.

It hurts my head.

So it all makes me wonder if these major developments are some kind of bottom, or just another step down on the road to the bottom.

Another sign of something. If you'll remember, I thought it was significant when Brooks Resources decided not to develop that patch of land on the east side of the river near the Old Mill. It was really the first sign that any of the developers were starting to change their plans; and as I said at the time, I wasn't surprised it was the oldest and biggest of the developers who reacted first. They were around in the '80's, so they had a clue.

Anyway, it looks more and more like that land will become a park, instead. Kind of a example of how a Boom creates just another river-blocking condo, and the bust has created a nice for-everyone park.

Finally, there is a move afoot to create a "Small Business Saturday" to follow "Black Friday."
I think I've mentioned before, that Pegasus Books used to see a much bigger bump on the weekend after Thanksgiving -- but the mass market has really piled on the promotions and sales over the last decade or so, so that small businesses have become almost an afterthought.

A "Small Business Saturday" could turn into a real blessing if it takes off -- but probably not for a few more years. And, I'm not usually terribly interested in "blow-out" sales, which I think is what it might take.

I think I'm going to set up a table with Marvel and DC Graphic novels and sell them for half price -- see if that does anything.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The bookstore in my mind.

So how is possible that my little world, my life experience, could fill up a bookstore?

Well, if the terms are "being familiar with" that's a pretty broad scope.

I mean, I have read a whole lot of books in my life, but add it up and it's still a drop in the bucket.

I'm betting that I read twice as many books (or more) in the first 28 years of my life, than I have in the last 30 years of my life. Hey, one movie theater, three groddy channels, and no internet. What else is a curious person to do? I mean, I grew up in a house with so many books that they literally were the seed stock to the Bookmark.

So I read incessantly. And I read omnivorously -- that is, I'll read just about anything. I currently read lots of mysteries, and there was a time in my life when I read tons of fantasy and science fiction, but I always read a pretty wide spectrum of material. I read the books my parents were reading, and my sisters were reading. Fiction, non-fiction, kids, adults, genre, classics.

I started keeping a notebook about 30 years ago, back when I was still writing (I got the idea from Dwight Newton the local western writer), so I have a written track record there.

There was also a sort of "lost decade"; where I was mired in depression and such, and was very agoraphobic (without knowing such a thing existed) and pretty much shut-in and isolated. I'd read a book a day, back then.

But even more so, at some point I started to sort books -- knowledge, if you will -- on a ladder, fitting them in relation to each other. It wasn't a hierarchical ladder -- more of a M.C. Escher looking ladder, looping back on itself, doubling, crossing over -- but I could hear a title and author, and sort of place it. I'd read lots of book reviews of books I'll probably never read.

So when I say, this bookstore is filled mostly with books I'm "familiar" with, it's a big number.

I also tend to read single book by an author, and think, "That's pretty good. I'd read another by this author, but....there's this author over here I want to try." So I sample a lot of authors and styles, just to get a taste.

And there are authors who I don't personally read, but who I appreciate. I mean, I like that they and their books exist, even if they aren't quite my cup of tea.

So if you look at it that way, it maybe isn't so surprising that a store can be constructed around my own sort of predilections.

Speaking of getting it wrong.

Search engines are great and all -- in fact, they're miraculous.

But some are better than others. Google is great, in that I can sort of throw a dart into the darkness, misspelling, or missphrased, and there is a really decent chance good old google will read my mind and hit the target.

I think I read once, this is called "fuzzy" in that it's open to a large pool of possibilities.

Some of my distributors, however, have extremely tight search engines.

For instance, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how the Travis McGee mysteries weren't in print. These were some of my favorites when I was younger, and I couldn't believe that someone wasn't publishing them.

It would've helped if I had searched for John D. MacDonald, instead of John. D. McDonald....

Still, you know, I did search for John and D. and Donald -- you'd think that would be enough.

I've begun to realize that my instincts for what is likely to be in print and what is likely not to be in print are pretty accurate. So, if I'm not finding what I'm looking for, I'm just not looking correctly.

What's amazing to me, is the realization that if I keep on bringing into the bookstore books that with which I'm familiar, that I've had some exposure to at some point in my life, and if I keep the full range of titles by those authors I like, complete series in stock; and I get in books I'm curious about, but haven't yet read; a nd so on -- just the books I actually have some feel for:

That I could easily fill a bookstore twice my size.

I mean, I read a lot, but I wouldn't have thought I read THAT much. Just reading and reading and reading, and at some points in my life pretty much doing nothing BUT reading, and reading about reading, and reading reviews and seeing titles and covers, and even my small little world of experience is bigger than a store I can actually create.

Add in books that I'm only marginally familiar with but which sound great; recommendations by customers or reviewers I trust, and new books that have yet to find their legs, and well, there is a bookselling challenge for a lifetime.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"My name is Duncan." "No it isn't!"

Funny when people get a notion in their head and nothing can dislodge it. This actually happens quite often: someone comes in or calls and insists that they had a conversation with you, or that they ordered something, or that you carry something you've never carried.

Woman insists that I was holding a used book for her, and that she had just called and talked to "the woman". "We don't have a woman working here, "I said.

"Yes, you do. I just talked to her...."

You know, I just sort of showed her where the books were, and then made a point of telling her where Dudley's was when she left.

Last week a woman insisted I had a particular Zombie book; and well, I have a whole lot of Zombie books, so we looked and looked. Finally, I looked it up online and realized I had never carried that book.

"Yes, you did," she said. Again, I just sort of said, "Well, maybe I sold it."

Linda is still explaining that we aren't the Paperback Exchange, and people still aren't believing her.

Five years later.

"We were just here," they insist. "You've changed things around..."

Is Bend feeling the stress?

I'm kind of asking you guys the question.

Here's some headlines I've been noticing:

"Three murders in three months."

"Domestic abuse on the rise."

Random stories of car break-ins, home intruders, car jackings, street people, big drug busts.

When this whole crash started, I think a lot of us starting looking for signs of an uptick in criminal activity.

I think this kind of thing takes time -- a lot of damage is being done, behind the scenes, before it finally rises to the surface. It's like a weakened immune system, any kind of crisis can result in disaster.

Hard to tell, anecdotally.

If you just read the occasional headline, you'd think that Bend has probably lost population; instead we've gained. You'd think that maybe downtown Bend was emptying out; instead there are more stores than before the Great Recession.

I guess we'll have to wait for the crime statistics.

But...I have to believe the stress of the Great Recession is compounding the problems.

I don't have any major insights here, just kind of wanting to throw it open for discussion....

I will say one thing that absolutely appalls me.

Every few months there is a news story of a mugshot group either: breaking into a house and pointing a gun; or beating up someone. And it turns out that these morons are trying to collect on a drug debt.

Here's the thing that you wish someone -- parents, neighbors, friends, bloggers -- none of whom obviously they would listen to -- would just like take them aside and say:

"Dudes (dudettes),

"Your drug dealing is bad news. Not a good life choice. But, you know, probably with first offenses or small amounts, you might serve just a little time in jail.

"But armed robbery and kidnapping is a WHOLE NOTHER level of missteps. Them's lifetime type crimes. I mean, go rob a bank, if you're going to do that. At least there might be a payoff.

"Or let the drug debt go. You know, quit selling to the deadbeats, or whatever. I mean, really, you're dealing with a class of people like yourselves --so you ought to expect to be stiffed once in a while. I mean, I know you're all drug addled and you've gone down a bad road.

"But invading a house? Waving a gun around? That's magnitudes more stupid, stupid."


For some reason, I got caught by the 6 hour documentary about one season of the Big Apple Circus.

This is the pinnacle of the circus business, and these acts are at their peak. Athletes and artists.

It starts out in their off season quarters in Walden, N.Y., as acts are selected and honed. There is a class structure, the roadies on the bottom, the acts in the middle, and the management. Within the talent there are "circus" people (eighth generation!) and outsiders.

The roadies are like the French Foreign Legion. If you're willing to work hard and fit in, no questions asked.

Anyway, at first there is a bit of the "glamour", as the circus people put their best face forward and the documentary crew seems to be buying it.

But as the show progresses, you realize just how precarious and dangerous and dirty the living is. They talk a lot about the wonderful traveling life, but you see they rarely leave their trailer park.

The artists have a limited life-span; limited by changing tastes and constant pressure and their own bodies.

They are like supreme, world class athletes who are paid a pittance, and can be without a job at any time. "Working at Target," as one of them says.

They talk about "family" a lot, but there is an obvious pecking order. One "outsider" trapeze artist leaves the show about halfway through, to go back with her boyfriend, and one of the circus family sort of mocks her: "Oh...true love......" and you feel sort of like she's failed the test.

By the end of the documentary, you realize that she probably made a smart choice.

Like I said, they seem to have no security, all of them seem the realize that circus's don't have much future -- this is a good as it gets. Most everyone in the show who started out being profiled is leaving the show, or leaving their acts.

The roadies have brought their problems with them, and you begin to see that they are simply cogs in the circus machine.

Meanwhile, the owners go off and hobnob with the rich and famous in Monte Carlo and New York.

I suppose it goes to show, you should never look too closely behind the glamour.

Just like owning a bookstore!!!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

T.V. Blurbs.

My Walking Dead graphic novel sales have slowed to shambling crawl. What usually happens with adaptations into movies is that they stop selling when the movie releases, but I was hoping these would keep selling because it is a continuing series.

The same channel canceled Rubicon. Which I enjoyed, but which I could tell was doomed. Way too many 'staring off into space' moments.

To continue the T.V. theme. I have stopped watching The Event and Hawaii Five-O.

The Good Wife is pretty amazingly good. They are going to have to do something about new prosecutor Cary, or he's going to turn into a Berger. (You know, Perry Mason's hapless foe?)

Still watching House, which is as ridiculous as ever; they seem to be shunting the old crew aside, almost, like the writers are bored with them.

C.S.I. Vegas has the occasional clunker episode, which they never used to have, but then seems to rebound for a few episodes.

Dexter is still great.

Sidewalk Empire is curiously uninvolving, but I like the era and theme and some of the actors are great.

The Mentalist is probably the most mainstream thing I watch; kind of old fashioned Columbo plotting, but Simon Baker is just charming enough, and just under being annoying enough, to keep watching.

Linda is hooked on Nikita, which I'd probably stop watching if it wasn't for her. I mean, come on! They communicate by computer! Really!!!! Some high security.

I think that's about it, for regular programming.

Giant pink axe-head clouds and zombies.

I dreamed I looked into the back yard and there was a giant buck eating and lounging in my garden.

Then I realized my fence was missing....

Blogging too much?


I couldn't quite get home in time on Monday to take a picture of the giant axe-head pink cloud, but it looks like the Bulletin did. We get some pretty fabulous sunsets off our western deck.


Why do so many child actors grow up short?


"McConnell endorses earmark ban."

I'm still willing to take that bet it will never happen.


I worked as a bus boy once, in a restaurant that supposedly had a voluntary tip jar from the waitresses, and I got diddly squat. One of my co-workers got fired for stealing tips.


Kind of a funny moment in Walking Dead. Usually, in a horror movie, the audience is thinking, "Whatever you do, don't go into the room!" Or in this case, "Don't go into the city!"

The hero is trying to explain why he would go back into a city he just barely escaped to his pissed wife, who doesn't accept the first (and real) reason; to save a redneck racist he feels responsible for leaving.

"I.....um...promised these people I would walkie-talkie them when they got near Atlanta..."

"Well....I left a bunch of weapons and ammunition."

"Oh, and there is a bag of tools we could really use....."

So there it was, four reasons to do something utterly stupid. Heh.


You wanna know something really scary? I've been holding back on how many blog entries I write. Shows how slow the store has been, and how boring my life is....


BOTC appears to have raised the money.

So I guess everything is O.K. now....

In the same news release, they mention a reverse stock split -- 10 for 1.

Like someone telling me that they're turning all my one dollar bills (three at a time) into a three dollar bills. Somehow it still feels hinky. But I don't understand banks, no how.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quick Comic Reviews.

DV8: Gods and Monsters. I gotta tell you, I can get lost in these misc. superhero groups. But Brian Wood does a good job of pulling these characters out of their usual backgrounds, sticking them on a planet with a whole new set of perimeters. I enjoyed it. But I think it was because --without giving the ending away -- he could do anything he wanted with the characters.

Warlord of Mars: Just starting -- barely getting going -- I loved the books, so...

Sweet Tooth. Here's an idea. When they get done with the Walking Dead T.V. show, they can do post-apocalyptic Sweet Tooth next. I really like this series.

Scarlet and Nemesis and Superior: I'm really enjoying the Icon series from Marvel (creator owned). Mark Miller follows up his hit Kick-Ass, with both Nemesis and Superior. Bendis does something similar with Scarlet. (It's fun that Scarlet is based in Portland, and that Bendis actually uses that for his story.)

Garrison: Clone killers, with the original breaking free. Pretty straightforward adventure.

Ides of Blood: Vampires in ancient Rome. The story is O.K., the dialogue is pretty clunky.

A pound of dice.

Every time I make a game order, I order a Pound of Dice. Just a big bag of random dice. 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, 10-sided, 12-sided, and 20-sided. I just throw that in on top of everything else. They are relatively cheap, and I never know exactly what I'll get.

There's something very primal about dice. They make them in all kinds of colors and hues and textures. They even make them out stone and metal. (Not in the pound-of, though).

My crow nature takes over: "Oh, shiny! Like little jewels.....!"

I heard someone say once, "You can never have too many dice." Any RPG player can relate.

So, because it's just a small amount each time, and because I think the bigger the pile of dice the more likely they are to sell, I just keep making that order.

I've been thinking how that is almost a metaphor for how I do business.

Pound it, every day, every week, every month. Get more, more, more.

But do it in such a way that you can pay for it as it goes. Even though much of it won't sell until much later -- hell, some of it probably won't sell until I retire.

About a year ago, hurting for room, I retired a bulky toy set into the basement, intending to bring it back when a space opened up. I more or less forgot it.

A few days ago, a crew of guys came in and specifically asked for exactly those toys -- well, the characters the toys were based on. I pulled them out of basement, sold them off rather cheaply, and they're gone.

Thing is -- other than back issue comics and sports cards, almost everything else in the basement are duplicates.

Proving, once again, that EVERYTHING sells eventually. If you take the long view. Not days or weeks or months, but years, decades even.

You have to have complete knowledge of your inventory -- you have to know how much to discount -- you have to be opportunistic -- and most of all, you have to have faith that you'll still be around years, even decades down the road.

We're all hybrids, now.

“I think in the next three to five years, you’ll see half the bookstores in this country close,” says the president of Joseph Beth Booksellers. (ICv2).

I kind of doubt this, at least in terms of net numbers. Unless you count Borders.

But I was talking to another bookstore owner who felt the Kindle and such were already having an effect on his business -- so, who knows?

I did some googling around, and -- and I may be completely wrong here -- I came up with roughly 18 billion in brick and mortar bookstore sales last year. Something like 8 billion of that were in Barnes and Nobles and Borders chains.

So -- if we could weed out how much the Walmarts and Costco's of the world sell, we'd know how much independent bookstores sell.

I know the comic industry sells something like 600 million per year, but I'm not totally sure if that includes graphic novels. I think it does.

There are maybe slightly less independent comic stores than independent bookstores.

Anyway you slice it, it looks to me like comics stores have a much lower overall sales level than bookstores, and yet -- seem just about as stable. I have a feeling that the surviving comic shops are one hell of a lot more efficient than the surviving bookstores.

Especially since bookstores tend to pop up to replace the failing ones on a regular basis since it's so sexy to own a bookstore.

Of course, your average bookstore probably expends much more money on looks and style than your average comic shop. Then again, that may be part of the problem. (500.00 bookcases can be a real drag on earnings, I'll bet, and so can a cappuccino machine.)

The expectation of book customers is probably much higher, but that doesn't mean you can't do a credibly nice job on comic store looks, and a credibly cheaper job on bookstore looks.

I suspect that most comic stores come about from the bottom up -- that is, they are created with limited funds and built upon. Scramblers, survivors.

The average bookstore come about from the top down -- that is, they are created by people who are already living a middle class life, and sink funds into the dream, and then see it dissipate. Both these scenarios play to a stereotype, but I'd be willing to stand by them.

Overall bookstore sales were down 7.1 in September, and 6.5 in August. Down 2.6% for the year.

Hasting reported about a 9% drop in New books, though they were down less overall because of used books -- and, well, according to them, comics and graphic novels...

What will continue to fog up the picture of what's happening is -- well, almost no one is JUST a comic shop anymore, or JUST a bookstore. We got coffees and crumpets and toys and games and books and graphic novels and dvd's and stationary and...well, on and on....

Everyone's a hybrid, now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hippy dippy pad.

Our nice leather convertible couch in my office (guest bedroom) pretty much sucked, especially if you are more than 5' 10" tall. I know, because sometimes if I have insomnia, I bop on down to the office and sleep there. There's also a big groove down the middle, and being leather, it ain't exactly flexible.

After less than glowing reviews from guests. "Well, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if you got something else," said my uncomplaining brother." "Um.....it was....um.....fine," said my uncomplaining son.

We had a basic futon before, which simply broke from all the moving. So when we found one just like it, I sort of insisted on getting it.

We got it home, and laid the mattress down on the floor, half against the wall. Kind of a couch on the floor.

And, well, I really like it that way. Laying on the mattress on the floor reading my comics and so on.

Linda calls it my hippy pad.

I'm going to keep the futon framework disassembled until I have to.

Far out, man.

Green around the gills.

What is it about the Green Movement that bothers me?

I mean, I think of myself as an environmentalist --

These are my thoughts, and I may be off base, I've never read anyone else being critical of Green -- but it just seems -- off -- somehow.

1.) I have a sneaking suspicion, it's more about selling me something than about the environment.

2.) There is an off-putting, "do-gooding, holier than thou", tone to it all.

3.) My own thought is that instead of making things Greener, we would be better off making less things.

4.) Unintended consequences. So many Green solutions don't make much sense to me -- it seems like they over expend energy to save a little energy.

5.) I think the environment is way too complicated to try to figure out in small units.

6.) Just consume less. Period.

7.) I'm betting that a few very strong measures, which would be utterly unpalatable to even most Greenies, would have the most effect. Have a .10 gas tax. Limiting the size of houses.
Urban Growth Boundaries that are really boundaries, instead of expansions. That kind of thing.

This is just off the top of my head.

Of quidditch and flux.

Did you know there are college quidditch teams?


"Developers balk at fees."

Well, of course they do.


"In-Flux" Resorts.

Ha. In-flux is a nice way to put it. (Sounds better than --"Running out of Money" Resorts, or "Nothing here is Selling" Resorts.)

And what part of the resorts are in "trouble"? The part that makes them resorts instead of glorified sub-divisions --you know, the hotels and such.


Linda and I took a walk in the manzanita fields between Century Drive and Tetherow, yesterday.

One thing I'd do if I ran one of these "in-flux" resorts is make sure all the piles of debris were cleared away. Makes them feel kind of abandoned, somehow. Multi-million dollar mansions, and not a mile away, piles of lumber and rocks.

The interesting thing about Tetherow to me, is that very public road that runs through the middle of it (Skyline?) , so that us hoi polloi can gawk. Most of these "in-flux" resorts are pretty much off-limits. (Again, which would seem to make them more exclusive gated communities than "destination" resorts. "Destination" would seem to convey a more welcoming attitude, wouldn't it?) Have I mentioned I hate "gated communities"? They seem so Un-Bendlike; so Un-Oregonlike; hell, Un-American.


The news is that Barnes and Nobles is moving into "games" big time. Well, they've been trending that direction for awhile, now, and I knew it was only a matter of time. I knew from the first month I started carrying Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride that they were too good of games -- that we wouldn't be allowed to have an exclusive on them for very long.

So be it. Not like I wasn't expecting it. Boardgames become a product just like books and toys and sports cards, where "Advantage Big Box." I just have to be smarter.

I'm not sure what's going on locally, but I'm already stocked in games, so not much will change except I'll be less likely to order mass quantities at a time, and more likely to do "Just In Time" ordering.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Love the one you're with.

I always hated that song; it's a repellent philosophy. (At least how I interpreted the Stephen Still's -'one-night-stand'- lyrics.)

But....I'm afraid when it comes to buying stuff, it makes a certain kind of sense. I think it makes all kinds of sense buying the exact thing you want when you have it right in front of you-- even if it's slightly higher in price. (I have a long post about that tomorrow, but I wanted to follow up my Hot Dog entry with a defense of the Local.)

I'm saying, whenever you are in a Local shop, try to buy something, just for the 'team,' you might say.

That isn't quite the same thing as arguing Local versus Mass Market.

This is a huge subject that I'm not sure I want to tackle right now, except to say -- whenever possible, Buy Local. You know, give it a try. Especially if you're enjoying the shopping.

In some ways, though, this was a battle that should have been fought years and years ago. Or maybe it was fought and simply lost.

I would argue that the mass market offers lots of cheap junk; but that most of it is junk. I would argue that a higher price specialty item might have longer lasting value; as well as uniqueness and, usually, a more personable shopping experience.

But more and more, there doesn't seem to be much choice. Many products aren't even available locally anymore. I get calls all the time for product that -- once upon a time -- I would have carried. But the advantage has gone to the mass market in that particular product, and it no longer makes sense for me to carry it.

The one thing I wish people would maybe give a bit more weight to, is the Buy Local experience.

I always use the example of sports cards. Once upon a time sports cards collectors congregated in specialty stores, talking sports, trading and selling and buying cards, soaking up the atmosphere.

A few years later, they are wandering the Big Box aisles, buying the cards for a perceived bargain -- but, I suspect in their heart of hearts, they're wondering why it isn't quite as much fun.

A few years after that, they are in the comfort of their own homes, buying cards even cheaper online. But...well, something's missing.

I think most retail is headed this way. Books, games, comics -- anything with content that can be gotten online. But I also suspect that it will eventually flatten the demand. It won't be quite as much fun as it used to be. We'll hear more and more: Gee -- I really miss the old card/comic/game/toy/book/record store.

Hot Dogs.

Later today, I'm going to try to argue the efficacy of buying "Local." You know, not so much trying to twist your arm with sympathy, but really arguing that you might in the end be better off just buying it from a local store.

I suspect the whole "Buy Local" slogan is only marginally effective. I mean, it's better than nothing. I'm all for it. But I have a saying, "If you have to explain it, it's too late." You get the people who already instinctively understand or appreciate the value of it; you get the people who agree, but go ahead and buy from the Big Boys anyway whenever convenient, but who also might throw you a bone once in awhile whenever it's convenient ; and you get the vast majority who never think about it, and who don't really give a damn.

Right now, I'm going to, not so much argue that buying from the Mass Market is a good thing, but to acknowledge the reality of it's Dark Power.

Hot Dogs.

I love me a good hot dog. So I'm always willing to give a 'specialty' hot dog place a try.

But here's what I've found: I can get me a great hot dog, large and filling, at Costco for 1.50, with a drink.

Or I can get a 'specialty' hot dog for about 6.00 to 7.00, including drink. Usually the hot dog is slightly smaller, and less filling. It might have a bit more zing -- you know, it's German or Chicago or Spicy Italian. And -- well, I know there are all kinds of hot dogs, but, well, in the end a hot dog is a hot dog. In the end, I want to scarf up a nice hot dog, with relish and mustard and catsup.

And Costco does a good job of it. And it's very, very cheap..

What am I saying here? Am I a traitor to my entrepreneurial class?

Does it make any difference?

I do buy "Local" whenever possible, but it's often not possible.

I sort of quit arguing vehemently against the Big Boxes a few years ago. I mean, I'm still up for a good discussion, I still think I can make a good case for Local Retailers versus Big Box Empires.

But I just have to remember those damn Hot Dogs.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend wankers.

"An End to D.C. Earmarks?" The Bulletin asks this morning.

Anybody want to take any bets?


"Debt Holders May Operate Broken Top Club." So if the current owners just keep using the club as they have been using the club, how exactly are they out anything? (I suppose, future fees?)

I always said, the Broken Top residents should have let the previous guy try to run the place, and then take it over when he failed. I think he announced all kinds of "improvements" that never would've passed legal muster, which was a complete stalking horse, and stampeded the residents into buying from him. They should have let him keep it.

Instead, these 'debt holders' obviously feel the club is still worth running.

Bottom line, I'm guessing, the residents paid too much.


Someone hires a vanity online newspaper to write a dubious defense of the Sawyers for $5000.00.

Didn't the Sawyers just ask for court appointed lawyers?


If it snows, we're screwed: Part 2.

Bend's budget for this winter is: "...hoping for an uneventful winter."

Backup plan: "...should be adequate provided the city doesn't see a major snowstorm this winter."

This may not end well.


Not to pick on the poor B.A.T. but I've taken to counting the riders whenever I pass a bus. I usually see none, or one or two.

Hard to believe this thing is even close to cost-efficient.

I know some of you will pop up and say, mass transit is never cost-efficient, to which I ask, "Why not?" Surely there must be a way to transport people more efficiently.

But, hey, since the city can't plow the roads, these buses won't be going anywhere anyway.


Hey Bank of the Cascades -- why don't you just extend the "capital agreement" for a longer period of time. A 10th extension is getting downright embarrassing. (Probably some legal thing.)

This is like a house that has been shown 500 times with no takers...and the owners still won't lower the price. (or can't lower the price without being underwater.)

Talk about pretend and extend.


Friday, November 12, 2010

The Bastards keep offering deals....!

Tuesday, was a slow day, like most Tuesdays. But I did have a couple above average sales.

In both cases, it was odd product. Not the usual thing. Art books, art graphic novels. Not even stuff that I would normally replace after selling it.

But here's the thing. I had them in stock. They sold.

Meanwhile, my main distributor seems to be offering more and more deals.

This week alone:

1.) The Blizzard Sale, which runs about a month, and which I've already utilized. There are Image graphic novels I want to buy, that are about half the normal price. Next week, probably.

2.) DC Archives. Reprinting the original DC comics -- Batman, Green Lantern, Wonderwoman, Superman, etc. -- in deluxe HDC's, at about half the normal price.

3.) Star Wars Graphic novels -- and extra 10% or so.

4.) Marvel posters -- a minimum price.

5.) Wolverine Graphic novels -- about half the regular price.

6. The usual Thursday liquidation sale.

7.) Marvel HDC's at about 1/3rd normal price.

I have a theory -- the engine of Pegasus Books sales is lubricated by a constant flow of new material. It's important to get the Evergreens, but that's not enough.

So if I order, on a constant opportunistic basis, material that is offered on "sale", I'll have a constant flow of affordable material. The material I order on any one week may not sell, maybe I'll sell something I picked up six months ago, but SOMETHING will sell. It isn't really about the margins -- the margins make it possible to bring in a flow of new material when sales are down, and to be able to wait longer for the material to sell, and to feel good about offering the occasional discount to regulars.

I'm trying to get a 'taste' of each sale -- not go crazy. Thinking in terms of 100.00 worth of stuff, instead of 1000.00 worth of stuff. But constantly get that new material in.

This week:

A.) I ordered the Star Wars Graphic novels on the list I didn't have in stock. All Star Wars Graphic novels are evergreen. So even at 10% off they make sense. What I didn't do, and might have done in the recent past, is order multiple copies.

B.) I am going to order some posters, because they are pretty cheap, and I have a few gaps in my poster rack. Not the best posters, but I never am quite satisfied with the posters offered, and I am often surprised by what sells -- not necessarily the posters I would pick for myself. Again, getting them cheaper allows me to find that out.

C.) I ordered eight DC Archives -- Green Lantern 1 (double) and 2; Wonderwoman 1 and 2; Justice League of America 1; Legion of Superheroes 1; Flash 1. All iconic characters. This is really back-list product that doesn't sell very well -- but then again, if I'm going to carry 10 Archives -- 18 Archives will sell them better.

D.) I'm going to order a few of the Wolverine graphic novels. They sell, though are more mid-list than evergreen. Just titles I don't have.

E.) I'm not sure I'll order any of the Marvel HDC's, even though the price is enticing. They don't sell all that well, and I'm already overloaded with them. I'm thinking maybe I ought to just take up Marvel's offers every few weeks and stock up to the gills and then have some sort of blow-out half priced sale. If I thought that work, I'd do it. This week, I might just pluck a few of the best ones.

F.) Made a minimal liquidation order. Just to get a small taste of unusual stuff.

G.) Held off on the Image graphic novels, because the Blizzard sale extends into next week.

Trying to fit all these multiple sales into a tight budget is hard, but I'm thinking with the economic factors at play, maybe even more crucial. The temptation is to quit ordering them, since they aren't necessary -- in the short run. But I think that would be a mistake in the long run.

The rest of this post is pretty wonkish. How I decide on what material to order.

I categorize my product into three types.

A.) Evergreens. These are proven sellers.
B.) Mid-list. These are worthy, but slower sellers. Possibly 'prestige' product that sells slowly but which no good store is without. (Maus, for instance...)
C.) Back-list. These are much slower sellers. Normally, I pick these up when they're on sale. Or they are leftovers.

These categorizations are for in-stock product. My advance orders are obviously more of a guess. Some of the new product will turn into Evergreens. Others will be mid-list, and yet others become back-list.

My theory is, everything sells eventually, even the back-list. If you have broad expanse of them, at least a few will sell every day. And if you got them at a cheap enough price, you can afford to wait.

It makes my store different than any other store, even stores of a like-mind. All good comic stores will have the Evergreens. Most good stores will have the prestige mid-list. But no other store will have exactly the same mix, and especially the same mix of back-list.

Yesterday, for instance, I tacked on two sales of graphic novels by offering the customer a very good deal on them; I had purchased them at much cheaper prices and have multiple copies. So that was a good bonus for them and for me. (At the end of the very slow day, these hand-sells were about 10% of the total, which has been my overall guess about how much I can add by working; my employees can't really make the same deals...)

Going into the future, I want to continue to be opportunistic -- but to fit into the budget. My basic strategy will be to:

A.) order all Evergreen product offered at a discount.

B.) order mid-list product if it is half the usual price or less.

C.) order backlist product if it's a screaming deal.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Go ahead. Make my day."

About the new graphic cigarette warnings.

First of all, I'm shocked and alarmed to find out smoking is dangerous!

What's next? How about an audio chip, that every time you open a pack pipes up; "What? Another one? Your funeral, buddy!"

You could use a variety of voices.

Freddy Krueger: "Go ahead... put it on. It's in your blood. That's it. Put it on. Feels good, doesn't it? Yeah... come on. Let your daddy show you how to use it."

Gollum: "What’s it doing? Stupid, fat Hobbit! It ruins it!"

Darth Vader: "You are unwise to lower your defenses!"

Wicked Witch of the West: "Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of spears! Thought you were pretty foxy, didn't you? Well! The last to go will see the first three go before her! And your mangy little dog, too!"

Dirty Harry: "I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?


Not reporting your wife missing for a week. Might seem a tad suspicious.


Land prices in Bend have dropped 40 to 60%?

Actually, that doesn't seem like enough. Self-evidently.

But where are all those money people who proclaim Bend's bright future? This would seem like a good time to get in on the ground floor. After all, we are going to see hordes of lifestyle refugees and retired folk, right?

Meanwhile, Urban Growth Boundary? -- meet bare land. Bare land ?-- meet UGB.


Speaking of UGB. Someone posted a ongoing discussion on the Bend Economy Bulletin Board, entitled: The UGB. Expansion process: Like watching grass grow.

They got that right.

They posted it 2 and a half years ago....


I've always made the case that if you want to know how a retail district is really doing, visit it in the off season. Say, on a cold, snowy Wednesday in mid-November.

Had to go through the Old Mill yesterday. Not a shopper in sight. Yet all the parking spots in front of the stores were filled.

Sure, they have acres of parking, but the walking distance is at least equal to the parking garage downtown.

Not that the shopping activity downtown was much better....


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The seas are still stormy.

A few days ago, in The Sea is Calm, the Sea is Stormy, I commented on the completely divergent views I'm gleaning from the economic press.

Today's Bulletin has a review of the Central Oregon's Economic Forecast meeting.

Obviously, I'm much more inclined to believe Tim Duy's prediction, than the other fellow. I think Central Oregon still has a leg down to go, or two.

I think there is, and will continue to be, a "superficial" recovery. Stores opening (and then quietly closing a year or two later). The "appeal" of Bend is working to that extent. But the underlying economic forces are an undertow which will be a constant drag on that optimism.

In a sense, the optimists are saying that "If you Build it, They will come." The realists are saying, "And work Where? At what Wages? Buy a house and watch it drop in Value? Open a business without a complete understanding of local conditions?"

I remember when we were in the Mountain View Mall, there was an almost constant optimism that the mall was going to recover -- new owners, new facade, new advertising campaign. But the fundamentals were so flawed, that nothing less than a total makeover -- such as what Sunriver is doing -- was going to help. In fact, the Bend River Mall made much more drastic changes, and -- well, it doesn't appear to have helped all that much, though there are so few small stores there now, who knows?

The Mountain View Mall is gone completely, and much of this happened during the Boom. The damage was before the Boom. The Boom created Cascade Village -- which is completely unattractive to me.

Anyway, I don't know that I have any further insights into all this. But there doesn't seem to be any other blogs left who are a platform for views about the local economy, and I'd love to hear what you guys think.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pull and Hold.

My pull and hold subscription service for my comic customers has always been a bit of a mixed blessing.

I have a hardcore nucleus of customers for whom I pull new comics as they arrive, and hold for them. For instance, if they want Amazing Spider-man every month, I order for them and put them aside. So even if I sell out on the floor, they still have the comic.

This was a huge part of the business when I bought the store. In some ways, you could say I bought Pegasus Books because of the subscription list -- these were customers who I knew were interested, and who I felt were being underserved.

Back then, most customers were eager to make sure the new comics they wanted were added to their lists. Mostly because, back then you couldn't get reorders very easily and if you missed them, you were out of luck. And because, there was a relatively few number of comics, you could add comics without it breaking the bank. Not to mention, the average cost was about .60 back then.

The downside is, I'm paying for these comics more or less when they arrive, whereas the customer can more or less take their time coming in. I've never been able to really crack down on the laggards too much, because many of them quit and I never get them back. I've never felt I had enough of a surplus of customers that I could weed out the bad from the good.

The few times this might have been possible, were the few times I had competitors in town who would quickly take my customers if I tried to crack down. I've read of stores in other towns who are very strict, who ask for credit card information up front, but this would pretty much be a disaster around here.

The second downside is, that it is more or less traditional to give a small percentage off. My discount is 10% off if you make it within the month and clear your shelf. As I've mentioned before, 10% is nearly 25% if my profits. It's crazy to give 10% off when you're ADDING a service, but every time I've tried to eliminate the discount, a competitor has come along and offered an even bigger discount.

The third downside is that I'm ordering way in advance, so I'm committed to buying from my wholesaler, whereas my customers can disappear at any time. (And they do...they do....)

The upsides are: I have a good foundation that I know I will sell most of, and which get me to certain levels of discounts. I use it as a platform to decide how many new titles to add, and often make the decision for my customers. This is optional but works more often than not. (The days when customers eagerly add to their lists is long gone.)

Anyway, I quit pushing the shelves years ago -- the customers are interested enough, we'll both know it's time to get a shelf.

The numbers of subscribers has dropped faster than the sale of comics, which is a good result, I guess, since it means more people are buying -- full price -- off the floor. More sales of graphic novels.

So I've been letting attrition take place, and biting the bullet.

There was a time when I was really at the mercy of advance orders -- I was committed to buying X amount of stuff no matter what sales where doing. By adding books and games and graphic novels, I'm able to order "on time" and in the quantities I want that week -- not months in advance.

I'm really seeing the benefits of that; even as the subscribers lists continue to decline. It's kind of painful to watch, but I know in the end it will probably be good for me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's something about drawings...

I have a lot of art books at my store. I'm pretty eclectic in my tastes; all the way from modern art to impressionism, to illustrative, to commercial, to -- obviously, fantasy and comic art.

When it comes to individual pictures, the distinctions start to disappear. You know, a great picture is a great picture.

Anyway, I often find myself drawn (heh) to line-drawings, instead of the finished, polished art.

Vallejos, for instance, is way too polished, posed almost, leaving little to the imagination. Alex Ross -- his pictures are great to look at the first couple of times, but get -- almost too sweet and surgary for me after awhile. Like listening to a catchy pop tune too many times. I love Frazetta more, possibly because he is less finished in his art -- and the very roughness seems to keep the picture alive, as if there is more to happen.

I have finished artbooks of Royo, for instance, but there are also the original sketches, and again, I think those are much more intriguing.

I snagged a used copy of James Jean third artbook, Process Recess Vol. 3, and the art comes directly from his sketchbooks. They show street life, friends, strangers in the next row. Great stuff.

His artwork for the Fables series is great, but these sketches are in some ways more interesting. They are somehow free-er and looser and a glimpse into the artist's mind.

Door to door financial adviser.

Just had a financial adviser at my door handing out his business card. He works for a major brokerage....

Maybe this isn't as crazy as this sounds. I mean, if someone came to my door and had "extra" roofing or paving material and was offering me a hot deal, I'd close the door in their face.

But I'm thinking, at least this guy's got lots of gumption.

Anyway, I'm happy with the financial guys I have, and just sort of chuckled --"Door to door?" I said, in wonderment. He just said, "What?" Like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Anyway, we got our real estate agent this way. Well, he came into Linda's store and started talking to her, and something about the guy felt right, even though he was more or less operating out of his car.

But he led us directly to the house we now own, the second house we looked at, and he led us to the bank who gave us the mortgage, and it was about as good a mortgage as we were likely to get at the time, 30-year, fixed. All in all, it worked well.

Certainly, he gave us a lot of his attention, and I think he gave us good advice, which I suspect wouldn't have been true if we'd gone with one of the major real estate agencies at the time. (This was in January, 2004, just before the market went totally nuts.)

I always say at the store, I can tell how slow it is in the business world at large by how many cold calls we get.

So this may be another sign.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bend Blogs

I put the wrong date on the previous blog, which I've corrected. But once they're uploaded to Bend Blogs with a certain date, they stay that way forever.

This is a good time to say how important I think Bend Blogs is; it is by far the biggest referral site to my blog.

Next time there is a "Best Of" vote here in Bend, it is ludicrous not to vote for Bend Blogs. It is by orders of magnitude the most important blog around here.

I don't know if other towns are lucky enough to have such an aggregator. But I'm glad we do.

Sunday sundries.

The Vole-ceraptor brought us another vole. Feeling sorry for the voles.


One reason our government runs out of money. Got back an overpayment of: $1.24.


A lot of dirt kicked up lately. Getting lots of hits about Tami Sawyer and Broken Top and such...
Curious folk, I guess. Reading my past blogs about the subject, they hold up pretty well.


Was going to mow the lawn one last time on Saturday, but the battery was dead. Well....gosh darn. I was forced to watch the Ducks....poor me....


Christmas is coming. The size of this morning's paper tells me so.


I like this description of Cleopatra in a new book: a "fiery wisp of a girl." Gee....just like Elizabeth Taylor -- when she was ten years younger.


Wouldn't the most green house you could build -- be the one you didn't?


Linda was dressed all in green this morning: "It's not that easy being green.

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be."

I couldn't remember the tune, darn it.


The heck with that. I'm giving you the whole song. I'm sure Kermit won't mind. Space is free, after all. Don't be stingy, baby. It's the kind of song that might just lift your morning.

It's not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The book devil.

You want to watch me talk myself into buying books I probably can't afford?

I keep a list of books that I glean from the internet. Books that just seem to call out to me. Cool books. Good books. Books that fit my store. Books that I yearn to have....

Books I can't really fit into the budget.


'Wait a minute,' I tell myself. A little red figure pops up on my shoulder. 'Christmas is coming!'

'Yeah,' says a little white figure on my other shoulder. 'But what if it does what last summer did, and comes in well below average? Besides, you already spent a bunch of money on sale product that you have to recoup at Christmas.'

Meanwhile, I go on Shelf Awareness, and see these wonderful pictures of covers, I read interviews of authors who proselytize certain books with an evangelistic fervor. 'Oh, I want that book. I really should have that book.'

Then again, every other entry is about another independent bookstore closing. ' Ouch.'

'Yeah, but you're in good shape financially,' I say to myself, my little devil nodding vigorously'-- sure, the cash flow is starting to look iffy, especially if you order too much, but....but.....you have plenty of credit, and these are GOOD BOOKS!'

A thousand dollars would buy a lot of good books. 'A measly thousand dollars....' Says the little devil on one shoulder. 'You'd recoup that in no time!'

'That's what you always tell yourself,' says the angel on the other shoulder. 'You've already got plenty of good books, and you have a budget that will allow you to order more. Just not crazy more.'

'Yeah but Salmon Rushdie is writing a fantasy book! A fantasy book, dude! Salmon Rushdie!" I visualize the little devil with a bunch of books speared on his little tail.

The angel, on the other shoulder, is empty handed, beatific. "When was the last time you sold a Rushdie book? Or a new hardcover?'

And so it goes....