I’m pleased when a Google book search leads me to an independent bookstore

When I’m doing online research and see a footnote for a relevant book, I tend to first search for that title on Google because I’m lazy. It takes fewer keystrokes to do that than to go to Amazon or B&N and search for the title there. I often find the book at an independent bookstore that provides online ordering.

Yesterday, I was looking for this book because I refer to the battle multiple times in my novel in progress. General McArthur, wanting the glory of saying his troops pissed in and/or drank out of the Yalu River between North Korea and China, sent his troops north, ignoring the intel that his marines were marching into a trap near the Chosin Reservoir.

His marines were badly outnumbered, especially Fox Company which was guarding a strategic pass. The battle of Fox company is one of the most heroic in marine corps history in a war most of us have forgotten.

So a Google search on the title leads me to a copy available at the Whistlestop Bookshop an independent bookseller in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  With a few keystrokes, I ordered the book, pleased to be buying it from somebody other than Amazon. Good, I had the book on order without buying it from that near-monopoly that offers everything from A to Z.

Looking at the ABOUT US page, I know that if I lived in Carlisle. I would go to that store:

Whistlestop Bookshop opened in Gettysburg in August 1985 at 11 West Railroad St, right across from the Lincoln Diner.  A quick two-and-a-half years later, in January 1988, we opened a second store in Carlisle at 152 West High Street, next door to Back Door Cafe and the Bosler Memorial Library. 

Eventually, both stores moved to larger quarters.  Whistlestop Gettysburg moved to 104 Carlisle Street.  We closed it at the end of July 2004, after 19 years. 

But, I don’t live there. No problem. They have an online presence I can use when looking for books in addition to Powell’s, IndieBound, and Bookshop.org. I see no reason to automatically head to Amazon because there are alternatives. A lot of people I know gripe about Amazon, but when they want a book, that’s where they go. I don’t quite understand that, especially when there’s a bookstore in the town where they live where they can BUY LOCAL.

Within a few days, I’ll be reading about “frozen Chosin,” as the marines called it.



Happy Independent Bookstore Day

“One Day. Hundreds Of Bookstores. Fifty States. Join The Celebration! Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. Every store is unique and independent, and every party is different. But in addition to authors, live music, cupcakes, scavenger hunts, kids events, art tables, readings, barbecues, contests, and other fun stuff, there are exclusive books and literary items that you can only get on that day. Not before. Not after. Nowhere else.” – Indie Bound

Buy Local

“Small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics. When we buy from independent, locally owned businesses, rather than national chains, a significantly greater portion of our money is then cycled back through our local economy — to make purchases from our friends’ businesses, to aid our neighbors in need, and to support our local farms — ultimately strengthening the base of our whole community.” – Sustainable Connections

My favorite dark humor cartoon showed an independent bookstore next door to another local store. I believe the manager was standing on the sidewalk ready to welcome customers. Meanwhile, at the store next door, a staff member was outside on the sidewalk taking an incoming order of books from an Amazon truck.

We seem nearly brainwashed to buy from Amazon. It’s just as easy to buy from a local bookstore or, if there isn’t one, from a local store that sells online, including Powell’s and The Strand. (The Strand has a sale today.) Indie Bound (click on the graphic above) has a store finder. If they’re too far away, check their websites: many of them sell online. Just type in your zip code to see what’s near you. The displayed stores usually have website links.

As an alternative to Indie Bound, check out Bookshop. Order books online from them and you’re supporting local bookstores.

If you still feel a deep need to support the Amazon Empire, I’m sure there’s a Twelve-Step program to set you free.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


Facebook Author’s Page

Amazon Author’s Page

Available from Bookshop

B&N finally decided my address is not an APO

As I wrote on this blog recently, my wife and I had a B&N gift card for $50 that would allow us to buy three books. But B&N’s site was screwed up. A message on the checkout screen kept telling me that B&N doesn’t ship to APO or FPO addresses.

So what?

But they thought that’s what I had even though I’ve had B&N books shipped to this address for ages. Finally, the last of the books I tried to order is on its way without any explanation about the checkout screen error.

I would rather order from B&N or Powell’s or Bookshop because I think Amazon is pretty close to being a monopoly. But if alternative websites are screwed up, there’s not much I can do but go to Amazon again. This time I couldn’t because I had a B&N gift card.

The support reps kept telling me to enter and re-enter my purchases again and again in addition to clearing my cache and using another browser. Finally, the company decided to have its programmers look at the problem. I spent a lot of online chat time before B&N decided to do the obvious thing: FIX THE BUG.

So, I’m not in a rush to go back to B&N and put up with all this hassle again. That bothers me because I really want B&N to give Amazon some serious competition.  But this won’t happen until the support reps take customer problems seriously and focus on fixing the bugs instead of asking us to re-enter everything on our account multiple times as though that’s going to fix the error.

Seriously, B&N, do you want to beat Amazon or do you want to allow the bugs on your site to ensure that you will crash and burn?

You have a serious problem if your software “thinks” a street address is an Army or Fleet Post Office address. Fix the thing instead of making your customers jump through hoops.


An Indie Alternative to Amazon? 

The past few years have been rocky for Chris Doeblin, owner and cofounder of Book Culture, four beloved independent bookstores in New York City. “Before Amazon we had a viable company. I made a decent living in New York City. We bought an apartment,” he says. “Twenty-five years later I’m on the verge of bankruptcy. Our stores can go out of business any minute.”

Source: An Indie Alternative to Amazon? | Poets & Writers

The website is already up, perhaps as a teaser or a priming-the-pump-before-launch kind of thing at https://comingsoon.bookshop.org/signup

I hope these folks can make their plan work because Amazon, while it has provided a service to indie authors who can’t get their books into bricks and mortar stores, has become a big problem: a monopoly.

I link my books to other online sites as often as possible, but I think people just read the books’ descriptions and then go buy them at Amazon. (I do appreciate the people who buy them.)  But we need alternatives in addition to Powell’s, B&N.com, and even IndieBound.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed about this venture.



Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses, Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

Source: Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers

Amazon has caused a fair amount of talk and concern amongst small publishers, and rightfully so. Publishers who need holiday sales to “make their year” worry those sales won’t happen if Amazon lists the books as out of stock.

We have alternatives, but for many readers, buying a new book automatically means logging onto Amazon’s website. It’s a habit that’s hard to break, yet every time it happens it makes Amazon bigger and makes us more dependent.

We could just as easily log on to the Barnes & Noble site where prices are similar. Or we can buy directly from IndieBound. Powells claims it’s the world’s largest independent bookstore. Its website is just as easy to use as B&N’s site, though the prices are a bit higher. On the plus side, they sell a lot of used books and those prices are pretty good.

A fair number of local bookstores operate websites like Powells where we can order even if we live on the far side of the country.

These are some of our options. I appreciate what Amazon has done for self-publishers.

However, they are a business and have to make decisions that work for them (as in making sure bestsellers are in stock rather than buying something from a publisher who may only sell 25 books during the holiday season), so I try to buy from other places from time to time. I’m sure Amazon doesn’t care, but it keeps me from developing too strong an addiction to the A-to-Z people.



Bestselling Fantasy Writer Christopher Paolini Kicks of New B&N Residency Program

Book Bits Special

from Barnes and Noble

New York, NY – February 4, 2019 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest retail bookseller, today announced that it will host fantasy writer Christopher Paolini for a 10-month author residency to celebrate his internationally bestselling Inheritance Cycle series, as well as his new collection of three stories set in the world of Alagaësia: The Fork, the Witch and the Worm. As part of this national tour, Paolini will appear at 11 Barnes & Noble locations from March through December 2019 with an enhanced customer experience that includes a presentation by Paolini, a booksigning, exclusive trivia, social media photo opportunities with an exclusive backdrop, and an exclusive giveaway, while supplies last.

“We are so excited to be working with Random House Children’s Books to host author Christopher Paolini on this exciting author residency tour,” said Stephanie Fryling, Vice President of Merchandising, Children’s Books at Barnes & Noble. “Fans will have the chance to have an exclusive experience with Paolini and enter the world of Eragon in a way like never before at Barnes & Noble stores across the country.”

Wikipedia Photo

Christopher Paolini is best known as the author of the Inheritance Cycle, a bestselling series comprised of four books including Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance. Paolini wrote Eragon shortly after graduating high school at age 15. The Fork, the Witch and the Worm is Paolini’s newest book in the fantasy series, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times Young Adult Bestseller list.

“It has been such a blast meeting so many Eragon fans while on tour for The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. I look forward to meeting even more of them on my national Barnes & Noble 2019 Residency Tour,” Paolini said.

The tour will kick off in Paolini’s hometown of Bozeman, MT, on March 4. The full list of tour dates are below.

Barnes & Noble Christopher Paolini 2019 Residency Tour Dates:

Bozeman, MT, Monday, March 4, 5 PM
Boise, ID, Saturday, April 13, 6 PM
Albuquerque, NM, Friday, May 10, 7 PM
Edina, MN, Sunday, June 9, 1 PM
Briargate, Colorado Springs, CO, Friday, June 14, 2 PM
Exton, PA, Saturday, July 13, 1 PM
Akron, OH, Friday, August 9, 7 PM
Springfield, MO, Saturday, September 14, 3 PM
Grand Rapids, MI, Friday, October 11, 6:30 PM
Orem, UT, Saturday, November 9, 2 PM
Stonebriar Mall, Frisco, TX, Sunday, December 8, 2 PM

Paperbacks make great stocking stuffers

My wife an I are giving up on stocking stuffers this year because we seem to have an over-supply of stocking stuffers left over from past years. So, we said to hell with buying more Chapstick, Pears Soap, and Tic Tacs.

We do give each other books as Christmas gifts, but usually from a Christmas list rather than intuition. I read 10000000 books a year and that makes it hard for my wife to give me something I haven’t read. She reads fewer books and sticks to a group of authors she likes. Neither of us feels confident enough to buy each other a book unless we know (from a Christmas list) what we both really want.

Since some of my novels are available in paperback, I’m biased when I suggest that paperbacks make great gifts. Better yet, when you give them as stocking stuffers, you don’t have to wrap them. That’s a plus for me. While my wife can wrap gifts better than the gift-wrapping lady at the mall, the gifts I wrap guarantee that people will think I was sipping moonshine while I wrapped them.

When either of us splurged on a stocking stuffer, we’d put a gift card on it saying it was from Santa. No harm, no foul. Or, when we gave candy, we made sure there was enough of it to share. But as the years went by, all the old, utilitarian stocking stuffers didn’t work anymore because we each tended to buy them whenever we ran out. And, over time, we both realized that those gifty books sold in the front of the Barnes & Noble stores didn’t really work because nobody ever read them anyway.

As it turns out, each one of us has a storage locker in the garage with one thousand tubes of Chapstick, several hundred Snickers bars, enough Scotch tape for all of Google’s offices, rolls of Kodak film that we wouldn’t know where to get developed even if we were still using our old Honeywell cameras, shoelaces for an army, enough Q-tips to scare all those ear doctors who say, “don’t stick these things in your ears,” and fruitcake that’s been passed from one family to another since Herbert Hoover was President.

So, we agreed on the “no more stocking stuffers” plan. We don’t have a fireplace in this house, so we don’t hang stockings anyhow. They sort of degenerated over time into grocery sacks of stuff.

However, those of you who are steadfastly maintaining the old ways–that is, stocking stuffers–can switch over from office supply store nicknacks (extra pens and boxes of staples) and drugstore nicknacks (toothbrushes and Hall’s cough drops) to paperback books. Forget Kindles and Nooks and get the real thing! Avoid Amazon if you can and go to your local bookstore where real people are trying to earn a living by curating books that your loved ones will really appreciate.

Before you go to the bookstore, you need to break into your loved ones’ rooms and see what’s already there. Steal their Kindles and Nooks for an hour or so and make sure you don’t duplicate what they are reading on their screens, poor bastards. Years ago, we used the word “grok” to imply that we understood somebody or something. If you grok your loved ones, you can pick out books they’re most likely to enjoy.

If they don’t enjoy them, they’ll love you for trying your best even if you have to remind them that it’s the thought that counts.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of stocking stuffers named “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Lena,” and “Sarabande.”





Isis Bookstore vandals must be stupid

Here’s the news story that caught my attention: Bookstore named ‘Isis’ becomes target of vandalism

IsisbooksEven though this Denver bookstore has been around for thirty-five years, some bumpkins think it’s associated with the recent terrorist group ISIS.

The store has been hit four times recently: does this mean one stupid vandal hitting the store over and over or multiple stupid vandals hitting the store one time each?

The terrorist group is giving the Egyptian goddess Isis a bad name, not to mention spoiling the 1975 Bob Dylan song by the same name.

This Dáesh (ISIS) logo seems hard to mix up with the bookstore's logo.
This Dáesh (ISIS) logo seems hard to mix up with the bookstore’s logo.

The the bookstore’s owner said that “the goddess represents women, healing and magic, and she says it’s a fitting name for a store that features books and gifts from all types of world traditions and spiritual sources. The shelves include Christian, Hindu, Native American and Pagan texts, to name a few.”

Obviously the vandals have never heard of the goddess, much less noticed that nothing about the store (inside or out) looks like it has jihad sponsorship. The logos don’t look the same either, even if one is color blind as well as stupid.

At times I wonder how it is that the facts and myths that were once basic common knowledge are shrinking. On the other hand, maybe the criminals who targeted the store wouldn’t know squat in any era.