On the folding of books

The bookstore where I work just got in a new product that intrigues me. It’s a series of books, the pages of which are meant to be folded. They’re called Artfolds and they look like this:

As I am a fan of both books and folding things, these seem like a good fit for me. The idea is that as you read the book, you fold the pages as marked in the instructions. When you are finished reading, you have a new piece of art for your home. After all, when you aren’t reading a book, it is probably just taking up space on a bookshelf (or if you are like me, the floor, because your bookshelf is too full). It may as well be pulling its weight by being attractive.

Probably if you do enough of these things, you’ll be able to figure out how to turn non-marked books into book art like these.

The thing that stops me from loving this idea entirely is that I am constantly telling my kids not to bend the pages of their books. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I started doing this at home.

Anyway, I think this is a cool idea and I wanted to share it with you. The basic books are around $15. The literary classics that spell out words are around $20. Stop by Baker Book House and check them out today!

21 Inexpensive Ideas to Fill an Easter Basket Without Candy

My wife and I were musing the other day about Easter baskets for our girls. Our oldest is three and is able to appreciate the idea of an Easter basket. And if we do a basket for the eldest, we should do one for the youngest (almost two) as well. But after a few disastrous experiments with Halloween candy, neither of us relish the idea of packing their Easter baskets full of candy. And since all the grocery stores seem to sell are bunny-themed diabetic starter kits, I started looking around for other basket fillers.

I didn’t have to look far though. My bookstore, Baker Book House, has at least twenty different things that would be perfect for parents concerned about their kids’ sugar intakes. And so, here’s the list:

  1. dimplesbooks
  2. stuffed animals
  3. bouncy balls
  4. bubble mix
  5. puzzles
  6. card games
  7. activity/coloring books
  8. coloring supplies
  9. rubber stamps
  10. sidewalk chalk
  11. movies
  12. an_easter_carolCDs
  13. toy cars
  14. stickers
  15. pinwheels
  16. play dough
  17. bracelets
  18. hair accessories
  19. a slinky
  20. bath toys
  21. trip coupons (ex. carousel ride at the mall, a library or bookstore, etc.)

I’ve spoken with management and we’re going to put together a few pre-packed Easter baskets filled with stuff from this list. So if you don’t have time to do hunt for all these items yourself, swing by Baker Book House and pick up one of the pre-made baskets. Otherwise, you can pick from these ideas to supplement a basket of your own design.

Do you have any ideas to add to the list?

Would you pay top dollar to keep a bookstore in business? France does.

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I love books. I love reading them, writing them, and being around them. That’s why I also love bookstores.

Sadly, more and more independent bookstores are closing up shop because they cannot compete against Amazon and the like. In fact, I just got news that my bookstore’s former sister store, Pooh’s Corner, is closing after a 38-year run. Loyal customers remark that when a bookstore closes, it feels like a funeral. It’s true.

But while America is giving eulogies for purveyors of the printed word, the French are reveling in a bookstore paradise. Why the difference? Price-fixing.

According to an article in the New York Times, the French government stepped in and laid down some laws specific to the sale of French language books. Bookstores, even online giants like Amazon, are not allowed to discount French language books lower than 5% below retail. Amazon did win the right to provide free shipping in order to be competitive, but that is nothing when compared to the deals offered in America that make even publishers wince at the lack of profit margin.

The balance between discounting and paying the bills is a tricky one to master. The topic has often come up among the employees of my bookstore, Baker Book House, as to whether we are hurting ourselves by offering deep discounts on specific titles. Often, we discount anyway because we know that while American customers may get warm fuzzies by supporting local bookstores, those warm fuzzies only last so long before they are tempted by the rumored convenience of online retailers. And so we try to compete, not only in the personal touch and knowledge by which good indie bookstores are known, but in price as well.

But what if that isn’t enough? I’ve seen too many good bookstores close to think that it is impossible for it to happen to mine. Is there a way to retroactively adopt some French bookstore reform on a National level? And what would people say if that happened?

If you had to pay near full-price for all of your books, would you continue to buy them? And would you buy them from local bookstores or would you order them online?

I’d love to hear some responses.

Books as Time Travel

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I’m sure that I’m not the only person fascinated by the idea of time travel. After all, who doesn’t love at least one of the Back to the Future movies?

And while I understand that we are all time travelers (albeit in the same direction and at more or less the same pace), I love the idea of being in control of time. I could visit different eras, meet my favorite U.S. President (Chester A. Arthur, president in the late 1800’s), and prevent historical atrocities. It is one of the root ideas of science fiction. The classic what could have been.

But while we may lament that time is still our master instead of the other way around, there are loopholes to this rule. Books, specifically, allow us to travel through time.

I’ve heard it said that writing is closer to thinking than talking. Thus reading books is akin to reading a person’s thoughts. And when a book is written, those thoughts are trapped in the amber of time, waiting patiently for unwary readers to bring them to life, thus enabling a telepathic connection between the writer and the reader over a span of impossible years.

Is it anything less than incredible that we can read the thoughts and words of people who lived thousands of years ago? Those authors and writers are traveling through time, unbound by death, to influence the readers of today. And so I am proud to be a writer. To drop my thoughts into bits of amber and travel to the future.

Have you had any good telepathic time travel sessions lately?

2013 Holiday Gift Guide for Teen Readers

I rarely emerge from my office at work, especially during the holiday season. There’s too great a chance that I’ll be stopped by a customer and asked a question for which I have no good answer. That’s the problem with working off the floor at a bookstore, I’m mostly oblivious when it comes to knowing things like product location and which book is Karen Kingsbury’s latest. I could probably solve that by visiting the sales floor more often, but again, that raises the chance that I’ll be asked a question by a customer. It’s a vicious cycle of ignorance, but I’m pretty happy inside of it.

That is, until I get thrown under the bus by my coworkers. It’s happened twice in the last week that one of my coworkers has called me out to the sales floor to help a customer with a product recommendation. Fortunately, the customers in question were trying to find books for their teenagers and my coworker knows that I read a lot of YA Fiction. In each instance, I was able to guide the customers to some products that might suite their needs.

I’d like to do the same for you. Here are my book recommendations for 2013.

For fans of the Hunger Games or Divergent

9781441261021The Staff and the Sword Series by Patrick Carr – Although getting into this series took me a few chapters, it wasn’t long before I was hooked. The first two books (A Cast of Stones & The Hero’s Lot) are available now and book three (A Draw of Kings) comes out sometime this Spring. Fans of the fast-paced, weapon-filled, society-on-the-brink-of-revolution genre will appreciate the struggles of Errol Stone as he tries to navigate each new threat, be it from foe or friend.

For fans of the Hobbit or Chronicles of Narnia

edge-bookThe Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson – First and foremost, Andrew Peterson is a gifted storyteller. Whether it comes through in his prolific musical career or his youth fiction, Peterson’s ability to incite mirth as well as sadness ranks him among the greats in fantasy literature. The first three books are out now, with the final installment coming this Spring.

For college-bound readers

4981 168668Catch-22 by Joseph Heller or Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut – These books won’t be for everyone. To be honest, less than half the people to whom I have recommended them actually appreciate the message or the tenor of the writing. But these are classics for a reason. They are anti-war books that transcend specific grievances against military debacles and cause the reader to ask the age-old question central to growing up: Have I been sold a lie? These titles get to the core of what it means to be independent, so I’ll keep on recommending them to people. Because, whether you like them or not, they will make you grow up.

For a bit of Christmas fun

Hhogfatherbookogfather by Terry Pratchett – Things are a little different in the Discworld. For one thing, the world is flat and propels through space on the backs four elephants standing atop a giant turtle. For another, there is no Santa Claus. There is the Hogfather. And things are about to get messy when an “uncommonly psychotic member of the Assassin’s Guild” vows to kill the spirit of Hogswatchnight (Christmas) himself. This novel features some of my favorite characters (Death and his granddaughter Susan) in a clever and fun take on most wonderful time of the year.

As for recommendations for fans of books like Twilight and the like, I recommend reading better books. Hope this short list is helpful!

When Branding Goes Too Far

My wife saw it first. Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul brand dog food.

I erupted in laughter.

“Really?” I asked.

“Really,” she said.

I think it is time that we, as a culture, started looking at the power of branding and whether the brand lives up to its own legend.

Now, I don’t have anything against the dogs who eat the Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul dog food. They eat things that come out of their own bodies and don’t know any better. Nor do I have anything against their owners, per se. I’m sure that the food is as healthy for dogs as anything else available on the market. But there’s a good chance that it is also more expensive than it needs to be because it’s manufacturers are paying for the license that allows them to use the Chicken Soul for the Dog Lover’s Soul name.

Is it necessary for dogs to have brand name dog food, especially when the brand is more popular for books than for food? Is this the power of branding in action?

I realize that I should probably be happy that a book-related empire is doing so well. It speaks to the vast wealth potential that lies in wait for simple writers like me. After all, as writers we are told that establishing our brand is an important part of our platform and overall publishing success. Should I be so eager to naysay the success of such a book-related brand?

Probably not, but it is hard not to think that after some initial success, a brand can cross over into the dark side of greed through licensing some ridiculously unrelated products.

“But Josh,” says John Everyman. “Dog lover is part of the title of that book. It is obviously related.”

Perhaps, John Everyman. Perhaps. But this is only one of many licensed products that exist, and that list is growing everyday. I only hope that one day, I have my own incredibly wealthy brand so that I can prove myself better than this. Or maybe that is just my own greed and jealousy speaking.

What are some of your favorite ridiculously unrelated examples of branding gone wrong?

The Genius of Andy Riley

I work in a bookstore. You may already have known that. What you may not know is that the bookstore where I work is known worldwide for our selection of Used Books.

You see, Baker Book House started as a used book store back in 1939 when our founder, Herman Baker, started by selling books from his personal library. Having worked at Baker for eight years now, I have come to appreciate book and bookseller humor. So when I found the British show “Black Books” on Netflix a while back, I was beside myself with glee. Actually, I was beside my wife while she slept (like a sensible person) and giggling to myself about the embellished truisms of bookstore customers and employees.

Here’s a clip:

What I did not know until recently was that one of the main writers for the show was Andy Riley, creator of the Bunny Suicides books, which I also enjoy. And now that you have two new things that will be demanding your attention (finding more Black Books clips on YouTube or Netflix and reading up all the Andy Riley you can get), I won’t waste any more of your time.

Happy Friday everyone!

The Commercialization of Christmas Gets a Bad Wrap. | My Christmas List

ChristbaumkugelChristmastime is here. Happiness and cheer.

Christmas movies are playing wherever you look, and the general gist of these yuletide blockbusters is that the only thing that matters for Christmas is family time and love. Of course, many millions of dollars are spent to produce these blockbusters and the theaters are hoping that your version of family time is to spend time in their seats watching movies. And for the movies shown on television, advertisers are spending a lot of money to convince you to buy expensive and largely unnecessary gifts.

It is as though we are willingly suspending our disbelief in debt to get through the holidays. We convince ourselves that things aren’t as important as family and love, and then we express our love for family by buying things for them.

I could go on to tell you about how bad this all is, about how Christmas has become nothing more than a season for retailers to trick you into keeping them afloat. I could tell you that, but it probably isn’t needed. I’m sure that there is a good Christmas movie that could say it a lot better than I could anyway.

And besides, I work at one of those retailers for whom Christmas is an important season financially. Of course, my place of business sells wholesome things like Christian books, Bibles, and family board games, so I don’t have to feel too bad for working there or trying to sell things during the holidays.

So here’s my thought. Let’s set aside the platitudes of Christmas, recognize the advertising for what it is, and go for a happy medium where we know that things are not the goal of Christmas, but we have peace about buying them anyway. Let’s allow ourselves that peace. In the frantic rushing about from home to home in the grand search for perfect family time, we could do without buyer’s guilt.

The next time you hear about a family who doesn’t buy gifts for loved ones because they are too pious, or the next time some misguided soul tries to talk you into a homemade Christmas, just smile and say, “No thank you. I’ll be buying gifts for my family and friends this year, and I am not going to feel at all bad about it.”

Just, don’t go overboard or anything. I don’t think deeper debt will achieve the kind of peace that we are talking about here.

All of that to say this: Here are the things that I want for Christmas this year.

Books

CDs

Lego Sets (Any of these would be fine)

Gift Cards

Clothes

  • Humorous T-shirts (Size L usually)

Other

That’s a pretty good list. I may add to it if I see something else that looks good. Mostly, this list is for people like close family members, but if you want to buy something for me, that’s cool too. Maybe you could have it delivered to my work and I’ll get it there (that way I don’t reveal my actual address on the interweb). Ship any gifts to Josh Mosey c/o Baker Book House, 2768 E Paris Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546. Unless it is a mean or deadly gift. Don’t bother to mail those to me.

Merry Christmas!