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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Local Book Store Demises

Uploaded: Aug 19, 2010
As nice as Borders on University and Kepler's in Menlo Park are for a book reader and buyer, I suspect neither operation nor others elsewhere are long for this world.

Kepler's nearly closed a few years back and was rescued by some investors who valued it's role in the community.

We lost Printer's Ink a few years back and more recently Know Knew Books on California Avenue.

There was a WSJ story today about the national chain Barnes and Noble being up for sale. Borders also is a national operation. (I actually read about it online, not in the paper itself. What does that tell you?)

This phenomenon is paralleled by the challenges the print media have been going through the last several years.

Clearly the internet, Amazon's Kindle, the IPAD and related technologies have transformed the way many of us choose to get our content. This even more is the case with people my kids' age, who are in the college or recent graduate cohort.

The tough part about this entire and inexorable change is how to moentize content? Apple did a good job with how to sell music and related entertainment. RIP Tower Records, inter alia.

Book stores and print media are staring down the same sort of situation.

And of course I am posting this on-line!
Local Journalism.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Anon., a resident of ,
on Aug 19, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I have a Mac, I have an iPod, I have a iPad, all are very nice in terms of their design and hardware, but Apple is not perfect. iTunes can be very useful to sync all the data between the Mac and the portable devices, but is is a slow, ugly, over-complicated underperforming interface.

Comparing Apple iTunes to Amazon, Amazon has the much better selection, better prices, a better, more random-access web interface, better reviews of items, better selection of items, and much more. As innovative as Apple was with the Mouse and Window system in the 80s? it just does not seem to want to make their systems respond to people. One example is the continuation of the way you can only resize a Mac window from the lower right completely infuriates me every day about how much more effort it is to move and coordinate the mouse than on Window. Windows which I finally decided a few years ago I would not spend any more money on ever.

The experience of reading a book is sadly similar with both companies though. The Apple Reader's interface is flashy and cool, but I don't need the pages to flip while I'm reading, it is a slow annoyance.

On my iPad I use the Kindle client, but each client has its own annoyances. I find the Kindle client very good, almost perfect for reading on the iPad, but interacting with the page, like highlighting or taking notes is annoying. Also missing is the text-to-speech of the real Kindle.

Since I returned my Kindle after its trial period and did not keep it and I am positive that Amazon kept that text-to-speech capability, because some publishers said that legally Amazon did not own the performance rights to books and that "automatic text-to-speech is a performance." What can I say other than the law is an ass.

There are no page numbers in an e-book, often most of the do not have indexes, some, not many, are without a table of contents.

The point is that the e-book experience leaves a lot to be desired, innovative and convenient as it is. I would be sad to see Kepler's or Borders Books go. I love the author events Kepler's has, but they are not well publicized and their chairs are challenging, and sometimes Kepler's is very crowded. When I am there I always try to get something unless I cannot find something.

Borders has no author events that I have ever seen, but I like going there. Borders reminds me of the old Varsity theater that I used to go to when I was a kid. They did mangle the theater up pretty well, but they have a good selection of books and music and listening posts, at least they used to, have not been their lately. One reason is that the restrooms at Borders, at least the men's room, is one of the worst and should be infamous for being dirty, disgusting and malfunctioning in the whole Bay Area. I do not know how they find this acceptable to serve their customers.

The prices of books is high, but I will continue to pay them, but these stores have to offer us something for our money. There is still Books Inc, and they seem to be doing well despite they have the smallest locations and thus selections of anyone, have decent restrooms, and author events as well.

For books there is also the bad service, irritating music, high price at what used to the Tower Records and is now Rasputin Records. I cannot even bring myself to go in there, it is even worse than Tower Records was in terms of staff and loud annoying music, they have no restroom or author events and I think their prices are high even though they sell lots of used stuff.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of ,
on Aug 22, 2010 at 8:11 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

The first time I caught Kepler clerks hiding conservative books was the last time I traded there.

Posted by Emily, a resident of ,
on Jul 30, 2012 at 10:53 am

Know Knew Books is still open with new partner and has gotten major face lift

Posted by face to face, a resident of ,
on Jul 30, 2012 at 11:53 am

Bookstores need to adapt by providing services that the internet cannot provide. Think about reading clubs with face-to-face book discussion or poetry reading sessions. Also lectures and other presentations by special guests.

One problem that bookstores had is the trend towards bigger, more expensive stores in the years before the Bush recession. Banks may have been willing to speculate on real estate at that time, but in the end, Bush bailed out the banks but not the bookstores. The bookstores may never recover from that debacle.

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