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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Changes at Borders, a New Dawn for Independents

As the Borders empire enters into the stark, dark world of bankruptcy, we can now see a bright dawn for independent publishers and booksellers. For nearly three decades, Borders dominated the book selling market, casting a massive shadow over local stores and independents, leaving little sunlight for them in the marketplace. Borders, just like any other company, had a right to grow as powerful as they dared; however, they lost a little something along the way to the top. Like most businesses, Borders had humble beginnings, but that memory was put far behind them once they virtually captured the market. I speak specifically, and from experience, about book returns to independent publishers. It meant nothing for Borders to order massive amounts of books from a publisher, then turn right around and return the majority of them damaged (literally thrown in boxes) and bill the publisher for them. This practice bankrupted many, and irrevocably changed the landscape of the book market. It wasn't just the return; it was the damage to books that could not be resold. Thankfully, the returns policy is now facing reform in the industry, but it's a shame that Borders had a role during the darkest hour. It remains uncertain if Borders will survive the bankruptcy. It was undone by multiple factors, but mainly, it was due to our rapidly-changing marketplace. For players in the book industry now, it will be up to those who are able to adapt quickly. For those who persevere in this industry, there is a new day waiting.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Poetry of Marine Life

Just like the past, the future is connected to what happens in our natural world. As we watch the daunting cleanup of the BP oil spill off the Louisiana coastline, it brings to mind a heartbreak from the past, the Exxon Valdez spill. In the poem "Cry" from Marine Life (2010), a new collection out this month, the Exxon Valdez spill is addressed, sadly, 2o-odd years later, just in time for our current crisis:
. . .Tiny sea otters
smeared with oil,
are shown kindnesses;
nuzzled like babies
to mother’s breast,
given a rhythmic,
warm massage,
slow, gentle baths
in azure soap streaks.
Elixir of life,
the dish liquid Dawn.

. . .Can dish soap relieve pain
that comes from without?
Grief that smarts and sows
a slippery black ache?

. . .Twenty years later,
hard-bitten fishermen
of such oiled seas
still don’t cry.
Or maybe they do. Maybe they prefer to hide their tears.

Stirred by her lifelong interest in the beauty and lessons of the marine world—interests born as she watched The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau in her grandmother’s living room—author Karen S. Williams composed Marine Life: A World in Poems. It is her hope to give readers, poetry and nature lovers, environmentalists, and everyday humans a meditative collection that dares them to respect and care for the natural world. Let us hope it will not take us another 20 years to finally understand this message.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Major Critics Continue to Brush Independents Aside

Indie publishers continue to sound the alarm on how the New York Times critics' top books for 2009 all came from the eight major houses dominating the market. If not for the advent of blog reviewers willing to review books from independent presses, we would truly be in dire straits. Martin Shepard's blog (see link) offers practical advice for independents to fight back against being ignored. Independent press authors deserve major coverage, too. Unfortunately, it's pretty clear that the critics Shepard profiled are either clueless or truly do not care that the review coverage is woefully unbalanced. That being said, we can either try to open their eyes to the issue at hand and request a small press reviewer be added to their ranks (as suggested in Shepard's post), or forget them altogether and continue to pursue reviewers and bloggers receptive to good work, no matter the house it comes from. Perhaps soon, the right combination of independent reviews will trump that of conglomerate-inspired reviews and the reading public will hear more than eight voices. Until then, it's important for indie publishers to stay actively involved in this fight for the sake of their authors.