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tv   Panel Discussion  CSPAN  December 1, 2013 3:00pm-4:16pm EST

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>> next, from the 2013 gaithersburg book festival this maryland, a panel discussion on independent bookselling. >> the industry for over 20 years, and it seems for some reason or other, it is an industry is alive and well. this isn't to say that things
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haven't changed in the book world over the past 20 years. many things have changed. but i'm also very pleased to say that one constant over the past couple decades is the media presence of john mutter, co-founder and ed or to have in chief of the brilliant daily newsletter, shelf awareness. he was also the longtime editor at publishers weekly and the former e! newsletter. go to the web site, without further ado, i'll turn the stage other to john who will introduce this panel of wonderful and talented booksellers who i know will offer you brilliant insight into the ever-changing book business. of john? [applause] >> thank you, gene. i don't think i've ever been called a constant. thank you. [laughter] welcome to the independent
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bookselling panel. i want to start off by saying anything you take away from this session, it should be that contrary to current perceived wisdom, one independent bookseller stores are not dying and are not going the way of the dinosaur and, two, e-books are not taking over the book world and won't replace all printed books. to put that more positively, while independent bookstores went through a difficult period in the '90s and the fist decade of this -- the first decade of this century, they're doing much better now. during this hour i hope you'll get a sense of all the dynamic, positive things that are happening and the continuing challenges that booksellers face, and it's helped make many of them even better booksellers than they are already. first a quick overview, then i'll introduce our panelists who represent a nice range in the business. we have a relatively new bookseller, a veteran bookseller and a sales rep who sells to
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bookstores, and they're all really smart and very nice. each of the panelists will talk a moment about an issue of particular importance to them, then we'll have a general conversation about some key issues. and if we have time at the end, we'll have questions and answers. of course, you've all heard the bad news about bookselling that dean referred to. the general media narrative is stuck on several things that are east not the whole story or are out of date. major elements focus on the borders' collapse two years ago, fears of something similar happening to barnes & noble, digital books and amazon taking over the book world, e-books replacing printed books completely and indies dying out. but this isn't the way a lot of us see things. there's a lot of good news about independent bookselling. sales are up, many stores had their best year ever last year, and sales continue to be strong this year. quite a few indies are opening
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branches, and, in fact, in shelf awareness on friday we had three separate stories about independent bookstores either having just opened or are going to open a branch. the new stores are popping up again at a healthy rate, and they tend to be run by people who are very well prepared and business-orient inside contrast to a few decades ago. stores with owners wanting to retire are no longer closing, instead they're finding buyers who have been able to take over the reins and improve the stores. and one excellent example close to home is politics & prose. after a long period of decline, membership in the american booksellers association -- the main trade association of ip competent bookstores -- independent bookstores, has increased the last several years. rather than replacing printed weeks, e-books are starting to look like they will be a variation of format for books, particularly popular with some genres like fiction but not
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others. and studies and anecdotal evidence are finding that a hybrid model is developing with many people reading both printed and e-books depending on the type of book, where they are and other factors. and some people are even returning to printed books after trying e-books which is what happened with me. also the rate of sales books for e-books is leveling off from the somewhat stratospheric levels of a year or two ago. at the same time, many indies are now able to compete in the digital arena by selling e-books and other products in the new aba partnership with cobo which i've heard referred to as the most famous e-book retailer that you've never heard of. they're very big outside of the united states, and hopefully they'll be bigger here now. another issue is sales tax fairness. this involves requiring large internet retailers to collect sales tax, something all brick and mortar stores do but most interbe net companies have
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arided -- avoided which gives them a competitive advantage with consumers. a federal bill requiring sales tax collection by large internet sellers has just passed the senate. and if it makes it through the house, president obama has said that he'll sign it. in the meantime, quite a few states have either passed similar laws or have made deals with amazon or other internet sellers to collect sales tax. the buy local movement has begun to influence consumers. on a national level, the aba has worked with interested national groups. at the local level, many indie bookstores are partnering with other retailers to promote an awareness of the importance of locally-owned businesses through joint advertising, publicity and events. in a related trend, many indeed have become even more important in their communities. they're making a very conscious effort to partner with schools, nonprofits, religious groups, community groups and more. what is called discover ability
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has become a major issue in publisher and bookselling. most people who go online find it's really easy to find a book if you know what you want the buy in advance, but it's not a great place to find new books. bricks and mortar bookstores remain one of the key places consumers learn about new books, and indies are particularly good at this. with the collapse of borders and the growth of sales on line, the role of indies in helping consumers discover books has become ever more important. having weathered so much, indie booksellers are better business people, and some have branched out into publishing, printing, joint ventures, doing more and more off-site events, and both books and books and politics & prose are great examples of this. so on to the panelists. want to start with chris kerr who has worked in bookselling -- in book publishing for 37 years.
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for roughly the first half of that period, he held sales and marketing management positions with oxford university press, blackwell publishing, little brown, houghton mifflin and walden books. he founded a group that sells scholarly books to bookstores in the northeast. spent a lot of his time on the road. i've known chris for way too many years and can attest that under the stereotypical cynical, gruff sales rep exterior is a cynical, you have sales rep -- gruff sales rep but with a heart of gold. [laughter] i'm counting on him to give a reality check from time to time, and if he can take a few minutes and talk about how sausages are made in the book business. [laughter] >> first, just a big shout out to city of gaithersburg. it says a lot about your community that you can organize
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this. i think logistics would be impossible without the full support of your municipal government, and i go to a lot of these affairs, and i'm just so impressed by the level of detail and, you know, the congeniality and also the support for authors and, you know, thank you very much. i graduated from high school in this area, in arlington. i'm going to my 48th reunion tonight. the school is being razed on its 60th anniversary to be replaced by a new school. but, you know, when i grew up here, there was no beltway. tyson's corner was a gas station and a flashing light. and my high school was the subject of the largest school integration case the country had
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ever seen when the county was forced by the courts to close the black high school in south arlington. so, you know, after i came back from the army and finished college, i got my first sales rep job here. so i just always feel very lucky to be able to come back to the washington area, especially because it's always just been such a terrific, congenial bookselling community. in very broad fashion, i want to just hit three themes, one which is survival strategies that are keeping independent bookstores going today, and many of them thriving. some of the new booksellers out there who are making it really, really exciting, more exciting than i can ever remember, and, you know, some of the opportunities i think that are out there for retail booksellers , you know, when i started selling in the mid
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'70s, there weren't that many real bookstores. most were hybrids; book in card, one case book in pets, you know, a lot of them sold religious articles. you know, it was a much smaller footprint than it is now. and, in fact, when i moved to the washington area, you know, i got my books from the basement of woodward and lothrop. and when i went in as a high school student having taken the bus in from the burbs to look for a george ken nonbook, they were very embarrassed they didn't have it, but they did not mind calling the book shop in georgetown, gave me directions on how to take the crosstown bus. and for those of you who remember, it was really one of the most extraordinary bookstore experiences you could have. it was a house that had once seen much, much better days. every nook and cranny was jammed
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with books. it was inconceivable to me that you could walk in the front door, and the delivery room was entirely history and biography. the paperbacks ringed all the stairwells into the back room, you know, cookbooks had their own room. it was really a bit of a revelation. today we're seeing a lot of stores looking backwards at those hybrid models for businesses that they can bolt on largely to extend the possibilities that they could offer to people who are already inclined to be there. and, you know, i'm just going to mention a few of my favorites. a book shop in manhattan on 14th street right off of the square, if you walk into the store, it's basically the size of this room, maybe a little skinnier. there are at any one time a half dozen instructors working
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one-on-one or with small groups of people, students they've brought to the store courses on meditation, relaxation techniques. with them they bring their book requirements which the store supports, you know, the store sells a lot of sort of support material from yoga mats. the store uses its teachers and its partners to push its message out in the community, and as a result of it, they've had some pretty interesting offers. they're going to open another branch in manhattan very soon. they've been offered starter money to create a satellite store in palo alto. they're a little wary about the 3,000-mile commute. but it's a really wonderful example of a store with, you know, an organizing theme, a small footprint really extending itself into the community quite well. bank street bookstore in mystic,
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connecticut, if you've ever been to, it's quite wonderful. they have now partnered with local movie theater, the most popular restaurant, the library to bundle events. your ticket gets you a meal, an evening with an author. the movie theater live stream dan brown's appearance at lincoln center this last week, and the went fit of the -- benefit is it's cash in the till, it's customers who might not ordinarily have walked into the store, and it's a chance to sell books at each of these off-site opportunities. there's some clever real estate deals being made out there, and real estate is really one of the issues that doesn't get talked a lot about in the business because, you know, the owner dies, his kids take over. they want to monetize what they feel is the, you know, family heirloom and suddenly rent goes through the roof. but when the borders bookstore chain collapsed, a lot of mall
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owners were stuck with really tough propositioning. it turned out that, of course, borders was considered an anchor store. the lease agreements with all the other tenants required that they be rebated if one of the anchor stores went out. so they were really committed to keeping this bookstore going no matter what it called itself or how it operated. and they reached out to a number of indidn't booksellers to come in and, basically, provide a management team with operational expertise in exthing for which the -- exchange for which the mall financed the store, you know, covered the rent, financed the inventory. and while it's a fairly recent experience, i think there are lots of opportunities like that, you know, with realtors to be much more creative about their partnership not just rent collectors and people who don't show up to clean the drains. this real estate can cut both
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ways. i don't know if any of you are familiar with st. mark's book shop in manhattan. personally, one of my favorite stores. bob and terry have been friends for 30 years. they were recruited by cooper union to be the lead retail presence in a building that they wanted to put right there at the astroplace subway stop. and the community board would not approve the building unless st. mark's was part of it. fast forward, the building is up, the university now has jacked the rent up to the roof, they're pushing st. mark's out. it's a really naked betrayal. you know, the university has not really been called out on in. so, you know, while i want to tout the possibilities with working creatively with realtors, i think st. mark's experiences is something of a cautionary tale. one of the fun things to talk about is, you know, espresso book machine. really the great thing about these machines is that every
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store has had a completely different experience with it. harvard bookstore, when i queued up for my first reprint -- i mean, i had to have something come off this machine -- you know, the person many front of me was reprinting a 19th century irish textbook on crop rotation. the person in front of him had reprinted a medieval manuscript in the public domain. i mean, to me, it was just one of the great astonishments. mcnally jackson in new york city has actually created store bestsellers off its machine. you know, the whole zip code is stinky with poets, writers and novelists. but some of their, some of their printings have sold 3-400 copies, and they guarantee the people who print with them display space in the store. it's not a luxury that a lot of people have, but it's just turned out to be the whole new revenue stream, it's really
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extended the store's message. the other thing about mcnally and jackson is that it's an example of a bookstore that can actually change the real estate picture. they opened in what could only politely be described as a drug shooting alley, you know? it was more heroin addicts than, you know, shoppers. people could not wait to tell sarah how crazy she was. and yet, you know, fast forward a year later, she had transformed the neighborhood. the store was a magnet. all the real estate around her had changed, you know? it was really quite magical. and for a cynical new yorker, it was quite a revelation. one of the great things about bookstores, liz and brad are a wonderful addition. everybody did a huge sigh of relief when they bought the store. politics & prose helped put me in business when i announced i
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was going to start my business. there's a lot of pushback from people. a, they were going to step up for us, we could use them as references and, people just better shut up and cooperate. and, you know, it really helped. we jump-started very nyse. sarah mcnally, whom i mentioned, this woman's a rock star. i mean, she's really impressive. veteran bookseller from canada, but she is actually drawn to her community. you can't work there unless you've got a book in progress. you know? everybody there is doing three different things outside the store and on the staff, and it just makes for an incredibly rich environment. christine at words in green point, the folks who opened green light bookstore, huge two-year fundraising campaign involved the borough president,
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involved, you know, the community, developed a huge measure of support. i mean, this is the sort of leadership that's arriving these days. i want to very quickly say that there are some continuing threats. i think the biggest problem for independent retailers and retailers of any kind is a lack of access to money. the banks rolled up everybody's lines of credit when the real estate market imploded. you know, people have been punctilious about paying their notes, suddenly couldn't get their inventory financed. it didn't help that publishers lowered the boom on stores demanding earlier payment of more. i think we talked about predatory real estate, a lot of real estate being jacked up beyond reason. you know, changes in technology, you know, these folks can talk about it a little bit better. and then the internet. i don't think anybody realizes that the internet retailers got an $11.5 billion gift from state
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and local governments last year. and they're using that $11.5 billion last year to club main street retailers over the head with discounts, free freight, predatory pricing. when you look at amazon's balance sheet, you know, it's a great stock. i bought ten shares for $6, you know, i feel like a genius. but they don't make any money on their transactions. the only real revenue is commissions on third-party transactions. not the stuff they warehouse and ship themselves. and, you know, shareholders can strip off $200 billion in value from apple when they miss their sales target by 5%. i think when the bubble bursts on amazon, it's going to be much, much louder. big opportunities out there, english language remains the biggest export commodity in the world. there are more people learning english at any one time than currently speak english. within our lifetime there will
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be more english speakers in china than there are in the united states. stores who recognize that there are a lot of new americans out there, there are a lot of kids who are in remediation, you know, who have extended their graphic novels. they're doing a lot of really great stuff. and then common core which is the educational standard maryland adopted in 2011, implemented in the 2013-2014 school cycle, this mandates that more nonfiction be read by kids earlier. i think by junior high school in maryland the mix will be 50 clash 50. that -- 50/50. that nonfiction is on the shelves of bookstores. it's been be published by real authors, it's available, and there's a lot of it. i think this is a great opportunity. >> great, thank you. just a couple footnotes. comes a story that chris mentioned, word in brooklyn is opening a new store in jersey
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city in july, i think. and mcnally and robinson -- or mcnally jackson now is opening, just opened a new store like around the block. and also about hybrid bookstores, there's so many it's kind of, it's really cool. but my two favorites, i think, of all time were car wash bookstore in los angeles. very upscale car wash. [laughter] and in texas the famous bookstore/hair saw a loan -- salon that kathy patrick runs. i want to introduce melissa muscatine, co-owner of politics & prose. i don't really need to say this, but the iconic washington, d.c. store which is a sponsor of the store, and they have a tent selling books which is kind of an example of the entrepreneurial spirit that a lot of booksellers have. and as i say, as chris said
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before, there was a sigh of relief in the industry when she and her husband, bradley graham, bought politics & prose two years ago. they've done a really phenomenal job of achieving the sometimes difficult trick of maintaining the elements that have made a longtime store beloved by its customers while updating aspects of it and improving things. and i've got a long page or two here of her accomplishments and jobs over the years which is very impressive. most recently, before buying politics and prose, melissa served in the obama administration -- [laughter] >> that was all planned, you know? we timed it. >> or is that hillary's train? i don't know. [laughter] i'll start again. most recently, she served in the obama administration as director of speech writing and senior adviser to secretary of state
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hillary clinton. she was a senior adviser on hillary clinton's presidential campaign and was co-collaborator on her white house memoir, "living history." during the clinton administration -- maybe the first one we'll say at some point -- melissa served as a presidential speech writer and deputy assistant to the president and later as director of communications to the first lady. before entering government, she reported for the delta democrat times in greenville, mississippi, the washington star and "the washington post" where she was a reporter and editor covering a range of beats from politics to sports. she's contributed commentary pieces to the new york time, "the washington post," the huffington post, she blogs for and the politics & prose web site. she's received several journalism awards and is a frequent guest speaker at area universities. she's also chairman of the board of trustees at sidwell friends school and has served on the
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boards of association of american rhodes scholars and imagination stage. she's also on the advisory board of the school for ethics and global leadershipment -- leadership. i'm hoping she'll talk about the surprises and challenges and successes you've had since buying the store two years ago. >> thank you so much. that was way information than you either need or want, but i appreciate the lovely and very generous introduction. and i just want to echo what chris was saying and thank all of the people here who are from gaithersburg and the city of gaithersburg and judd ashman who really started this as a kernel of an idea some years ago, and everyone thought he was nuts and it would never happen, and here it is in its fourth year and even with kind of not typical weather, there seem to be great crowds. so we're really thrilled to be here for our second year as the bookseller for the festival and just really glad to see all of you out here. and it's just such an honor really for me to represent politics & prose on this panel with chris and mitch and john
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who i hope you have figured out if you didn't know already are really titans of the book and bookselling industry each in their own way. each of them has such an incredible influence on so many positive things that are happening in the bookselling world. it's, you know, i could go be on and on just talking about them, and i should also say that because i'm sitting next to mitch who is a bookseller, of course, i really should just stop now, and you should just listen to him because he knows a thousand times more than all of us put together about bookselling. he is, among other things, the king of books. as i'm sure you've all heard of the miami book fair which we did a panel on today. it is the biggest fair besided the national -- that's what they say, but he never -- doesn't tell the truth. so i'm sure it is. and he runs some amazingly beautiful stores in miami. if you ever have a chance to visit books and books, any of
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their stores in miami or south beach or bell harbor, you must go. and the other thing that's really important, and i think brad and i acquired politics & prose, and we became stewards of this treasured and icon you can -- iconic cultural institution. our pledge to ourselves was don't screw it up. we felt a strong responsibility to maintain this incredible bookstore. but one of the things we did was we basically went around to independent booksellers who were successful around the country. and, of course, one of the people we talked to was mitch kaplan. one of the things we discovered is the successful ones are very entrepreneurial. they're very creative, they're willing to try new things, and mitch kaplan is the visionary amongst visionaries in a really impressive group of people, and i cannot tell you how much we have learned from him over these past two years and hope to learn more. but the other thing, and you'll -- the thing that's
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really great, he is so generous. to people like us. and it's just great to see fellow booksellers who are so supportive of the newbies on the block and really want the success for everyone. brad said when he introduced mitch earlier, there is literally no one as admired and beloved among his fellow booksellers, and i'm glad to repeat that. it's such a pleasure to have him here. he's the best be, and you'll find out in a minute why if you've never heard of. but one of the things we learned from mitchell and others is the most successful independent bookstores are those who really retain deep community roots. and so we knew from the start that that was going to be the essence of maintaining politics and prose, making sure that it was both financially successful and enduring as a kind of community institution. so what did that mean? what does that mean for a local bookstore that's already doing pretty well but is facing these potential threats like e-books and uncertainty in the book industry?
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and what it's meant for us is a few things, and i'll try to sum them unfairly quickly. one that books remain our bread and butter. we sell books. that's pretty much what we do. it's the heart and soul, it's the nerve center of our operation is our book selling floor. we retain an incredible staff of expert booksellers that are really kind of curators. we have a fantastic buyer, we have great inventory, and we build pretty much everything we do around that basic, fundamental mission. but we also are mindful that the industry is uncertain, that even if physical books remain a majority of the books that people read in our area and among our clientele -- which we hope and think they will be -- we have to prepare for the possibility that they're not as strong as they have been in the past. and so what do we do in that eventuality. well, we remain true to our community mission, but we also look for new streams of revenue which chris touched on a little
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bit. and as he said, there are all these hybrid models where people are finding little niches whether it's yoga be or toys or games or hair products or car washes or whatever. everybody's sort of looking for this little niche. and we haven't so much done that. but we have tried to build on the foundation of community be kinds of programming -- community be kinds of programming. so we are very, very lucky, as mitch is, to have an incredible array of author events at our store every year. we have about 475 a year. i think mitch has over 600. and we're lucky that we're in washington, and authors want to come, and publishers want to send their folks to us. we've also been able to build out programming outside the store. so there will be days when we have three author events, one at the store and two at other places. that continues to be a huge part of our identity and a huge part of the way we support our community and, obviously, a huge part of the way we sell books. secondly, we think we were
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really brilliant when we decided to make our first hire novelist susan call who some of you may know who has been around here today as well. she had a lot of ideas about how to provide courses and classes. she felt there was a market for this. we were clueless. we said, okay, sure. if you really think so, give it a go. and 50, 60 classes later that we sell out routinely that we have waiting lists for and, mind you, this is without a designated classroom space in our store, something we're trying very hard to address, we now have managed to, through susan, satisfy this very, very deep appetite for learning in our community also built around books, but fairly liberally i might say, and providing a great service to our community and also helping the store with its bottom line. we also have started to offer trips and outings. so we have had trips to the arena stage in which somebody from our staff goes with a group of our customers.
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we have dinner beforehand, we go the play together. it's really fun. people seem to love the group outing. i know this might be stretching the book thing a little, but we've also had two outings to nationals games. the first one we did a chicago cubs/washington nationals game at the end of last season when the nationals were looking really great, and it was against the cubs. so we had the author of city of scoundrels and our chief buyer who happens to be from chicago. and we took 35 people. they had a picnic lunch and then got great seats, all sat together. and then the first week of the season this year we did it with sports writer chris brennan who's an old friend of ours and also a patron of the store and one of the foremost sports writers in america. again, had a great time. i just want to add, you know, this may be with serendipity, but one of our customers did get a foul ball. so that was fun. >> oh, never happens. >> it did for politics and prose, so you never know. you know, we have day trips to
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falling water. we've -- we're going to do some i'll war battlefields, some other kinds of interesting local day trips. we have two trips to france this summer which are sold out, and we're almost sold out of a trip to us canny, a writer's retreat which is going to be fantastic in october. and lastly, chris mentioned the espresso book machine, and i won't go on. there's a lot of other things we're doing, but that gives you a general sense. the espresso book machine for us, we're trying to drive more people to it. it's been a really interesting source of self-publishing. i think people who want to self-publish have been really happy with it. we've had an event for people who published their works where they each got five minutes to speak about their books. it was an exciting event. what we're really excited we've just done was -- and, again, this was one of susan's ideas -- we solicited submissions of all kinds, writing, art, poetry, whatever people wanted, of local
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experiences, places, anecdotes about places in neighborhoods in washington. and we were overwhelmed with the number of submissions. and our staff whittled this down to i think it was 40 or 50. we are just publishing our first anthology on our espresso book machine. it's called district lines. we're really excited. some of the stuff in it is phenomenal, by the way. it will be on sale in the store. and i just want to say this, but, you know, this is like, this is just sort of kids' stuff compared to what mitchell does with publishing. so he doesn't even need an espresso book machine because he's doing really amazing things. but we really believe in the community partnerships like this festival. we're always looking for more of these kinds of associations, and that's really what we hope will cement our foundation for the future. so thank you all for being here. [applause] >> well, now i feel like i don't really have to introduce mitchell.
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but for the record -- [laughter] one or two things you left out. i think he's done just about everything a person can do in the book industry except maybe write a book. maybe something's in the works. [laughter] as lissa said, he's the owner of books and books which has five stores in south florida and be also has licensed stores in west hampton beach, new york, and also in the cayman islands. and i think that makes him the only international-american bricks and mortar bookseller. i don't know anybody else. and that would be enough for most people, but not mitchell. he's also -- lissa sort of touched on it, he's an agent, a book packager, a publisher and a movie producer, all roles that evolved out of his work as a book seller and knowing writers and knowing publishers. he also, of course, almost 30 years ago founded the, helped
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found the miami book fair international which has become the template for almost all book festivals in the country, including this one. he's currently chairperson of the book -- the miami book fair board. he sevens on the steering committee -- serves on the steering committee of the florida center for the literary arts. he's a former president of the booksellers association and was on the board of the foundation for free expression. and in 2011 he was honored with the national book foundation's literary and award for outstanding service to the american literary community. which is given to an individual whose life and work exemplify the goals of the national book foundation in expanding the audience for literature and enhancing the cultural value of literature in america. well deserved and -- [applause] >> two years later, still -- [inaudible] >> right. [laughter] >> well, i think i'm just going to go home now. thank you, lissa, for that
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wonderful, beautiful, generous comment that you made. and thank you, john. i mean, every morning i wake up i try to make sure that i wake up when shelf awareness just hits my mailbox so i'm the first one to read it. and i was disappointed when you made it a little later. >> that was not a conscious decision. >> i know. you just wanted to sleep a little longer, i think. [laughter] but i, i can only say that being here in gaithersburg has been just pretty remarkable. it's brought me back to a time when we first started the miami book fair, close to 30 years ago. and to see, to see the energy here, to see the young and old, to see the amazing amount of people who came and the wonderful authors that presented and to see people buying books from politics & prose tells me that books are alive and well here in gaithersburg. and i think that it bodes very well for this festival. and i think 30 years from now
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there'll be little kids who were brought here for the first time who are bringing their own kids back here. and that sort of memory of discovery and covering books here at the gaithersburg book festival will continue. and i just bring, i just want to shout out to judd and tell him what kind of a great job he did in creating this thing. and i feel like i let him down a little bit. i know he invited me from miami to bring a little sunshine here -- [laughter] and it didn't quite work out that way. but also listening to chris, it made me realize about my own connections to this area and connections that i think caused pretty much of a straight line which got me into the book business. i was a young 21-year-old who had the good fortune of being an english major who didn't know what he wanted to do and went to law school and ended up in law school in washington d.c.
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and i was there for two years, and i attribute being a law student for two years, i attribute that to getting me into the book business. after two years i decided i gotta, i gotta go into the book business. i don't want to be a lawyer. and the reason -- what i found myself doing is he mentioned the saw vel bookstore. i found myself wandering the bookstore more than i was wandering the law libraries. at that time there was also the original olsons in georgetown that i loved going to. and i had the good fortune of living just two blocks from kramer books and afterwords which had just opened, and they had just opened the afterwords part of it. and it was the first time i got in my mind the idea that i would want to do maybe a bookstore/café. and it took me about ten years of being in the book business before i opened our first café which is attached to our coral gables store. and so i realize now that a lot
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of my bookselling roots came from my experience here in washington, d.c. and this area. .. >> the relief, i though that john mentioned it, but not only the relief, it wasn't just that. and when you meet brad and lissa, what they add to what we're doing, not just the fact that they're being caretakers of old ticks and prose, but -- of politics & prose, but they brought their fresh eyes and an incredible equanimity to the whole process of bookselling.
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and i thank them for that as well. i thought i would just talk just a minute and give a kind of broad sense of why i think bookstores will never really disappear. i know there's a question, you know, what's going to happen with e-books and the cloud and all of that stuff. i think that technology is all changing, and i think today we read e-books, tomorrow who knows what we're going to be reading. but i think that the physical book is here to stay, and certainly the brick and mortar book shop is here to say. what it's really about, it's about community. it's able doubling -- about doubling down on community. it's this kind of open air, you might say this is a metaphor, this book festival, is a metaphor for what a good bookstore does; presents authors, sells books, has educational things going on. and it allows book lovers to meet one another and to
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experience one another and to engage in a kind of dialogue. and that's what i think when i really think about what got me into the book business. those are the things that got me into it. i was an english major. i remember taking contemporary 20th century lit class, and it dawned on me about three-quarters of the way into the class that at almost every great literary movement in the 20th century, there was a bookstore really at the heart of it in some way or another. if you can remember many of you know shakespeare and company in paris be, the original one with sylvia beech. all of you know that that was a bookstore where all the ex-pats came. it was an english-language book shop in paris, all the ex-pats came and published the first editions of joyce and ulysses. in new york in the '20s, '30s and '40s, and it became one of my favorite bookstores. it's, unfortunately, no longer around, but the gotham book mart
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in new york was a book shop that, you know, fought the good fights against censorship, it helped bring, you know, helped d.h. lawrence's books to get, be able to be distributed in this country, henry miller's books. they went to the, they went to court in order to make sure they could sell his books. and it was a really, really important b bookstore in that period. and then, of course, in the '50s and '60s -- and fortunately it's a bookstore that is still vie want in san francisco -- you have city lights books. s books and that was at the heart of the beat generation. so this idea of bookstores being at the heart of a community is extremely important. i don't think it will be something that will ever go away. we may all change. we may all do a lot of different things. i know it's not easy to get
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those courses off the ground because we have tried to do a lot of them. they are not the easiest thing to do in the world and when you get that kind of response is pretty remarkable. at courts going into politics and prose and getting a bite to be at their café wandering the bookshelves and bumping into someone you know and having that community. that sense of third place is what we are all about. after you are home and after you are at work we'll need a place to go in the bookstore now is still a believe that place. we have lost a number of them but as john says the good news is many others are coming back and we are seeing more and more stores opening. what is thrilling to me as we are seeing a lot of younger people, people like me, majors that went to law school deciding to give that up and go back into the book is this for the first time so i'm seeing a lot of 20 somethings in bookstores and
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that is extremely hopeful i think for the next generation of not only readers but also booksellers. you know, it is hard. it is harder now than it's ever been. it's harder than it has ever been for me. we have had to basically ,-com,-com ma bookstores these days have to become institutions , institutions that their cities won't allowed to fail kind of like a ballet or the opera. there is the bookstore and that is what you are finding. you are finding that bookstores are going the extra mile now in order to go to their community as they possibly can be. what lissa alluded who are some of the kinds of things we are doing in order to make those kinds of and roads. we are partnering with just about every school that they possibly can because our belief is part of our mission mission is developed in in the next generation of readers as well so
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when authors come and we get lots of authors who come to our store as well, we make sure that they go into the schools and just about three or four times a week there are authors that are doing a live appearance at our store who are spending time in the schools seeing three to 400 students and that is an invaluable kind of thing that an author can do and some school can provide. it cost the school nothing really for that experience. it just turned turned students has what may see a real live author. when they are taken away from their screens and they are interacting in the real world and not in the cloud. we started publishing services division of the bookstore in which we published. now we were up to six or seven different kinds of books where we work with authors and getting their books published. which has been really exciting and john alluded a little bit to
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my work as a film producer. i guess being entrepreneurial, one of the things they said when someone approached me about opening a store in the cayman islands, after i asked them or that was, i said to myself, why not? as soon as you say why not it opens you up to being able to do so many different things. i see books really early and i see them in manuscript and different typescript and if i see a book and it seems like it might make a good film or tv show why not me be the person who is helping to produce it as opposed to somebody else buying the rights to it? i was able to find the funds and we now have about 12 books and you have probably heard of some of them. a the book we are producing into the sound. major pettigrew's last stand is another one. we just finished a pilot for fox
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called delirium based on born olivers trilogy. unfortunately it wasn't picked up other really cool sideline to that is that the director was the guy who did alfred knops. in typical hollywood fashion not too many people knew when i went out to meet him that it turns out he is garcia marquez' son. i was very impressed if nobody else around me was that was the case. so that is another way that i am beginning, you know taking those things that i have learned and that we have learned that the bookshop and trying to extend our value in some other way. it's another way to create value and what we are doing is no different. a monks the three of us we could come up with a list of 500 bookstores in communities all across this country that are doing the very same thing and therefore i am very very oldish on the future of look stores in
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the future of the book and i don't think we are going anywhere so thank you. [applause] >> i want to throw out a general question to the panel and that is asking you about the state of book publishing and the major publishers in particular. from your point of view a little bit down the chain. people may not know that there are some challenges to them. amazon is the biggest customer and also their biggest competitor. e-books keep growing and there has been a lot of problems with pricing. five of the six publishers were sued by the justice department and a settlement. why is it one night am talking that the train goes by? [laughter] and then there is the growth of
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self-publishing which has created quite a few bestsellers by people who are not being published. i would throw it out to the three of you, i think two things are going on one of which is that you know a lot of the midsize and smaller houses are being crushed and just the economics of the business. they don't have sufficient critical mass to control their distribution. they can't afford sales and marketing and it's really working a hardship on a lot of authors of worthy books. i see it very sadly and very close quarters and it's not something you like to talk about because of course you would like to think that every book has its day in the sun but you know god
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loves "the new yorker." last weeks issue there is a cartoon of an editor talking to and accrete increasingly appalled brand-new author saying we would like to publish your book. do nothing to promote it and watch it disappear from the shelves in less than a month. so, you know the economy of scale is really taking a toll. also, everybody just sees working a lot harder for a lot less money. you know a lot of these houses that have very long publishing traditions, you are seeing hold management players pancaked. a lot of being -- people being pushed out. the survivors are penalized. you really feel as if wow it might have been better to be tossed out so i can go into my next career as a walmart
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greeter. but you know when i started in the business, and you'd hate to get too misty eyed about it, i called on igor who was the russian who ran scribners bookstore in manhattan and his assistant called me and told me that i would be allowed to take him to lunch. we went to his club of course and you know he knocked back to double martinis before the menus were presented. something i couldn't do them and certainly can't do now. you know it's inconceivable that any of my customers would go to lunch. you just don't do it. we don't have the time. you know one of the reasons i love telling, when i went to the south for the first time george and the carolinas, you know people took a look at you the first time and if you passed muster the second time he would he invited home for dinner and
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the dish's would be pushed away and you would pull the catalogs out and do business. now i'm back to where i was in new york city in the late 70's and i'm selling over the top of the register. i can change diapers. i have changed cars -- tires of people's cars. i cleaned up after a customer who left a trail of unmentionable stuff from the front of the store to the back of the store. it's hard and i think that is what i find. >> i think it definitely is harder now. i think the publishers are finding themselves in a bit of a state of confusion right now. i sometimes think that 2013 is 1913. cars are just starting and electricity has just started. where such a transitionary period going period going on
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right now but i don't think publishers have caught up with it either. i think that there are all kinds of terms for bookstores that could make things, make life a lot easier and put a lot more sanity into what we are doing. i pray that these kinds of boutiques within the stores, almost like what galleries do and we have a lot of our design books and i've done it with our book publishers primarily that they but they give us their books on a plan and pay model where we don't publish the book until we have a customer that buys it. instead of being in the publishers warehouse sitting there up off-the-shelf that could be in my store where we could be showing it and possibly finding a provider for it. i think little tiny things could be done to make life a little bit easier for not only as retailers but it would also put some sanity into the publishing
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closet as well. >> i just have one quick thing to add and that is that one of the campaigns for lack of a better term that we are part of and will continue to be part of it is sort of a public-relations and political campaign combines which is to say and publishers are aware of this which i think they are more or less although they are in this weird position as john mentioned up being cautious by necessity but also sort of not really liking it. we want people to understand and we really liked the justice department by the way to understand this, that independent bookstores are an integral part of the whole process from start to finish up a book. not only are they important for the democratic life of our communities in the civic life of our communities but here is a place that many people discover books and they are by definition the peacemakers for a lot of books. if we carry a book or if we have
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an author, and do a talk about a book is because it's been made pretty well fitted well cured process and that frankly does not happen on line for an algorithm will tell you that if you buy x you might like the flight. the publishers also they do understand this and they see a threat from on line retailers are trying to get rid of all the layers of publishing and they basically authorize the book and then it's published. there is no need for editing and there is no need for an independent bookstore. there is no need for the curatorial piece of that and books play a fundamental role in the publishing chain from start to finish. it would be really nice at the justice department rather than looking at independent bookstores which i think forward ever reason they do is kind of old-fashioned stuck in the 20th century and may be stuck in the 19th century old fashion business models such as kanke with the program. it would be really nice if they could see this really important
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role that we play in shaping in determining the book from start to finish. so i'm hoping we will be able to educate them along the way to map. >> we have come to the end of the formal part of this but we can also take some questions if anybody in the audience has them. if you have any questions please goes to the microphone in the back so we can all hear. are there any questions? it's time for a drink. [laughter] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible]
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[inaudible] >> the question has to do with something i have heard someone else say. there are big areas without good looks towards and i think alyssa is being asked whether politics and prose might open up. >> let let me say your the fifth person that is come up to me today and my husband asked me if we would be able to open a store in gaithersburg or in this area. it's truly fascinatingly feel your pain for sure. i would say we are approached about once a month by a neighborhood group, a development company or some entity in a region of the washington metropolitan area to open an independent bookstore from old town alexandria to capitol hill to city center to union station to everywhere up
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here so it's something we have thought very hard about and continue to think about. we felt the first obligation was the independent bookstore and our mission was to make sure it was financially sound and so it would endure for as long as possible. it has taken a couple of years to get all of that on track. you know as and mitchell can talk about this because he runs a bunch of successful stores for books & books but the margin is really bent and the big investment that goes into the community to try to sell books. you have to have other kinds of programming to support it to make it financially viable. we would definitely detain it and i think chris mentioned real estate being an issue. if local communities could come up with low-rent propositions that would help support these institutions in this way that is actually a huge incentive. and then there has to be the
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community support. one of the reasons that we felt comfortable buying politics and prose was because it had a rapidly supportive customer base, rapidly supported. people moved into that citgo to be near politics and prose so that was something that was very reassuring. in order to take it into any a new neighborhood you have to be really convinced of the viability down the road. we certainly haven't ruled it out. we can look at it closely and i've spoken to one of your gaithersburg neighbors and come up with a really low rent great place with us and make sure there a lot of customers than we will start talking. mitchell can talk about the challenges of that. we are thinking about that too. we actually are thinking a lot about the mobile book concept. there are a lot of, because we have the tri-state problem with three different jurisdictions all the different rules in
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licensing and so on but it is something that we are actively researching. >> we are looking at a traveling sailboat. [laughter] fully stocked through the caribbean. that is what i would like to do. but the fact of the matter is even miami where we have three stores in three distinct communities we are always asked to open even more in those communities. you know we are asked to open almost on every corner and those corners in miami are extremely expensive. you know i think what happened was that the expansion of barnes & noble and the expansion of borders there became this expectation that there could be a bookstore on every corner but you know what what happened is with that expansion of pi really didn't expand that much. you still have that very same core group of readers or that there are more people being from the pie. what happens is a rationality being put back into the
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business. for anyone to expand you really have to make economic sense or else it will fail. the margins are very slim but what lissa said is i think her experience here in the community here if there were low-rent propositions and certain incentives given i'm sure to be something that would be more favorable for them than other places. bea some of the 11.5 billion tax forgiveness for internet retailers. every bookstore could use a little bit of that. , what happened in france? in france they are subsidizing it. >> have them come and meet with us. [inaudible]
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spevak, he made earlier lisa on the role the books play in curating books one of the things i dislike about amazon and other on line places is their algorithm actually identifying what a good book is and there is a lot of the term crafty folks it turned claimed there are at bestseller and if you follow through its a place for writers to try to get recognized but unfortunately it's not a good way to have good literature actually recognized, so i'm wondering what your comments are in-app particular role and how you guys are fighting back against that? i know that shelf awareness is probably a leader in that and as panel leaders it's a great thing to have in relation to the question. see i will give a little plug for one of our newsletters which is shelf awareness for readers which comes out twice a week and
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it's geared towards consumers as opposed to what we started with which is at daily trade. some readers have 25 book reviews a week. we try to pick the best books that are coming out that week. and we have a lot of material about authors and we do interviews and have them do q&a's and stuff like that. we have a version of that is going out through quite a few independent bookstores to their e-mail lists and we found that it's a great way for a lot of readers to find out about looks and emphasizes what the bookstores do on line. and one of the things about it that is kind of unusual and book sellers love it, after each review we have a five button that goes to the bookstore's web
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site on the page for that book so people can buy that and we hear stories from booksellers. they say the look that was in that book awareness thing. we have gotten to the point technically where we can't figure out how many people have clicked on the buy button and we can't tell how many people bought the book but it's probably a pretty good rate. see i just want to say something and i'm sure they have interesting thoughts about this but you know one of the great things about being an independent bookstore especially in washington or miami and by the way his bookstores have made miami a literary mecca and a literary hub and it's not, people think it's for tourists and old people. it's the center of an incredible dynamic writing and books. so it shows the role of gandalf local bookstores. but one of the things we love
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about being a bookstore in a community is about the tricks and mortar institution and we can pick which authors we want to have for events and we can showcase books that otherwise might not get attention and we love doing that. so we are able to get the top named best known authors and their books are the best sellers and everybody knows about them but we make a very conscious effort to showcase local authors. mitch has done amazing work in miami with local authors and by the way being in constant contact with smaller presses or intellectual or academic presses so that we can get the full scope of books that we can cure a. it really is they think the distinguishing characteristic or one of many but an important distinguished character between bookstores that are brick-and-mortar independent and the massive on line big guys. >> other thing that we can do as well, and it's the one thing
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that i think politics and prose does really well. the recommendations that they give i follow. i love to read their newsletter. it's a really remarkable newsletter but on top of that this is where the publisher thing comes in. we feel like we are partners with the publisher, with small presses as well so if they want to put a small press author on the road we can often find organizations in miami who want to fund bringing that author in. there are so many groups who would love to have an author speak in front of them and they were willing to fly them down and that sort of thing. one of the soap ox is that i only stand on is that publishers need to see their booksellers, they're independent booksellers more as partners and i think that is beginning to be understood. and this list is so articulately spoke there is a continuing from
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author to put publishers to seller. unless we work with conjunction with each other it will break since some point that distribution chain will break. i've often felt that we are and the golden age with so many wonderful things being written and published. the thing we are struggling with is the distribution. the distribution is what has become so difficult that trying to figure out how to get it from author to reader. >> the chairman of random house said that in his mind the most valuable real estate in america bar none, not amazon, the staff picks. that was really weird in his mind publishers had the impact in the life of their publishing. it took a while for people to figure out that sending advance
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copies to their readers and potential fans would help them and the american bookseller association champion a lot of this with their original white box program where they got publishers to distribute galleys -- galleries to bookstores. one thing from my point of view is that i would give back the names of the clerks in stores who have actually requested specific books. nine times out of 10 they were people i had never met or never heard of yet they were having an extraordinary impact. i sell a lot of graphic novels. diamond comics the biggest graphic producer in the world and for years the premier graphic novel judge was politics and prose receiving clerks. it took me years to find them and when we found them, and i
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mean i looked at his orders very carefully as a guide to what i should be promoting in our stores. god bless you. >> we have run out of time. one more question, sorry. >> wanted to know what job opportunities you see available to young people who want to get into the book industry that are really need it right now or someone who wants to contribute? >> do you mean as a writer or a bookseller or in publishing? >> just in general. i subscribe to shelf awareness and i may book blogger and i have an mfa in children's literature so i would really like to be more involved in the book industry but a lot of jobs are either very low-paying or very competitive. >> do you ever think about living in miami? [laughter]
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>> itched much warmer than here right now. >> we can go on for another hour on the discussion of the pay of booksellers and what you get out of bed and all that but i still think bookselling is a very vibrant and exciting occupation for anyone. and it is a lot of fun and it's a wonderful lifestyle. i have done it for 31 years and i couldn't imagine being stuck in a law firm somewhere. i would probably no longer be able to speak in clear sentences as i was doing that he my father is a lawyer and my brothers a lawyer so i don't want you to think i'm putting anyone down. >> they are watching. >> there watching and i realize that but i would say a few really want to be in the world of literary culture you will find your space. you will find your place. if you're a writer you know that is great and if you are book
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blogger there are needs for that. there are scouts and i'm finding in the world there are readers, people who read and let other people know about what those books are an affair film or the. there is a place for you and reading shelf awareness is great and going to booksellers and networking and going to the book expo. just consider that literary world your world and you will find your space in it. and we need you and it. [applause] >> is there a nonfiction author
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book you'd like to see? tweet us at >> he has his numbers problem and an experienced problem and i believe that the low point was 3000 troops and after his success at bunker hill, if you want boston, i will give you boston. they go to canada to regroup and i known they are coming back to new york. to become a generic city and he knows he can't face him or beat him head to head so he has to use espionage and guerrilla warfare and has to be able to anticipate them and it's only logic that he needs a spy in his own cia. and then you find out that he has this huge background and he is a known guy from the french and indian war and he tells them and others that this is what we
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need, this is what we will need to do, we have to find these people to help me out. >> fox and friends host on how a little-known spy may have saved the revolution. tonight on "after words", part of booktv this holiday weekend on c-span2. >> up next, "after words." our host is sally quinn and she is the cocreator of "on faith." she interviews richard dawkins in his memoir, "an appetite for wonder: the making of a scientist." he explains his dalliance with religion and embrace of science and the secular world. this program is about one hour. >> okay, richard, i can't help but notice and admire your time, which has penguins on it. is there a significance to that?


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