I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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I have learned a lot throughout the course of building this website. I have done a lot of work online for many years, but nothing has been quite as informative or as stressful as developing communiteabooks.com. I am currently, and have been for the last few months updating the SEO to all of my products—I have over a thousand, and have many more to upload. One of the most important things that I have come to learn is that if you are planning to build a website you should have a basic knowledge of SEO before you do.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and if you have been researching the merits of starting a blog or any other kind of website you have undoubtedly come across these three letters at some point throughout your process. SEO is how search engines, such as Google, find your website. It is the use of unique key phrases that Google can track and direct people to where they want to be. There was a time during the internet post-pubescence when simple keywords would do the trick, that time has come and gone—the internet is over-saturated with keywords. Stop using keywords. With that said it is also important to consciously develop SEO key phrases. Be consistent with what you can, for example my product SEO uses the common phrase Hardcover; Used. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace at Communitea Books; Collectible, First Edition/First Printing; Fiction/Literature; $---.-- of course some things change maybe the book is a paperback and is a remainder (Trade Paperback; Remainder) and the title and author and price and genre might be different but I have created a consistent SEO template that is easily translatable, and is unique to my website and standards. It is incredibly important to find key phrases that you can maintain throughout the development of your website (or blog).
I am an example of someone who learned the hard way. I uploaded over a thousand products without having the understanding of SEO that I do now, and I ignored SEO. I have come to realize that it is so important that I have stopped working on almost all other aspects of the website in order to work my product SEO. I am noticing a decrease in sales these past couple of months, however my website is seeing an increase in traffic, and that's solely because of the SEO work I am doing. I cannot focus on marketing or sales right now, and that's fine because I am catching up on a process that I should have paid attention to at the beginning of this startup. You don't have to make the same mistake that I made. Create an SEO strategy, even if your blog is only a series of weekly rants that allow you to vent, or a creative outlet, it doesn't matter, because you never know what you may want it to be in the future, or what it might organically become—work the SEO!
I read a lot about SEO before, and during the first few months that I put this site together, and my brain did what it has a tendency to do in similar situations, my brain automatically over-complicated SEO. I watched videos, I read articles, I talked to people and it was so simple that I unconsciously decided it was too complicated to focus on with everything else going on. It's not, SEO is as simple as writing an about me on a dating site, it's probably easier actually because it can sometimes be a little challenging to explain yourself to somebody else, unless you're over-exaggerating some truths, which is almost exactly what we all do on dating sites. So, think of SEO as your websites about me and think of all the dates that your website is missing out on if your about me isn't as complete and accurate and amazing as it could be.
If I had taken the time to understand SEO, and I had included it with each product as I was uploading them in the first place I would have saved myself a very considerable amount of work, and the only thing that I may, or may not have sacrificed as far as a silver lining is regarded is this blog entry.
I should reiterate, in your initial learning curve when trying to understand SEO you will come to realize that there is a lot that can be included with SEO, it can be incredibly complicated, there are people who have spent entire lives and careers devoting their time to SEO. However, that does not mean it has to be complicated, I am not oversimplifying the intricacies of the process, I am however pointing out that it's like learning a language, depending on how you need to use it, whether you're moving to a foreign country or visiting for a week, there are degrees necessity. You don't need to be fluent in French to visit Paris for the week, and as far as SEO is concerned if your blog is about cooking then your language is not SEO it's a variety of herbs, spices, meats, temperatures, etc., SEO is important but only in the spectrum of your week in Paris. It's easy to over-complicate that but, and especially if you're an American, you already have the worldview that all you really need to know is to point and say “How do you say?” in whatever language in order to move your vacation along.
Don't over-complicate your SEO, be consistent, be thoughtful, be inventive and create a strategy. You want your site to include SEO, because why put all your time and effort into something if people cannot find it. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest are great tools for creating traffic but only if happenstance puts your site right in front of their face. That's where SEO comes in. Let them come to you, because people are looking for your site. They want to know what you have to say. You've decided that your have a voice, and something worth saying, now let SEO amplify your voice. All you have to do is decide how best to describe that voice.
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Sometimes I wonder how people come to recommend books, like how, or why it is that they decide on one book over another to share with a person. I do know that in reality it’s no more complicated than arbitrarily picking a title that you have either enjoyed or have heard about and suggesting it, but I don’t know, I think that I want it to mean more than that. A typical person reads on average four books a year, and when you consider how many books are published every year the whole concept of the arbitrary book recommendation—errgh—it’s like everybody flooding their unwanted political opinions throughout social media—you know, we’re living in the age of your fact being just as real as my opinion, when really almost everything that we do, in our social media life, is veiled by the umbrella of validation, it’s like someone saying, “damn it read it, cause I told you to, although I didn’t really read it either…”
But, we don’t recommend books to validate ourselves, so what is it actually that I’m trying to say?
While working in bookstores I learned pretty quickly that one of my most important responsibilities, at least in regards to customer service, is the book recommendation. People walking through the doors are most eager to inquire about their next read, and they leave this profound task upon the shoulders of a perfect stranger. I know from experience that many booksellers really are not that eager to engage with someone when it comes down to the recommendation because, for a number of booksellers, they tend to be a little highbrow in their tastes and, therefore, in the particular act of recommending a book to someone whom “has likely never even heard of a single author that [I] might go out of my way to suggest,” said bookseller will resort to recommending something as similar as possible to the last thing that you read, and it would be irrelevant to them whether you actually enjoyed it—assuming that is that the bookseller hasn’t brushed the request off by being “too busy.”
With that said, I have always enjoyed giving recommendations, in part because sharing is caring, right? I mean introducing a person to a new author, or a new style of writing, or even a book written by an author they might be familiar with though the title is unfamiliar to them, or perhaps they have always meant to read it and have never gotten around to it and I just happened to remind them. Regardless it’s irrelevant what someone may usually read, and whom they may not be familiar with—especially in terms of the last book one might have finished. Recommending books is an interesting challenge, and even more so when someone walks through the door looking for recommendations and have filters that need to be maneuvered.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman; this is a conventional historical novel—read in many book clubs—that takes place in Australia shortly after World War I, a young newly married couple suffered a stillbirth only to discover a small boat which has washed ashore, on which they find a dead man and a living infant girl, a happenstance that the young woman convinces her husband “to be a gift from God.” It is very well written, and is well worth your time
The Light Between Oceans
by M. L. Stedman
I googled book recommendations and went through a number of the sites that popped up—I noticed recently that I look at landing pages differently, and the ranked pages that are the first few that Google lists now that I have spent a great deal of time studying SEO—most of the articles offer the same incite, which is “Where do [we] even begin?” and then they all follow through to list a number of books but, I mean, if you’re a book reviewer or writer or you run a bookstore in some fashion writing about book recommendations is incredibly important if only to direct traffic to your site. I have, of course, thought about writing the blog many times over the past years, since I started this website and blog, and every time I actually sat down to write the blog the idea that I was trying to convey would be lost somewhere after the first few paragraphs, and I’m not sure if I can explain why. I could do exactly what every other site and article that I happened upon has done, which is to write a short introductive paragraph and start listing books, but I think, for one thing, and as I have mentioned in a previous blog: reading is deeply personal for me, I’m not always eager to share my experience of reading a particular book with anyone. I love the conversations that watching movies and listening to music and even writing often develops but reading, for whatever reason, is a conversation that I actively avoid, and especially the sharing of the experience.
However, I love sharing the act of reading with people, but because it’s so intrinsically existential I suppose, for me, recommending a book should have more of an impact than tossing a copy of Red Sky at Morning on the floor at someone’s feet whispering, “Read it.”
Red Sky at Morning
by Richard Bradford
There are a handful of authors that I have learned I really enjoy recommending, and I think it’s because there is a certain universality to them while also introducing people to someone new, but of course it depends greatly on whether whomever I’m talking to has heard of said author. I’ve also learned that depending on where I have lived certain authors are less commonly known, and I have become pretty good at reading people as a result. Haruki Murakami is one of those authors, and especially when recommending some of his earlier novels because they were considerably more epic than his more recent works, his newer stuff feels a little forced to me—although I have read everything, and will continue to—he is kind of known for being formulaic, his novels follow a very specific formula which I discuss in my blog Haruki Murakami: A Profile.
Kafka on the Shore
By Haruki Murakami
When I think about writing this blog, I’m looking for something more to say or to offer, as if I were attempting to create some platform of intent: after reading this blog you’ll have everything you need to in order to maneuver the subtleties of the book recommendation, like, for example, I would want to create an app, kind of like a dating app, you input some information, maybe take a compatibility test, and the next thing you know you are well on your way to exploring every book that would inherently consume your being, but alas “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
It is important to branch out, and to experience new writers, and new styles, and new ideas, but you will likely find that it’s also enjoyable. A friend of mine in high school and I used to introduce one another to new music. Every time we saw each other, which was every day, he would have new musicians or bands for me to listen to, and I would leave him with his own list to explore. Every one of the musicians that I listen to today was discovered because of that experience either directly or indirectly, as some ripple effect of those conversations. I have three friends, at least, from Barnes&Noble either in Salt Lake City or New York City whose friendship was enlisted in much the same way, although it was with books. We would simply throw ideas out at one another and dive into great new authors. It was also during one of those ventures that I learned that it is OK to not finish a book, if you really just don’t like it. Put it down, never pick it up again, and you know what, as a matter of fact, just get rid of it—I don’t mean to toss it out a 5th story walkup or to burn it but sell it back to a used bookstore for a little extra cash or trade.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; another conventional historical novel—also read in many book clubs—that takes place in German occupied France during World War II. I little girl goes blind when she was 6 years old and her father goes through extraordinary measures in order to help her to live an independent adult life.
All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
While I was browsing for book recommendation sites on Google I did come across this article on Mashable, and it’s no different than any other that I came across however the feeling I got while reading it was better than most. Also I came across a How To of recommendations on BookRiot’s website and, by the way, if this is a site that you have not yet visited take it on my word, you should. It’s a great site.
BookRiot’s 5 Tips for Being Great at Recommending Books:
1.) "Recognize Read-a-Likes. If the person asking you for a recommendation is asking for a book that is like another title, you’re looking to match two things: motifs and tone. Motifs are recurring elements in a book that give it its particular flavor; tone is atmosphere, how light/dark the book is, whether it’s cynical, hopeful, funny, etc. For example, if someone asks you to recommend a book to read if they loved The Night Circus, look for a book that has similar motifs (magic, Victoriana) and a similar tone (romantic, lush, hopeful, tense). Comb your book memory for a title with all or many of those things; of course, if you don’t have an encyclopedic memory of everything you’ve ever read, you’ll need to…"
2.) "Keep Good Records. If you have trouble remembering what you’ve read, keep a book journal, an account on Goodreads, a spreadsheet, or some record of your reading life. It should be easily accessible, so when you’re at dinner with a friend and she asks you for a rec, you can pull it out and quickly consult it. For 201 level record keeping, add tags to each title for its genre and the format in which you read it. Someone wants an excellent audiobook about nature? I can find one in my spreadsheet in about three seconds. Need a romance that you want to read digitally? Done and done. I can even tell you if it’s available at our local library."
3.) "Ask the key question. “What’s the last book you read that you loved?” is the only question you ever need when someone is asking you for a reading recommendation and you don’t know anything about their taste. The answer will give you motifs and tones to pull from; if you haven’t read it, you at least have a genre to pull from. If the person can’t remember or isn’t a big reader, ask the same question, but about movies. You might luck out and find they last watched a book adaptation, but even if that’s not the case, you’ll get an idea of what kind of story they enjoy."
4.) "Read wider. If you only read the classics and bestsellers, you’re not going to be a very effective or interesting recommender of books. No one needs you to tell them to read Dickens or Stephen King or Agatha Christie or whoever won the Pulitzer this year. Branch out. Read in the genres you haven’t read yet, pick up books from small presses. Read diversely from authors in translation, from authors from different ethnicities and sexual orientations than your own. Become a source of serendipity for the people you’re recommending for. Help them discover gems."
5.) Abandon snobbery. No one is going to ask you to recommend their next read if they think you’re going to judge them for their current one. If you still hold onto outdated ideas about science fiction or romance or comic books, you probably haven’t read from those genres for the last few decades: go do so. If your James-Patterson-obsessed dad wants a recommendation and you happen to be a little snooty about JPatz, you’re going to have to move away from that attitude to fairly consider what it is about those books that has your dad enthralled so you can give him the next book he’ll love. Books have readers for reasons. Be open to those reasons.
I often see friends of mine asking for book recommendations on Facebook, and I rarely make any suggestions, though I rarely engage on Facebook in any respect, with the exception only of my Communitea Books Facebook Page. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine posted a desperate need for a book recommendation and she listed a handful of filters, a number of books immediately came to mind, so I did browse the comments—which is another reason why I rarely engage on Facebook, the bloody comments, my goodness people will come up with any reason to bash Obama (even still) or to taunt Trump…whoa, I thought this was a book forum?!—but regardless of whether I was planning on actually commenting, I did want to at least, I don’t know, make sure that people were recommending books, but in the snobbish, “…these books are lame,” kind of mentality, it was more in the sense that I was looking to reinvigorate my hope in humanity—that people are still reading! Of course, I know they are, but it’s fantastic to be reminded of that.
…furthermore, if you are interested in a book recommendation please contact us at [email protected] I am quite good at it, and I’ll get the book, if we don’t already have it, for a better price than you will find anywhere online in comparison with the same book of condition and edition ;)
Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford
Trade Paperback; Used. Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford.
"The classic coming-of-age story set in New Mexico during World War II about the enduring spirit of youth and the values in life that count.:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Trade Paperback; Used. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Historical Fiction.
"...about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times)."
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Trade Paperback; Used. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
"Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.
Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, acclaimed author Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder, in what is a truly remarkable journey."
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Knowing whether a book is collectible, or rare, or even valuable is not always easy. In fact it can be downright confusing to know what it is that you’re looking at, and whether it’s worth anything. There are guides available floating around this massive cloud of information that people sometimes call the internet, my professional life is almost entirely dependent on the unlimited potential at your fingertips and I sometimes still have no idea what the hell I’m even looking for, let alone how to find it. In a search engine a single word can mean the difference between unlocking a library of vast and limitless knowledge and power, and staring at cat videos for ten hours. Where does the time go?
My bookstore is a collection of new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books, I will mention that at any given moment, with every conceivable opportunity that I find to do so. “New, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books.” The extent of what I offer might, to some people be obvious, while most of you may have a general idea of what it is that I mean by new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible. To be honest, it’s actually fairly confusing, I know that a lot of you don’t know exactly what it is that I have, let alone what it is that I am offering. The type of bookstore that I maintain is so much less difficult to describe if you can actually see and touch something right in front of you, if you can smell it, and speak to me face-to-face you’ll have one of those “Ah-Ha!” moments that will open an entire world up to you. Just yesterday I was talking to my mother and she asked me, again, “What type of bookstore do you have? I mean, can you get a book for me, that’s about to come out?” “Yes, mom, of course I can, I use the same book distributer as Barnes&Noble” “Really? So you can get that one book, hold on let me look it up, Russian something…Russian Roulette?” “Yup, do you have a preference between a hardcopy an eBook a digital book?” “Get a hardcopy so you father can read it to.” “Alright.”
I am Barnes&Noble online but with the added benefit of you being able to communicate directly with the owner, the book buyer, the bookseller, the inventory manager, and the shipper. Imagine your own personal Barnes&Noble: yup, that’s me. And yet, I still, also, offer used books, and yes I can order used books for you! And, I can likely even get used books for you for a better price and in better condition than Amazon.com. How? You might ask, well I’ve been working in this industry for most of my life: I started as a bookseller at Borders Books, Music & Café, I’ve worked as a manager at Hastings Entertainment, I worked as a manager at the Barnes&Noble on 86th and Lex on the Upper East Side in New York City, and if you were to have walked into Op. Cit. Books in Santa Fe, New Mexico while it was at the Sanbusco Center anytime between 11:00AM and 8:00PM Monday through Friday I’m the guy you spoke with, because there was no one else there, I started Wardrobe Books inside the Boerne Emporium in Boerne, Texas, and I’ve been selling books online through Abebooks.com and Amazon.com for years (before starting my own website), and I’m an avid reader and book collector, and I am a freelance writer, and book reviewer. I know the industry better than most people you will talk to at any Barnes&Noble or Amazon store or through any customer service hotline. I cannot speak for other bibliophiles and bookstore owners, but I can guarantee you that I will get the best price for the book you’re looking for anywhere online.
I will also help you to understand what it is that you have. I do book appraisals. I will offer free estimates, and for an in-depth appraisal I charge $100 an hour, visit my page for more detail.
However the purpose of this entry is to offer to you a better idea of what selling new, used, remainder, rare, and collectible books means, and how to spot a rare or collectible book, to the best of your ability, because it is not always easy to spot a first edition—or first printing, as they are more traditional referred to—most people seem to think that if you find the words “First Edition” somewhere on the copyright page then whatever it is that you’re looking at must, in fact, be a true First Edition, but that is not always the case, and, unfortunately, with as many publishers as there are, and because most of them do things a little differently, unless you know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it.
Fortunately, if the book is a stated “First Edition” it is, in every case, always a First Edition, but whether the book is a true First Edition or if it’s a First Edition/Later (Second, Third, Fourth…34th, etc.) Printing as opposed to a Second Edition/First Printing et c., because, yes, it would seem that some publishers enjoy throwing people off by printing First Editions with a number of Printings, which means that if your book specifies that it is first edition and is followed by a series of printings that does not specifically say First Printing, than your book is not a true First Edition.
If you’re holding a book and somewhere on the copyright page it reads: First Edition, and there is no Number Line, or Letter Line, and it doesn’t specifically indicate whether there are printings first or otherwise, then the book you’re holding is a true First Edition. Like I mentioned different publishers like to indicate Editions/Printings differently. For example, if the book states First Edition and includes a number or letter line then you should disregard the stating of First Edition (in the sense that if your book is not a First Edition AND a First Printing collectors do not accept that as a true First Edition)—just like you would if your book has a later printing (anything other than a First Printing)—and focus, instead, on the number or letter line. A Number Line or Letter Line often looks like a line of scattered seemingly nonsensical numbers, however, with most books if there is a number 1 or the letter A anywhere on the line then the book IS a First Printing. If there is not a number 1 or the letter A then you would look for the next lowest number or letter. For example: if the book is a stated First Edition with a number line and the lowest number you can find is a 3, then you’re looking at a First Edition/Third Printing. Or if the book is a stated First Edition with the letter E, it’s a First Edition/Fifth Printing.
Now, here’s where it gets even more confusing…
Not every book is a stated First Edition, however if it still has a number, or letter line and the number 1, or letter A is listed than the book is still a First Edition/First Printing, unless otherwise stated. And it might otherwise be stated by saying: Reprint or Anniversary Edition or “This book has been printed x number of times.” With the case of Anniversary Editions that are stated, or otherwise First Printings, those books still might have market value. I have a VIKING printed Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that has a number line, with the number 1 indicated, and so it is a First Edition/First Printing Fiftieth Anniversary Edition and the value is still right around $50—imagine what a 1939 First Edition/First Printing of The Grapes of Wrath would be worth? (It goes for as high as $17,500, but I can get it for under a $1,000 so, you know, don’t be fooled).
And, it can get more confusing still…
Random House, sometimes, lists a First Edition/First Printing by stating First Edition and leaving the number of THAT Specific Printing OFF of the number line: so if the book is a stated First Edition and the only number that is missing is a 1, then that book is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition, and the lowest number is a 4, then that book is a First Edition/Third Printing. But, again, it’s challenging because Random House does not always do this.
Now there are other publishers, and books that were published before a certain year (depending on the publisher) that will only include the date. The book will not necessarily have the words First Edition printed anywhere on the copyright page, there will be no number, or letter line, and you may be left with the words—for example—“copyright 1955,” only. In this case you need to find out what year that book was printed. More often than not if that particular book is not a true First Edition, it will have a list of copyright dates indicating later printings—but not always.
You know what another fun game that publishers and authors like to play is? Some authors had both the cloth and paperback copy of their books published at exactly the same time, in the same year! Of course, the edition/printing will, likely, still be stated on both the hardback and paperback copies, but nevertheless, for collectors, that’s an interesting thing to come across. Thomas Pynchon, for example, printed Gravity’s Rainbow—“A screaming comes across the sky.”—in both formats, simultaneously.
I bet you didn’t know it could be so complicated! Having a signed book, too, can be more complicated than you might have thought. A number of collectors prefer signed books that are, what the industry considers, Flat Signed: which means that the author, when signing, only wrote his/her signature. Most collectors prefer this to an inscription (but that, too, will depend on the book, and how difficult it is to find). Occasionally you’ll find a book signed by the author, and inscribed to someone, for example:
To: Roberto, Thanks For All the Wisdom
& Advice. You Are a great Friend.
Keep on Keeping On!
AKA. LA CHUPACABRA!
Above is the inscription in a copy of The Da Vinci Code I have, inscribed by Dan Brown. Personally I like to collect books inscribed by authors, if for no other reason that you come across something like THAT: cool inside jokes between people, or nice connections between two people.
When I state that I sell New Books there is sometimes a misunderstanding of what exactly that means. New means that the book has never been read before, and it has never been owned, that could mean a book titled that was released fifty years ago that is still being printed, new, and books that came out this week. I have both new books available, and am able to get any book you might be interested ‘new’ or old.
Remainder Books, however, are also new books. These books have never been read before, and they have never been owned, at least by anyone other than a bookseller. Remainder books are books that have been printed in excess, and have been liquated and resold. I have a large inventory of remainder books, and am able to get almost any book on remainder. If you, as a client, request me to find you a new book, with your permission, I will always look to find it as a remainder first, because I am able to price Remainder books below 50% there list price.
So, the world of book buying and collecting can obviously be difficult, and determining whether a book is a First Edition/First Printing can be exceptionally difficult, and confusing, and it takes a wealth of knowledge, and experience in order to do so, but having a general idea of what you’re looking at can be helpful, so I hope this helps, otherwise feel free to contact me at [email protected] for more information!
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A few months ago James Bonner was sitting at his favorite coffeehouse in Boerne, Texas, Electric Coffee, a place that has become the counter culture center of the small Texas Hill Country Town, “I spend a great deal of time there—which is to say that this coffeehouse is one of my favorite places.” Bonner shares about the coffeehouse. James was chatting with his friend Tricia Laffer, as they often do, when happening upon one another at their mutually favorite middle of the day break from life. Bonner had been talking about finding a new way to display books online. James has an online bookstore and blog, Communitea Books, the pair was talking about an idea Bonner had, “How cool it would be to create this interactive space where the visiting interweb consumer would be looking at, what appeared to be, a series of bookshelves, spine out, as if the patron were actually in a bookstore, and then by clicking on the spine of the book a customer would then be directed to a product page for that book.”
Though James still thinks the concept is great, he doesn’t know anything about web development and html coding, she shares, so, for him, it’s either a pipe dream or many, many years off in the future, “When I can hire someone to take on what seems like an enormous project” Tricia mentioned then how cool it would be if Instagram could be that feature, in some way, like, well, we all know how Instagram is formatted, so essentially each picture would be of a book cover and a link that would direct the customer to different product pages, and check outs, and what not. “I loved the idea, however the thought of sitting around all day uploading photographs and typing in information for thousands of books, again, inspired a degree of anxiety.” James shared.
As daunting as the task seemed to Bonner he started to do some research into the logistics of what that would look like, and on specifically for Instagram. “I was introduced, then, via the rabbit hole that internet searches create, to Snapppt…Snapppt is a program or app or whatever that links to Instagram, as directly as they are capable at present, but it’s, essentially an eCommerce platform that kind of sits on top of Instagram.” "So, OK...” Bonner thought, “…if I could find the ambition, again, to stare into the depth of the technological void, whilst spending my day floating behind artificial eyes with an analog brain something really cool could come from this!”
James did not do anything for a while, he focused, instead, on developing the best website that he could, “…at least by the standards of Google Search Console and Adsense.”
“One afternoon I was doing some basic social media marketing, and focusing on various platforms: Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and the like and I was browsing Pinterest, you know, I was Pinterested in the Pinteresting Pinterest’s, and it occurred to me that Pinterest is perfectly capable of providing the same marketing and eCommerce means as Snapppt, and Instagram.”
Bonner, of course, already has his own website, communiteabooks.com, and, thanks to Shopify, he has bookstore attached to his Facebook page. “But, What if I flooded the market with a new format of bookstore? In a way that no one had ever seen? The idea, when talking to Tricia, seemed cool, but all of a sudden it seemed to me ridiculous to not develop this idea.” Bookstores like Barnes&Noble, The Strand, Powell’s they all have their own Instagram and Pinterest pages, but are they using these social media platforms in a way that would turn them into visual online bookstores? No, and, in point of fact, as of now, and other than a pair of Bonners friends, Benjamin and Calixte, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Bookman and the Lady, whose focus is on Rare and Collectible books, nobody is.
So, James started developing it.
He first created an Instagram bookstore, Communitea_Books, using Snapppt as a sort of eCommerce layer, and a Pinterest bookstore, Communitea_Books, which links directly to his website. James, as he pointed out, is doing this on his own, attempting to create, and to innovate with a seemingly outdated product, and because it’s just him, and “…it seems as if I already have a never ending, and constantly expanding series of projects as it is.” For Bonner to “maintain some semblance of sanity, while taking on Instagram and Pinterest.” He is adding only fifteen books a day: fifteen to Instagram, and fifteen to Pinterest. “I love books, and I’ve always known that there are ways to keep them relevant, and not just for the consumer, but to maintain a market relevance as well, and I will continue to play with new ideas, and create new ways to keep books in people hands.”
“There is one little pet peeve though, that continues to eat at me, and that seems to be steadily growing in the back of my head: I have uploaded all my books to my website, however the eCommerce program was designed for individual products, and books have always been displayed collectively: by author. My platform doesn’t recognize the author as a separate section, it is part of the Title, and so I can’t have my online bookstore organized by author. As I upload books onto Instagram and Pinterest I wanted there to be some uniformity, some means of logical browsing—if you were looking for something specific, or you’re the type of person that create clusters in your brain in order to organize things, like I do, but the only way I could do that was to alphabetize my products by the first letter of the Title, which, you know, I have a difficult time dealing with.”
“I was sitting here this morning, doing some social media marketing for Communiteabooks.com and it finally dawned on me, in a way that it really had not yet: with Pinterest, and Instagram I am creating something that has never been done before, and by doing so I have multiple bookstores across multiple platforms all over the internet, they are all separate, and they are all one. I am so intrigued by that. Also, the idea of where this could potentially go—I don’t really do anything with the intention of realizing some foreseeable goal(s), and yes, of course, I have goal(s), and yet because I understand that everything is organic, and everything is constantly changing, the promise that I have no idea where else this could lead is awesome. And that I’m doing it with books: with these century old, conceptual, collections of knowledge and story. It just amazes me!”
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What does it mean exactly to be a, ‘Local Author?’ That’s kind of interesting concept, the distinction made between being an author and a local author. I’ve written for national, and international journals, and I’ve written for local newspapers and journals, and I had not thought about this distinction before now. I love ‘local authors.’ The label seems to follow those that cannot help but write, they are writers and once that realization has been made it’s not possible to live without writing, and yet ‘local’ authors, the label, the distinction, seems to follow those that may, or may not have accepted the process of self-publication, but despite the leap to commercial stardom may actually prefer it.
Having self-published, myself, I understand the appeal, until I have to market my book, and myself. Not only is the act of marketing exceptionally complicated, but in the social media world, the process is daunting as well, and exhausting, and never-ending, and…, and…, and…
I worked at an independently owned bookstore in Santa Fe, and there was a very large focus on ‘local authors,’ we would carry anyone who wanted to be represented, and display their book under consignment. It was fascinating being a part of that, on the backend, especially in Santa Fe, New Mexico with the hundreds of different artists and writers roaming around; in a city like Santa Fe, the home of George R. R. Martin, Cormac McCarthy, Amistad Maupin, Michael McGarrity and others, the distinction of author and ‘local’ author never actually occurred to me.
There’s a local author here in Boerne, Texas his name is David Martin Anderson, and his a very prolific writer, one of his books The Last Good Horse was a finalist for the Faulkner-Wisdom Award, and yet he is very much a ‘local’ author. I have reviewed books for journals and almost every week I get requests on LinkedIn from authors wanting me to review their independently written, and published books, not to mention the requests at Communitea Books. And because I have been a self-published author as well the desire to stand with-, and to help them succeed by however means they perceive success to be made, is exciting and encouraging for me.
‘Local’ author Elena Mikalsen messaged me earlier and inspired an idea, that I hope can ‘take off,’ providing some marketing and sales for different authors as well as Communitea Books. My intention has always been to develop a community oriented bookstore, and I wonder how I can expand that idea via the writing community through my bookstore’s website? If you’re a local author, and you’re reading this, and you’re curious about what might develop from this idea than I beseech you! Send me a message!
The self-publishing dilemma has created a world of art unlike anything that we’ve ever known, or seen. It’s complicated, there are so many wonderful works floating around in the ether that have gone-, or will continue to go unnoticed. I know of a number of well-known, established authors who detest self-publishing. “The mass production of crap,” they might-, and some have said. The process is, of course, bittersweet because the means to publish anything definitely highlights the crap, in the same way that the good might be lost, but, at the very least, I happen to think that this “Mass production of crap” can only challenge us to be better, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the greatest struggle, and acknowledgment of life.
I have read, and reviewed so many amazing books that have been self-published, or released by very small publications that are considerably better than books I’ve written released by Random House, Simon&Schuster, Harper Collins, etc., so it seems to me that because these books are so well-written, by authors that have something to say, having a platform for authors to market their books is not only opportunistic, it’s essential for maintain the industry. Because, let’s face it, ‘local’ authors are the industry. Unless we want to forego print altogether and submit ourselves entirely to the digital world, which, me, for one, I can’t ever imagine allowing that to happen.
I’m asking all ‘local’ authors, and I don’t just mean local to Boerne, Texas or the Texas Hill Country. If you are a writer looking for a platform to market your book in any part of the country, or world contact me. And we’ll, together, find better ways to make that happen, on my website, and in whatever new opportunities arise. I want Communitea Books to develop as organically, and collectively as is possible.
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I hated to read when I was a kid, and actually, all the way up through high school I couldn’t stand it. Most of what I was reading was for school, and I wasn’t a fan of school. I wouldn’t realize for many, many years that my distaste stemmed from an inherent flaw built within the education system itself, but that’s a different story, and one that I could not possibly have explain in elementary school, even if I wanted to. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed the books that we were reading, the stories, I mean, and the writing but I never liked someone else telling me what to do, and what to read, and especially what to think of what I was reading. David Foster Wallace suggested that the point of a Liberal Arts degree is to teach people how to think, and as insulting as that sounds, he posits that the intent is more deeply-rooted, which is to say, that the point of a Liberal Art degree is to teach you that you have control of what, and how you think. I’ve always liked that position. Maybe because we’re not offered that through high school, there was always a right and wrong answer to everything, which, of course, indirectly teaches us that there are right and wrong answers to life. Hmm, well any well-adjusted adult would argue otherwise.
Anyway, because I was told what to read, and what to think about what I was reading I didn’t enjoy the act of reading. It was lost on me. It was lost on me until I picked up Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I don’t remember where I found it, I don’t remember how I found it, all I know is that I couldn’t stop reading it. I loved it. And, in many ways, it changed my life. I discovered a love for reading. I, of course, read the follow-ups to Hatchet: The River, Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return, and Brian’s Hunt. I started looking for books to read, on my own, and found a way to enjoy them. The school’s required reading lists never ceased to irk me, though I learned to find joy in story, especially if I was offered the opportunity the read the book on my time, such as our summer readings. That’s when I read Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country for the first time, which introduced me to a different type of author, and a different kind of story. It’s still mainstream, of course, which, you know, eh, but as an introduction to the fact that not everyone was afforded the same lifestyles that I had been privileged to—what argument would you really want to make in opposition?
If, at this point, I’ve lost you then I think you should consider looking into writings by African, Asian, and Middle Eastern authors, both fiction and non-fiction. Another good introduction writer, but to Middle Eastern writing is commercial and Noble Prize Winning author Orhan Pamuk—he’s Turkish. I bring them up only because they inspire an entirely different type of genre, an artistic writing style that is unlike anything you might be familiar with. The only thing that might come close here in the United States, that’s more mainstream at least, is the more obscure works by Beat Generation authors: Jack Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, etc.
I’ve been thinking a lot about reading lately, and not necessarily what I’m reading, but more how I’m reading it, the act of reading in, and of itself, and how that translates in different places. As an example: close your eyes. Now picture yourself reading. What do you see, how does it look? Are you sitting on a chair, next to window, with a cuppa tea, as the rain settles just outside the window? Are you in bed, winding down, the day is done, and your attempting to settle your mind with a book? Or are you on a bus, or the subway, on your way to work, or anywhere with a book in your hand? I have found myself in each position, enjoying reading in any way that I can, however when I picture it, when I picture myself reading, I am almost always on the subway. For two years, in New York, I lived in Parkchester, in the Bronx. I would commute to Manhattan every day, not to my ‘day’ job, but to wander the streets looking for a new café, or to end up at my trusted MUD Coffee, either way the commute allowed me to read. A lot of people read during their commute on the subways and buses. That’s a major factor when understanding why people living in cities read more than those in rural areas, it’s largely due to public transportation. I loved it. I loved riding the subways, and I loved reading on the subway. Currently I’m living in Boerne, Texas. I small German town in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. The very mention of public transportation might actively upset people here. In part because they love their cars, but also Boerne is fairly affluent, and some people fear that public transportation means catering to low income families, which might mean that more of ‘them’ will show up. Despite that being unlikely, it’s also unfortunate that our politicians are refusing to address that fundamental problems that create low income, poverty stricken communities, and people—that’s probably another conversation though. Anyway, without public transportation the means to read while commuting diminishes, unless you’re like me, and you read while driving trusting that all the other idiots on the road will recognize how important I am, and drive around me, accordingly. Just kidding, I only sleep when I drive…reading would be stupid, haha ha ha.
I often sit at a coffeehouse and read, which I’ve learned recently created the problem appearance of being social. I am kind of a socialite in Boerne, a lot of people know me, from numerous circles floating about, and when sitting at a coffeehouse I’ll find myself in conversation after conversation and losing reading time. I have a difficult time reading at home, I don’t know why. Perhaps my house doesn’t exactly feel like a home, I don’t always feel comfortable in the house. There is a tree, at the river, in the center of the town, which has a large branch forking from the trunk that is established perfectly to rest on and to put your feet up. I used to lay there, for hours, and read. That park is always crowded with people now, and children running around, playing, feeding bread to ducks adjacent to signs that implore visitors not to feed bread to ducks, and that even offer a list of alternative food sources. It’s difficult for me to concentrate there. That’s most likely related to the fact that it would be hard for me to ignore the people there. I’m a people watcher.
The point is that I’m reading less than I otherwise would. I can feel the loss. I think that is part of why I want to open Communitea Books, my bookstore. I would love to create a place for people to read, for me to read. Surrounded by like-minded people, people whom explore the human experience in story, and whom might want to share that experience with others.
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What is Sustainable Business? And can a sustainable business find business sustainability? This is an important question, and one that every business owner should ask themselves now, and not necessarily because of our global climate whether societally or atmospherically, but because that focus is where business is headed.
A Sustainable Business is one that has as low as possible an impact on an environment, a society, a community, and the economy. Essentially it’s a business that meets the Triple Bottom Line, a framework to evaluate the outcome of your business in three parts: Social, Economic, and Environmental. Sustainable Businesses are conscious businesses that recognize the importance of meeting the needs of the present world without compromising the needs for future generations. Most people, when thinking about a Sustainable Business, automatically think of a Green Business, or a business which focuses primarily on the benefits of the planet. That is an aspect of the Triple Bottom Line, but it’s not the main focus. The Triple Bottom Line recognizes the importance of our social, economic, and environmental impact equally, which is to say that the environmental impact is only a third of the demands of a Sustainable Business.
I do believe in the importance of limiting our impact on the planet, as much as possible, and I appreciate that there are a number of very large, profitable companies that are maintaining Sustainable Businesses. Game Changers 500 is an organization, similar to Fortune 500, which releases a list of Sustainable, Triple Bottom Line practicing companies that are growing, and are massively profitable.
A good example of a great start is that most large, skyscraper-esque buildings being built in the world practice low impact building, while developing buildings that are themselves low impact. A LEED seal or plaque on display within or on the building is an indication of the more modern advanced environmentally friendly buildings. A number of these buildings are consuming CO2 from the atmosphere while actually producing O2, it’s amazing. That means these buildings are behaving like trees!
One of the impacts Sustainable Business focuses on is our social impact, and by that I mean many businesses are helping to provide better lifestyles for people living in underdeveloped countries, they are helping to bring these people up out of poverty, while helping to establish higher income families, that will, over the generations, be able to become consumers themselves. The idea is that helping to bring communities out of poverty will develop consumer friendly, and consciously spending people who may otherwise not have had the money to put back into the economy. When a business is conscious of its market, its environment, its employees, and its impact both now and in the future, it can only benefit the global economy. Our current economic system, and business development, though it is shifting dramatically to that of Sustainability, is one that either keeps people in-, or forces people further into poverty. How does that benefit a business?
There are business of all kinds making these changes: publishing companies, wineries, groceries, coffee and teahouses, banks, construction, and more.
It’s important as a business owner, and a consumer to understand the benefits of Sustainable Business.
As a consuming we must recognize that, especially in The United States, where we spend our money is the loudest, and most demanding vote that we make, and we are making it daily. Where we spend our money will help to provide the foundation of business in the future, and the types of business that will thrive. Be conscious about it.
As a business owner, even a small business, look into the benefits of using local materials, recyclable materials, and look for ways to help your community, to invest in your community, and to invest in the people of your community. Small things really do make a difference. People will go to one coffeeshop over another because of where they get their milk, or whether it’s organic or not. And this is true of every business we shop at, and develop.
There are creative ways of being a Sustainable Business. CommuniTea Books, my bookstore in Boerne, Texas, buys Fair Trade teas, and is constantly looking for ways to better the community where the tea leaves come from—all over the world. Guayakí brand Yerba Maté is giving a large percentage of their profits back to the region in South America where Maté is grown. The tea plant isn’t healthy in the area, and a lot of the forests are dying. Guayakí is helping to restore the regions forests so that the plant can once again grow naturally, and healthy so that not only the region can mature, and develop again naturally and economically, but also so that Guayakí can continue to provide a better product to the companies customers.
When you get the opportunity watch the documentary PROSPERITY. It is an amazing account of exactly what I’m talking about, and provides further insight into the benefits of Sustainable Business. Our current systems are not conscious business, and as a result they do not maintain sustainability. To have business sustainability today you have to be a sustainable business.
Get behind companies such as Collective Evolution, Rodale Inc., Thrive Market, The Container Store, Change.org, Aspiration, Reserveage, and more, and look in New Resource Bank, and demand that your community offers a banking system as conscious, and community friendly as New Resource.
There are 5 ways that you can start making a difference, you as an individual (Via Prosperity Documentary):
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Communiteabooks.com has been an ongoing process for a long-time coming. Several years ago, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, I started selling books online at abebooks.com, and I focused, primarily, on collectible (signed, first editions, etc.) fiction. It was an excellent step towards learning how to sell product online, and to understand my market. As I learned what people where interested in, and how to list books in a way that people expected my business increased steadily, and, at the time, I was in a relationship with a woman that had two kids living with us and a third in college: I was maintaining a full-time job, as well as being a full-time stepparent, and trying to manage finding books, uploading them, processing the orders, and packaging and shipping them. My, of course, became exceptionally difficult. I tried to start my own website and take on the challenges of developing an online bookstore back then, but I just couldn’t do it.
When I moved back to Boerne, Texas I discovered that I not only the time, but an opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore, Wardrobe Books in The Boerne Emporium on Main Street, a three story multi-vendor shop in the center of town. Business there was better than I could have imagined. I did some minor marketing, and attended a handful of Chamber Ribbon Cuttings and Mixers. After a few short months business had become almost more than one person could maintain. Working also as a freelance short story writer, writing articles, and maintaining a music column for The Hill Country Weekly, as well as helping Steve Artale with catering, at the Hungry Horse.
Until that point Wardrobe Books was a project, only. In the sense that I was able to offer a small used bookstore to the community of Boerne, but it wasn’t something that could maintain, and support my livelihood. Wardrobe Books was also, always, only a means to an end. CommuniTea Books is the dream, my seven year the goal. Wardrobe Books, though time consuming, and personally rewarding would never support me, or a family.
When The Boerne Emporium sold unexpectedly, and everyone in it was removed, I felt uncertain--lost. Yes, it was a project, but it was a project that was supposed to lead me to the steps of CommuniTea Books. I worked for a bookstore in Santa Fe, and, at one point, one location would no longer be available, and the store would have to move. The patrons gathered together and all but established an assembly line passing books from one person to another until they found their home on the shelves of a new store. I could imagine that happening between Wardrobe Books and Communitea Books.
I considered starting a website as I boxed my books up and carried bricks down the two flights of stairs to my car, but no host allowed me to import the 1000+ books I had as an export file from abebooks.com when I closed that account. The idea of uploading every book again, and the hundreds more that I had collected since was overwhelming.
I looked for other avenues to pursue CommuniTea Books. And for one reason or another each faced hurdles, so, in the meantime, I thought "whatthehell", it could be fun. Sorting through all my books again: looking at them, touching them, smelling them, old memories returning. I sat down, and a built a website, and the process is ongoing, nevertheless I’m proud of what it has become so far.
I sit on my couch, my back and neck braced, my legs up, multiple stacks of books on the table next to me, an electric drink warmer with a mug of homemade ‘Golden Milk:’ turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, milk (and a few other spices), and I type the information of each book into a database on the backend of my website host. I decide the price based, first, on the type of book: New, Used, Remainder, Rare, or Collectible. New books are, obviously, listed at list price. Used books I start at 50% list price. Remainder books start at below 50% list price. And I look at the condition of each book, the books market value, and more and the price is affected as such. Rare and Collectible Books are decided my market value and condition—and I stay below the average market value for that particular title depending on the condition of the book. For every book, I do this. I now have 1100 books listed at communiteabooks.com, and I’m still going strong listing.
Building the website and marketing as I go, I sit at my couch, sipping my Golden Milk, putting each book in a box and labeling it, so I know where to look once a book has been ordered I list books. In the background, more often than not, I have Pandora playing, lately it’s been African Drum music—Djembe music. Sometime I’ll listen to James McMurtry radio, Brown Bird, or Andrew Bird radio. I finished the entirety of Parks & Rec, it’s a good show but not nearly as good as The Office, if you ask me. They give each other a lot of shit in The Office but there is a genuine comradery there; Parks & Rec everyone is pretty nasty to one another, and every now and again, when it seems to be getting to be too much someone will say, “Well, everything aside, you know I love you.” And it’s supposed to be a forgiving and understanding moment. Tom, played by Anziz Ansari, always does the wrong thing, every time. Without fail, especially in public, pushing himself, being selfish, and later alone with whomever he wronged, he says something along the lines of, “I’m sorry. I know I messed up. I’m just insecure, or I have nothing, or I always seem to fail…” and everything is supposed to be cool again. AAAHHH! Dude, you suck, because of how you act in public, change that, and you won’t fail… come on. It’s irritating, sorry, right BOOKS…
This website has been my baby. You can always feel free to contact me. If you are looking for a book, I will find it for you, whether I have it in stock or not, and if I have to order it I’ll add only $1 to the cost of the book, which is to say, that when all is said and done, the profit margin for me is only $1. I do this as a service and you, the customer, shouldn’t have to pay more for that service. I will research and find anything you’re looking for: an old, leather copy of Pride & Prejudice under $20? I’ll figure it out. Book Appraisals? I offer it. Book Club Reading Ideas? Absolutely.
And soon I will begin taking used books from you, if you want a place to send them, I’ll take them. I’ll offer store credit for anything available online, or that I might have to order. If you are looking for cash for your books, I’ll evaluate them, and make an offer. I’ll accept donations. I’ll send books to schools, shelters, and various programs.
Today I’ll have added a handful of Audio Books, and have created a new section link directly off the home page to view them. And if you have any suggestions, let me know.
The communiteabooks.com website will lead us to the stairs of CommuniTea Books, and I’ll follow it all the way.
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I built my bookshelves with cinder block and plywood. I like the aesthetics, it’s both rustic and practical, and it takes up less space than a bookshelf. A number of the visitors commented on the shelves, they took it with them, along with the books in their hands. That’s what bookstores do. They stick with you, because they provide more than what you leave with in your bag, they provide something that only a bookstore can, and it’s difficult to explain, but people still try. I have never met anyone who would argue that, and still I have had the conversation many times regarding books vs eBooks.
Text sharing has been available online since 1971, at the time your option was The Declaration of Independence. You could download, and read it over the ARPAnet. In 1987 the first HyperText Books was released via Floppy disc, it was titled Afternoon, and was written by Michael Joyce. In 1993 Biblobytes launched the first website for book sales on the internet. Amazon was launched in 1995. And in 1999 Simon&Schuster created the imprint iBooks, and was the first publisher to publish titles in both eBook and print formats. In 2004 Sony released the Ectaco jetBook color, it was the first eReader on the market. And, in 2007 (The same year the first iPhone was released) Amazon releases the first Kindle, which as we all remember—or most of us remember… some of us? There are people that remember—changed the way that people read, and it began to change the industry, and created quite a scare for a number of years. Bookstores started going out of business, both small independently owned bookstores, and larger corporate stores (such as Borders Books, Music & Café), Barnes&Noble created their own eBook, the NOOK, which likely contributed to their success, or at least non-failure during this time.
The first translation of Wardrobe Books was developed inside of a closet on the second floor of a multi-vendor antique store on Main Street in Boerne, Texas. I hauled cinder blocks, two at a time up the stairs, and into the closet at the end of the hall. I did the same with several intentionally cut plywood boards, and built bookshelves along the three walls—as high as was reasonable, because a latter wouldn’t be realistic in the setting. Afterwards I hauled box, after box, after box, after box full of books. I had spent time in the days prior going through the many different boxes that I had, and deciding on which would be best to display on the limited space. I organized, and alphabetized, and put em’ all on the shelf. I sat there staring at this tiny cubicle, a closet, a wardrobe with bookshelves, and books and I felt proud. It didn’t matter to me that three people, cramped could stand in the room. What mattered to me was that for years I had spent countless hours collecting books, organizing books, listening books online (one book at-a-time), selling books, inventing a business plan, writing a business plan, and designing a bookstore, and now, for the first time I was looking at the foundations of that project. This cubicle, this closet, this wardrobe was the foundation of CommuniTea Books.
Bookstores across the country continued to close. A few stayed open, the lucky few, the few that had been known, and remembered for years: Shakespeare & Company, The Strand, Powell’s, Changing Hands, Tattered Cover, Sam Weller’s, Moe’s, Books Inc., City Lights, Booked Up, Book Soup, Elliot Bay, Joseph-Beth, Book People, and a few others. The Kindle sold out, in 2007, within five-and-a-half hours. And everybody knew that books, that real, hardcopy, printed books were a thing of the past. Everybody knew that it was just a matter of time. Because, the eReader is, in fact, a better way to both store, and read books. Some eReader’s struggled with the lighting, the screen would hurt people’s eyes if they looked at it too long, and there were some that couldn’t look at it all. eReader designers designed, and redesigned, and they continue to. And, it was cheaper. A hardback book would cost you anywhere between $23 and $30 but the same book, as an eBook would only cost you $4-5. Until publishers got wise, and realized that the author wasn’t getting their due, and the eBook prices were raised. Maybe that was the issue… perhaps if publishers released books as eBooks but at the same price as print right off the bat people wouldn’t have complained, or had an issue with it, or maybe the pricing of the books didn’t have anything to with it at all, because, people did, after all, return to buying a cloth book for $30.
I had the opportunity after three months in the closet to relocate Wardrobe Books into a larger room, on the same floor, in the same building, and just around the corner. I still had dozens and dozens of boxes sitting at home. So I bought more cinder block, and I cut more plywood, and I hauled the cinder block, two at a time, up the stairs, followed by the plywood shelves, and I built more, and longer shelves. I browsed the boxes of books I had for right titles, because I still wouldn’t have enough room for all my books even in this larger space. And then I organized, and I alphabetized and put em’ all on the shelf. And I would look at the store, and how I was starting to see my vision of CommuniTea Books come into focus. I gave tea away. I had an electric hot pot that boiled water, I put out varying types of teas, and paper cups, and lids, and I watched as people browsed, and enjoyed themselves. Girls would come in! One, I remember, in particular, as she walked up the stairs I knew that she was headed to CommuniTea Books—because there were other vendors upstairs after all—she was fairly small, with short dark hair. I asked her if I could help with anything, and she asked for some book recommendations. Somewhere in the conversation I found the opportunity to, you know, brag-a-little, “This is my shop.” I said. “I know.” She responded. I’d never seen this girl before, but she knew me because of Wardrobe Books. It was then that I realized that I AM Wardrobe Books, I AM CommuniTea Books, and it was an interesting, and enlightening moment, as well as another proud moment.
And then something happened that nobody expected. Book sales began to rise, while eBook sales leveled off. Stanford University did I study, shortly after, and they found that without reason people started buying both eBooks and print, and by that I mean that they would buy the same title in both formats. What would encourage someone to do that, if not for the sake of touching a book, of visiting a bookstore? Within two years print books were outselling eBooks! And that made no sense, to anyone. Publishers started printing large quantities of books again, and what we saw, especially in 2012 was a massive resurgence of bookstores—of used bookstores. Throughout the United States Independently owned bookstores started opening up again, and like clock-work, every year print books experienced an increase in sales, eBooks had leveled off, and used bookstores were continuing to pop-up. The consumer, the people, they refused to let books go. And within a matter a few short years the market began to reflect that. Texas, for one reason or another, has remained behind the curve on that fact, don’t ask me why. Texan’s are buying books, but people have not yet accepted that used bookstores are reemerging. Perhaps it’s because Half Price Books has always been there, maybe Texas never actually experienced the fall, at least practically. Because intellectually, conversationally, Texan’s have distanced themselves from certain seemingly outdated industry’s while simultaneously grasping desperately on to others. How are we, really, to explain the behaviors of people?
I had just began the process of relocated Wardrobe Books for the second time when I got word that the building was being sold, or that it had been sold (Nobody really knew), and everybody was starting to panic, there was tension, and you could feel it in the air. The vendors were asked to leave before I had the opportunity to make the move directly, but in some ways it worked out better because the process became much more exhausting, and longer than I had expected. I was maintaining Wardrobe Books on my own, while I was trying to expand, to develop, to relocate, so, though the process has been long, it was a blessing in disguise. Now I look around my house, and read the comments and messages on my posts, and I feel proud that I created something that people enjoy, something that brings people together, and something that, in some ways, reconnects us to our roots.
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Imagine walking up to a bookstore: there is a patio out front, three or four tables, with umbrellas, sitting in one a young woman with a book in her hand, there’s a notebook on the table next to her—she takes it with her, everywhere she goes—a ceramic cup of tea, not uniform, it’s unique, the closer you look it might seem unusual even, in fact everyone outside, sitting on the tables has a different ceramic cup, she looks up a moment, at you, but not, she’s looking through you, she had read something that’s intrigued her, you can see it in her eyes, her red hair—you only just noticed—catches the sunlight drifting from behind the Royal blue—or Prussian blue, even—building with cream trim, you realize then that she’s not looking at you, she’s looking through you, and your attention is redirected to an older couple walking slowly past you with paper cups, and plastic lids, a steam quickly rises from an opening in the lid. There’s a sign, along the sidewalk, the wind has caught it, and it’s swaying back, and forth, CommuniTea Books, the sign reads. A picture of an open book with the pages spread at the center, and the outline of a teacup resting on the pages. BOOKSTORE, a rusted metal sign reads, it’s resting on the roof, above the porch.
At the door you notice, in the window to your right, on display several books: some are old, others just look cool, or have that unique collectible feel. You notice a First Printing of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, another First Printing, this one is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Oh, is that who wrote that, I always seem to forget that, you think to yourself.
There’s a couple handfuls of an assortment of children’s books, art books, cooking, and books that you didn’t make heads-or-tails of. The swing on the porch to your left is caught in the wind, it’s empty, and you scan the porch—taking it all in.
As you open the door there are two small square tables in front of you, but not directly, the tables create the illusion of a hallway, at the center of the store leading towards the back door. On your right a small room with three small round tables, one is empty. A man in formal wear, his jacket is hugging his chair, he has a computer in front of him, and there’s a teapot behind it, a ceramic mug on the table--his right handed, you think. Surrounding the room, from floor-to-ceiling, are bookshelves, they have been built into the walls. The room to the left is much larger, and again, surrounded with bookshelves—floor-to-ceiling. Five or six tables rest at the center of the room, most are full. People are reading, studying, talking, and almost all of them are drinking tea.
The two small square tables in front of you are staked, and displayed with books, they look new, and without checking the title you take one and look for a mark: a small red dot, or a black line on either the top or bottom of the pages, near the spine. You find one, Remainder books. As you put the book back on the table you try to remember where you first heard about remainders. You browse the titles on the tables, you love the prices of remainder books, because they’re all brand new, but only $3-5 each. You scan the store, creating a mental image, a panoramic reminder. There are two large, dinner tables in the ‘hallway’ ahead of you, between you and the back door. They too are stacked, and displayed with remainder books. All the books on the shelves are used. The remainders are on tables, while the new books are all located to your left, in the large room where the art, photography, and cooking books are also found.
You stand in line on the opposite end of the large room to your left, the tea menu in your hand is almost overwhelming, you scanned each item, at first looking for something appealing, and then only to count the choices, you stop counting and start making some kind of deduction--more than 80!, you think. There are Black Teas, Green, Herbal, Japanese, Flower, Middle Eastern, Mate, Chinese, Matcha, Russian, Chai, White, Infused, Oolong, Pu Erh, Rooibos, and Ayurvedic, as well as a small selection of coffees, and smoothies, and there tea smoothies, even. You can’t decide between a Sweet Orange Mate Smoothie and an Aged Pu-erh, aged 25 years.
This isn’t our typical bookstore—you think.
As you sip on your tea you notice, for the first time, stacks of books under the tables, and in corners, there are standalone bookshelves in one of the rooms with books stacked on top, a pair of French doors are propped open letting the air in from the side patio, outside. While your browsing leads you to a small set of stairs leading upwards, inside is the children’s department. Several kids are huddled together in a circle, one of them appears to be reading to the others, in the opposite corner a mother is reading to her two small kids. A papier-mâché tree is built in to what looks like was once a closet, and a couple kids are playing while another sits inside, on the second level, reading to himself. The area of the children’s section astonishes you, at first. You remember, of course, that this small Hill Country town is particularized by its schools.
While you’re browsing the shelves, in Fiction/Literature, you happen upon the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, and are stunned, you had almost forgotten, because you haven’t seen this book in years. Removing the book from the shelf you put it in your hand next to High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, A Piece of My Heart by Richard Ford, and The Sea by John Banville. Stunned by your find you take another lap around the store skimming Non-Fiction: History, Science, Psychology, Business, Religion, Reference, the books on consignment, and the books by local authors.
As you make your way back to the register you notice, for the first time, the television in the upper corners of the two front rooms, one is showing a TED Talk: Sir Ken Robinson is talking about education, you’ve seen that talk, a few times, the other television is showing a documentary: I AM written and directed by Tom Shadyac. There’s no sound but you notice that a few of the patrons have identical headphones on and are looking up at the screens. That’s cool, you think, you must be able to rent headphones to watch, and to listen!
You pay for your books, ask for a little more hot water, and head for the front door. Instead of walking back towards the street you stop, and sit on the swing, still empty, on the porch to your right. Sitting you sip, again, on your tea, and open Richard Ford’s A Piece of My Heart. You haven’t read it. It’s Ford’s first book, and is otherwise nearly impossible to find.
The red head is still sitting at a table on the patio, as you sip at your tea, you watch her a moment, and she looks up, and through someone standing at the entrance whom is creating a panoramic memory of the facade before walking towards the front door of CommuniTea Books.