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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I tend to over-complicate my job as an independent bookseller, especially one who is selling books online. There has been a huge influx of independent online sellers since eBay and Amazon established themselves as the world’s leading eCommerce businesses, which isn’t news to anyone, I know. People developing, and maintain their own “eBay Stores” has become a huge independent means of alternative income. The book industry is no different. There is one aspect of it, however, that very few people understand. Similar, in a way, to that guy who bought Walmart out of their discounted products and sold them online for a profit in the regions that they…you know, would be profitable, there is a large community of people, in the book industry, that visit discount book stores such as Half Price Books and various other used stores where they buy books for cheap and then resell them, usually online, to people in regions where that particular title or edition or author is sought after.
I live just outside of San Antonio, Texas in the Texas Hill Country. I’ll often drive into San Antonio and visit the many Half Price Books bookstores where I scan the shelves for books that are, for all intents and purposes, underpriced, and I’ll buy them. However, a number of the books that I find under such circumstances I don’t resell, I keep them, for my collection, which is a little problem that I have. I once found a signed First Edition/First Printing of Wallace Stegner’s, ‘Angle of Repose.’ Signed! On the shelf at Half Price Books for $12. So, of course I bought it, and I could have turned around and resold it for more than a thousand dollars, and yet it’s still just sitting on my shelf along with the rest of my collection. Of course, to be fair to me, how often are you going to find a signed copy of Wallace Stegner’s ‘Angle of Repose?’ and for only $12?!
Another aspect of this type of business model is to find books underpriced—and I should probably clarify that a collectible, regardless of what it is, are priced, generally, according to their market value in that particular region: so a book you find in San Antonio may not have the market value that it might have in, say, San Francisco, for example, even in this internet age. If you find a book that is underpriced in one particular area it can often be sold for two, sometimes three times (maybe more) the price you paid for it, in another area. These regions may even be broken down within a single city. So, a book you find on the northwest side for cheap might resell for a profit margin on the southeast. There are a lot of people that make a living learning about the demographics of their city, and beyond, in order to buy and resell in and around their neighborhoods. It requires collecting data and doing some research, but the entire process is both fun and, clearly, incredibly rewarding, if you dedicate the time to it.
The nearest Half Price Books to me is near Huebner Oaks, off of Huebner Road in San Antonio, in a tiny shopping center called ‘The Strand.’ There are a handful of really cool books sitting on their shelves that I tell myself that I’ll return to later, partly because I always spend a ridiculous amount of money when I visit, but also because there is this girl that works there that’s really cute: shoulder length black hair, fair skin, thoughtful. I go in there looking for new opportunities to talk to her. It’s not within my purview as a male adult to approach women while their working with the intent of “asking them out”—simply because they are working. See, because they have to be there, they’re just trying to make a living. The last thing I would want is for someone to come up to me, on the job, and create a possibly uncomfortable situation—so no way! The conversations we do have are very nice, and as infrequently as I go into San Antonio—we’re just simple country folk—sometimes it’s even a pleasant surprise when I see her. But, wait, hold on, I’m not really there to socialize, right, I mean, I’m trying to make a living people—get off my back.
I know how appealing this sounds. A number of you might read this and think, “Hell, I can do that!” and hightail it to your nearest used bookstore expecting to quickly make your first million. Well, it ain’t comin’ that easily. Let me outline how this is going to go: you’re going to pull into the parking lot, and you’ll probably find an incredible spot and attribute it to how seamlessly the next hour or so, and subsequently the rest of your life will lead, so you’ll pull in to the spot, and you’ll get out of the car, and you’ll walk up the front doors, you’ll open them, and you’ll step inside, an employee will acknowledge your existence, and then you’ll stop and hesitate as you scan the entire store from left to right. Because you have no idea what you’re looking for, or how to find it. I mean, you’re not going to pick every single book up off of the shelf, flip through it, and then put it in your basket, right? What are you even looking for inside the book? It cannot just be a clean hardcover that looks cool. You really have to know what you’re looking at. (Lucky for you I did write another blog about the specifics of determining whether a book was collectible, or valuable—it’s not always the same thing—but as you’ll see you when you read this other blog here, even that alone cannot help you on your half-assed journey towards wealth and underground book industry fame!)
You have to do your research. You have to allow for trail-and-error. The process takes a while, so you’ll want to learn how to enjoy it. I love being surrounded by books, of course I have a difficult time letting some of them go, which makes the process, for me, considerably more difficult, hence the reason why I make bookselling more complicated than it should be. But that’s just me. I find other superficial ways to enjoy my job, maybe perhaps I’ll discuss it with the lovely black haired, fair skinned woman sorting through book buys/ and trades behind the back counter, either way if you don’t get attached to rare finds and collectible books it is a great way to both learn, and find a few extra dollars in your pocket.
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When I was in my early twenties I started writing a book. I had this idea to set the novel, in its entirety, on a plane, and it would be a study into behavioral and psychological habits of people that, for one reason or another, all found themselves sitting together here on this plane, at the end of which almost no one would hold on to the connections that they may have made that day, at least consciously. The novel was tentatively titled, A Window Seat. I enjoyed writing it. I remember sitting in my office, or what I had decided would be my office, in my new apartment in Pocatello, Idaho. The building was renovated to resemble an old ritzy hotel: the lobby and hall carpets were all maroon, the wallpaper maroon and gold, the radiators were painted gold, and each room had a milk door that opened up into the kitchen. I love this apartment. It was essentially a studio with a single room that was separated by French Doors that led into a room that, on the remaining sides, were covered by windows, and this room would become my office. I sat one evening on a chair that was left in the apartment. That chair, a bookshelf, and my bed, which lay in the middle of the larger room, was the only furniture that I had after leaving Texas so I used a book as a desk, a hard surface to write on while sitting in the chair, in my new office. I was consumed entirely in writing this story, A Window Seat I remember, distinctly, seeing not the windows but beyond the windows surrounding me, or the room adjacent, my bed, etc., I instead remember seeing my airplane and the passengers in it, I remember the window seat, and the gentlemen sitting next to me, I remember all of this fiction that had enveloped me. It was in that moment that I decided that I would write for a living, I realized that day that I was a writer.
I was never able to finish that novel, A Window Seat, instead I chopped it up and rewrote it as a series of short stories and moved on from there. I struggled, a lot. I did find opportunities in various outlets like the Idaho Falls Magazine and a handful of literary journals, but I learned how to live small. There were times that I lived unimaginably small. I know how to comfortably sleep and to live out of a car, and I know where to-, and where not to sleep as a struggling, homeless, and starving artist in New York City. I’ve watched people that I know make the same efforts that I’ve made and rocket into stardom even without the security blanket of talent. I have sacrificed the prospects of a ‘normal’ life for the sake of persistence unrealized in order to develop a dream inspired by my passion for writing. And I’ve wondered a great deal what it is that I am missing that seems to have come so naturally to everyone else, that thing that allows them to succeed while I, you know, don’t—and still sometimes I wonder.
I know the value of determination and persistence, and when people say to “never give up,” I know that it is not just a sound bite, because the catalyst of success is in being noticed every day, consistently. The day after you give up is the day that you would have succeeded. It’s just the truth. And at the foundation of that truth is the willingness to have taken a risk in the first place. It’s no coincidence that a large number of great artists, writers, actors, and people are an example of what we have come to call “a success story.” If you spend your life risking failure, and failing, you will, inevitably, discover success. We will encounter hurdles that seem more impossible to chance than others. For me, honestly, it was—it is—the expectations of my parents that continues to challenge my drive, but I know, without a degree of uncertainty, that the day I give up, the following day is the day that I would have succeeded at least in the eyes of my parents, of course, as far as I am concerned, I already have succeeded, simply because I have never given up, and once you are willing to take that same risk to not only find the willingness to start something new, but to see it through you’ll know exactly what it is that I mean.
When you’re an artist, of any medium, and you have made the decision to pursue that craft professionally you will tend to look for any opportunity regardless of how small to make it work. I write blurbs for Crowd Content—I still do. It’s a small online marking firm that hires ghost writers (like myself) to write short advertisements for, almost, anybody that will take them, and they pay almost nothing. As an artist you have to train your brain to think differently, in a lot of ways, but most aptly for this blogs purposes, you have to rain your brain to think differently when it comes to the way that you make money. For anyone whom has worked a job whether it be shift work or a nine-to-five you are used to working a specified number of hours and receiving a check, in one weekly or bi-weekly or bi-monthly bulk transaction, and your organize your budget based on that income. As a—struggling—professional artist you’ll often receive multiple checks throughout even the course of a day ranging from $10 to $500 (or more; or less). It’s not the time you work that becomes valuable it’s what you’re doing with your time, which for obvious reasons, demands you to covet time, but for all intents and purposes bear with me on this point that I’m making. In my experience if you’re an artist, and have worked to develop your art and yourself, and developing a market of yourself, the only reason we struggle, really, is because it’s difficult to rewire our brains to think differently about the way we understand income, especially if you never stop to consider the possibility that the unconscious expectations that we develop throughout childhood are considerably more demanding on our behaviors, and our actions than most of us fully understand.
When taking a risk whether it’s quitting your job to write a book, or to start your own bookstore (business), or you’re going to paint, or be a full time photographer, it’s important to be aware that success comes only from changing the way you perceive the market, and the way that we make money, and the way that we spend money. I’ve worked many jobs while trying to make my life work as an author--and then, again as a business owner. Some of those jobs have been too demanding for me to even consider creating my own life, and so I just simply left them for the sake of my passions, and if things got bleak again, I would find another job, and in the meantime I learned to train my brain to think in terms of a, I don’t know, micro-income generator, and how to accept money regardless of whether it was in the form of a ten dollar bill or a few thousand dollar check. You make a lot of promises, and acquire new and interesting kinds of debts, your write a lot of thank you letters, or texts, or Instagram’s or whatever, and you never give up, and just like Jim Carey walking around with a ten million dollar check in his wallet made out to himself until he was able to cash it (he carried around for years, and was able to cash it in 95’), you will find success.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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When starting an online ecommerce store, such as my bookstore, or a blog eventually, once you’ve put a good amount of time, and effort into the site, the finished product, it is inevitable to want to monetize that, to generate passive income through your site by selling Ads.
I have been dreaming about the day that Google Adsense approves my status so that communiteabooks.com will begin generating that passive income. You see, Communitea Books is my job. I have put everything else aside in order to pursue this dream. The dream began when I started selling books on abebooks.com and Amazon.com many years ago, and developed when I moved back to Boerne, Texas. I found space available in a multi-vendor shop on Main Street and opened the beta version of Communitea Books, I called it Wardrobe Books. I wanted that manifestation to eventually take form as it’s on brick-and-mortar but the building that I was in sold before I was able to make that happen. So, instead, I put all my books in storage and, defeated, lost myself for a few months. Eventually I decided to create my own website and blog.
The process has been a lot of work, but it’s been a lot of fun as well. I built a good site, for selling books, and wrote several blog entries, and then excitedly submitted my application for Google Adsense! Only, I was rejected. I didn’t expect that. I then fixed a few things, wrote another blog entry or two, and reapplied. Again, I was rejected. This time I didn’t know what to do. I was concerned about the volume of content, how many blogs were available, and I didn’t even consider anything else. I didn’t think about the quality of my content, because, geezus, it’s me, I mean, I can write! You know, like, pssh, that couldn’t be it. I didn’t think about Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, contact info—even though, yes, I did have a contact page, it would be stupid not to. There was just more that I could have done—Again, defeated, I was hoping for my book sales to generate all the income I needed, only I don’t know how to market an independently built online bookstore! How do I create traffic? I build a Facebook page, of course, a Twitter, an Instagram, then a Google+ page, followed by Pinterest. I had all these great pages, however, with the exception of Facebook, and maybe Twitter, I don’t understand the content, I mean How, Why, and What do people post on these different sites? It has got to be slightly different for each site, yes? And how do I get to the point where I both Know, and Understand my Market? That alone is a considerable amount of work, and I wanted to do, so I began actively learning these pages, and the people that frequent them. I developed an idea of my bookstore analytics using both Google and Facebook Analytics, and went from there. For those of you that do not know, it’s a beneficial process, but it is exceptionally slow going. And I really needed to start generating income!
So, I took a look at what I was doing wrong when it came to Google Adsense. First I reassessed the quality of my blogs content. I went back and read a few, and they sucked. I mean my punctuation, grammar, the idea I was attempting to portray, I was noticing now that I had rushed through it. I was more focused on pounding out enough individual blog entries that I didn’t stop to revise, or rewrite, or even reread my blogs! And, I’m a writer! My profession. My time became my commodity and I had decided that I didn’t have enough of it to spend the right amount of time making sure I was writing something that my readers, could read. Strike One. So, I went back, did some revising, a little bit of rewriting, and some editing for my blogs. I felt accomplished, but I knew I wasn’t done, there was something I was missing, and I could feel it, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
I reread the policy guidelines for Google Adsense. If you don’t take anything else from this entry, heed this, because the purpose entirely of this entry is to illustrate the importance of building a solid website and/or blog, is not about writing an entry a day. Adsense wants only for you to build a complete site that people will visit, that they enjoy visiting, that they can navigate, and that they will be enriched by the content. That does not mean you have to have a vast, gorgeous, over complicated website, with dozens, and dozens, or hundreds of blog entries. In short, what Google Adsense asks only, is that you read their guidelines. And, let me tell you, visiting the Google Adsense guidelines page opens you up to the potential of creating a better website, and a simple website.
My next focus would be consistency. Maintaining an online store and blog requires constant attention. It is imperative that you remain up to date, that you provide new products, that you offer new concepts, and that you update your blog regularly. Update your blog regularly. This is kind of a big one. A more important concept than some might consider, and obvious to others. The internet world can be a confusing one, and it changes faster than anyone can possibly be ready for, however realizing that you have to change and develop with it creates the opportunity for you to at least know how to be aware of those changes.
I’m learning every day, in life and how to create the best, and most trafficked online bookstore I can. It’s time consuming, and it requires patience, and maintaining a level of discipline, but Google Adsense doesn’t have to be a headache. They are strict, but fair. Read their guidelines and they’ll help you build a better site.
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The process is challenging. Attempting to do anything online with the purpose of attracting people to your site or blog is draining, and with the exception of a very, very small percentage of people—the select few who find themselves on the fortunate side of happenstance—the process is continuous, it never ends. You build clientele and exposure but it is as gradual as watching children grow, you’ll notice only if you blink for long enough to miss a few steps. A large number of people give up, and I don’t think it’s because they don’t have the patience for the struggle, I think it’s more likely that they feel, and wrongly so, that there is no real progression, that whatever they’re striving for is fruitless.
Marketing for an independently built, and run online bookstore is both exceptionally easy and exceptionally difficult. With some time you learn to understand your market—with the help of analytics programs like Google and Facebook. You can develop a marketing strategy based on that free information. Personally, I find that there are two real challenges that I face every day: the first is establishing a marketing budget, especially for a business like an online bookstore. The greatest challenge, however, again, is time. If you put in your dues, remain active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and even Reddit—if you can find your niche—and you post, at least once a day, on most, if not all, of these social media outlets your clientele will inevitably build.
Time, for me, is a struggle though. It’s not that I don’t have any time. I don’t work a 9 to 5 job, and I don’t do shift work. I work for myself, where time management is tricky. And, for years, when I was only writing, time management was easy. Well, it became easy. Of course, it didn’t start out that way. If you have nothing but time it’s easy to want to do with your time whatever you want to do, which, at the beginning, leaves very little time for actual work. Once you discover your niche it’s easy to become a workaholic, which I did become. I love working. I love writing. And I love building this bookstore.
When I started working on the bookstore however the habits that I spent a decade creating, and maintaining melted away like camembert cheese in the hot Catalonian sun. I felt like I was in my early twenties again, but in the childish whatthehell am I doing with my life, kind of way, and I found myself mentally coveting all my time, and, with all these ideas and goals floating around in my head, I didn’t know where to begin. I had notes and books piling up, projects wasting away, and I’d sit in front of my computer ready to work, and I would accomplish nothing.
Then I would focus myself on a single large project and feel accomplished, for a while, until I finished, and there I was again, staring into a computer screen with too much, and yet nothing to do. My house is filled with projects, half-read books, ideas taped to my desk, and I tell myself, “If I could just do that one thing, it’ll make everything else easier to do, or, simply, fall into place. I just need that one thing to happen for me.” And, yes, I do have a one thing that is almost constantly on my mind. I am almost always working towards it. And if I’m not, I am thinking about it: praying, shaking my fist, drinking wine, sacrificing scorpions to the sun god (Ra), and self-help books (half-read). Where does a life go? People sometimes wonder. I’m sure I know the answer, or an answer, to the question. We spend our adult lives trying to make the rest of our lives happen the way that we were told they would during our formidable life.
We have to make a living. We don’t barter. And, I’m not happy about a few situations in my life. The website: communiteabooks.com is doing well. I’m proud of it. I want it to be better. I know it can be better. I have ideas, and visions of possibilities, things that would require a more specified knowledge of html, of coding, of actively building a website from the ground up. Unfortunately unlike building a table, or writing a novel, or painting a picture I cannot even fathom where to begin. Everything I know about building a website I taught myself while building my website. People, remember, I have an online BOOKSTORE I’m not selling ideas, like, Bitcoin. I’m still impressed by television. Nevertheless I have the ambition to create, and I believe that Communitea Books is worth the process and the time. Even when I find myself overwhelmed with all the things that I want to do, and not having the means to do them, or at least believing that I don’t have the means.
Sometimes it seems to me that everybody is content with routine: living a life structured by work: getting up, going to work, doing a very specific job, and going home. I’m not even capable of it; seriously, I’ve tried. A lot. It’s interesting to me that the people we always see talking about failure and effort and struggle are the people that don’t seem to fail or effort or struggle. But, as humans, we construct our own stories, and reasons for the situations of others. People exist only as we perceive them to exist, and in the way, only, that they were, or are based entirely on our own perceptions, as they came into our lives. We never hear about failure and effort and struggle from the people who are actively failing and putting the effort in day in-, and day out, and struggling. Or, at least, we don’t pay attention to those people.
I’m an artist, damn it. I’m also thirty-three years old. Which of the two comes first? I still wake up every day determined to develop this website, to accomplish that one thing, to eventually walk into my storefront and order a tea, slide a book of the shelf, find a place in front of the fireplace, and watch people browsing the shelves, engaged in conversation, watching TED Talks on the TV’s above in-between chapters. In the meantime it’s the process that I focus on, day-in and day-out. I will continue to wake up some days overwhelmed, and wanting to accomplish more, and wanting to work on that novel, and wanting to paint that picture, and wanting to pay off the rest of that debt, and wanting to look out a different window, and knowing that if only that one thing would happen for me, it would all be possible.
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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.