Archive | April, 2019

Predatory Pricing & the Crisis in Bookselling

27 Apr

A new research paper confirms that Amazon has long been engaged in a predatory pricing scheme in order to drive out competitors and force ecommerce onto its platform, where it controls search results (and so what consumers are offered), and charges third party hefty fees, which it recently increased dramatically. Amazon built its book business on two strategies, refusing to carry books unless publishers offered them at prices well below those available to bookstores and using the proceeds from stock offerings to sustain hundreds of millions of dollars in losses each year. Once they drove competitors out of the marketplace, they raised prices substantially. Today Amazon claims to be profitable (although the research suggests they are manipulating their book-keeping), but those profits come from its web services division and from fees charged to third-party sellers on its ecommerce platform. It might take 100 years for them to recoup the losses from their first ten years through selling books and other merchandise at their current margins on ecommerce. But somehow, investors have been willing to subsidize this predatory scheme and make Jeff Bezos a billionaire, gambling that in the long run the rest of us will foot the bill.

Bindlestiff Best-Sellers

15 Apr

These are our best-selling titles for the last month:

Marissa McClellan, The Food in Jars Kitchen: 140 Ways to Cook, Bake, Plate, and Share Your Homemade Pantry

Adrienne Maree Brown, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good 

Emily Rand, The Lost Property Office (picture book)

Joshua Button & Robyn Wells, Steve Goes to Carnival (picture book)

Maria Popova & Claudia Bedric, eds., A Velocity of Being: Letters to A Young Reader

David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Shaun Tan, Tales from the Inner City (picture book)

Yasutaka Tsutsui, Paprika (novel)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck (novel)

Jeanne Willis, The First Slodge (picture book)

Samin Nosrat, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking

Penn Book Center closing end of May

8 Apr

We are saddened to pass along this news. The Book Center is a community institution, a fine bookstore, and its closing will leave the U Penn area served only by House of Our Own (another fine bookstore, but more narrowly focused) and Last Word…

Dear Penn Book Center customers,

We are writing to you with great sadness to say that we are closing the Penn Book Center at the end of May.

As many of you know, the explosive growth of online book sales at cut-rate prices has made selling books in brick and mortar stores a difficult proposition.

In response to this challenging environment, two years ago we shifted our focus away from course sales, dramatically increasing our in-store events, running book clubs, changing the store layout to focus on trade sales, and extending our hours.

We’re really proud of the changes we’ve made. We’ve had an amazing roster of store readings, one that reflects the strength and diversity of literary culture in Philadelphia. We’ve also been able to attract amazing visiting readers, including Rebecca Traister, Eve Ewing, Carol Anderson, and Eileen Myles.

We are so grateful to our brilliant events coordinator Erik Beranek and to our events partners Blue Stoop and the All But True Reading Series for making this happen. We love our new store layout, which features an expanded children’s section and more tables for browsing.

As happy as we are with these changes, however, they have not generated the sales we need to stay open.

We feel so lucky to have been able to purchase the Penn Book Center in 2005 from Achilles and Olga Nickles, who founded the store with Peter Nickles in 1962.

We believed and still believe that the Penn Book Center is a very unusual place, a product of its location in the intellectual hub that is University City. We’ve been able to carry books that you won’t find in many bookstores, but which appeal to the students, professors, and researchers surrounding us. Being in the midst of all this intellectual ferment has shaped our inventory, and we have treasured the intellectual exchanges we’ve had with our wonderful customers. We have learned so much from you, and we are very grateful for your support over the years.

We can’t say enough about our booksellers, who have done such a fantastic job of welcoming customers to the store and placing just the right book in people’s hands. We are especially grateful to head bookseller James Gleeson for his incredible knowledge of books and his unfailingly cheerful presence behind the counter.

We’ll be having events through the end of May. Towards the end of April, we will begin marking down our stock so there will be lots of great deals. We hope you’ll take the opportunity to stop in and say goodbye in the next few months.

Ashley Montague and Michael Row