Friday, November 24, 2006

Smaller book chains into online ordering

The Thanksgiving Day Business Section of The Washington Post Nov 23 2006 featured an article by Yuki Noguchi, “Mom-and-Pops, All Grwon Up: To Survive, Online Sellers Evolve Into Full-Time, High-Stress Businesses.”

One area we hear a lot about this is booksellers. Small, independent stores or smaller chains with specialized customer audiences are having trouble competing with the large chain booksellers (Barnes and Noble, Borders) which can often offer huge discounts. I have discount/membership cards with Barnes and Noble and Books*A*Million. Typically, these pay the sales tax or shipping and a little more. In the past year or so, Amazon has been offering much larger discounts on many books than previously.

Lambda Rising, as noted earlier in this blog, has long catered to the interests of LGBT consumers. Like many smaller chains or stores, they would have to feel the competition from large chains and online ordering. So, like many small companies, they have gone into the online catalogue selling like the large companies.

One advantage of smaller bookstores is the frequency of booksigning parties and the chance to meet and talk to the authors. I missed a chance to go to the signing for Andrew Sullivan’s The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (Harper Collins, ISBN 0060188774, 294 pages, indexed, hardbound, blocked red white and blue dust jacket. So I tried ordering this by the Lambda website, and followed with Geoffrey R. Stone: Title: Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, Norton, ISBN 0393058808. I did not price compare this time. (I will the next time.) I found that Lambda was offering pretty much the same mainstream selection of books as everyone else.

These two books (that I ordered) are relevant to my involvement in the COPA case, described on another blog. The most interesting part of Sullivan’s book is his explanation of religious fundamentalism, as a belief system that protects the believer by being immune from challenge, either by openness to other speakers, and by not tolerating personal behavior anywhere that contradicts the religious belief system.

The Stone book traces suppression of free speech through six national crises: the “half war” with France that resulted in the Sedition Act of 1798, the Civil War, World War I, which resulted in the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918 (a lot of it motivated by draft resistance), World War II and Japanese internment, the Cold War with “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy and the blacklists, and the Vietnam War, with the draft card burning, protests, and Watergate. Stone relentlessly examines the subjectivity of laws that control free speech because of perceived indirect threats to security, with problems like “fact or opinion” in assessing “malicious libel”, and the “heckler’s veto” in assessing indirect threats to free speech.

The Lambda Rising search site is this.

When you search by author, you use the last name and notice the search box in the middle of the page (use this one, not the one below the ISBN).

The Lambda Rising blog is this.

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