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Gayle's January Letter

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dear bookstore friends
Gayle Shanks
Gayle Shanks

Dear Bookstore Friends,

The holidays are officially over, but my letter to you is late because it has taken me time to regain my pre-holiday energy levels. The good news is that books are still being read and shared in the Valley of the Sun. So many of you got books as holiday gifts—in hardcover, in paperback, or on CD. Some got a chance to use a new e-reader and download books using our new Indie Bound app, which makes it easy to buy e-books from Changing Hands. And, when some of you didn’t get the book you wanted as a gift, you came in on New Year’s Day and bought it for yourself at a discount during our annual Customer Appreciation Day Sale. If you ever doubted, even for a moment, that people were still reading books, you should have seen the crowds waiting at the door and filling the store when we opened at noon on January 1. Working at the back information counter with my bibliophile brother-in-law Jeremy, we were happily helping people find books for hours. Books whose titles were written on scraps of paper, on smartphones, in little journals, or in reviews torn from magazines. Books, books, books. It was pure joy. The lines were long but went quickly, with seven registers going at once and people happily talking with each other about what they had in their baskets, what they had read the past year, and what they were excited about reading this year.  

So what’s in store for Changing Hands in 2012? Always hard to predict, but we certainly feel solid in our commitment to our community and know that every year brings new challenges to small businesses like ours. With Borders closing last year, we saw new customers, which of course made us very happy. But we also recognize the staggering loss to those communities for whom Borders was their local bookstore, communities that now have no bookstore at all. We sense that the Buy Local campaign is working, having heard dozens of people discuss keeping their money in our local economy and saying that they were shopping at Changing Hands and Hoodlums and eating next door at the Wildflower or Mac's because they wanted to support local businesses and keep us all here. We got many questions from customers over the holidays about how to buy e-books from us rather than from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Like us, they were thrilled that our trade association worked so hard to design a free app that is easy to use and works on any Apple or Android device, including the Kindle Fire.

Hummingbird's DaughterLuis Alberto UrreaJust two weeks in, and we've already hosted several author events in 2012, with hundreds more on the way. I'm particularly excited about one coming up on January 21. Not only is novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter, our guest at Changing Hands this month, but he and his wife Cindy will be guests in my home during their visit. Queen of AmericaThey'll be staying in what we've come to call the Writers' Retreat—a small apartment at one end of our house where several artists and authors, most recently the poet Tess Gallagher, have stayed during stops in the Valley. I hope you'll join me in welcoming them to the store. Luis will be presenting his wonderful new novel Queen of America. It's the Arizona Republic's January "Republic Recommends" pick, and we're selling it for 25% off.

indie author publishing conference We’re planning two great publishing events in the new year -- our YA Writing Conference on January 28 featuring 11 authors of young adult literature, classes, and panels; and our Indie Author Publishing Conference and Pitchapalooza on February 25 that I think is going to be great! I will be on several panels along with authors, sales reps, literary agents, librarians and many others.

I also plan to continue working with other local retailers on e-fairness issues with the state legislature this year.  A bill will be introduced in the next few weeks that will require all online retailers shipping from Arizona to collect the use tax that is already in the state’s tax code. No more pretending that their massive distribution centers are immune from these laws. No more using our roads and infrastructure without paying their fair share for the privilege. If you are interested in supporting this action, visit this link, which will take you to the Main Street Fairness website If you have a business in Arizona or want to support e-fairness, I would love for you to sign up to be a sponsor of the bill. Lend support to your fellow Arizonans by helping us promote fairness and refill the state coffers which provide money for our schools, the arts, essential services, and other things cut from a bare-bones budget.  

So the year begins—with political and economic issues facing our state and our small businesses, with transitions in our employees' lives, some leaving us for new opportunities, others joining us as fresh ‘hands.' We may find a new space in Central Phoenix this year and open a second store. We're still looking.  But one thing I’ve found is certain—we are in constant flux. As the days and weeks move forward, I hope you visit us to see the changes to the store, the new books arriving every day, fun new gift items that appear on our shelves, and to meet our newest employees. As ever, we choose to embrace change—including the rise and fall of Borders, the ongoing evolution of publishing, and our exciting new ability to sell e-books—and as we do, we find that there are new openings in our lives, new spaces to try new things, new ideas, new gems to discover, new things to think about.

I hope 2012 is a great year for you.  Thanks for supporting us in the business we love.


Comments or questions for Gayle? Click here or use Facebook comments below.

Gayle Shanks co-founded Changing Hands Bookstore in 1974. She served as president of the American Booksellers Association in 2008, and continues to be involved with the bookselling community on local, regional and national levels.

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Around Town
From NPR: Shown below is just one of many mysterious paper sculptures found at various Scottish libraries and museums.

The tag on this reads: To @edbookfest ‘A gift’ This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas…… & festivals xx

It includes a teabag filled with cut out letters, on the tag of which are the words “by leaves we live”. The cup on the top has a swirl of words which read ” Nothing beats a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and a really good BOOK”, and on the ‘tray’ next to the cupcake it says “except maybe a cake as well”.

photo by chrisdonia
Photo credit: Chris Scott

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Here's the artist's explanatory note for the most recent gift that appeared in the Scottish Poetry Library:
artist's explanation for sculpture gifts


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