The staff at Prairie LightsBookstore in Iowa Cityis used to hosting celebrity authors, but they were taken by surprise last Thursdayafternoon when President Obama made a stop at the store to pick up a few children's books. The president was in town to give a speech touting healthcare reform on the University of Iowa campus. Duringhis speech, Obama gave a shout-out to Prairie Lights, celebrating them forbeing a local small business that has offered health care coverage to itsfull-time employees for 20 years.
After Obama's noontime speech,Prairie Lights co-owner Jan Weissmiller reports that "someone in a suit" cameinto the store and asked to speak to her. When she told the man she was on thephone with a Washington Post reporterand he would have to wait, he responded that she'd better hang up the phonebecause "I'm from the White House and you're going to have a visitor." Shetold PW she knew instantly he was referring to the president.
"He was very cool, very natural,"Weissmiller recalled of the President's 10-minute visit, accompanied by a50-person entourage. He told Weissmillerthat he wanted to purchase books for his two daughters, Sasha and Malia. WhenWeissmiller pointed him to the children's book section, he joked that Maliadoesn't consider herself a child.
On the way to the children's section, Weissmiller told PW, Obama passed by a display of Karl Rove'sautobiography, Courage and Consequence:My Life as a Conservative in the Fight. He picked up a copy and asked if heshould buy that too.
Obama ended up purchasing Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Dutton, 2002) and The Secretof Zoom by Lynne Jonell (Holt, 2009) for his daughters, as well as Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxyby Matthew Reinhart (Orchard Books, 2007) for his press secretary's son. Hereceived from Weissmiller a T-shirt that has the Prairie store logo on thefront and the statement "Read for Peace" on the back.
Before leaving the store, Obamawaved towards his entourage and confided to Weissmiller that one of his"favorite things before all this" was to "quietly browse in bookstores."
Obama's purchases had an impact upon one of the three bookshe bought at Prairie Lights. While sales rankings on Amazon.com remained steady for Star Wars and Journey to the River Sea this past week, the President's purchaseof The Secret of Zoom seems to have had adramatic impact on its Amazon rankings. The afternoon Obama purchased The Secret of Zoom, its sales ranking was296,967. Within 24 hours, it had jumped to 12,194, and by Monday, its salesrank was 3,520. The Secret of Zoom'ssales ranking moved back to 16,518 by Thursday morning, April 1.