Spinning Web Partnerships
Barbara R ther -- 1/22/01
Kepler's and BookPeople find Web partnerships are profitable for them and for the community

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In an expansion of efforts by booksellers to serve as community resources, at least two prominent stores have begun using Web sales to support the efforts of neighbor organizations.

Last month, Kepler's Books & Magazines of Menlo Park, Calif., announced a partnership with
the Museum of American Heritage in Palo Alto, in which a jointly created online bookstore, accessible through the museum's Web site, will generate sales for Kepler's, and a percentage of the profits for the museum.
The site ( is designed so that users can select books chosen by the museum, access Kepler's stock or search the nearly one million-title database. Kepler's will fill and ship orders or deliver within town. As a financial reward for maintaining the Web site, the bookstore will give a percentage of the sales back to the Museum.

The partnership, according to Nancy Miller, director of the marketing department at Kepler's, grew out of a commitment from owner Clark Kepler to expand the stores's involvement in the community. Miller had been a volunteer at the museum, which sponsors exhibits and programs on the evolution of 19th- and 20th-century technology. When she heard that the museum planned to go online and was considering a link to for book sales, she took action and helped forge the partnership.

While the museum is the store's first online partner, Miller feels confident it will not be the last. "We will be launching a community page on our Web site, linking browsers to the museum and to other relevant sites. We are excited to be expanding our cultural role and to be reaching an audience we might not otherwise contact. This project was inspired by the work BookPeople has done. We used that as a model," she said.

Palo Alto Store Closes After 40 Years

Stacey's Bookstores of San Francisco is closing its Palo Alo store at the end of this month.

A presence in Palo Alto for 40 years and at its University Avenue location for the last two decades, the store closing after several years of declining sales. Neighboring booksellers say the
community will deeply miss the literary oasis Stacey's provided, as well as the knowledge its staff brought to the sale of technical books.
Tom Allen, general manager for Stacey's, told PW that management had foreseen the need to close the store for almost a year. With the store's lease expiring at the end of the month, a decision was made not to renegotiate. Commercial accounts as well as Stacey's Literary License members will be served by the store's two remaining locations, in San Francisco's financial district (Stacey's flagship location), and in Cupertino. The store's 12 booksellers will also be invited to transfer to other stores.

Founded in 1923 by John Stacey as a source of medical and scientific books for the West, Stacey's is one of the city's oldest and largest independent bookstores. Though trade titles account for more than half of sales, professional and technical books of all kinds continue to be a store specialty.

According to Allen, a number of factors contributed to the sales loss at the Palo Alto store, which was thriving until about five years ago. In 1996, a Borders opened three blocks away. What seemed to tip the scale was the advent of online book sales, which, in the wired environs of Palo Alto, were substantial. Though the Cupertino store shares a Silicon Valley location, there are no chain stores nearby, and the facilities are more modern.

An irony that continues to puzzle Allen is that the highest increase in sales Stacey's recorded for the past year was in the field of computer books. "The vast influx of dot-com workers into San Francisco has been great for our sales," he said. "We are close to the South of Market area, where many are headquartered, and a visit to a real bookstore is an appealing lunch-time diversion. Unfortunately, the same was not true in Palo Alto."
--Barbara R ther

BookPeople, located in Austin,Texas, was founded in 1970 and is one of the largest
independents in the Southwest. The store utilizes a Web technique that many bookstores use to give money back to the community. When customers shop at the BookPeople Web site (, a long list of local nonprofit organizations appears under the heading "Support Your Community." Buyers simply click on which of the organizations they would like their purchase to benefit. BookPeople gives 5% of such sales to the organizations, sending dividend checks out on a regular basis.
Co-owner and general manager Steven Bercu was a strong believer in the power of local solidarity when he launched the store's Web site last year with BookSite. BookPeople has traditionally given donations to and gift certificates for its Austin neighbors, and Bercu felt the Web could be used to help give such organizations a steadier share of BookPeople's profits.

The Austin Montessori School, which Bercu's child attends, was the first beneficiary on a list that now includes more than 25 local organizations, from yoga and ecology groups to the Texas Restaurant Association, which is the most active group on the list. While each organization is asked to provide a list of books it recommends and/or wants to promote, browsers may order any of the titles available from BookSite and still give their organization 5% of their order.

The criteria for inclusion on BookPeople's Web site is not strict. The organization must be based in Austin and be a nonprofit. "We are not going to sign up the Klan or any racist organizations, but other than that, it is pretty open," Bercu said. While nonprofits reap the financial rewards of the site, Bercu says the advantages for the store go beyond doing good for the community.

Almost every organization included has some type of member newsletter or publication that mentions the Web site and encourages members to use it. Such publicity amounts to thousands of unsolicited, outside recommendations for the store. As Bercu told PW, "They get more money, and we sell more books. And, as a third advantage, all that money stays here in Austin."

The third point is critical to Bercu, who plans to initiate an Austin Independent Business Alliance, based on the one in Boulder (Bookselling, Jan. 1), to support locally owned and operated businesses. Inspired to action by the large number of area chain stores, Bercu added, "We got seven of those damned things here in Austin and a Chamber of Commerce that often serves political interests. Locally owned businesses are critical to the character of a city. I've been telling other booksellers what we are doing and how they can do it. I think these partnerships, on the Web and off, are going to be critical to our survival."

by Judith Rosen

Successful Partnering
Consortium Turns on City Lights
Entering the New Millennium

Over the past six months three small press distributors--Subterranean, Access and Blessingway--have been forced to close. PW contacted one of the few remaining distributors that specialize in micro presses to ask whether small press distribution is still viable.

For Sam Speigel, president of four-year-old Partners Publishers Group in Holt, Mich., which
Front Porch's guide has
sold nearly 100,000 copies.
shares office space and staff with 16-year-old wholesaler Partners Book Distributing, "the situation is a mixed bag. Some of the small or independent presses, the ones that do real publicity and have some media connections, do very well. The gravy g s to the hustlers."
Partners tries to keep its publisher base at 200 and focuses primarily on nonfiction. "I'd almost rather do p try than fiction," Speigel told PW. "I'm not sure any of the distributors d s it well." But fiction or nonfiction, Speigel estimates that "for one reason or another we turn down probably 90% of the people who approach us. You have to choose your publishers very carefully." Partners, which represents as many as three or four small or single-title presses to every larger one, has had success with such small press titles as Allan Borushek's The Doctor's Pocket Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter (Allan Borushek & Assoc.), which sells 30,000 copies a year. Front Porch Press's 1997 guide to college, Been There (Should've) Done That: 505 Tips for Making the Most of College by Suzette Tyler, has sold nearly 100,000 copies, and will be reissued in a new edition.

Turns on City Lights
After a strong 2000, which saw a complete upgrade of Consortium Book Sales and Distribution's Web site,, to include a searchable database and attendant bells and whistles, the distributor is looking forward to starting off 2001 with a number of new publishers. "Last year we had three publishers that did over a million: Gryphon House, South End Press and Alyson Publications," noted Consortium president Randall Beek. Thanks to the opening of the company's first London office last year, he hopes to see strong sales across the Pond. "We've really boosted our U.K. representation," said Beek. "We currently have eight U.K. publishers, and in the fall we'll have 10."

Of course, Beek's also pleased to up the company's Stateside representation, and starting this month it began distributing City Lights in San Francisco. "It's really been a dream of mine to have them here," he told PW. The feeling is mutual, according to City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti: "With New York publishers eating each other up and all their editors losing power to bottom-line tyros, the mainstream publishing industry will no doubt someday disappear down a black hole of its own making. This leaves middle-size independent presses as the only literary houses in the publishing world, keeping in print obscure classics and new works of genius not profitable enough for the big boys. They're the real cutting edge of literary America. And Consortium is putting it all together."

City Lights' first list under Consortium includes two revised Beat titles: the first unabridged edition of Jack Kerouac's Book of Dreams and an expanded version of p t David Meltzer's collection of interviews with San Francisco p ts in the 1970s, San Francisco Beat: Talking with the P ts (both coming in May). It is also bringing out the first English translation, by Martin Chalmers, of Bertolt Brecht's Stories of Mr. Keune. To help boost backlist sales, Consortium is offering 50% off plus free freight. Booksellers should contact their Consortium rep for the fine print.

Other new publishers starting with Consortium in January are Creation Books, Grey Fox Press, Image Consortium, The Millivres Prowler Group and ticktock Publishing Inc. This month, John Hays, who previously handled Barnes & Noble for PGW, will take over as national accounts manager for Consortium.

the New Millennium
Client Distribution Services (CDS), whose principals come from Random House, is starting off the new year by adding New Millennium Worldwide, a multimedia company in Beverly Hills, Calif., to its client base. Although New Millennium published some books and audios prior to joining CDS, chairman and CEO Paul V. McLaughlin characterized the house as "really just a startup. In this past year, we've been setting the company up."

Over the next year or two, McLaughlin plans to get Millennium onto an annual publishing schedule of roughly 25 books, and 25 new audiobooks and 50 audio classics from among the 300 classics that co-presidents Michael Viner and Deborah Raffin brought with them from Dove Audio, which they founded in the early '80s. This spring's audio list, the first to be sold by CDS, includes Juliet Mills reading Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (May) as well as what McLaughlin terms "a real breakthrough," the simultaneous audio edition of Amy Tan's much-anticipated The Bonesetter's Daughter, to be published in hardcover by Putnam in February.

In April, New Millennium will introduce a series of sports-oriented short mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler. The first, a collection of baseball mysteries, Murderers' Row, includes stories by Elmore Leonard and Robert B. Parker.