Archives for the month of: August, 2016

UnknownThey weren’t a bookstore, though they’d sell the odd book, but Tekserve are about to succumb to bookstore-itis — their NYC rent (on 23rd Street, which must obviously be coming up in the world) is set to triple. So Tekserve will be closing. I did know about this already, but here’s a handy story from Atlas Obscura.

This is tragic, but of course all good things do always come to an end. Me, I’d never think of going anywhere else to buy a Mac. This is the only store I’ve ever been in where they’d actually take time to argue you out of spending too much — “No. No. From what your telling me about your usage, there’s no reason for you to buy Giant Apple — Medium Apple will do you just fine”. Their hearts were really in repair: they did sales because people kind of wanted it.

You can travel a lot further than 23rd Stret before you’ll find service like that. As we are unfortunately about to find out.

wb-wh-row-smInterior decorators often fill bookcases for their customers, buying for the look rather than the content. Superannuated law books look splendid, but really have no use other than sparkling on bookshelves in new law offices, radiating that authoritative look bestowed by the buckram bindings with three hits of foil on the spine. I once was able to persuade Heal’s in the Tottenham Court Road to let me have one of the books they’d bought for next to nothing to make up a window display showing a desirable living room — it was an OP Pelican I’d long been searching for. I’ve still got it.

Wonder Book of Frederick Maryland is a big supplier to these specially markets, and even have a room devoted to books shelved by color as you can hear on NPR’s On the Media who covered them back in March, and repeated the item this weekend, 20 August. Wonder Book’s webpage has a link to the show (their item is the last one on the list at the On the Media link), and to other press coverage.

When I was in Seattle a couple of years ago I visited Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island. You get there by ferry IMG_0056— here’s a view of Mount Rainier from their harbor; a good deal less cloudy than usual. It’s all so sylvan and quaint (though of course it is a commuter community for Seattle) that it’s a bit of a surprise to find innovative software emanating from this woodsy idyll. But Publishers Weekly tells us of the introduction of their software Handseller™, facilitating book recommendation for booksellers via social media. The app is available at the App Store, but it isn’t immediately obvious how to sign up and use it.

Their description of the app reads “Handseller™ is a mobile app that generates personalized book recommendations for readers based on a unique set of sorting and filtering criteria chosen by the reader for each specific search, by finding ‘more books like this book’ or ‘more authors like this author’, or by a subject-specific search requested by the reader. These recommendation searches can be done in the Adult, Young Adult and Children’s book categories. The Handseller™ user will be shown book details for each recommended book, along with book reviews and designations for award winners and best sellers. The reader then has the ability to create lists to save, share and edit in the future. The Handseller™ user can share book details and lists via email templates and/or popular social media options.”

They appear to have a buy option, as proposed by Joe Esposito, so this may be a harbinger of things to come. I’m not too sure about how the app has been received. I’ve been holding off reporting on in in the hope of getting more info, but apparently no luck.

Now Joe Wikert weighs in on the same sort of subject. He is of course not wrong in chiding B&N for failing to add digital snap to his visit to the store near his home, but the chains have been wrong about so much that you sort of expect this. Still, I don’t know that I personally would want to be downloading an in-store app to my iPhone in order to navigate me around their shelves. There’s probably marketing know-how that tells you that a certain amount of geographical confusion on the part of your customers is a good thing in that it may lead to serendipitous encounters and unexpected sales. Plus of course, remember all the fuss and bother about customers wandering around bookstores checking prices on their Amazon app. Do you really want to encourage them by making them use the damn thing? It seems to me the more off-site approach of Handseller™ is a better way to go. Just imagine such a thing connected to all your local bookshops.

Mr Wikert wanders off into a riff on the Dummies series. Change has clearly disappointed him.

Not sure I really love the THEs in this inscription. The fact that a couple of them come aligned one below the other rather draws attention to their oddness.


But, on the other hand, it all kind of works. The THEs and the AND are the least important words, and although smashing the letters together like this risks the balance of space and line, I think that has been well preserved. There’s an pretty even color overall, though it does clot a bit around the AND.

The image comes as a tweet from The Postal Museum on 10 August marking Laurence Binyon’s 147th birthday.

Too old to enlist in World War I, Binyon volunteered as a hospital orderly at the front. He is best remembered for For the Fallen, the fourth, and sometimes also the third stanzas of which are recited at Remembrance Day ceremonies.

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, 
England mourns for her dead across the sea. 
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, 
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal 
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. 
There is a music in the midst of desolation 
And a glory that shines upon our tears. 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young, 
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. 
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted: 
They fell with their faces to the foe. 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them. 

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; 
They sit no more at familiar tables of home; 
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; 
They sleep beyond England’s foam. 

But where our desires are and our hopes profound, 
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, 
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known 
As the stars are known to the Night; 

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, 
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; 
As the stars are starry in the time of our darkness, 
To the end, to the end, they remain.

_90574684_record1Wimborne looks to have chosen a lucky dry spell to stage their attempt on the world record for the longest line of books. The BBC tells us that 16,000 books were used. Tenterhooks for us all, unfortunately, as Guinness has yet to confirm the brave Dorset effort.

I’m not sure I don’t think the book domino record is more impressive though. Actually, having just rewatched the video, I’m sure I am.

43774-The-Language-Of-FlowersIn my diffident youth the language of flowers always seemed like a good idea. Of course in those days we didn’t have the internet to enable us to check meanings, so you couldn’t really be sure how the recipient might receive your coded message, even if you could figure that out yourself. But I guess it’s always nice to receive flowers. Even now, there’s a bit of looseness around the meanings. Should I really send acacia blossoms to express my concealed love; or does that risk offense with the mention of retirement, and misunderstanding in the chaste area? And what if your red roses are interpreted as crimson — or vice versa?

According to Lady Mary Wortley-Montague, Atlas Obscura tells us, it all began in the harems of Turkey, though this romantic idea was pooh-poohed by the more serious Austrian researcher Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall. One way or another the Victorians took to it. Apparently by the early years of the last century there were 98 flower dictionaries available in America. Was it the adult coloring book craze of its day? The publishing phenomenon ran out of steam in WWI. The meaning of the poppy took on a different coloration.

I was not familiar with the name for this phenomenon, though it seems to be well established nomenclature. In the publishing business we tend to refer to it as Cap & lc, as opposed to Init Cap & lc (which it seems is called rather boringly Sentence case in this brave new world). Nor did I realize that Title Case is Apple’s house style, while Sentence case is Google’s. John Saito clarifies it all at Medium in a piece called Making a case for letter case.

The website TitleCase will take any text you care to enter into it and show you how it should look as 1. Title Case, 2. AP Style Title Case, 3. UPPERCASE, 4. lowercase, 5. Start Case, 6. camelCase, 7. PascalCase, or 8. snake_case. Seems you don’t need to be shown Sentence case — of course, you may want to argue that you don’t really need to be shown any of them. I guess the app is there because it can be done: I’m not sure why I’d ever find it useful! Maybe it’s a tool essential for those robots who are banging out reports on Olympic events right now. If you’ve got this far you may want to know what the difference between camel case and Pascal case is. provides the answer to this vital question, though I couldn’t bear to read it.

This whole new area is full of mystery. One may be this wrenching of the meaning of “case” from its familiar typecase origins.

Bench1Final_santa_cruz_081116_(Medium)Well, OK; it’s not the handsomest bench you ever saw, but its heart is in the right place.

As Shelf Awareness tells us “Bookshop Santa Cruz dedicated an ‘artful reading bench’ the other day at a local playground in Santa Cruz, Calif., the first of three benches that are being donated to the city as reading spots for kids and families in public playgrounds to celebrate the bookstore’s 50th anniversary and as a way of thanking the community for its support.”

It appears already to be working. Apparently even before the bench was officially opened it was in use: a “little girl told her grandma that she couldn’t forget to bring her books. She said she wanted to read on ‘her’ reading bench.” Whatever it takes.

Robert Smail’s Printing Works is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, who’s 2008 video podcast introduces us to a range of unusual locally-made equipment while taking us on a tour of the plant illustrated by a series of photos.

The occasion prompting this post is Keith Houston’s visit reported on in his Shady Characters blog. Robert Smail’s was a jobbing printer, though they did print, and subsequently own a little local paper called The St. Ronan’s Standard and Effective Advertiser.

The jobbing printer I had vacation jobs at in Galashiels was a bit less picturesque than this one. McQueen’s printing works was behind their shop front in Channel Street. Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 1.21.34 PM

McQueen’s big speciality was targets for rifle shooting of which they printed (and still do as a division of Sykes Enterprises Inc.) masses and masses. Their history is shown here. When I was a lad the business was run by Dot McQueen, and when she retired it was taken on by the Gray’s who had been working there for years. They developed it massively to print and package computer software in the days when that was such a big business. It’s good to see they survive yet.

Search Engine Optimization, in case you forgot.

But we shouldn’t forget, because as the internet dominates our life more and more, it becomes ever more important. Basically SEO is a cunning trick to have your website be the top answer to as many Google (or other) searches as possible. Now of course nobody can get their site to come up for every search on whatever topic, but if I were to invest a bit in SEO I might be able to get “Making book” to come up as one of the top hits on the first Google page of results rather than halfway down the third page as it does. (I actually think this is surprisingly good! Searching without the opening and closing quote marks means you’d have to click your way through more pages that I was willing to waste time doing.) If I was selling stuff, this ranking would be important. Nobody is going to click over to page 2 of the results: they’ll have bought their underpants or sneakers long before that.

I’m not altogether clear about how SEO works (if you care to start to learn go to this beginner’s guide at Moz) but one of the idiot level techniques involves having closely similar words (keywords) lead to you. If I could swing it to have every search for “book” to come up with Making book, I be home and dry, if SEO was my bag. Digital Book World gives some basic ideas about keywords and their selection here. A couple of years ago Publishing Perspectives gave a useful short account of how SEO might be applied to books. Good SEO involves at base an understanding of how Google’s search algorithm works, so that you can serve up the answers that it looks for. For example Hearst magazines have created a new site called through which links to their magazines look like independent, disinterested information to Google’s system.

Mike Shatzkin has a post about publishers’ failures in this area which starts off with the story about Hearst Magazines. One of the links in his piece takes you to a lengthy discussion of the Hearst business by a somewhat apologetic employee. It’s all fascinating, and publishers should learn from this if they ever want to compete for direct-to-consumer sales. I searched for books about love in St Malo, and did as expected get directed to All the Light We Cannot See. But the first link to a publisher was at the bottom of the first page and was the link to the Cliff Notes support book! I gave up clicking through pages and pages of search results in an attempt to find a Simon and Schuster, or Scribner hit. Maybe S&S think this doesn’t matter, but it seems to me that maybe they should want me to be aware of their involvement, and to attempt to sell me something else to take on what the internet would assume was my imminent sentimental journey to Normandy.