Friday, November 30, 2012

Break out of the amazon jail!

The Regulator is now selling Kobo e-books and Kobo's state of the art e-book readers.

In the international e-book market, Kobo (a Canadian company) are #1 in places like France, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands, and they are #2 in the U.K. They currently have more than 10 million registered users in 190 countries, and one of the largest e-book stores in the world, with more than 3 million books, newspapers, and magazines.

Kobo’s Read Freely philosophy supports an open platform that ensures that people actually own the books they buy and are never locked to one device or service (unlike amazon’s e-books and their kindles). Kobo offers free eReading apps so people can read anytime, anyplace, from a device they already own—be it an iPad, iPhone, Android tablet or phone, Mac, PC, Nook, or any Kobo eReader.

Now is the time to break out of the amazon jail! Why use a device that locks you down to “buying” all your e-books from one place? (You wouldn’t buy a DVD player that that would only play DVDs that you bought from one place. So what are you doing with that kindle?).

Our prices and our devices are competitive. You can read digitally and shop locally. You can actually own the e-books you buy.

We still like real books the best. But for those of you reading digitally, our advice is:  Get out of jail! Read Freely! And Shop Local, y’all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

"all good novels are political"

"Novels are political...because good fiction is about identifying with and understanding people who are not necessarily like us. By nature, all good novels are political because identifying with the other is political. At the heart of the 'art of the novel' lies the human capacity to see the world through others' eyes. Compassion is the greatest strength of the novelist."

--The Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, in an interview in the New York Times Book Review, Nov. 11, 2012.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

“Nothing beats a good book”

“Nothing beats a good book”

That’s a direct quote from one of our steady customers, who had just picked up a new book from one of her favorite authors. Though even a hard core book lover like myself might want to qualify that statement a bit (a good meal with good friends? an intimate relationship?), I know exactly what she was talking about. Especially on the long, cold, dark nights of winter, what can be better than getting warm and cozy with a good book in your hands?  

Much has changed since that long-ago day 36 years ago when we first began peddling books here on Ninth Street. Yet some fundamental things remain the same. The satisfaction we get in putting the right book, at the right time, in the right person’s hands. The joy of listening to parents read aloud to their children while sharing our back sofas. (If we only had recordings!). The pleasure of hearing authors read and talk about their books with passion, grace, wit and intelligence. And a leisurely browse in a good bookstore is still, we feel, one of life’s great treats.

In these days of constant digital distraction, we humbly suggest standing E. M. Forster’s advice on its head. Only disconnect. For a while. Remember how to relax again without peering into a screen. You just might discover, to your great benefit, that there are indeed times when “nothing beats a good book.” ---Tom Campbell

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherries at The Regulator?

What are chocolate covered cherries doing at The Regulator? Well, as the saying goes, folks don't live by bread alone. They don't even live by bread and books alone. But when you bring books and good chocolate together, you're getting somewhere. Stop by Bean Traders and add a cup of coffee, or add a bottle of wine from Wine Authorities, and you're really getting somewhere, in my humble opinion.

I was somewhere in Seattle last month when I came across these locally made (for Seattle, that is), incredibly good chocolate covered cherries. The Pinot Noir and the Cabernet are my favorites, but there are more to choose from.

So now you can get your books and your chocolate at The Regulator. And while they last, we have some samples you can try--if I can keep our staff from eating them all.

And speaking of samples, if you know of other excellent, independently made chocolates from other parts of the U.S., we'd be glad to hear about them--and try them! This could be the start of something...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"It is a truth universally acknowledged.."

...that a single man (or woman) in possession of a good fortune, must want to spend it at The Regulator Bookshop."

with all due respect to Jane Austen, and to Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, England, from who we stole this quote: 

Only two hours until Katy Munger leads our Blast From the Past Reading series, discussing Pride and Prejudice!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

You can't tell a book by its cover--and maybe not from its reviews, either

The review from The New Yorker:
"(The author) wallows in his own laughter and finally drowns in it..."

The review from the Atlantic Monthly:
"There is a difference, after all, between milking a joke (the great gift of the old comedians) and stretching it out till you kill it..."

The review from the New York Times:
" gasps for want of craft and sensibility...The book is an emotional hodgepodge, no mood is sustained long enough to register for more than a chapter..."

The book in question, arriving to these terrible reviews, was published back in 1961.

A book that was this bad, published more than 50 years ago--it would figure that it soon sank from view. Who would know about it today? Well, you might be surprised. The book was Joseph Heller's Catch 22.

(Review quotes from Rotten Reviews Redux: A Literary Companion, edited by Bill Henderson. Pushcart Press, hardback, $18.95)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Jane Austen (and Katy Munger) at The Regulator

Join us on Wednesday November 14th, at 7:00 p.m. when Durham author Katy Munger leads our latest "Blast from The Past" book discussion -- a celebration of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  

Katy is issuing a special invitation to the men of Durham: she asks you to swallow your pride and set aside your prejudice about Austen. It is time for you to join the women of Durham in celebrating Austen's remarkable ability to capture the essence of unforgettable secondary characters with a single phrase or mannerism. Forget Lizzie. Ignore Mr. Darcy. November 14th will be a time to examine how Austen has managed to paint a devastating portrait of virtually every male archetype in a single volume. And the women?  Let's talk about those sisters, all of them... and that mother... and let us not forget Lady Catherine de Bourgh or Miss Bingley. We've all known the modern version of them!

(Please note that the special invitation to men does not extend to zombies...).

As part of the evening, you are asked to come prepared to admit to feeling a certain kinship with one of the book's characters. You are also welcome to come prepared to read the paragraph that made you feel that way, though nothing is required. It will be an unconventional and entertaining discussion of Pride and Prejudice sure to be enjoyed whether you are a hardcore Austen fan or have always wondered what the fuss was about.  Don't miss it!

Durham resident Katy Munger is the author of seven fabulous mystery novels--which certainly more than qualifies her as an "accomplished woman" in the view of Jane Austen.

Our Blast From the Past Reading Series meets at the bookshop every other month. For each meeting, a local literary luminary picks a favorite book published in the 20th century or before. The only further qualification is that the book be one that a reasonably well read person will have heard of, and perhaps read.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Having trouble sleeping? Read a (real) book!

From the New York Times a few days ago. A research study published in the journal Applied Ergonomics found that two hours of exposure to a computer or tablet screen at night reduced melatonin levels by 22%. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our internal clocks and plays a major role in our sleep cycles.

See the Times article here:

Of course reading about this might keep you awake--you are currently reading on one of those sleep-killing screens! And I wrote this on one. And the Times article was not printed in the paper version of the newspaper, only in the on-line version....

For more, see:

The bottom line? If you want to relax, read a real, printed on actual paper, book.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Junot Diaz--in the Times August 30th, in Durham September 20th

In case you missed it, the New York Times had a wonderful piece on Junot Diaz four days ago:

The article is all about his reading habits, which as you might imagine range all over the place, and all over the world.

Durham will be the center of Junot Diaz's world on Thursday, September 20th, when he reads from his new book, This is How You Lose Her, at Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Avenue, starting at 7:30. Tickets are $5.00, available now at The Regulator, or at the door until we fill the place. The tickets may be used as a $5.00 credit for any Junot Diaz book, or as a store credit.

Don't pass up this opportunity to hear one of the best and most engaging writers of our time!

A few things from the Times article that especially caught my eye:

What’s the last truly great book you read?
Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers.” A book of extraordinary intelligence, humanity and (formalistic) cunning. Boo’s four years reporting on a single Mumbai slum, following a small group of garbage recyclers, have produced something beyond groundbreaking. She humanizes with all the force of literature the impossible lives of the people at bottom of our pharaonic global order, and details with a journalist’s unsparing exactitude the absolute suffering that undergirds India’s economic boom. The language is extraordinary, the portraits indelible, and then there are those lines at the end that just about freeze your heart: “The gates of the rich, occasionally rattled, remained unbreached. The politicians held forth on the middle class. The poor took down one another, and the world’s great, unequal cities soldiered on in relative peace.” 

What were your most cherished books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero from children’s literature?
I loved Encyclopedia Brown as a kid. Donald Sobol passed recently, and that really brought it all back to me, how important his books were to my little self. I didn’t learn to read until I was 7, so I missed out on the early stuff, jumped right to chapter books, right to Encyclopedia Brown. What I loved about Boy Detective Leroy Brown was that (1) he was unabashedly smart (smart was not cool when and where I grew up) and (2) his best friend was a girl, tough Sally Kimball, who was both Leroy’s bodyguard and his intellectual equal. Sobol did more to flip gender scripts in my head than almost anybody in my early years. 

Who are the best short story writers?
People who like to suffer or perhaps people tempted by perfectibility. For that is the short story’s great lure — that you can write a perfect one. With novels it’s quite the opposite — the lure of the novel is that you can never write a perfect one.

You can bring three books to a desert island. Which do you choose?
This is a question that always kills me. For a book lover this type of triage is never a record of what was brought along but a record of what was left behind. But if forced to choose by, say, a shipwreck or an evil Times editor...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Trio for Tree Huggers

Tree Hugger? A compliment as far as I’m concerned. Some of my best friends are trees. Always been that way, as far as I can remember. So when new books about trees come into the store, I pay attention. Here are three that seem to me to grow taller and straighter than average:

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet by Jim Robbins.
This is the story of a man who is going around the world taking cuttings of “champion” trees--especially large, strong, tall, old, resilient specimens—in order to plant protected groves of these champion trees. The idea is that someday humanity might need “seed stock” to replant our forests, and the best stock would come from the best trees. A straightforward enough idea. Each chapter of the book is about a different species of tree, and as the story of finding the “champion” is told, we learn some about the trees.

But parts of this book are, marvelously, not so straightforward. The man who has undertaken this quest to clone champion trees is not a scientist, but rather a “redneck Northern Michigan farmer” named David Milarch. Formerly a hard drinker, Milrach’s liver pretty much shut down about twenty years ago, and he almost died. On regaining consciousness, he announced that beings “on the other side” had sent him back to earth with a mission—to create a kind of Noah’s ark of tree genetics. This book is his story as well as the story of the trees and his tree panting project.

A little bit out there, perhaps? Oh yes, but Milrach’s quest, his persistence (and success), and the amazing trees themselves make for quite a story.

American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow.
The impact of our trees and forests on the history of our country--from economics to literature to our whole concept of ourselves as a nation. What we have done to our forests, and what that has done to and for us. A fascinating new lens through which the author looks afresh at American history. Who do you think was the first U.S. president to take action to preserve some of our forests? Why Abraham Lincoln, of course, with the “Yosemite and Big Tree Grant” of 1864.

Seeing Trees: Discover the Ordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees, by Nancy Ross Hugo.
The photographs here by Robert Llewellyn are just extraordinary. Many of them look like paintings. Do yourself a favor and look through this book next time you are in the bookshop. And if you don’t learn a whole lot you didn’t already know about trees from the text, you are a much more accomplished tree hugger than I am.

Tom Campbell

Ann Patchett on Independent Bookstores

Over the years I've heard many authors say heartfelt words of thanks Ann Patchett and appreciation for independent bookstores. These tributes are always good to hear, but the fact remains that independent bookstores face long odds in the battles being played out in today's bookselling world. Less than 10% of the books sold in this country are sold through independent bookstores, and that percentage has certainly not been expanding.

One author who can especially relate to the underdog status of independent booksellers is the novelist Ann Patchett, who opened a bookstore of her own in Nashville, TN last November. So I was especially looking forward to hearing what Ann had to say when she stepped up to the microphone before about 500 independent booksellers to accept an award as "Most Engaging Author" at a Celebration of Bookselling luncheon in New York in early June.

And what Ann Patchett had to say was...well, you really need to hear it yourself, which you can do by clicking on the link below. Suffice it to say that it was incredibly inspiring-even to a cynic like me-and I was pretty much blown away. I told her this afterwards, for which I received a wonderful hug.

So here's Ann Patchett, writer and Shakespearean actress, on "We Band of Bookselling Brothers":

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Importance of Local Bookstores

Can't help but pass along this link to a Huffington Post article by Wendy Welch. Welch, whose book The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book will be published by St. Martin's in October, is co-owner of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Used Books, Big Stone Gap, Va.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Indy (a.k.a. The Independent Weekly) celebrates Indies (a.k.a. Independent Bookstores) in the Triangle

As for D. L. Anderson's "Action Figure" photo of John and me that accompanies the article, a publishing friend emailed me this :

 "Love that photo of you and John out in front of your store. it reminds me that all of us who love this business are slightly….demented. Or at least we look it."

To which I replied:

Hey, thanks. This has got to be the best back-handed compliment I've had in years. And it explains so much about why we book people really dig hanging out together..

What can I say? It's a great business (to use that term loosely) to work in. We get to spend much of our day with books and with people that read and write them.
Tom Campbell

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Spend Veterans Day with some Veterans for Peace

Veterans Reflect on Memorial Day:
Veterans for Peace will Offer an Alternative Commemoration in Poetry, Prose and Song
7 p.m. Monday, May 28, at The Regulator  
In what they call an alternative to the usual “glorification and glamorization” of war often accompanying Memorial Day celebrations, the Eisenhower Chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP) will offer an evening of reflection in poetry, prose, and song by its members. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, May 28, at the Regulator Bookshop (720 9th St., Durham) and is free and open to the public.

Five local U.S. veterans of four different wars, from WWII to the present, will read from their published works.

~ Joseph Eger of Durham, 91, who served as a sergeant in the US Air Forces in WW II, will read from EINSTEIN'S VIOLIN: A Conductor's Notes on Music and Social Change. Once hailed as “the greatest horn player alive” by the New York Times, Eger was principal soloist for the New York Philharmonic and the Los Angeles and National Symphony Orchestras before re-emerging as a world-renowned symphony conductor and social activist.

~ Barry L. Reece of Pittsboro, 77, who served in both the U.S. Army and the National Guard, is a Korean War veteran and poet. The author or co-author of more than 40 textbooks on interpersonal relations, leadership and communications, Reece is Professor Emeritus at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College, and will read from his second work of collected poems: Lingering Memories – Second Act: New and Selected Poems.

~ Logan Mehl-Laituri of Durham, 30, is a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Theological Studies at Duke Divinity School. A veteran of the War on Iraq, he served in the U.S. Army (Sgt.E5) from Aug. 2000 to Nov. 2006. His book, titled Reborn on the Fourth of July: The Challenge of Faith, Patriotism, & Conscience, will be published this July.

~ Three-tour Iraq War veteran Russell Snyder of Raleigh, 30, will offer excerpts from his book, Hearts and Mines: With the Marines in Al Anbar: A Story of Psychological Warfare in Iraq, published earlier this year. Recently returned from Iraq, where he served as an Army Psychological Operations specialist from 2002 to 2011, Snyder is currently a student at NC State University, pursuing a degree in International Studies with a concentration in International Relations.

~ Also taking part in VFP’s Memorial Day Program will be John Heuer, president of the Eisenhower Chapter, who will read from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address to the Nation (1961). Chapter member Vicki Ryder, whose husband served in Vietnam, will offer two songs of Memorial Day remembrance.

Founded in 1985 by U.S. military veterans, VFP is a national non-profit organization that works to “heal the wounds of war, expose the true costs of war, and build a culture of peace.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Award for Green Gospel

Durham resident Charles Fiore's debut novel, Green Gospel (Livingston Press, 2011) was just named First Runner-Up in the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards (General Fiction).

The New York Journal of Books called Green Gospel, “…powerful writing…[Fiore is] as skillful as they come at putting a reader in a place and time.” ForeWord Book Reviews said, “From cover to cover, there is not a dull moment in Green accomplished writer has arrived on the scene with a fireball of a novel.” And the Southern Literary Review said, “The novel contains hauntingly beautiful passages that read like poetry, and the characters are nuanced and achingly real.”

The Regulator was pleased to host the book launch event for Green Gospel last summer. Our congratulations to Charles (a.k.a. LC) Fiore!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Teach the Books, Touch the Heart

This was the title of a wonderful article about the value of literature, from the New York Times three weeks ago, written by Claire Needell Hollander, an English teacher at a public middle school in Manhattan. I haven't been able to stop thinking and talking about this since I first read it.

The first three paragraphs:

"FRANZ KAFKA wrote that 'a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us.' I once shared this quotation with a class of seventh graders, and it didn’t seem to require any explanation.

We’d just finished John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” When we read the end together out loud in class, my toughest boy, a star basketball player, wept a little, and so did I. “Are you crying?” one girl asked, as she crept out of her chair to get a closer look. “I am,” I told her, “and the funny thing is I’ve read it many times.” 

But they understood. When George shoots Lennie, the tragedy is that we realize it was always going to happen. In my 14 years of teaching in a New York City public middle school, I’ve taught kids with incarcerated parents, abusive parents, neglectful parents; kids who are parents themselves; kids who are homeless or who live in crowded apartments in violent neighborhoods; kids who grew up in developing countries. They understand, more than I ever will, the novel’s terrible logic — the giving way of dreams to fate. 

And the last paragraph:

We cannot enrich the minds of our students by testing them on texts that purposely ignore their hearts. By doing so, we are withholding from our neediest students any reason to read at all. We are teaching them that words do not dazzle but confound. We may succeed in raising test scores by relying on these methods, but we will fail to teach them that reading can be transformative and that it belongs to them. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

From our Thursday May 3rd email :

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Friday May 4th at 7:00)

You’ll be hearing lots of great things about this brand new novel, and all of it is going to be true. Billy Lynn’s army squad become instant heroes/celebrities when their intense Iraq War firefight gets caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew. The squad is brought home for a “Victory Tour,” and this amazing, no-holds-barred novel opens on Thanksgiving Day with the boys piling into a stretch limo, guests of America’s Team (a.k.a. the Dallas Cowboys), on their way to be part of a halftime show with Destiny’s Child. Along for the ride is a Hollywood producer who is trying to broker the squad’s story into a movie deal. The rest of the cast of characters includes patriotic fans, mammoth football players, the Cowboy’s wealthy businessman/owner and his friends, a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, and the ghost of one of the members of the squad who died in the firefight.

This is an incredible book. Madison Scott Bell has called it “as close to the Great American novel as anyone is likely to come these days.” And Karl Marlantes, the author of Matterhorn and What it is Like to Go to War, has this to say about Billy Lynn:

“This book will be the Catch-22 of the Iraq War....This funny, yet totally sobering dissection of the American way of watching war will have you squirming at the same time you are laughing out loud; Fountain applies the heat of his wicked sense of humor while you face the truth of who we have become. Live one day inside Billy Lynn’s head and you’ll never again see our soldiers or America in the same way.”

Ben Fountain reads here Friday evening at 7:00.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A marvelous--and rare--interview with Anne Tyler

From Britain's Guardian newspaper: Here are the beginning paragraphs:

"If you were to pop by Anne Tyler's house in leafy Roland Park, Baltimore, on a Tuesday afternoon, you might interrupt her and five women friends deep into an episode of The Wire. They have seen all five seasons three times, and are discussing how soon they can begin a fourth viewing....

Today, Tyler is in London. In the literary world this is news. Before the publication of her latest novel, The Beginner's Goodbye, she hadn't given a face-to-face interview for almost 40 years – and before that she gave only two. Her reluctance to submit to the demands of today's publicity machine means that any newspaper feature (there are remarkably few) inevitably compares her to the reclusive Salinger.

But when we meet, on a sunny spring morning in Kensington, it's hard to imagine anyone less like the irascible Salinger; with her silver fringe, upright posture and smiling eyes, she radiates equanimity, friendliness and goodness, if that doesn't sound too Tylerish. Literary editors and journalists had given up even inquiring if she might grant an interview – why has she agreed now?

'It's sort of whimsical. I'm 70. And I thought, why not?' The same answer she gave to her husband when he asked her to marry him."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Rereading Books is Good for Mental Health

Rereading Books Good for Mental Health

Reading a book more than once can offer mental health benefits, according to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The Daily Mail reported that the study, based upon interviews with readers in the U.S. and New Zealand, found that the "first time people read--or watch--through, they are focused on events and stories. The second time through, the repeated experience reignites the emotions caused by the book or film, and allows people to savor those emotions at leisure. The 'second run' can offer profound emotional benefits."

"By doing it again, people get more out of it," said Cristel Antonia Russell of American University. "Even though people are already familiar with the stories or the places, re-consuming brings new or renewed appreciation of both the object of consumption and their self."

Read the Daily Mail article here:

And if you want to experience this effect for yourself, you could do worse than rereading The Great Gatsby and then coming to our Blast From the Past Reading Series on April 18th, when Allan Gurganus will lead a "Great" discussion of Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, and Nick Carraway.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Study Shows Thriving Small Businesses Lift Real Estate Values

"The report studied 27 neighborhoods where small businesses have thrived in 15 major U.S. cities. It found that home values in these neighborhoods outperformed their broader markets by 4 percent per year and 50 percent cumulatively over the past 14 years. The “indie hotspots” in the 27 neighborhoods support an average of more than 1,800 jobs at independent retailers, restaurants and bars. "

See the Berkshire Hathaway Business Wire article about this study at:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

In Praise of Books in Print

Had to love Robert Wallace's "In Praise of Books in Print" column on the March 21 "Durham News" section of the News and Observer.

He praises the superiority of physical books over digital ones, and mentions a certain Durham bookstore that is close to my heart. Here are some lengthy excerpts from the column. You can read the whole thing at

From "In Praise of Books in Print by Robert Wallace:

"On a cool, rainy day in Cleveland I enter Mac's Backs and take in the smell of used books. Instantly I feel at home. Mac's is my home-away-from-home bookstore.

It is the bookstore my daughter and I visit together when I come to visit. Only a couple of blocks from her apartment, Mac's is part of a string of unique, eclectic stores on Coventry Street, much like Ninth Street in Durham.

On this day in March, my daughter and I enter Mac's, the rain blowing in behind us.

'Get what you want,' I say to my daughter.

We spread out; my daughter to the classics, while I explore the all-fiction section.

We settle in.

I pick up several books, read the front covers, and put them back. Then I pick up a book by Gabrielle Roy: “The Tin Flute.” I remove my eyeglasses from the breast pocket of my jacket, put them on, and read that this was Roy's first novel, written just after WWII. Roy is French Canadian, and the novel is set in Montreal, in the ’30s, and is supposed to be a classic story of realism of working-class families. John Steinbeck is my favorite author, and, I suspect, Roy's volume to be similar to his California novels.

Find number one.

Just then, Anna, my daughter, shows me a slim Penguin pocketbook volume of Aesop's Fables. Later she finds “Antic Hay” by Aldous Huxley. She reads, out loud, from the back cover, the novel's brief description.

'This sounds amazing,' she says.

Already she has two finds.....

Over the years I have spent many an hour in bookstores, not one of them wasted.

I have, perhaps, two thousand books. Not many, really –I know people who have five times as much. Some are predicting the end of the book, the end of publishing as we know it. I hope that is not the case.

Books, by their very nature, possess something that a tablet can never do: physicality. They inhabit the world.

By way of example, Anna rushes over and shows me two books. One is a book by Bronte with beautiful, original lithographs. The other is a book with pages made of fabric. Anna rubs her hand across a page, and feels its texture and heft. You can't do that with an electronic tablet.

I understand the appeal: the electronic tablet's ease; its ability to download thousands of books, and therefore save space. But it is this ability to occupy space, to take up room, to exist, which appeals to me. Even when I’m not reading my books, I like having them around, I like seeing them. When I see an iPad, I don't see a book, and, consequently, I don't see an author. When I pick up a book, the author, and his or her words, becomes real to me, as if the words were written for me alone.

Later, when I return to Durham, I go to The Regulator Bookshop, to browse. I love The Regulator. I can’t imagine Durham without it.

'Life is a succession of habits, since the individual is a succession of individuals,' Samuel Beckett said. With each time I enter The Regulator Bookshop, or, for that matter, any bookstore, I count my life all the richer."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stories (and love) make the world go 'round

Just in!--one of my favorite books of the year. The book is The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottschall. The premise of this remarkable book is that stories are an essential element of human life. A part of our existence that is on some ways so obvious—hidden in plain sight, if you will—that it has been completely overlooked by science and psychology.

Think about it for a minute. We spend our lives immersed in stories. They are read to us and we act them out when we are young, and we read them, listen to them (song lyrics, anyone?), watch them, and tell them constantly. Why do we do this? What does this do to us and for us?

There’s a trove of fascinating stuff in this book--like studies that show that people who read more fiction are more empathetic; that children the world over act out the same kinds of stories, but boys’ stories and girls’ stories are almost always different. The good news is that Jonathan Gottschall (a young scholar from Washington and Jefferson College) is a great storyteller himself. Grab a copy of The Storytelling Animal and get ready to be enlightened, entertained, and amazed. --Tom Campbell

“Man—let me offer you a definition—is the storytelling animal. Wherever he goes he wants to leave behind not a chaotic wake, not an empty space, but the comforting marker buoys and trail signs of stories. He has to keep on making them up. As long as there’s a story, it’s all right. Even in his last moments, it’s said, in the split second of a fatal fall—or when he’s about to drown—he sees, passing rapidly before him, the story of his whole life.”

--Graham Swift, Waterland

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scott Turow: Justice Department suit against publishers would be "tragic." (Amazon is the real threat to our literary culture).

Here, in full, is author Scott Turow's letter to the members of the Author's Guild. Turow (a lawyer and a former federal prosecutor) is the current Author's Guild president:

Dear member,

Yesterday's reports that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher's sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn't necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple's offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon's predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon's deep pockets.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format). Two years after it introduced the Kindle, Amazon continued to take losses on a deep list of e-book titles, undercutting hardcover sales of the most popular frontlist titles at its brick and mortar competitors. Those losses paid huge dividends. By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple's iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon's discounting destroy their physical distribution chain. Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores. That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

Our concern about bookstores isn't rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling. Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered. Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks. A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers. Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution. While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes. Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won't risk capital where there's no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%. Customers are benefiting from the surprisingly innovative e-readers Barnes & Noble's investments have delivered, including a tablet device that beat Amazon to the market by fully twelve months. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon. Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.

Let's hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

This would be tragic for all of us who value books, and the culture they support.


Scott Turow, President

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New and Notable

From the boxes we opened on Monday, two charming, quirky, unusual, and--we think--good books.

--Whatever It Is, I Don't Like It by Howard Jacobson. From the author of the Man Booker Prize winner The Finkler Question, a collection of columns he has written for England's Independent newspaper. A curmudgeon with a sense of humor and a way with words. One three and a half page gem after another. What's not to like? Paperback, $18.00.

--Starting from Happy by Patricia Marx. A funny boy-meets girl (and their life together) novel, told in short vignettes.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

World Book Night

World Book Night is a campaign to find light or non-readers in the community and hand them each a book. Person-to-person. To get more people reading.

World Book Night is a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers give away books in their communities to share their love of reading. Successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night will also be celebrated in the U.S. and Germany in 2012, with more countries to come in future years.

How does World Book Night work?
In the U.S., 30 titles have been specially chosen and will be printed in their thousands in special World Book Night paperback editions. Givers apply to give away a particular book (you get a first, second and third choice) which they must commit to give away to those who don't regularly read to share and spread their love of reading. Each Giver receives 20 copies which they pick up from their local bookshops and libraries - the very heart of our reading communities - in the week before April 23. (The Regulator will be a World Book Night pick up location).

The greatest reading journeys start when you put a book in to someone's hand and say 'this one's amazing, you have to read it' and by applying to be a Giver you can help World Book Night give that experience to a million new readers on April 23. World Book Night, through social media and traditional publicity, will also promote the value of reading, of printed books, and of bookstores and libraries to everyone year-round.

Why April 23?
April 23 is a symbolic date for world literature. It is the date of the birth and death of Shakespeare, as well as the day Cervantes, the great Spanish novelist, died. It is in their honor that UNESCO appointed it the International Day of the Book and that it has been chosen to celebrate World Book Night.

Be a part of World Book Night! Go to to sign up to be a Giver, and to learn all about this fabulous program. All you need to become a giver is a little time, a love of books, and the desire to give something to your community. Think about where you'd like to give away the books before you go online to apply. You pick the place: hospital or diner, school or ... well, lots of possibilities. Be creative. And thank you! We love this idea and we will be your community center for World Book Night support.

The deadline to sign up is February 6th! And yes, you can give your books away during the day of April 23rd as well as in the evening.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Read Digital and Shop Local!

If you're doing some of your reading on a digital device, we have some exciting news for you. Now its easier than ever to read digitally and shop locally. And most of the time you'll be paying the same price buying from us as you do when you throw your money at the big boys.

In December, The American Bookseller's Association debuted the IndieBound Reader, which works seamlessly with all Android (and now with all IOS--Apple--devices). All you have to do is download the Reader, which you can do here and then buy your ebooks through the Regulator's web site.

With the IndieBound Reader, you get:
* Adjustable font, font size, line spacing, margins, and more to customize your reading experience
* Note-taking and bookmarking functions
* Brightness controls and "Night Mode"
* Support for eBook standards, such as Adobe Digital Editions, ePub, and PDF
* Google account integration and easy, behind-the-scenes activation
* Integration with the Regulator's IndieCommerce website for eBook browsing & buying (this is not available for IOS)

What more could you want? Competitive pricing? Yes, we have that too.

Surely you've seen the headlines announcing "Amazon loses price advantage on digital books?"

Yeah, well me missed them too. This has to be one of the best-kept digital secrets ever. The fact is that the six biggest U.S. publishers have adopted the "Agency Model" for their eBook pricing. Which means that no matter where you buy their eBooks, the price is the same. And these six publishers account for 75 to 80% of all the books we sell at The Regulator. What all of this means is that it is high time to

Retire Your Kindle!

The kindle is designed to make you order eBooks from Amazon. And let's face it. Amazon is Non-Local Number One. None of the money you spend at Amazon stays in our local community. And not only is Amazon non-local, for the past few years they have been vigorously anti-local as well, fighting tooth and nail to remain exempt from collecting sales tax, even in states where the have warehouses or other facilities. Their philosophy has been clear. Let other suckers pay the taxes that keep the roads maintained for the trucks that deliver Amazon's packages. Amazon has been insisting on literally getting a free ride, and by and large they have succeeded.

For those of you out there who are supporters of things like the local food movement--if you are doing your reading on a Kindle, perhaps you need to think again. Because now you can read digitally and shop locally! We thank you.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Local author makes the front page of the NYT Sunday Book Review

A great review from Adam Hochscild of Laurent Dubois' new book Haiti, the Aftershocks of History.

Laurent, who was spotted leaving a local restaurant New Years Eve wearing a sticker that said "Local Author," will discuss his new book Thursday evening, January 12th, 7:00 at The Regulator. It's hard for me to imagine a more engaging author.

--Tom Campbell