Tag: Books

The Story Has Come to an End

The end of this summer will mark the end of my current career and venture; The Wise Owl Bookstore will close on August 30th, 2013.  It’s a very bittersweet time for me: the store was self-sustaining for the most part, but there wasn’t enough profit to support my own bills and rent.  Plus, for the past half-a-year I’ve been missing academia — my time at Kutztown University was wonderful and informative and I have long wanted to return to seek my Masters.

I applied to the Kutztown English Grad Program in March and was accepted, and at that point I still felt like I could make a go of both school and the store, although the hours would obviously have to be shortened.  Then, I was accepted as a graduate assistant, a tutor in the Writing Center, a job which requires 20 hours a week in exchange for a tuition waver and a stipend (in addition to 9 credit hours, or three classes, per semester).  Suddenly the store was looking less and less viable.  Add to that the inevitable slack in business that comes after the holidays and before beach reading time really sets in and I was torn: continue to try to keep the store alive, albeit probably only on the weekends and with reduced hours, or close the store and throw myself entirely into college life again.  For better or worse, I chose the latter.

It may be a tough time for bookstores all across the world, but I don’t see that as being a main or even major contributor to why I decided to close.  I have no other income, so any profits from the store naturally had to go to paying my bills.  Book sales fluctuated, but there was definitely a reticence from people towards buying new books, and especially new books at full price.  Their idea of the worth of a book has been completely overtaken by Amazon’s very cheap but very monopolizing business model:  undersell every book and make up the difference with shipping and the sale of other items.

Make no mistake, the book industry is changing.  But I firmly believe bookstores are viable and necessary, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon.  Mine will, but others won’t, and the fact that mine becomes a statistic makes me more upset than the fact of it closing in the first place.  Books are thriving, and many stores are out there every day kicking butt and making money.  Just because mine, personally, did not work out for me doesn’t mean anything about the state of books.

I’m quoted in a Reading Eagle article on the closing as saying “were the economy more hospitable…” I would have kept the store open.  Which is partially true, although it was borne more out of a desire to sound succinct and also to end an interview I wasn’t in the mood to give than a thoroughly thought-through statement.  Sure, people don’t want to spend a lot of money.  Certainly in Berks County this can be true more often than not.  Sure, I’m struggling to pay my bills on what I make from the store.  And sure, those problems can be chalked up to an inhospitable economy, to some extent.  But I made a profit last year and I would venture to say I would have gone on to make one this year, if only marginally.  But to throw all my eggs in the ‘cheap human beings’ basket belies the nature of small business, and especially self-owned small businesses with no employees.  I took a chance that the shop would support me and itself, and it didn’t.  Now I move on and try something new, something that I already know I enjoy, and try to support myself editing or writing or even teaching if I get my PhD.  That is a new path and an exciting one and I’m looking forward to it.  Onward!

Hot Weather and Doing Nothing

Well I’m 0/3 with writing my blog post on Fridays.  A sterling record!

It’s been hard to do much in my free time these past few weeks: I was on a streak of reading a lot of new books and that was great and made me feel like I was being a good little bookshop owner, keeping up with the times.

Then, inevitably, I hit the Book Overload — that point at which I can’t take in any more new information (for the time being) and need to do something else until the feeling passes.  Usually I read a palate cleanser: a book I know and love and preferably have already read a dozen times.  Books like this require little concentration on my part — I’m re-reading for the experience, rather than the content.  So that’s what I’ve been doing the last week or so, re-reading some old standards.  Right now it’s ENDYMION by Dan Simmons, the third book in a sci-fic tetralogy that is one of my absolute favorites.  But the times when I actually feel like reading it are few and far between.

It’s so hard for me to function when it’s hot out.  It’s probably lucky, for the most part, that I spend the bulk of my days at the store, where working is not an option but a requirement and the air conditioner is quite effective.  (Side Note: did you know that, colloquially, the British use “quite” to mean “average” or “a little” whereas we use it for emphasis, or to show extra emotion?  Makes me worry about having accidentally used the word in passing to a Brit and not realizing my statement wasn’t accurate in their mind to my meaning!) But when I’m not at the store, I tend to laze about.  Whatever takes the least effort is usually the thing voted for: Netflix or a movie.  I’m getting a lot of titles checked of my “To Watch” list, which is nice, but it does make me feel rather unaccomplished.

But I will have something to do tonight!  It will be my first time actually participating in That’s What She Said on bctv, and I’m looking forward to the experience!

Books and the Longest Day of the Year


Hello and cheers and how-de-doo.  I missed my Friday post last week (my first post, so I already have a fantastic track record here!) so I though I’d post on the longest day of the year!  This is NOT the longest post of the year, rest assured.

A lot of my days and nights are spent at The Wise Owl, my bookstore, shelving and rearranging and inputting titles into inventory and goodness all the dusting.  But in-between those times I manage some of reading.  That’s the fantasy everyone has about bookstore owners and booksellers: that somehow we just sit around all day and READ and the store just runs itself while we’re off in Narnia or Oz.  Not so, I’m afraid, though I wish it were.  The business-end of books is the most exasperating, and makes you second-guess yourself and your ideas more than anything.  A book sells well one week, but not the next.  You move a book one shelf over from where it’s been for months and suddenly you sell out!  There’s no rhyme or reason and you spend a lot of time worrying that everything is in it’s optimal place.

But BETWEEN all that, I do read.  A lot.  At home, in the tub, in bed, on the couch, at the store, on my head if I could although I don’t know why I would…

Right now I’m reading two books: an advance reading copy of HORTEN’S INCREDIBLE ILLUSIONS by Lissa Evans, a sequel to the fantastic middle-grade reader book HORTEN’S MIRACULOUS MECHANISMS, about young S. Horten who inherits his mysterious great-uncle’s magical workshop.  The first was lovely and quirky and fun and the second promises to be exactly the same!

I’m also reading CALIBAN’S WAR by James S.A. Corey.  This one’s a sequel too — I love science fiction, and the first one was a combination of a gritty detective noir story and an epic space opera.  It also happens to be co-written by somebody I know so it makes me extremely happy that his novels are getting the attention and accolades they deserve!  I’m about 50 pages in (out of 595) and it is already a thrill-a-minute, a real edge-of-your-seater.  A great, exciting read for a long summer day!



Tootling ’round town today, happy as a clam, perhaps even happier, in my trusty 2cc, I was listening to NPR, which I like to think of as “Culture on the Go!” Does anyone listen to the radio whilst stationary? Rhetorical; I’m sure many do, however, I am not of that persuasion. The radio means the smell of the asphalt and the wind in my hair. Well truly, the wind in the scarf that covers my hair. At any rate, the road represents “freedom” to me, a freedom not felt whilst in the confines of my own home. Perhaps it was all those years being constricted by my late husband, Otto.

Where was I?…

Oh yes, road, 2cc, NPR…Well, there I was. And on came the most fascinating piece.

Sandor Ellix Katz, quite the name, was chatting about fermentation. Of food. He is a, or possibly, the, “fermentation revivalist.” His exploration and experimentation in the area of food preservation is seemingly encyclopedic. He has written a couple of volumes on the subject, his latest being “The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts.” Well la-di-da say I, in the most reverent way possible. If you are going to love a subject, I say, love it to the depths of your soul. And he certainly has. Perhaps this is what comes of being a Jew in Tennessee; one can only speculate. But yes, preservation!

Well, you all know, or should, that I am fascinated by anything to do with preservation. I love old books, papers, furniture, my 2cc, myself… To that preservationist end, I am currently soaking my face in a tub full of vinegar. This is not something Mr. Katz recommends, but I thought, “Why the heck not?” At the very least, it is refreshing, and allows me some quiet, albeit wet, time to share with all of you. The burning in my eyes is but a small price to pay for our wonderful time together!

I am very glad, however, that I invested in that waterproof and, it seems, vinegar-proof, case for my cellular telephone on which I am writing this entry. Frivolous then, prescient now.

Should you be interested in more information on Mr. Katz and his fermented life, you may follow this link: Wild Fermentation.

Oh my, my hands have gotten quite prune-y, and I’ve become overtaken by a strong desire for salad. Time to say, “Bye” for the while. Until next time we meet, here’s a thought: Try to live each day with a little more kindness than the day before. It’s just a thought.

Love, Jane