Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Book Distributing Takes a Pounding

So, a big distributor is running itself like Enron, eh?

Rather reminds me of when I was working at SuperCrown, where I would probably be working to this day if they hadn’t gone under in 2000.

One of my bosses there told me that they had gone bankrupt seven or eight times, and that this time the company was going on the auction block. It took about a year after the initial announcement for the company to slowly slide into the dumper. It was sad.

The story went that the reason they ran out of money was that the father and son that owned it kept suing each other. There was never any real journalistic investigation into this—every so often I google “SuperCrown”, to see if some business pundit has done some kind of analysis of what went wrong, but apparently everyone was too busy paying attention to the Elián González story to worry about the problems of a bookstore chain, and it got lumped in with a few other businesses that were tanking at the time. People lost their jobs, short shrift was paid.

But the more I think of it, it's not hard to believe that SuperCrown could have been doing some Enron-style wheeling and dealing. Lord knows there were enough corrupt store managers and supervisors that stole from the store after they counted the money at the end of the night. There were two who did it during the two and a half years I worked there, and I could see how the way things were done could make this a company-wide epidemic--very poor security measures, promoting people that may not have been mature enough to take on the responsibilities of management.

One of them was absolutely flamboyant about it, he waited until the Christmas season, when there would have been a huge amount of business for the store. On the evening when the coffers swelled to about $4000, he counted up the cash, stuck it in his backpack, and skateboarded off into the night.

Over this past Xmas, I went over to Barnes & Noble (I had to, two people had given me gift cards) and caught up with one of my old SuperCrown buddies, who has managed to become the head of the children's department there. When this particular B&N opened, I managed to get a job helping open it--the bastards broke my heart by dropping me after three days. Anyway, my friend and another person that works there that I know from working with them at Carl's Jr, want me to apply, so I'm going to gear up to go get a job there around March to get a jump on the summer hiring season. This time I want them to hang on to me. It's not that I don't enjoy my four-legged charges, it's just that I get tired of picking up dog poo.

I'm starting to think that reading is rapidly becoming the domain of the well to do (not if people like me--and I'm sure, like you as well, can help it, though). But think about it: People that are too poor not to work two jobs don't really have time to read, and are usually so tired they flop down in front of a reality show before they read a book. And going to the big chain stores, you don't see a lot of books from those smaller publishers--just a lot of prepackaged "For Dummies" type of drek. And hardback books are jumping in price--it's not unheard of to see them for around forty bucks now.

I'm happy that I have a lot of literate (and literary) friends. I hope that the next time you get a jones for some books, you'll think of buying directly from a small publisher.

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