Saturday, December 5, 2009

Books are Dangerous

I was called down to the counter last week to talk to someone who had asked for the manager. Waiting for me was a priest, and he was holding this book, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. He said to me, "This book is very offensive to the Virgin Mary. I'm wondering if you also carry books that are offensive to Judaism and Islam." My response was "I'm sure we carry lots of books that are offensive to a lot of people." He was polite and thanked me and put the book back and left.
I know this sort of thing happens all the time. Once, back when the Balkan War was raging, a man with an Eastern European accent approached a Green Apple employee with a copy of The Lonely Planet Guide to Serbia and Croatia or something like that. The man was shaking with rage, and he said "They are two different places." The employee wasn't sure how to respond, and the man repeated what he'd said, then he ripped the book in two right in front of the employee.
My point is that most things are offensive to somebody. This story in the Chronicle got my dander up. It is about how bookstores in the Bay Area aren't carrying Sarah Palin's book because they disagree with her politics. I can see a bookstore not carrying a book because they honestly don't think they can sell a copy, but for a general-interest bookstore to edit a book out because they disagree with the contents seems like a slippery slope.
The point I want to make is that Green Apple does not stand behind every book we sell (we have our book of the month for that). The store is filled with all sorts of crackpot, idiotic, self-serving, meretricious and offensive books. There are also quite a number of worthy ones. Have at them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just passing through...

The Green Apple Core has been blogging now for a few months and I'm thrilled with the variety of content our eclectic staff has been producing, with the strong feedback we've received from fans across the globe, and with the manner that blogs like ours contribute to the greater community of readers. Green Apple Books certainly provides much to write about on a day to day basis, but on this day, I'm going to pass you on to another wonderful voice in this virtual conversation!

As many of you know, Roberto Bolano is a personal favorite of mine. His writing is so engaging, on so many levels, that I've often found myself wondering about his influences. What makes a great writer? A great thinker? A great communicator? Certainly the important books and authors that impacted their own lives would have something to do with it, yes? Well, over the course of the next two weeks we will all be lucky enough to gain access into these aspects of Robero Bolano's brief life through a wonderful series of blog posts by Tom McCartan of Melville House Books.

Tom was instrumental in the recent publication of Roberto Bolano: The Last Interview, which by the way, is an awesome little read. Yesterday, Tom launched the first of what will be many posts examining What Bolano Read. Melville House is one of the most exciting publishers to hit the scene in some time, and Tom is not only an important part of their equation, but by sharing things like What Bolano Read with the rest of us, his passion and commitment to the written word will enrich readers of all types (and all devices) for years to come. I encourage you to check it out.

Well done Tom, and thanks!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ebooks at Green Apple

LinkThe 21st century has arrived at Green Apple Books. Sigh.

Green Apple now offers ebooks for sale on our newly redesigned website.

If you're interested, here's our take on the whole ebook thing.

We love books printed on paper and bound with stitches or glue or whatever they use these days. We like their feel, their smell, their heft, their air of legitimacy. And so on. Preaching to the choir, I know.

Still, it's clear that ebooks have their place in this crazy world. We get it: great for traveling or buying a book while sitting at your desk. It's not the same as browsing Green Apple, sure, but a great book is a joy, no matter the format. (Formats we offer vary book to book, but include Palm eReader/iPhone, Adobe Digital Editions, Microsoft Reader, and more.)

We do take issue with Amazon's Kindle (for a more complete essay on the topic, may we recommend Nicholson Baker's New Yorker piece?). We bought a Kindle a few months ago, tried it out (secretly fearing we'd love it), and made a series of videos pitting the Kindle against a real book. Results are here and Round 5 is below. Frankly, we think the Kindle is lame for many reasons, and that it will be the "8-track" of e-readers in a few years (or months). It does nothing but display books (no web browser, can't make phone calls, etc.). Its "text-to-voice" feature is laughably bad. And Amazon can and has unilaterally removed books from customers' Kindles. And the books you "buy" from them are only yours and readable as long as you have a working Kindle--no other formats are supported. And no one else can sell you a book for the Kindle except Amazon. Which can/could/will limit your choices in the marketplace. And Amazon has bullied publishers pretty hard into reducing prices at great risk to the industry's overall viability. . . .and so on.

Phew. End of rant. Sorry.

It is also worth noting that the whole ebook thing is still evolving. Publishers, the initial gatekeepers between writers and readers, are presently trying to figure out a sustainable pricing model, when to release ebook versions, etc. So the selection is spotty. For example, some Murakami books are available as ebooks, and some aren't. Prices vary widely, too. We'll do our best to keep up with the evolving marketplace, and we've done our best to discount ebooks from their "list" prices to compete well.

So now you can read ebooks and support your favorite locally owned independent bookstore. With your support, we'll be here for all your reading needs for years to come, "e" or otherwise. Remember, if you buy a Kindle, you can't buy your ebooks from Green Apple (or anyone but Amazon).

But now at last, with non-Kindle ebook readers, you can support Green Apple, so that when you're on your way to a birthday party and need a quick gift, one that can be felt and read and passed on to others, we'll still be here for you. In person.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Small Discoveries in My Quest for Holiday Gifts





Sunday, November 29, 2009

A New Literary History of America...

Looking for the perfect gift for some who reads, but seems to have read everything? Or even that person who loves to read but has yet to figure what they like? Who am I kidding, anyone should want this book...

A New Literary History of America is Harvard University Press' new Anthology of what America "is". Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors have created a new American history book, a history of the minds and voices of the American people in more than two hundred essays.

A New Literary History of America begins with an essay about 1507 when "America" first appears on a map. Thus begins the history of America from the Salem witch trials 1n 1692 to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Marc Amfreville's essay, 1978 - American Gothic begins with a quote from Paul Auster's Ghosts to introduce a facinating essay on Charles Brockden Brown, one of the very first American authors.

1821, June 30 - Junius Brutus Booth is another captivating essay that shows how the father of John Wilkes Booth had brought romantic acting, and largely Shakespeare, to the American stage. It is through these sort of essays- Greil Marcus on Moby-Dick, Angus Fletcher on Whitman and Leaves of Grass, Luc Sante on the invention of the Blues- that a very literary America is melded with the historical America- The invention of the Winchester Rifle, The San Francisco Earthquake, The skyscraper, etc - that gives us a truely historical America, rich with culture and industry.

There is so much to this collection of essays, with over 1,045 pages from the beginning to November 4, 2008 when Barack Obama is elected president. This is a very important collection, that will be cherished by generations to come.