tv About Books Janet Webster Jones of Source Booksellers and a Preview of... CSPAN November 20, 2021 7:30pm-8:01pm EST
>> host: welcome to the about books program and podcast. we will talk with janet webster jones, owner of the booksellers about how she's navigated bookselling during the pandemic. we will also look at the latest books on politics and current affairs. but first, let's start with this week's publishing industry news. penguin random house, the largest book publisher in the u.s. recently made an offer to buy simon and schuster. the justice department filed suit but now the authors guild has weighed in saying we are heartened by the strong consistent focus on authors and its understanding of the fact that authors inevitably lose income when there's competition that impacts the public because
fewer important books are written. the $2.2 billion merger between penguin and a simon and schuster was announced last year. the publishers intend to contest the decision. in other words, britain's largest literary prize was awarded this week. this year's prize was given to south african author damon for his book the promise. this was his third nomination and first time receiving the prize. and in other news, the library association has announced their finalists for this year's andrew carnegie metals for excellence 400 sold, by e brown can be. a little devil when america is also nominated, and kristin. the winner will be enabled january 203rd. the national book awards are being held on november 17th in new york city.
it is a virtual event this year and as always, booktv will be covering it. finally, according to the bookscan, print sales rose 12% for the week ending october 30th. that means they are up 10.5% for the year. joining us now on adult books is janet webster jones, co-owner of source booksellers in detroit. how long have you had your bookstore, and where are you located? >> it's a pleasure once again to be on c-span. we've been in business since 1989 so about 32 years we've been going on, 33. in the process we have had several changes that we have gone through in the pandemic.
>> what is the last year and a half almost two years been like for you? >> when the stay-at-home orders came down from our governors, we didn't close the business and i feel proud of that because my instinct wasn't to close the business knowing that it takes more effort. in that process, my daughter quickly got us onto online sales which we had chosen not to do because we always wanted a relational business however the pandemic taught me a new name and new possibility. people began to buy online quite quickly because everyone was at home and that is what they were doing i was tracking down grants that would help us to get through this period of time. i had almost paid off all of the
bills but we did get rent relief from our midtown detroit organization. we did acquire other grains over time between early april and may, and i think there was one in june. by that time things had begun to change, given the george floyd murder and all the social interest and problems that came about. people wanted to know, and because we are in nonfiction books are primarily and i say primarily because we do have our wild side i will tell you about in a minute. we had many of the books people were asking for, and that put us in a position to be able to mail out to corporations that would have been having conferences that they asked to have books sent to people by mail.
small nonprofit independent near underground town and across the state. people calling in coming in on the online site so that changed how the business operated and worked. it came down to the two of us, my daughter and i, and the other two ladies that work on the store that were on temporary leave. so it was a pretty heady time if i needed to have age-old and get going on a new pass, that did it for me and i was able to find the support that we needed and we started having a fulfillment in the locations of that is what happened during that time and it went from scary to shocking right now i'm just filled with gratitude that we have been able
to come this far with the help of so many people including c-span. >> we've checked in with janet webster jones throughout the pandemic to see how they are going and to keep the emotions that she's feeling as business changes during the pandemic, but you said also you are mainly in nonfiction shop, but you have a wild side. what is that while the slide? >> i like to tell a little story that one of my customers told me before. he said he did his works out in either kansas or iowa. the grandmother would say keep it nice and clean, keep your edges wild. i picked up that idea of keeping the edges wild so while we are basically a nonfiction book store with five to seven major categories, we also have our
wild side, so that is science fiction, prize-winning authors, novels and poetry which is a bridge anyway. now and then, a little mystery and a few other things, so that is our wild side even though we keep our categories pretty clean with our history and culture and books by and about women, the physical, spiritual. we've expanded with our biography memoir section, young adult fiction. the lgbtq section and some other things that are more current. >> you list yourself as a black owned business. is that important to say out loud? >> of course because i'm a black african-american negro woman, so i have all of those labels with me my entire life.
we are a black owned business and our books are reflective of that but we are not entirely black titled were black authors because our categories one of the other things i do like to keep in mind is that we have had many groups that have come to and through detroit. often times for example african tales, chinese tales when i can get books about any of these that come through there was a young man in california that i adored. so we've carried his book and the story. some of them are here and some
are still with the cross-cultural and multicultural civilization of the books in the store. >> your daughter did a lot of the online sales. what percentage of the books are now sold online as opposed to in person? >> that's changing. it started at the beginning everything was online and we had many sales online. as time went on, people began to get more comfortable and the restrictions started to ease then the online sales came down a little bit and the phone call sales and e-mail sales started going up and even though that is true right now we have two or three or four online sales every day, but the other thing that has helped us a great deal is that we have corporate sales that come in with a large number of the publisher got us going
with, so those have helped and as a result of the revenue the s have changed when we were not online and doing in-store sales, that was primarily the online sales with a few off-site sales as well. now we have a very different revenue stream model that includes audiobooks through bookshop which we are affiliated, online sales on our own website. i still use the telephone a lot. that's my connection to the world i think because i don't really go anywhere and so i talked to people by phone and of course people send messages by e-mail.
another person that will help me with some of the back office things that's kind of where we stand now and it's hard to say what percentage because it changes daily. >> are you fully reopened and how is the foot traffic? >> we are fully open. people call and inquire. we don't have a big announcement on the site, but the good news is we have expanded during this pandemic time period we've been able to do a lot more business. in a lot of ways it's kind of a hybrid now where the in-house bookstore whether brick and mortar and online and accepting large orders from the corporations and nonprofit schools and things like that so
we were set up in the store so we had envelopes set up and now that we have expanded and taken over this space that is next door to us it isn't quite a double but a little bit less than double the space with a back office operations so we can give the customers much more freedom of movement. i always have music on so that they can be calm and quiet and give them the chance to move about the store. now it's more horizontal than it was vertical before so now it's a fruit door back and horizontal store. that's where we stand now and we
are learning to move around. >> i look forward to seeing the expanded space at some point. you mentioned the george floyd tragedy and how in a sense you were prepared for that as far as the books you had in shop. can you explain that a little bit? >> when that happened it was quite an international situation that happened. we had a books such as how to be antiracist and as such as the american slave. and we had books by eddie cloud and isabella wilkerson. we had brian stevenson's book and so many others that came
out. how did you talk about race by somebody else. we have books on native american people that are michigan-based as well as other parts of the country, and so our category of nonfiction really benefited us at that time. it gave us a chance to share what we already knew and then to find other things. we found people in the organizations wanted to have book groups and clubs at home. they were reading with each other across the room and so we were able to send books to the residences as a result of some new things that happened in publishing and distribution. for example, the ship to home operation by calling up the distributor and having them send the book directly to the home of the person, that was a huge boom for us, like the idea of special orders full-blown so that helped
us a great deal. we had other books that were children's books that helped us and we have a new book now called we moved together, which is about disability, so i think that incident has given rise to so many other ways of looking at the world and knowing about the world and of course people want their children to be better informed than they were perhaps about the issue of race, class, gender and as a whole ball of wax that we are talking about now. so that has been a benefit of the community and even what you believe we've sent books to canada which isn't really far from us but across the whole united states and england and belgium and new zealand and
australia, mexico we've had to learn how to be a shipment and fulfillment center and i have to give high praise to my daughter for that because she's stuck right with it and try to keep everything in order going on so this shut down order, the pandemic, the virus, all of it has had such a impact negative as well as positive and some a little bit of both. i wouldn't have guessed before this that we would be where we are today because i never dreamed up this story. it just happened organically from the hard work, opportunity and taking risk. here we are at another new place and i'm grateful for it and to the publishers that have opened up the doors to help independent
booksellers and people that were viable during this time period. >> that is another change that has happened in the last couple of years is the diversity in new york and in the publishing world. has that affected you? lisa lucas is now publishing. it's expanded now. has that made a difference to you? >> i absolutely think so we are more representative of the population of the country. it's just to the consciousness and awareness have grown and the opportunities for people to come into this industry which is a global industry as you know, to come into this industry and participate. i will give you an example of that. i never paid a lot of attention when i got started with books to illustration but illustration has come into its own and we
happen to have a college with creative studies here in detroit that has that illustration and inthe environment. a young man came in with a regular customer of ours through the years. he has just graduated and had taken an illustration and i confidently told him look into the book industry. books have covers and they needed the design antitype that i know you've learned about so this may be a career for a young person such as that. i wouldn't have thought about that years ago but it's something available now and i'm not sure how people get to it but i can point them in the right direction and hopefully they will take the ball and go over there. the industry has changed dramatically. we have these talents and capacities of people in our midst all along, but the
you can find her and her daughter allison and sourcebook. topping the list is tabitha brown's self-help book because it's my business, that's followed by wayne state university professor detroit and 50 map source booksellers is very close to wayne state. after that is bibliophile diverse spines a collection of curated lists meant to diversify the reader's library. michael eric dyson's most recent book is also on the source bestsellers and it is an examination of the race in america and it's entitled entertaining race. wrapping up some of the best selling books is the recount of
the life of malcolm x it's looking at the latest publishing news and nonfiction books "new york times" columnist joined us on our monthly author call in program. here is a quick portion of that program. >> there's lots of people who have something happen where they are like what i thought was true about the world isn't actually true or what i thought, but thee medical or political system told me doesn't seem to be actually true and lots of people have those experiences in our politics over the last 20 years from 9/11 through the iraq war through the financial crisis and the way that experts made all
these predictions about the benefits of trade with china that did not work out for significant portions of the country. you can go down the list there benny series of moments where the experts said to saddam hussein and weapons of mass destruction. they said at the housing bubble would never burst and opening up to china would be good for america and make it more liberal. none of these things happened so you have this deep skepticism about the sort of elite political narratives just as you end up with skepticism about the medical narratives so the question is what do you do then and the challenge is once you've had one of those experiences, you obviously are going to be skeptical of the sort of consensus of the official ideas that is inevitable but you don't want to assume everything outside of the establishment is right. they got a bunch of things wrong
and therefore i'm going to trust outsiders the way i use to trust the establishment and that is the mistake of the fringe you have the sort of populist mistake where it's like cnn and the media liberal got all these things wrong so i'm going to trust absolutely everything i hear from conservative sources and in fact you want this skepticism that runs both ways a reminder that in depth is liable in the first sunday of every month. next month will be author historian victor davis hanson whose latest book the dying citizen offers his thoughts on immigration. here's some other new politics in the current affairs titles. woke racism columbia university linguistics professor weizen on race in america.
legal journalist at linda greenhouse examines how the supreme court has changed in the past two years. she covered it for "the new york times" the most recent is called justice on the brink. and molly hemingway argues that the media and the democratic party use covid-19 to seize power and former nfl quarterback and activist has a new book as well. he offers a collection of essays on policing and the judicial system in abolition for the people. andrew yang argues america's current economic and political systems are outdated and offers recommendations to address both. andrew recently spoke about his book on the author interview program "after words." >> millions of americans stand up and say wait a minute this
duopoly is tearing the country apart if enough of us stood up and say we have to make this a democracy for the different views have opened primaries, and again i think there should be five parties and if we have the shifting coalition if they woke up today they would be shocked and horrified by the fact we have these parties until we are in a country that we will not be able to recognize.
it's going to be because the dynamic did not change and even though 62% of americans want a third party and think that both parties are out of touch, the duopoly knows to keep them to suppress the will of the american people. to the collective detriment. >> that was the presidential candidate talking about his most recent book. that program airs weekly and is available as podcast on c-span now. here's a look at some books being published. pulitzer prize-winning reporter and creator of the project nicole hannah jones expands upon the research and the history of slavery in america. in the clock and the calendar doug collins of georgia offers a first-hand account of president trump's 2019 impeachment hearing
and chief washington correspondent jonathan carl examines the aftermath of the 2020 election his newest book is called betrayal. historian james morgan explains how america became involved in the vietnam war. in reclamation, thomas jefferson's monticello recalls efforts to have sally hemmings recognized as a descendent of the family and reflects on her own connection to hemmings and jefferson. that is a look at this week's publishing news and the latest nonfiction books. thanks for joining us on about books available as a podcast on c-span now or wherever you get your