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The Myth About Barnes & Noble

The Myth About Barnes and Noble

I've followed with interest the discussion about the need to support
independent book sellers like Book Central.  I was especially touched by the
outpouring of support for our fledgling enterprise.  It was a much needed,
and much appreciated, boost as we get set to launch a new, expanded catalog
with three new sections and over 20 new titles.

I can understand Trish's desire to save money when buying books, especially
when it means saving a whopping $12.20 off an otherwise $34.95 book.  That is
no small about of savings!  While I have never shopped at barnesandnoble.com,
I have bought from amazon.com.  It's hard to resist, especially when you live
in upstate New York and there is not one bookstore IN THE ENTIRE COUNTY.  So
I know from experience that it is possible to save money, and in some cases a
good amount, when you shop at the big book discounters.

But if you think that you will always save money and get the best deal for
your money, you have bought into the great Barnes and Noble Myth that they
have spent a lot of resources and energy to propagate.

At Book Central we do not try to carry every book on the planet.  We only
carry how-to books about the book arts.  We don't even try and carry all of
those.  We favor process- oriented books (how to make your own book) over
project-oriented books (how to make this book) and we try to filter out those
coffee table books with great photos and lousy instructions.  We listen to
our customers and their suggestions have helped mold and define our list of
titles.  We specialize in finding unusual books by small publishers and we
keep every book we carry in stock.  It is a rare occasion when we do not ship
an order on the day it is received.

Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, has big problems when it comes to small
publishers--and you are often the one who pays for it.  It is not unusual for
them (and amazon.com) to tack on an extra charge when you want anything out
of the ordinary and keep you waiting up to 5 weeks while they try to track
down a copy.  I went exploring at barnesandnoble.com and I was surprised by
some of the results.

The biggest shock was when I looked up "Bookbinding for Book Artists" by
Keith Smith and Fred Jordan. This is one of the most important books about
the book arts published in the past year.  You can order it from Barnes and
Noble for $39.95 and wait "3-5 weeks" for your copy, or you can get it from
Book Central for the list price of $35.00 and it will be shipped the day that
we receive your order.  They will sell you "Teaching Hand Papermaking" for
$29.90, or you can pay the list price at Book Central which is $24.95.  We
carry "Carving Stamps" in stock.  At Barnes and Nobel they want you to wait
3-5 weeks for a copy.  When I searched for "The New Gocco Guide", the closest
Barnes and Noble could come was "Certified Study Guide for Certified Cost
Engineers."  That's a $35 book that won't be much help when it comes to
making books!

In our new catalog you will find a great basic guide to learning how to draw,
"The Drawing Book."  This book is about to go out of print, but we were able
to get the last 50 copies from the warehouse (they didn't even show up on the
computer) at a special price and we are passing the savings on to our

It's true that you can save as much as 30% by shopping at Barnes and Noble.
But more likely, the saving is 20%, not at all, or you may even have to pay
extra.  We feel that when you factor in our carefully chosen selection, the
prompt service, the reduced shipping charges and the extra bonuses for volume
orders, Book Central is a wise and valuable resource for building your book
arts library.

There are other reasons to shop with us, but I don't like to talk about them
since we like to surprise our customers.  Let's just say that we value our
customers and we wouldn't be able to pay our bills if we couldn't count on
the repeat business of satisfied buyers.

This discussion started because I recommended "Japanese Bookbinding."  This
is a classic text that belongs in every book artist's library.  Not only was
it the first, but it is still the best and most comprehensive text when it
comes to the wide variety of Japanese structures.  But you also get an
important bonus: the best guidance that you will ever find on how to back
fabric with paper.  There are clear instructions and easy to follow
step-by-step photos.   The best part are the tips and techniques that make
the process so easy and successful: like how to move a large sheet of pasted
paper using a ruler or dowel, how to adhere the backed fabric to a drying
board so that it drys flat and taunt, and how to insert a paper tab on one
side to facilitate the removal from the drying board.  Trust me on this, it's
a great book.

Even though I think that this is a valuable book at any price, I was still
disappointed that there was such a large price difference at Barnes and
Noble.  I called the publisher and they proved to be incredibly nice.  They
told me that, yes, there is a new printing and the current list price is
$34.95.  When Barnes and Noble has to reorder, they will have to raise their
prices accordingly.  Even so, it is a fact of life that they will still be
able to sell it cheaper than we can.  However, there's some good news.  The
publisher has agreed to sell this book to Book Central based on the old list
price ($32.50) until September 30, 1999.  It's a small savings, but we hope
it helps put this important book in more hands.

Just a quick final word about the new Book Central catalog that will be
available May 1.  We are introducing three new sections ("Illustration and
Design," "Writing and Creating Text" and "Surviving as a Book Artist") and
over 20 new titles.  We've been able to track down some unexpected, but very
helpful texts.  We've also added some surprises that fall under the heading
"Just for Fun".  Please give Book Cental a try.  We can promise you a
comprehensive selection and good service.  You might even end up saving some

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