It’s The Economy, Bookworm!

The economy is sadder than the Prince Regent confronting an empty larder.

And although the romance genre isn’t hurting as much as other genres, publishing houses are facing economic downturns.

Already, book retailers are warning that only the big names will be moving significant numbers, and houses taking chances on new names are decreasing. Random House is trying to combat the book malaise by launching a new campaign to spur sales: “Books=Gifts,” promoting the value of books as holiday gifts. Several big name authors such as Dean Koontz and Maya Angelou are lending their names and their words to the campaign, and Random House is not limiting its promotion to its own company’s books. The campaign reaches both old and new media outlets in its ad buys.

I love giving books, although I like best giving them TO ME. I find, however, that gift book giving is an idiosyncratic notion, because asking someone to read a book is a serious commitment. You can’t just toss something at them and expect them to jump right in.

How do you decide who to buy books for? What kinds of books do you buy? Do you always sneak in a book for yourself? Do you need help with suggestions for books for anyone on your list? What’s the oddest book someone has ever gotten for you?

Happy Book Buying!


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14 years ago

Instead of launching book as gifts, the industry should think about ways to lower the costs. Two of my favorite writers are going hardback with their new books in the midst of a series. I can’t afford hardback. but I don’t have any will power. So I will buy the hardback at half price used a month or so later. Everyone loses. Likewise, the industry has published more and more larger paperbacks in lieu of mass paperbacks.

I have always bought my kids books. If I know that someone loves a certain writer, I will buy the book. But being a reader with decided tastes, I also think gift certificates to book stores is a better option in many cases.

Cara King
14 years ago

Flip, I suspect the difficulty with lowering costs is that bookstores are going out of business left and right, and publishers are in trouble too. Writers have been in trouble a long time. So there’s not a lot of belt-tightening that can be done… I sympathize with you on the series that goes hardback halfway through, though! I think what I generally do in such cases, if I don’t want to spring for the hardback, is get the book from the library, and then buy the paperback when it comes out… 🙂

Megan, I decided a while ago that when any gift-buying occasion comes round for my niece and nephews, I always give them books. (Someone has to!)

As to other folks, I certainly am careful. I know I can give certain sorts of mysteries to my mom and mother-in-law, and they’ll get read. And I can give certain SF books to my one brother, and they’ll eventually get read, too.

I agree that giving people random books is iffy…there are SO many books on my TBR list that I’m unlikely to read anything randomly given to me unless it’s from someone whose taste I know is very like mine, and they tell me it’s a must-read. Then I’ll read it. (Eventually.) 😉


14 years ago

I was blessed with the gift of learning to read at age 5. I was VERY blessed with a father who thought reading was important and wonderful and who encouraged me by weekly library trips and special occasion trips to the bookstore.

I was later blessed with finding a husband who loved reading and books as much as I do. He began his collecting as a gift from an older brother who passed on all his books to DH. We are now “blessing” others as we start to downsize and must give away a large portion of the more than 4000 books that inhabit a whole bedroom of our home.

We passed on our “addiction” to our son, who read at age 2 and now at age 30 owns a library comparable to ours.

So, obviously, giving and receiving books is a big part of our family life.

I will continue to do as we have always done- books will be a large part of the pile under our Christmas tree. I will continue to encourage others to read. Other than that I don’t know exactly what else I can do.

Feeling frustrated, obviously.

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I remember reading somewhere that it only costs the publisher about $1 more to print a hardback over a paperback.

I often give gift cards to bookstores to my writing friends. It would be stupid for me to buy books for my family, because I’d never guess correctly what they would like.

One year, years ago, my husband gave me a whole pile of books on Cats. I really loved that gift!

I’m hoping that people still buy books. They are cheaper than vacations and dinners out and things like that.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

On my husband’s side of the family we do Amazon wish lists, which is lovely, because I get a big stack of books that are exactly to my taste! My husband occasionally grumbles at me because my list is usually at least half research books, which to him feels like I’m asking him to buy textbooks or something. So I make sure to put a few books that are obviously All About The Entertainment Value on the list, all the while trying to convince him that of all the books on my current list, the one that would make me happiest is Maxims and Opinions of Field-Marshal His Grace the Duke of Wellington, Selected From His Writings and Speeches During a Public Life of More Than Half a Century. Just to name this year’s research lust tome.

My family doesn’t do wish lists, so buying books is harder. But for the ones I know love to read, I do my best. I rarely read inspirational romance, but a lot of the other women in my family love it, so I try to keep an eye out on review sites for something they may not be familiar with. And my oldest nephew is getting ready for his second deployment to Iraq. When I asked him what he liked to read last time, he said, “anything with words.” While I was tempted to take this literally and send him the lab protocols I had to proof at work, I ended up sending him a mix of Neil Gaiman, CS Lewis, Bernard Cornwell, along with sports and popular science magazines. Those seemed to go over well, so I’m already keeping an eye out for some “same but different” for him.

14 years ago

I usually try to give a book as a baby shower gift (Pat the Bunny is a favorite) to start a child’s life off right. I give books whenever possible, but I rarely take a shot in the dark. One of my dearest friends was telling me about a book she really wanted but didn’t dare buy yet (too busy with class). I know how she loves anticipating, especially if she knows what’s coming. So while we chatted on the phone, I went to Amazon, bought it, gift wrapped, and sent. It’s sitting at her house, ready to be under the tree, and she’s delighted. Amazon wish lists are great! I have no trouble asking for a list of preferences. I would never simply buy a book from out of the blue. I’d probably be wrong. Another friend loves romance, but we have very different tastes in authors, so I ask first. I have occasionally gone the gift certificate route, but somehow it wasn’t as much fun and choosing the right book. Anyone who buys a book for me, goes through my wish list. Can’t think of any unwanted books because they can always be shared.

Pam Rosenthal
14 years ago

Last year I gave every woman on my list (AND my son) a copy of Katha Pollitt’s funny, sad, brilliant, fabulously-written, outrageous, and wildly erudite memoir, Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories. In hardback. This year it’s out in paper with a better cover.

I don’t usually do this, but with Pollitt’s book I was, like, if you care about ME you’ll care about THIS. And everybody did.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I love getting bookstore gift cards, because then I get to go shopping and not spend any money (though I usually do, because invariably my wishlist in the store is greater than the amount of the card…). I also love getting books from wishlists I give my family every year around this time.

And I buy books whenever possible for gifts, but I don’t just randomly throw books at people. 🙂 Luckily most of my friends and family member have something they enjoy reading about, and it’s easy to match that interest (except my brother, who reads like 2 books a year–I think either he or I must be adopted, LOL)

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments! I hope we all give and get what we want this year, and that books continue to thrive. The Lipstick Index is up, we should try to get the Book Index up, too (the LI says that the worse the economy is, the more lipstick women buy).

Elena Greene
14 years ago

My husband, kids and I always have books on our wish lists. I also give carefully selected historical romances to my best friend from high school. Other than that, I don’t ever feel confident I can predict someone else’s taste so I give bookstore giftcards instead.

My kids’ teachers are always curious about my books so I give them autographed copies. One of them says I write as well as Nora Roberts, LOL. She’s good for my confidence. 🙂

Louisa Cornell
14 years ago

Hey, Megan, we need to start a campaign that encourages women to spend their lipstick money on books!! Something along the lines of “Reading romance is so sexy you don’t need lipstick!”

My niece and nephews know they will get at least one book on every important occasion – birthdays, Halloween, Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas. I used to pick them out myself, but now I get a typed list from each of them! We have read the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series together. After we went to each of the Lord of the Rings movies together I bought my oldest nephew, Bo, a beautiful collectors edition of the books.

My Mom loves romance novels so I buy her books by all of the authors I know. She is getting a number of Risky books this year. She also loves the Mossy Creek series so I buy those as each one comes out. I actually let her read the manuscript of Lost in Love recently. She loved it and can’t understand why it hasn’t sold yet. She is only slightly biased. LOL

I have an Amazon wish list this year and it is ALL research books along with a few DVDs (all Regency set films!) Hey, you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I fully intend to do my part to keep the historical romance genre alive and lucrative!!

Its not fattening! You can’t get cancer from it. It is a renewable resource. It lessens the chance of Alzheimers. What’s not to love about a book!

Megan Frampton
14 years ago

Love this, Louisa:

“Its not fattening! You can’t get cancer from it. It is a renewable resource. It lessens the chance of Alzheimers. What’s not to love about a book!”

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

One year I gave everyone Cold Mountain because I thought it was so wonderful (and Pam told me to read the Kathe Pollitt, which I did, and loved). I have a rule of never paying retail, so I go to the Dedalus books warehouse near where I live and where you can find all sorts of oddities. But for people in England I grit my teeth and use Amazon so the mailing costs don’t kill me.

Michelle Styles
14 years ago

Actually, Harlequin Mills & Boon is doing fine. http://living.scotsman.com/books/Mills-and-Boom.4656074.jp
According to the Scotsman on 4 Nov 2008, they are one of the real winners of the credit crunch. It should be remember that mass market paperbacks, and in particular series books are an affordable pleasure, just like lipstick.
HMB, and romance has proven resilient in economic downturns before. The 1970s were a boom time for romance as were the 1930s…

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Michelle, I’m delighted that Mills & Boon is doing fine!!!!!

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