Amazon vs. Division St.

April 25, 2009

david-vs-goliathIt’s the same old story. David vs. Goliath. Big vs. little. New school vs. old school. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The New York Times has published this article about internet giant  In this recession, Amazon has not struggled.  They are actually fairing better than the competition. Amazon has posted an increase in profit for the most recent quarter. 

Some analysts say Amazon has benefited from the downturn, with struggles at the Borders book chain, the bankruptcy of Circuit City and turbulence at a rival, eBay, all driving traffic to The company said its electronics and general merchandise sales were up 38 percent, while media sales rose 7 percent.

“Brick-and-mortar companies are going bankrupt and going out of business altogether and that is helping Amazon gain market share,” said Imran Khan, an analyst atJPMorgan

Division St. has the scars that illustrate the effects of this battle.  River City Books has closed.  Bookfellows will close in May. At Monkey See, Monkey Read, we are hanging on and hoping for greener pastures this summer. I wrote this piece about how well we compete with amazon. I think our prices are fair.  We buy back your used books and offer generous trade credit. I offer up what I think is a pretty good selection of books. I feel that we provide a good service to the community.

At the end of the day, like any small business, we need to turn a profit to survive. The empty storefronts in Northfield reflect the difficulties a small town and small businesses face in this crowded marketplace.  Capitalism is cut-throat. As retailers, we need to find ways to better serve our customers if we want to succeed.  The buying public will decide what businesses survive and which ones go away. I consider myself to be an optimist. I plan to be a survivor.  I welcome your comments.

Coop has landed

April 24, 2009

coopbookcover-65x100Mike Perry’s latest book Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting has arrived at Monkey See, Monkey Read.  We’ve got a stack of copies along with plenty of Mike’s other books. Mike will read from Coop Tuesday, May 5, 7:30 pm at the Northfield Arts Guild.  I’m pleased to bring Mike back to Northfield.  This will be his third visit to our fair town.  He never disappoints. There are few writers whose books I will read more than once.  Mike is one such person. The book is already getting favorable reviews.  I read an advance copy last month.  I love it. Coop picks up where Truck: A Love Story left off. I’ve posted a video Mike made about the book here. If you need any of Mike’s books, we’ve got some bargain priced copies of Truck and Population 485 in the store now.  These won’t last long.

Monocog Ride Report

April 21, 2009


I took my new Redline Monocog out for it’s maiden voyage last Saturday. I had the chance to ride  Murphy-Hanrehan.  Murphy is my favorite trail in the metro.  The ride starts out rather easy and gets progressively more difficult with lots of logs and rocks to maneuver. The bike handled beautifully.  The Monocog is a single speed 29er.  One gear, 29 inch wheels and a steel frame.  It’s a bare bones bike without disc brakes.  Simplicity at it’s best, something I really like. I was amazed at how easily it handled this course. It didn’t take much effort to get the bike rolling and once I had it moving it was a breeze.  I had no problem keeping up with riders on full suspension bikes.  In fact, I passed many riders on high end bikes.

Ben Witt at Milltown Cycles sold me this bike in January. Ben knows his stuff when it comes to bikes.  I think he learned a lot from Mike at Mike’s Bikes and has grown a really nice shop in Faribault.  Ben just posted this video on his blog.  I’ve walked those stairs at St. Olaf.  I can’t imagine riding a bike up them, but he makes it look easy.  Tip of the hat and a cool Summit to Ben.  Love the bike man.

Moonflower-Midwest Connections

April 17, 2009



THE MOONFLOWER VINE is the story of Matthew and Callie Soames and their daughters. Each section of the novel is told from the perspective of a different character, giving a nuanced picture of the complexities of family life. This is a book with timeless appeal and characters.”
-Sally Wizik Wills, Sister Wolf Books, Dorset, MN

“A poignant . . . novel that has captured the heart of America and become one of the best-loved bestsellers of our day .. . . A profoundly satisfying book.”
– New York Herald Tribune

“A distinguished achievement”
– Chicago Tribune

“A deeply felt American family saga…dramatic…constantly alive.”
– Harper’s Magazine

“The flavor of THE MOONFLOWER VINE is much the same as that of To Kill a Mockingbird…It has the same quiet feel of nostalgia, a breeze scented with bluegrass and wild roses…THE MOONFLOWER VINE is a delightful book.”
– Denver Post

On a farm in western Missouri during the first half of the twentieth century, Matthew and Callie Soames create a life for themselves and raise four headstrong daughters. Jessica will break their hearts. Leonie will fall in love with the wrong man. Mary Jo will escape to New York. And wild child Mathy’s fate will be the family’s greatest tragedy.

Over the decades, they will love, deceive, comfort, and forgive each other – and ultimately, they will come to cherish all the more fiercely the bonds of love that hold the family together.

Jane Smiley includes THE MOONFLOWER VINE on her list of 100 great novels in her bestselling book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. Alongside such classics as Don Quixote, Moby Dick, and Wuthering Heights, THE MOONFLOWER VINE is the only little-known work Smiley addresses. Of it, she writes:

“Several American novels on our list-The House of the Seven Gables, The Awakening, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Moonflower Vine-gain considerable dramatic tension from secrets that the characters are required to keep to maintain respectability in the towns where they live. The conflict between who a character feels herself or himself to be and what is acceptable to friends and colleagues is as constant a theme in American novels as, say, a character’s relationship to the state is in German novels. In exploring the romantic secrets of each member of a single family, Carleton offers something of a catalog of ideas on the subject of secret desires-The Moonflower Vine could have been a scandalous novel. But by presenting each character’s desire as a moral dilemma for that character, and especially by consistently depicting the bonds of love that eventually hold the family together, she succeeds in arousing both empathy and sympathy in the reader.”

About the Author

carletonjettaap_smJETTA CARLETON was born in 1913 in Holden, Missouri (population about 500), and earned a Master’s degree at the University of Missouri. She worked as a schoolteacher, a radio copywriter in Kansas City, and, for eight years, as a television copywriter for New York City advertising agencies. She and her husband settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where they ran a small publishing house, Lightning Tree. She died in 1999. THE MOONFLOWER VINE is her only published novel. Author photo Credit: copyright, William G. Berkeley


Midwest Connections-A Reliable Wife

April 17, 2009


“Layers of deceit run deep in Robert Goolrick’s A RELIABLE WIFE. Set in a land where long winters drive residents to unthinkable acts, a wealthy Wisconsin foundry owner gets more than he bargains for when he orders a mail-order bride. Determined to quickly change from new bride to wealthy widow, his wife is as surprised as the reader to discover the sexual intensity of this quiet man. Many secrets. Many lies. Very sensual. A good book for a long winter.”
– Beth Golay, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS

“After breaking through with a disquieting memoir . . . Goolrick applies his storytelling talents to a debut novel, set in 1909, about icy duplicity and heated vengeance. . . . A sublime murder ballad that doesn’t turn out at all the way one might expect.”
Kirkus, starred review

“I’ve read A RELIABLE WIFE and was blown away.  What a unique plot, so well written and fleshed out.  In short, I loved it.”
– Nancy Simpson, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for “a reliable wife.” But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she’s not the “simple, honest woman” that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man’s devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt – a passionate man with his own dark secrets -has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick’s intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

About the Author

goolrick_robert-smROBERT GOOLRICK lives in New York City.  His inspiration for A RELIABLE WIFE comes in part from the book Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy. Goolrick is also the author of the critically acclaimed memoir The End of the World as We Know It. Author’s website:


How’s Business?

April 14, 2009

“How’s business?”

That’s a question I get asked a lot these days.  Two of the Northfield’s three downtown bookstores will be closed in May.  River City Books went out of business in March.  Bookfellows will shut the doors in May.  

I read this in the Huffington Post recently.
A book is not an object to admire from afar, but something that can be possessed for a relatively modest sum, taken home and pondered for a lifetime, lived with. Who wants to live in a time and town without bookstores?

Then I read about Vertigo Books closing:

Why are we closing? There are many reasons, but basically, not enough people buy books here.

We have many loyal customers, just not enough of them, and our cloning experiments have not yielded satisfactory results. And way too many people (not you, but someone you know) are buying their books at Amazon.

Please take a fresh look around your community, temporarily ditch the iPod, stop Facebooking and tweeting for a moment and explore your neighborhood’s businesses.

The comments from Vertigo are right on the money.  Monkey See, Monkey Read has many loyal customers. The question is are there enough of them? Money is tight, the economy is in rough shape.  I see it everyday.  Someone laughed at me the other day when I said the book he wanted was $3.00.  $3.00, the price of a latte, too much for a book? 

So what are we doing about it?  We extended our hours.  Monkey See, Monkey Read is now open until 8:00 pm Monday through Thursday.  We have added more inventory.  Our selection of new book inventory is larger than ever and growing daily.  We offer a better value for our customers than the chains or  How do we do this?  We discount bestsellers 20%.  First table in the door, great books, great prices.  We discount most special orders 10%.  We offer a 20% discount to teachers on books for classroom use.  We offer a 20% discount to book clubs.  We sell most of our used books for half the cover price or less.  We will buy your used books when you are ready to give them up.  You can trade them in for more books.  

We live and work in this community.  When is the last time amazon or B&N gave a donation to your local organization?  Why are you shopping there and asking me for donations?

If you are one of our loyal customers, thank you and spread the word.  If you’ve never been in, give it a try.  We don’t bite.

So how’s business?  We’re hanging on, but it could be a lot better.

Mike Perry Coop video

April 7, 2009

Mike Perry will read from his latest book Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting Tuesday, May 5, 7:30 pm at the Northfield Arts Guild.  This short video is a great introduction to the book.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers