Monday, December 8, 2008

THE DOG ATE ALL THE BOOKS

THE DOG ATE ALL THE BOOKS: Our continuing serialization of the controversial book KPD Blue by Anthony Sommer has spurred quite a bit of backlash- some of it personal- to Sommer’s charges of pervasive racism and sexism in Kaua`i county government, especially the Kaua`i Police Department.

But Sommer’s biggest difficulty may be what appears to be a blatant attempt to keep the book out of the hands of Kaua`i readers by the top bookseller on the island, Borders Books at Kukui Grove.

Borders’ story as to why they have refused to carry the book has morphed over the past three months from what appeared to be laziness on the part of manager Helaine Perel to the creation of a new policy on the part of Borders locally- one apparently created specifically for KPD Blue.

After we could never seem to reach or get our calls to “the manager” returned we called and got the real scoop from the clerk who answered the phone and the supervisor who both told us that a “new policy” has been instituted and they will no longer carry what are known as “print on demand” (POD) or “print to order” books.

POD is the latest trend in publishing and through on-line outlets like amazon.com the book is printed and shipped within a couple of days of when it is ordered.

According to the Borders clerk “we don’t want to order them and then be stuck with them when they don’t sell”.

But even on its face the contention seems a bit perplexing in the case of KPD Blue given that Borders has received daily requests for the book probably totaling over a thousand requests since the book’s release the supervisor admitted..

Sommer told us how the story has changed since the book’s release in September.

In an email last week Sommer wrote:

“I was getting email complaints that it wasn't available at Borders (for some reason, at least some people on Kauai haven't figured out how to buy stuff on line)”

He figured it was just a miscommunication so he called and talked to Perel in late September.

She told him that she had had over 200 requests at the time for the book and seemed eager to carry the book.

Sommer says:.

“I called Helaine and she said she had been trying to contact me (anyone on Kauai who knows me is aware I live in Phoenix and my phone number is listed, so I don't think she tried very hard). She said she wanted to order the books but didn't have the ISBN numbers needed for the order. I sent them to her”

“That was the last time I talked to her. I've called her repeatedly and left messages and as recently as two weeks ago left the ISBN numbers again.

No response.

It's very bizarre and maybe there's a rational explanation but I can't imagine what it is.

Except that maybe she's afraid of retaliation by the KPD or other county officials. That fear is very real on Kauai.

But over the years Border’s has been a great supporter of self-publishing and books on demands. Books such as Georgia Mossman’s "Kaua`i Police Blotter” as well Chris Cook’s tome recounting the many movies shot on Kaua`i and a dozen other Kaua`i based books with limited printing and POD have lined their shelves over the past 10 or 15 years..

And a look through the Kaua`i based books tables shows many others that are apparently POD.

Sommer at first was a little perplexed at the short sightedness of Borders in not carrying his book saying:

A book like mine that has a built-in demand, I would think they would stock a small supply for those good customers who ask for it. Borders on Kauai has a very loyal client base. Might be nice to keep them happy.

Again, if I lived there I would be out peddling copies to WalMart and Costco and even Safeway and Foodland. That's what's normally done with self-published books.

Frankly, from a selfish standpoint, I would rather people bought them from Amazon. At Amazon, I get a royalty of 35 percent on the retail price (about $5.50 royalty per book). If the books are sold wholesale for about $10, I only get 10 percent of the wholesale price, or about $1 royalty).

But my real interest is in getting the books out there. Other than covering my costs (which were covered the first two months), the profit motive isn't that big a deal to me. In a few months no one will be buying it anyway. I really just want to get people thinking and talking about what a shitty government Kauai County has (in my humble opinion, of course).

Sommer said that the book is available wholesale though his publisher, Booksurge- Amazon’s publishing house wing. And apparently Borders has it’s own POD service called Lulu so the story that they don’t carry POD quite obviously doesn’t stand up very well.

He added that

“I know Booksurge sells through Baker & Taylor, the nation's largest book wholesaler and Borders has an account there. Or book stores and libraries (apparently Hawaii public libraries are ignoring the book as well) also can buy directly from Booksurge. See the Wholesale section (t)here.”

After we told Sommer of what the clerk and night manager told us he said he thinks he knows the real reason why KPD Blue is on the “do not carry” list and it goes way beyond any competition or getting stuck with books.

He wrote in his usual bombastic style adopted since his retirement from journalism after almost 40 years of reporting both here and in Arizona:.

I'm even more convinced my theory that Borders is afraid to sell the book is correct and NOT some conspiracy.

Borders (and just about every merchant) is not willing to risk pissing off KPD and Benito Carvalho by selling a book that takes an honest and critical look at what a fascist government Kauai County really has.

If the Kauai merchants sell the books and they need a county permit in the future, they are afraid they will be fucked by the county. And they probably will be.

And if they run a stop sign? Go directly to jail.

"Reward your friends and punish your enemies" is the primary theme of Kauai politics and I repeat it in "KPD Blue" over and over like a mantra because that's the way it really is.

And, as we know too well, Da Mayor (at least Bryan and Bernard is his protégé) is not above pressuring the KPD to bring false criminal charges against his enemies.I know that from personal experience. Bryan tried his best to have me thrown in jail on a phony charge. KPD Chief K.C. Lum refused (editor’s note: as did the prosecutor as PNN previously detailed) and that's one of the reasons Lum was fired

They even brought absurd criminal charges against Lum to derail his campaign for County Council. That's as dirty as politics can possibly get: "Kauai Style!"

Lum was arrested and his computer with all his campaign records confiscated one week before the council election on a bizarre charge of altering county documents when a fax-feeding error by his attorney inadvertently combined pages of an ethics commission document. Lum was cleared of all charges- after the election).

Sommer continued:

What many people on Kauai don't realize is how oppressive their county government really is.

Why should they? If they were "Born on Kauai" (the best pedigree a local believes he can show), they really don't know anything different.

They don't know what real democracy is supposed to be. Worse, they don't know that they don't know!

Borders? They're scared to sell a book that challenges authority, that criticizes Da King.

Because, in the great Kanaka tradition that dates back to way before Kamehameha I, Da King might just whack them over the head with his club.

Well, Da King ain't gonna swing that club at anyone at Amazon.com. That's why I chose to have them sell my book.

The book is reportedly available at Ching Young Shopping Village in Hanalei at “the pizza place” there, reportedly through the graces of mall-owner and former police Commission Chair Michael Ching, the subject of a witch-hunt detailed in the book.

2 comments:

Katy Rose said...

Too bad there aren't more independent bookstores here - expecting a corporate behemoth like Borders to respond appropriately to the local marketplace is wishful thinking, in my opinion.

As much as I dislike what I've read of the book as it's been serialized here, I think it should be available to those who wish to buy it, since it is of local interest. I think the book should be read and vigorously debated - particularly its peculiar neo-con framing of race and gender issues -because that's always good for democracy.

I wonder how much of the bookstore's (though I hate to use that term for Borders, frankly)reticence comes from the rather humiliating depiction of a woman being molested in the first chapter. From a feminist point of view, it was really disturbing. Borders might have reacted less on the basis of feminist principles than on puritanism and prudery, but it could have affected their decision. I mean, they are the "Blockbuster Video" of books in many ways.

Unless the folks who don't order online are older people, I don't think I'd use the charge of ignorance to explain why more people don't go online to buy the book. Shipping charges are probably a consideration. Also, a lot of people just like to "shop locally," though I'd hardly call Borders local.

nunya said...

"Because, in the great Kanaka tradition that dates back to way before Kamehameha I, Da King might just whack them over the head with his club."

Isnʻt this remark lashing out pretty far? How the hell would you know this.
Itʻs these kinds of off the cuff insults that create unnecessary problems - for both sides of the problem.

Being pissed off is one thing, but blaming the deceased King is really missing the point of blame.

And I think it was the cavemen that carried clubs.

No, it is not King Kamehamaha that is blacklisting the book, it is corporate: usually NOT Kanakas.

I would like not to think so as I was trying to absorb the pages of the book emailed to me in a neutral reading, but I am beginning to see a pot calling a kettle black...the King doesnʻt have a damn thing to do with your bookʻs availability.