West Virginia Book Festival

Clear your schedule — Free Comic Book Day








Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. I’m just sayin’.

If you wanted to grab the kid (or not) and head to a local comic book shop, it should be a nice day to reminisce with old friends and make some new ones, both in our actual universe and others. You can check for participating shops by ZIP code at the Free Comic Book Day website. I see stores in South Charleston, Huntington, Beckley, Morgantown, Fairmont, the Parkersburg area and near Wheeling and Martinsburg.

Pretty much everything you need to know about the event at Lost Legion Games & Comics/The Rifleman in South Charleston is in this gazz story. That includes appearances by local writer and filmmaker Danny Boyd (author of the Chillers graphic novel) and Jason Pell (creator of the Zombie Highway comic).

Of course, serious readers of this blog respect art in all its forms, so I don’t have to go into any justifications of comic books or graphic novels as either art or literature.  However, if you want a deeper look at how this art form grew out of the early 20th-century and how the Forces of Darkness moved to suppress it, let me draw your attention to a book from a few years back, “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America” by David Hajdu.

But you don’t need that book to enjoy Free Comic Book Day.

You also don’t really need to know all the ways comic book reading is good for kids. Reading for fun improves fluency, which comes in handy Monday morning when kids are reading for school. Reading fiction to the point of being absorbed in characters and the story has recently been shown to be beneficial in other ways that have to do with compassion and experience. When teaching and testing young people on reading comprehension, teachers sometimes break stories into sections or panels, so students can identify events and how they relate.

Of course, I don’t tell the kids this, but if there are any reluctant readers in your family, kids who just haven’t yet found a book they love to read, the comic book versions of movie, TV and game characters can ease them into reading for fun.

It’s great that all that happens, but that’s not what I’m thinking about when I’m catching up with my beloved Spidey, or evaluating an issue of Young Justice or Superman Family Adventures for our very young nieces and nephews. I’m enjoying the art, the action, the characters, the humor. I’m mulling over ethical quandries and scientific possibilities. I’m looking backward and forward, inside and out. And having a good time doing it.

Happy Free Comic Book Day.

Flatwoods bookstore closing — but not for long

It’s a rotten feeling — and one book-lovers have had all too many times in recent years — when you head to a local bookstore and find that it’s closed down.

So next month, if you’re visiting the outlet center off the Flatwoods exit of Interstate 79, and you see that the Book Cellar bookstore has shut its doors, don’t despair. I’m told the condition will be temporary.

An employee there said recently that the Book Cellar will close in early September. It’ll be closed for a few weeks, and then will reopen as a branch of Book Warehouse, a company that has stores in outlet malls across the country.

I can’t find any official announcement of this, so all details should be taken with a grain of salt. But that’s the word.

Books-A-Million officially comes to the Town Center

As promised, Books-A-Million has replaced Borders stores in the Charleston Town Center Mall and the Huntington Mall. The new stores are part of a wave of 41 new BAM stores, many in former Borders locations.

The Charleston store held a grand opening on Saturday, and West Virginia authors Michael Knost and Brian Hatcher were among those there. (Brian was doing a little magic for the kids, as you see below.) BTW, both of them talked about how good the traffic and sales were at the Woodland Press booth at last month’s West Virginia Book Festival — something festival people have heard from a lot of vendors. Brian said they sold out of the new Knost-edited anthology, “The Mothman Files” (not to worry, they’ve got more).

As for the new store itself, it’ll look pretty familiar to anyone who was in the old Borders Express store. Same basic setup, looked like some of the same people working there — and that’s a good thing. I always found it a well-run, well-stocked store (given the space limitations).

Books-A-Million coming to Charleston mall

Books-A-Million’s store at the Dudley Farms Plaza in South Charleston has replaced bankrupt Borders as the official vendor of this year’s West Virginia Book Festival, and the company is replacing Borders in other ways as well.

The Charleston Town Center Mall will soon be home to a Books-A-Million store, in the same space that housed a Borders Express store until about a month ago. The store is supposed to open next month, in time for the holiday season — but sadly, not in time for next weekend’s West Virginia Book Festival, just across the street at the Charleston Civic Center. Well, there’s always next year.

Books-A-Million had previously announced that it would open a store in the old Borders space in the Huntington Mall in Barboursville.

A tale of two bookstores

Over the past two weekends, I had two wildly differing bookstore experiences.

Last Saturday, we went to the Borders store in the Huntington Mall, a couple of days before it closed its doors for good. The last time I was there, it was a vibrant store, full of people. This time, it looked like a carcass that had been almost completely picked over. We went there mostly to look for some kids’ science and history books — fat chance. Shelves that held hundreds of books now had just a few titles on them. It was depressing as hell.

But the week before, I visited my favorite bookstore in the whole state: The Bookshelf in Morgantown. I’ve been going there, literally, for decades. There’s a little bit of everything: new and used, fancy hardbacks and cheap paperbacks, and the selection is huge. There’s a community meeting space, and local artists can display their work. I’m afraid every time I go back that owner Jim Sachse will have closed the place, but it hasn’t happened yet.

And maybe it won’t. The Washington Post reported last month that independent bookstores are, despite everything, doing OK.

The American Booksellers Association, the national trade organization for independently owned bookstores, counted a 7 percent growth last year and has gained 100 new members in the past six months. The association now counts 1,830 member stores across the country, up by 400 since 2005, according to Meg Smith, the association’s spokeswoman. The new stores have opened in at least 35 states, from New York to California, an indication that store owners across the nation see an opportunity to find a concrete niche in the e-book world.

Smith says the growth appears to be due to a number of factors — the demise of large bookstores; a general social identification with locally owned businesses, an offshoot of the ‘go-local’ movement in restaurants and grocery stores; and a number of store owners who have identified a small but viable market in their communities.

This mirrors something that we posited back in February, when a Borders bankruptcy began to look like a real possibility.

So if there aren’t enough book-buyers to make a Borders superstore profitable, maybe there are enough in many areas to support a smaller store — some potential good news for the kind of small, local bookstores that Borders has been driving out of business for years.

Hopefully, that’s good news for our friends at Taylor Books in Charleston, and Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, and the Book Store in New Martinsville, and all of the other bookstores across the state.

Borders stores in W.Va. to close on Monday

According to Borders, the company’s stores in Charleston, Barboursville and Parkersburg will close on Monday. Many stores in what used to be the second-largest bookstore chain in America have already closed their doors.

The Borders website says everything in the stores (but not online) is 70 percent off or more.

Man. Hate to see them go.

Local writers to mark Borders closing

The Borders Express store at the Charleston Town Center Mall on Friday. Mall marketing director Lisa McCracken said the store is set to close in September. "We're sorry to see them go," McCracken said. She said mall staff are searching for a store to replace Borders, but doubts the mall will get another bookstore. Photo by Lawrence Pierce

Borders began liquidating its stores across the country today, including its few stores in West Virginia. A few local writers don’t want the store at the Charleston Town Center Mall to go without some recognition. From a news release:

As book readers mourn the liquidation of 399 Borders stores nationwide, at a time when liquidators have stopped all future functions at the failing book giant, a group of regional authors have received special permission to gather for one final event-to host a book-signing and farewell reception at Borders Express at Charleston Town Center this Sat., July 23, from 4-6 p.m.

“This marks the end of an era-a story with a sad ending. Borders has been extremely supportive and loyal to state publishers and authors,” said Keith Davis, CEO of Woodland Press, a Chapmanville-based book publisher. “Over the years they’ve hosted hundreds of book events involving local writers and storytellers, so many that we have come to look at the local store’s managers and employees almost like family. This news has been a bitter pill for us to swallow.”

Among the regional authors who will join Davis at the farewell engagement, and be on hand to autograph their respective books, will be Bram Stoker Award-winner Michael Knost, Brian J. Hatcher, Ellen Thompson McCloud, Jessie Grayson, Frank Larnerd and others.

“It’s heartbreaking for the entire literary community to see this happen,” said Michael Knost, an award-winning editor and writer from Logan County. “We hope the public will join us in saying ‘thank you’ to Borders for all they have meant to the state.” “We want to show our support and deep concern to a business that’s been good to all of us,” Davis added. “We’ll really miss the Charleston location, as well as the others in Barboursville, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Ashland and other locations.”

Refreshments will be on hand for staff and the public during the Sat. event. At a time when local bookstore managers and employees are preparing to start a new chapter in their lives, the public is invited to come out and express their heartfelt support during this event. The store will remain open throughout the liquidation phase, which is expected to last through September.

More on Borders: UPDATED

The Borders store in Vienna. Photo by Amy Phelps, Parkersburg News and Sentinel

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ll personally miss the Borders store at the Huntington Mall and the Borders Express store in the Charleston Town Center Mall after they’re gone.

However, I couldn’t help but spare a thought for the people who frequented the store at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna, just north of Parkersburg. Book lovers there have recently lost the great used bookstore Trans Allegheny Books, and now this.

Amy Phelps and Jolene Craig talked to some of those book lovers for a story in today’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel. It’s predictably sad, but I was particularly struck by the comments of Melinda Staley, a resident of nearby Belpre, Ohio:

“I probably won’t read as much,” [she said]. “In this area, a bookstore is essential.” She said she felt rushed at discount stores and appreciated the relaxed atmosphere of a bookstore. While she acknowledged she could still buy online, she said delays and shipping might prevent her from doing so. “I’m more apt to buy when I see it,” she said.

That tracks with the comments of some book industry analysts, who think that the closure of hundreds of bricks-and-mortar Borders stores across the country could, ironically, hurt sales of e-books.

“This industry is going to slowly figure out that a lot of e-book readers still use bookstores all the time to discover what’s new before heading home to buy it for their e-reading device,” said Michael Norris, a senior trade analyst with Simba Information (as reported by The Associated Press).

Yes, you can buy books online. But every time I’m in a bookstore and have time to browse, I find something new to read. With the looming closure of nearly 400 Borders stores, thousands of people won’t have that option anymore.

UPDATE: Melanie Hoffman at the Charleston Daily Mail has some reaction from the Charleston store’s closing. FWIW, the headline on each story uses the word “mourn.”


The Borders setup at last year’s West Virginia Book Festival.

For the past several years, the West Virginia Book Festival has enjoyed a great relationship with our local Borders Express bookstore here in Charleston.

Sadly, that relationship is at an end, as is the Borders chain as a whole. But Book Festival-goers will not be left without a major book retailer at this fall’s event.

Books-A-Million will be the official book vendor for the 2011 Book Festival. In the past, that’s meant having plenty of copies of the works of all the festival’s authors on hand, so BAM will no doubt be stocking up on “The Affair” by Lee Child (coming out Sept. 27!) and a bunch of other titles.

And as always, there will be several other local and regional book vendors at the festival as well. So there ought to be plenty of choices.

The end: Borders to liquidate stores: UPDATED

The Borders Express store at the Charleston Town Center Mall as it looked on Monday morning. Later Monday, Borders officials announced the company would liquidate its remaining stores after failing to find a buyer.

This is not a surprise, but it seems like the second-largest bookstore chain in America won’t exist much longer.

From The Associated Press:

NEW YORK — Borders Group is seeking court approval to liquidate its 399 stores after it failed to receive any bids that would keep the 40-year-old chain in operation and canceled an auction process.

Liquidation sales could start as soon as Friday. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Southern District of New York is set to approve the move on Thursday

In a statement, Borders President Mike Edwards said the changing book industry and the economy hastened the chain’s demise.

Borders had been seeking a new white knight bidder after a $215 million bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. dissolved late last week. Creditors and lenders argued the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group will liquidate the chain under terms of the agreement.

You can read the full story here.

As we’ve mentioned before, Borders owned five bookstores in West Virginia: full stores in the Huntington Mall in Barboursville and the Grand Central Mall in Vienna, Borders Express stores in the Charleston Town Center Mall and the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, and a Waldenbooks at the Crossroads Mall in Mount Hope. All of those stores, like nearly 400 others across the country, will close soon. In all, according to the AP, more than 10,000 people will lose their jobs.

Just last week, I was in the Huntington Mall store, which looked the same as I’ve always seen it — reasonably busy, clean, well-staffed, just a nice bookstore.

This morning, I ducked into the Charleston Town Center store for a minute, and the guy behind the desk said they’d been told to conduct business as usual. He said he was trying to stay optimistic.

Both of those places will soon be gone.