Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Awash in Print (and the people who read it)

Nothing is more heavenly for a bookseller than to be surrounded by forthcoming books in all of their different manifestations, and nothing is less enthralling than the big business aspect of books (Barnes and Noble, anyone?), which is why attending Book Expo America is both sheer pleasure and a reminder that the book business can be as cut-throat as show biz.
This year BEA is being held in Los Angeles so the show business aspect will be more visible than ever, but since I'm attending under the auspices of ThingsAsian Press, a small, very independent travel publisher, I don't need to pay much attention to the glitz, except to gape and be appropriately awed.
My focus is the bookseller, which is always my favorite part of BEA, meeting fellow booklovers and talking about what we've read and like and dislike. This year I'll be roaming the exhibit floor, handing out ThingsAsian bookbags, and a book or two to those who are interested, and meeting people who love travel literature and will be happy to find a new and innovative collection of books to sell and to enjoy.
That's what it's all about really. People who sell books on a retail level do it because they love them, and love showing them to people who are eager for something new. I'm lucky to have the chance to meet booksellers and to chat about our consuming passion for print.
If you're going to be at BEA, look for the small, plump, darkhaired woman with bright orange ThingsAsian book bags slung over her arm. (That would be me.) Or for the tall, slender blonde woman with the very same bookbags. (That would be my friend and colleague, Kim Fay.) Both of us are eager to meet you and to talk about books, whether they be from ThingsAsian or from others.)
If you're a bookseller who won't be at BEA, let me know and I'll send you a bag (with some gorgeous postcards and a small catalogue.)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Paypal Alternatives

How Does PayPal Make Money With My Money?

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, there are approx. 100,000 complaints outstanding at PayPal (Are any of these yours?). In many instances disputes can run on for months leaving people frustrated and out of pocket as they are unable to access their accounts. So what happens to the millions of dollars tied up in frozen accounts and disputes? Well, here is a clip from the San Francisco Chronicle that basically sums it up:

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel of San Jose refused to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of PayPal customers nationwide. A common allegation is that the company brushes off or stalls customer grievances for months and meanwhile freezes the customer's account and pockets the interest (So that's how they make their money!). No wonder they freeze so many accounts!

This is a quote from www.paypalwarning.com

There are an unhealthy preponderance of sites like this, which I wish I'd looked into before sending money to Paypal. Among them are www.paypal.org and www.paypalsucks.com

These sites, in addition to horror stories, offer alternatives to Paypal. Since they cover the bases, this is all I have to say about the matter.

Paypal: Where's the Fraud?

Isn't it peculiar when something that is so self-evidently intended to make the world come closer together turns out to actually keep it further apart? When Cyclone Nargis struck and I wanted my help as small as it was to take immediate effect, I turned to Paypal.
My payment/donation was accepted almost immediately, which was on May 9, and I was a happy woman. Today, as of May 25, my payment is still in a Paypal account, along with other donations that were made for the same purpose, and Myanmar cyclone survivors haven't seen a penny of the money sent to Paypal.
The person who holds the account sent an equivalent amount with friends who were going to Myanmar, money that came from his own pocket that he was sure would be reimbursed by the funds that had been sent to his Paypal account. Now he's out of pocket by a thousand dollars or so, because Paypal promptly froze his account on suspicion of fraud.
The communication received from Paypal indicates that this was done because of cases of fraud that occurred during the tragedy of Katrina. Further research has shown that Paypal has been the object of more than one class action suit well before Katrina struck U.S. shores, because it hadn't sufficiently explained their fraud policy to people who used their services.
Paypal has paid millions of dollars to plaintiffs in these suits as the courts ruled in the favor of the injured parties rather than in the "protective" interests of internet big business. Apparently they can well afford the loss of a million or two every once in a while because they continue to exercise an insufficiently explained fraud policy. They also seem able to pay people to scour the internet in search of possible fraud.
This blog was found, and all entries relating to Paypal were read, by somebody working for Paypal's parent company, EBay, when they googled the account name of the person to whom I had sent money. When I discovered this by looking at my StatCounter info, I didn't feel particularly "protected," more like violated in some way.
This is all, to a company that deals in millions in a single class action suit, very small potatoes. My donation was for $50.oo. My friend is out of pocket for $1000. $5o I'm sure can buy a significant amount of survival necessities in Myanmar, and $1000 could perhaps save more than one life. And, if enough Paypal accounts for $1000 are frozen for a month, perhaps they will earn that entity enough interest to pay for a good business lunch for two of their executives.
It was so easy to press the button to send the money to Paypal. Pity that it's not so easy for them to press the button that will thaw an account that should never have been frozen in the first place.
As for me, I'm looking for alternatives to Paypal and will certainly publicize whatever I find. There are, as I learned in Econ 101, always alternatives--and thank God for that!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh Brave New World

In an attempt to curb internet scams, Paypal has frozen Don Gilliland's account until he can prove nonprofit status--so much for the web helping people to help others. Until now your donations have been going to Myanmar. Don used his own money with the belief that he would get the donations from Paypal eventually, and he has sent that with donations given him directly from people in Bangkok. Over $1000 has been taken into the country already and another $500 is being taken in soon.
The money is being given to monks to buy clothes, medicine, water purification tablets, and vehicles to bring people to safety. If you go to Don's blog www.bangkokdazed.com you can see the relationships he has built with temples and orphanages as he has traveled through Myanmar and the faces of people who are probably now destitute.
It is a tragedy that cynicism and suspicion have blocked a project that is grass-roots and workable. Paypal seemed the best solution for getting money overseas quickly, but now I will never use it again for any purpose. For those who have sent money to Don's account, please know that while it languishes with Paypal, Don has sent equivalent amounts from his own funds to Myanmar. Your money has gone to help others--please do not send more to Paypal unless this mess can be straightened out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Paypal Problem

Please do not send any additional contributions to Don's Paypal account for Myanmar aid. Paypal has decided that he needs to register with them in some byzantine fashion to prove that donations are going to people in need. It all seems very Big Brother is Watching but it is the way Paypal works--despite their jolly invitations to send money to anybody in the world. So please do not make any more contributions to Paypal for Myanmar aid until further notice.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Myanmar Tragedy

News from Myanmar continues to reveal more and more devastation and need. Please read the following email from Don Gilliland. As you know, getting money directly to those who are most in need is a touchy matter. This is one avenue that bypasses all the hands in the middle.

my own plan for cyclone relief
From: Donald Gilliland (dasabookcafe@yahoo.com)
Sunday, May 11, 2008 9:54:58 AM

This is a plea for help on behalf of the victims of the recent cyclone in Myanmar. But please don’t feel like I’m pressuring you to give money. I realize that there are many worthwhile and needy people and organizations around the world. And I also understand that life is more difficult for many of us nowadays; the cost of living keeps rising, and people have families to care for, and medical bills to pay, and other matters that require attention and finances.
But the situation in the delta area of Myanmar, as well as in Yangon (Rangoon) and the surrounding towns is very urgent and very desperate. People need food, water, medicine, clothing, and shelter. The situation is akin to what “survivors” had to deal with in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Efforts to distribute aid to these people have been hampered by the ineptitude and stubbornness of the Myanmar government. However, there are many efficient organizations and generous countries that are doing what they can to donate money and supplies to help these people. Relief efforts have finally commenced and hopefully will continue in the weeks to come.
But time is off the essence. I know several people travelling to Myanmar in the coming days. They already have visas and contacts within the country. Some of them live and work there. I plan to donate and collect as much money as I can and give it to these people before they leave Bangkok. I sent Aye Aye off with some money last week, and gave my friend Patrick more to deliver when he goes to Yangon today. Three other people I know will leave during the course of the next ten days. They can get money and supplies to local volunteers and organizations that can quickly distribute them to needy people in the area. Getting into the hardest hit parts of the delta region is problematic, but that’s where various UN organizations are best equipped to help. The people I know can help those in Yangon, across the river in Dalah and Twante, and further west in Pathein. I know this is somewhat of a band-aid approach to relief, but I think if we can help even a few hundred, or a few thousand, people, it’s worthwhile.

Anyone living in Thailand can send money to my bookshop or transfer funds directly to my bank account. Let me know if you need more details.
Those living in the USA can send checks to my parents’ address:
48 Interlaken Road
Orlando, FL 32804
Thank You !!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day

so many others, so many, are homeless or dead or without shelter. i really did not take much notice of the cyclone warnings from the state media although they did say it would be serious...too busy running round with a photographer for our next book. now i am careful of batteries in my laptop, but thank god i can send emails. i hope this gets to you.
internet access is not working for my mpt server so cannot do gmail, others who have broadband can. i have no power but everything alright. it was a very scary 13 hours from before midnight of 2nd to after noon of next day. had a slight accident with my car, front grill/lights ripped out, and i am unhurt but rattled. writing this by torch and candlelight.

This is an email from my friend Ma Thanegi, who lives in Yangon (it continues from the subject line "I am all right but") What stands out for me, in addition to the relief that she is unhurt and still in her home is the line "I really did not take notice of the cyclone warnings from the state media although they did say it would be serious..."

I'm not an apologist for the current regime and neither is Ma Thanegi (she spent years working with Aung San Su Kyi and subsequently several years in prison as a result.) But it bothers me intensely when rumors are reported as the truth (the government didn't issue cyclone warnings) when the truth alone is what we are looking for and often is quite horrible when unvarnished.

I live in a country where a natural disaster ripped the heart and soul from New Orleans. It was one of the worst things to ever happen in the U.S. and the worst happened after the hurricane. The core of the horror of Katrina was what was and was not done for the survivors. Let's not obscure the tragedy in Myanmar, with its death count rising higher and higher as different parts of the country reveal their dead, with rumors and political demonizing.

A small amount of money can go a long way toward helping people in this part of the world. You can help by reading the post Myanamar Tragedy that was written after this one. This is the account of writer and Bangkok bookstore owner Don Gilliland, who will make sure that all money goes directly to people in need in Yangon and elsewhere. (You can read his blog at http://www.bangkokdazed.com.)

Please, in whatever way you can and with whatever avenue you trust, send whatever you can give.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Once a Bookseller....

Booksellers are the most spoiled people on earth. When they read books, those volumes are pristine. They have the opportunity to fall in love with a book long before it is released to the public at large--thanks to advance reading copies sent to them by publishers. And they are paid to talk about books.
They also have jobs that are physically demanding and aerobically beneficial--climbing stairs and ladders are integral parts of the job. And the only rich bookseller is a trust-fund endowed bookseller.
I've been away from the trade for almost a year, and there has rarely been a day that I haven't missed a small portion of it. As a "civilian," I have had one hell of a time finding anyone with whom I can have a satisfying book discussion--the rest of the world seems to reserve those comments for their book groups, using "I liked it" or "I hated it" for any other chat involving reading habits.
When you're a bookseller, you live in a world of why.
I've tried to be a recovering bookseller. I've judged a book prize, reviewed books that I love, have gone to the library for my reading material. Of all of those activities, only the prize judging gave me a hint of the camaraderie, insight, and humor that was my daily bookselling sustenance.
Reviewing books is a purely one-sided affair--if it's done online, at least the number of hits are shown, but who knows if the reader finished the review, disagreed with it, bought the book....these are things a bookseller longs to know.
As for libraries--if I read one more book that is adorned with another person's meal, I'll become a functional illiterate.
I'm lucky--the bookstore that exemplifies the best of bookselling is letting me return for the summer, on a part-time basis so I can both work there and write. It may not be paradise, but it's as close as I will ever get.
"Hello. I'm Janet, and I'm a bookseller."