Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Bookstore Toast: Powell's Books of Portland

Alrighty now, this is a new feature onWritermorphosis.
Bookstore Toasts.

We already have "book toasts" where writers and illustrators get toasted here when their books are published or they win an award. But now, every 3-4 months, I will also toast a bookstore that has gone above and beyond the norm to make the whole book buying experience a wonderful and glorious thing.

You see, it's the book sellers who do a lot of the marketing that gets our books into the hands of our readers. And some just do it better than others.

So today we will toast Powell's Books of Portland, a bookshop you should definitely stop by if you ever have the chance. Now Powell's has several locations in the Portland, Oregon area but the one that really caught my attention was at the Portland airport, Terminal D.

It was late at night -- around 10pm Oregon time, and quite the middle of the night on my watch still set to Eastern Standard Time -- when I disembarked my plane in Portland prepared for a daunting 2 hour wait. It was the time of night when stores tend to be closed at airports, so I was thrilled to see a bookstore that was still open.
Powell's had ambiance, not just books. Its bright yellow lighting glowed against colorfully mixed up books in the children's/YA section -- not a little section, mind you, but a separate room that was equal in size to the adult section. How refreshing! I could see the pirate hats, horse posters and other kid friendly stuff through the large glass doors before I was anywhere near the shop.
And when I lugged my giant suitcase down one row and then the next, knocking books off a shelf or two, James at the counter - in his cool, Oregonian stocking cap -- did not rush forward to quarentine me!
(Thank you, James!)

The children's room was great! There were chests on the floor containing princess gowns and pirate garb, dinosaurs, trains, horses, you name it, strewn in orderly choas around and under the bookshelves. On the shelves themselves only one of each book was present -- the kind of set-up that makes you think you might be the last person in the world with the opportunity to buy this book, and therefore you want it even more. (Excellent marketing. And quite fun to peruse.)
But Powell's went above and beyond all of this with my favorite little touch. Beneath many books they had handwritten notes with teasers telling the synopsis of the story, or whether this was an ALA notable or a Newbery winner, or whether someone associated with the store really liked the book and why. Some recommendation notes were signed with the recommenders' names. Very personal and creative!
And it worked. I bought one. (Ok, I bought two -- I couldn't pass up Shakespeare's Secret, one of my favorite middle grade books that everyone should read.) But the book I bought that I had never heard of was "The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp" which the handwritten note in red and black marker (above) described as "a white-knuckle page-turner with a deep and meaningful heart."
And so they convinced me. I bought the book. And they are right. If you know a middle grade or teen boy who likes helicopters and high speed car chases combined with knights with swords from king arthur's court, then this book of hood-cloaked noble warriors striving to save Excaliber from destroying the world in the 21st century might just be the book for them! There's lots of action and a loveable, bumbling, teen main character.
So here's A TOAST to Powell's books at the Airport: For great ambiance, great books, great late night hours, an awesome kids' section, and great reading recommendations! I hope to visit you again (with a slightly smaller suitcase).


Rick Yancey said...

I had no idea Powell's did this! Thank you for a nice write-up about my humble book. Alfred lives!

Anonymous said...

Just a quick note -- that particular store is located in the Oregon Market section of PDX (the area of shops before the security checkpoints).

Thanks for the recognition!

Janelle said...

Wow Rick! You are fast! I certainly did enjoy your book! Now how did you know I had written about your book, I wonder? Are you psychic? Or did Jacket Flap give me away? : ) - Janelle

Janelle said...

And hello "anonymous" James or other Powell's Books guru! Thanks for the clarification on the PDX location of your great store. Those airports can be so disorienting : ), and, er, it was rather late at night... hee hee.
Glad we now have the correct info. listed here! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Hi Janelle, My name is Beth. I work for Powell's and I loved the post! Thank you for the nice write-up. Please give me a call at 800.878.7323 and ask for Beth -- I'd like to send you a "thank you" gift.

Janelle said...

Hi Beth from Powell's : ). I had no idea that my little blog here would acquire me a thank you gift. Wow - now the bar for the other Bookstores has been raised. lol.

I'll call you next week. (With my schedule and the 3 hour time difference, I've kept forgetting to call you during YOUR daytime!
Thanks again!