Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tom Wayne, Bookseller Jerk of the Month

I saw something on the 5:30 news on ABC last night that really torqued me. I checked Yahoo News for the story, which came to them from the Associated Press.

It seems there's a bookseller in Kansas City by the name of Tom Wayne who held a book-burning on Sunday, supposedly because he "couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops."

Wayne claims that he has 20,000 excess books in his warehouse that he needs to clear out. When no one would take them, he decided to burn them.

"'This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,' Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books."

I'm sorry. I think this is a bunch of horse pucky, as we say here in Texas when we're being polite. I think this was a shameless promotional plug for a Memorial Day booksale.

Why do I think that? Wayne didn't give the books away to people who came by. HE SOLD THEM.

Just for grins, I checked to see if Kansas City has a Half-Price Bookstore, which traditionally runs a 20% off sale on Memorial Day weekend.

Guess what? There's a Half-Price Bookstore on Westport Road, less than a mile from Wayne's Prospero's Books. What a coincidence! Knock me over with a feather.

If Wayne is serious about wanting to GIVE the books away instead of selling them, let me make a couple of suggestions:

  • Hospitals or rehab units
  • Libraries or schools in depressed areas
  • Our troops overseas

By the way, Wayne announced he's going to do these book burnings monthly--his own version of a "fire sale," I guess.

I hope Kansas City has better sense than to accommodate such nonsense.

P.S. I've sent emails to the Mayor of Kansas City (mayor@kcmo.org) and to Half-Price Bookstores (cservice@halfpricebooks.com), suggesting that they pick up the "unwanted" books and ship them to people who would appreciate them. I promised to contribute a check toward postage and shipping if they do so.

Would someone please call this jerk's bluff?


B.E. Sanderson said...

I wonder if the guy checked with the city's fire code... Hmmm. Nothing like a big ticket for code violations to make him stop.

Of course, you could try to look on the positive side of this idiocy. If he bought the books, then the authors got their royalty and everyone got paid. I wonder if he'd like to buy a bunch of my books and burn them. (Of course, I have to get published first.) The publisher will print more for other people to read, and the sales figures will go up. (Unless my understanding of publishing is wrong, then ignore me.)

Maya Reynolds said...

B.E.: Unfortunately, he's a USED book seller, buying and selling used and remainders. That won't help an author with royalties at all.

I was just telling a friend that I've never met a bookseller I didn't like. Gosh, Tom Wayne might be the first.

BTW, the KC Fire Department put out the blaze because Wayne didn't have a permit. He promises to have one by the time he has his next burning.

David Roth said...

Dear Maya, Even in your much merited indignation, you are the image of grace. Jerk is much too kind a word.


Maya Reynolds said...

David: Thanks.

Sometimes when I get on my high horse, I wonder. I appreciate the validation.

Warm regards,


Maria Zannini said...

You're darn right he did it for publicity.

Sadly, he probably got more press for burning books than if he had given them away.

"Jerk" was too kind a word.


Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: I googled him and his bookstore last night and got less than a thousand hits. Googled him again this morning and found 19,400 hits. It makes me sick.

B.E. Sanderson said...

Oh. Well then, crud. Hard to put a postive spin on that. Maybe one night someone could knock him down and tattoo a copy of Fahrenheit 451 on him.

Prof. Hex said...

Tom wanted to start a dialog about literacy and the waning importance of the written word in our culture.

It worked.

Are you upset that Tom sold books? They were a buck a piece - sales from the to-be-burned pile amounted to $400 bucks, roughly 400 books. It was probably more as stacks of 20 or more books were going for 10 bucks. Hardly recompense for the cost of storage and lugging these things around for up to ten years.

And if YOU are serious about giving books away to hospitals, armed service, etc, I suggest you run down to your local Half-Price Books and peek in the dumpster behind the store. There you will find more than enough books to donate to whoever you like. Libraries, too. Barnes and Noble, Borders. These books will end up in a landfill otherwise. Save your outrage for them.

I find it interesting that the most vocal opponents of Tom actions (and the rudest) have come from writers. You've had this blog since 2005 and a simple Google search shows that you've only mentioned the word literacy six times. Six times. No offense, but Tom did more in one day to "kindle" the debate about literacy in this country than you have in 2 years. You can argue with his methods but his madness seems to have struck a chord. Unfortunately, some people's only response is to tell them to "do more"- as if running a bookstore and a small press, putting on literary events and offering a venue for new writers for 10 years wasn't enough. I'm not attacking you - I'm sure you participate in literacy-promoting events - but if your only advice here is "stop provoking people to think" then I don't know what to tell you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a friend of the bookstore and managed the phones on Memorial Day as hundreds of phone calls came in from around the country. 90 percent of them "got it" and were supportive. The other ten percent, after they calmed down, understood where Tom and Will were coming from and wished us well. Of course, they were only readers.

Best of luck on your forthcoming book.

Stephen Parrish said...

Dear Prof Hex:

The media has hyped this story as a book burning, not as a literacy drive. The Yahoo! news article that alerted me to the story doesn't mention the word "literacy" even once.

Your comment is an eye-opener, and I'm always happy to have my eyes opened. But my initial assessment was pretty much the same as Maya's. I think you're responding a little too harshly, given the circumstances.

supergirlest said...

this "jerk" is my husband's partner at the bookstore... i'm quite amused by the repeated attempts by many bloggers to paint this as a mere publicity stunt. here was goal, that was clearly stated from the beginning: prosperos was seeking to create a community dialogue on readership continually dropping in america. that is all. it has snowballed into a world-wide discussion.

they tried, repeatedly, FOR YEARS to give these books away after trying to sell them on the shelves. they are in great condition. this was not a shameless plug for a memorial day book sale. how sadly cynical we have grown...

best of luck with your forthcoming book and congratulations! i hope that there are people that will read it. and good for you for stepping up and doing something - that was the point of all of this, after all.