Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tom Wayne, Bookseller, Part II

I find this utterly fascinating.

As of this month, Technorati is tracking more than 71 million blogs. This little corner of the blogosphere has less than 40,000 hits, and it's currently ranked as number 152,754 in Technorati's rankings, certainly not a world-beater by any standard.

By contrast, Tom Wayne of Prospero's Books has gone from less than 1,000 hits on Google 24 hours ago to 44,000 tonight. That's pretty amazing. Of course, he had help from CNN, ABC, Fox, and all the other media outlets that jumped on his book-burning up there in Kansas City, Missouri. Browsing the hits my Google search brought up, I got all the way to 60 before I ran out of the book-burning story. A very impressive result.

But what I find almost as interesting is the fact that two of Mr. Wayne's supporters found their way to THIS little blog to challenge my viewpoint of the shameless publicity stunt Wayne pulled over the holiday.

In the interest of balanced reporting, I'm going to quote those two comments below. Here's the first one from Hex with my comments in bold:

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. {I thought this was about literacy, not about Mr. Wayne's inability to sell his stock}

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 (sic) you like. Libraries, too. Barnes and Noble, Borders. These books will end up in a landfill otherwise. Save your outrage for them. {Interesting. I've frequently found that people with a weak defense go on the offensive. I believe the tactic is called a red herring.

One of the reasons I admire Half-Price Books is because of their strong stand on literacy (see here) and the environment (see here). Half-Price doesn't need me to defend them. Their record speaks for itself.}

I find it interesting that the most vocal opponents of Tom (sic) 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. {That would be six times MORE than Tom Wayne mentioned the word during his interview with the Associated Press} No offense, but Tom did more in one day to "kindle" the debate about literacy in this country than you have in 2 years. {Please note my previous statement. Wayne never mentioned the word "literacy." He did, however, point out that the fire was "a good excuse for fun."} 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 -- {Gosh, could have fooled me} I'm sure you participate in literacy-promoting events -- but if your only advice here is "stop provoking people to think" {Oh, please} 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 {Quite a friend} on Memorial Day as hundreds of phone calls came in from around the country. 90 percent of them "got it" {90% of them were probably media, looking for a sensational story on a quiet news day meant to remember our fallen military.} and were supportive. The other 10 percent, after they calmed down, understood where Tom and Will were coming from and wished us well. Of course, they were only readers {Ohhh, but we're not attacking, are we?}

Best of luck on your forthcoming book.

I read Hex's comment and debated whether to just ignore it. While I was still thinking about it, we had ANOTHER one of Wayne's supporters, or perhaps "business partner" is a better term. Here's comment #2:

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 {Check the news stories. Your husband's partner was the one who initiated the story and who promised monthly fire sales in the future}. here was goal (sic) , 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 worldwide discussion. {Again, the word "literacy" did not appear in any of the stories I read}

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 . . . {Then, why, when people arrived did you sell the books instead of giving them away?}

Best of luck with your forthcoming book and congratulations {Thank you. Best of luck with your bookstore. I appreciate and support independent booksellers. There are too few of them these days.}. i hope that there are people that will read it. {So do I :)} and good for you for stepping up and doing something -- that was the point of all this, after all. {Best wishes to you as well. I admire women who have their husbands' backs.}

I have nothing new to add. I'll let readers of this blog make up their own minds.

By the way, if you're interested in the National Endowment for the Arts' report, please go to my blog of August 4, 2006 here. It answers the questions you might have with respect to whether people are reading less.


David Roth said...

To begin with, it this was a shameless plug, so what? I have no problems with shameless plugs. We writers do them all the time, to whit: you can still get "Sometimes I Hear Voices" at or Support a starving writer and buy a copy or 10. I note that you have a copy of your book cover on this page. Shameless plugs are fine - as long as we're all honest enough to admit that what we're doing is a shameless plug and not try to hide it behind a lofty sounding facade.

If that's what this was all about, then admit it and call a spade a spade. It's about a sale. It's not about literacy.

Reading my book is about literacy :o)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm sitting here trying to figure out how one promotes literacy by burning books. That's like trying to promote pet adoption by... well, you get the picture.

Maria Zannini said...

In times past, book burning was a means to prevent the dissemination of information or to make a statement about moral, religious or political ideologies. In recent history, the Nazis burned books of Jewish authors. Communist Russia burned books that decried the communist manifesto. Spanish priests destroyed Mayan writing to purge the spread of a pagan religion.

This bookseller must have known the emotional powder keg he would've ignited by reenacting what the western world would see as reprehensible. Whatever the reasons, the ploy utilized shock value in order to achieve media coverage.

If these actions promoted literacy, I've seen no mention of it, except in the rebuttals of this blog. The only thing I've heard on the news is that the bookseller didn't want to carry the burden of hanging on to so many books.

Considering how many books I have lying around my house, I fully understand his predicament. But when it gets too much for me, I give my books away to friends and the library. Any remainders are sold in garage sales. Remarkably, no one's ever put me on tv for this.

Regardless of the reasons (real or implied) the bookseller burned books as a means of promotion. Whether he succeeded positively in his venture will be up to the public. If I lived in his community, he would not be getting my money. And perhaps, that's the most important statement individual book buyers can make.


Marie Tuhart said...

I'm sorry, but if the bookseller was interested in literacy, those books could have been donated to the library, to storm ravaged libaries in New Orleans. There are any number of organizations that would gladly take the books. High school libraries included.

There are literacy organizations that probalby could have suggested where to donate the books to.

I have a hard time believing this is about literacy.

marie-laure said...


I live in Senegal, Africa... and the only hobby for my friends is reading... but i can't give them enough books so if you have the mail of Tom Wayne, i will be happy to have his books...
Here... guys love reading... it's an escape!