Paper books hold allure locally as gifts in digital age

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David Cosby, longtime owner of Earthlight Books at 321 E. Main St., says books don’t seem to be going out of fashion as gifts this time of year.

Damn the recession, full speed ahead.

For many Walla Walla bookstores the holiday shopping season has gotten off to a great start. Real paper books, even in these days of Kindle and Nook electronic readers, continue to make great gifts.

Earthlight Books owner David Cosby said many bookstores have taken a hit from the growing market share of ebooks, but there's no shortage of people who love sitting down with a book that's not on a screen.

Business at his store has been brisk, he said. Shoppers have a lot of interest in books by local authors and featuring local themes.

"'Where the Great River Bends,' by geologist Bob Carson, is quite popular [as is] the 'Northwest Drylands' calendar by John Clement," Cosby said. "Double Trouble in Walla Walla," by Andrew Clements also consistently sells well, he added.

Other authors with selling power are Barbara Kingsolver, "Flight Behavior," and Kim Barnes, "In the Kingdom of Men."

And for serious word lovers and crossword puzzle addicts, a great gift is a comprehensive crossword dictionary.

At Hastings Books, Music and Video, store manager Travis Bosworth said he's optimistic about the holiday shopping season.

"We had quite a bit of traffic leading into Black Friday," he said. Popular hardbacks are Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and Clive Cussler's "Poseidon's Arrow."

Although the ebooks have a following, customers tell Bosworth they still love the feel of a book in their hands.

As far as paperbacks, the popular titles are "50 Shades of Grey," "Life of Pi" and "World War Z."

"That's all about the zombie wars. Everybody seems to love anything related to zombies. We have a wide variety of zombie items," he said. Zombie coffee cups also go well with zombie T-shirts and DVDs.

Amy White, retail lead at the Walla Walla Community College Bookstore, said the store's small size limits it to carrying textbooks required by teachers. "However, shoppers often buy gift cards for students to purchase their textbooks," she said. This makes a practical solution for a shopper looking for a perfect gift for a student.

Book & Game Company general manager Becky Hatley also said holiday sales are good. Books specific to Christmas have been selling well, and many shoppers are buying games for the family as well as books.

"We've had a strong season so far. It started early; all of November was strong leading into Black Friday," she said.

One of the most popular books making its way out of the store is "Killing Kennedy" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. Another popular gift book is the "Guinness Book of World Records."

"'Dancers Among Us' is a great coffee table book," Hatley said. "It is photographs of dancers, pictures of motion. The cover is someone in a red raincoat dancing in the rain."

Another top-seller at Book & Game is "How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You," a book Hatley said is so funny that customers end up buying multiple copies, some for gifts and one for themselves. "It lets them escape reality. A trend we're seeing is buying books for teenagers and kids instead of toys."

Hatley said the most commonly asked question she hears is, "What do you get a 10-year-old boy?" They are usually directed to "Ranger's Apprentice" by John Flanagan, Patrick Carmen's books or "Alex Rider," by Anthony Horowitz.

Donna Wright, owner of Just Right Books said, "Romance and mysteries are the biggest sellers."

Since many of the items in the store are like new, they can certainly be used for gifts, she said. "I have a lot of children's stories, vintage, collectible, blank books and journals. And many books are autographed. CDs and cassettes are excellent gifts."

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