Friday, October 30, 2009

The Youngest Book Buyer Ever

In a shocking development, Boulder Book Store hired 11-month old Martina Kashkashian to join their book buying department last week. She is the youngest buyer in North America and perhaps the world, although there are unconfirmed reports that a nine-month-old monkey is the head of purchasing at a metaphysical book store in Montevideo, Uruguay.

"We just felt like we needed a new direction," general manager Nesra Naihsakhsak said. "An infusion of new blood, a fresh outlook. It's easy to get frustrated in this business. She won't think about how wonderful things used to be in the 1980s and 90s. Heck, she can't even remember 2008."

Kash's Book Corner was given a rare opportunity to sit down with this gifted and talented buyer at 3:30 this morning for a fascinating interview. Between feedings she spoke about her book buying philosophy, the publishing industry, the current price wars that are raging and her plush pink bear.

Here's the interview:

Kash's Book Corner: How did you get the job at such a young age?

Martina: I've been hanging around the bookstore since my days in the womb. I attended the Mountains & Plains regional show in Colorado Springs a week before I was born and that really gave me a broader perspective on the industry. I've also sat in with my father on several frontlist buys, attended BEA in New York, and even a Simon & Schuster sales conference in Florida. It's hard to beat those formative experiences. At the same time, I'm a virtual "tabula rasa" in terms of book knowledge. I'm open to new experiences.

Kash's Book Corner: What will be your responsibilities?

Martina: It's really baby steps for me. Not that I know what that really means since I haven't taken any steps yet. I'm just going to buy the publishers that have electronic catalogs on Edelweiss. Let me see, that's Random House, Harper, Penguin and Hachette adult and children's books. Also, Chronicle, W.W. Norton, Ingram Publisher Services. That's it. Daddy will still buy Columbia University titles.

Kash's Book Corner: I'm amazed you are willing to tackle an electronic catalog even though you are just starting out. So many booksellers are terrified by it.

Martina: They're just old. Old people don't understand new things. I'm a baby. It's simple. Look, take an 8 or 9-year-old. They started school before iPhones were even invented. It's mind boggling. I had an iPhone in the womb. How can you expect them to adapt? I don't even know how they found their way out of the womb without an iPhone. I was able to calculate the correct time and the proper angle using two simple apps . . . can I have my PinkBeary now?

Kash's Book Corner: Just a few more questions. You are entering the book business at a time of tremendous upheaval. What do you think of the current price wars?

Martina: I'm just upset that Amazon and Target won't sell me the books that cheap. It makes me shriek at the top of my lungs like that time Mommy fed me mashed up asparagus.

Kash's Book Corner: But after telling customers to buy local and independent, how could you look them in the eye if you bought books from Amazon?

Martina: I can't look anyone in the eye. I'm 2-foot-2.

Kash's Book Corner: You are buying the most important publishers in the industry. How will you know what to buy?

Martina: My daddy said I only needed to know two words: "No" and "Co-op." My two-year old friend says "no" all the time, so I figure this is a good chance to practice for me. I'll just say "no, no, no" on the adult books until the rep looks really upset, and then I'll give my cutest smile and ask "co-op?" I'm supposed to squeeze them for every last penny. The children's books will be more about taste. Literally. A good book, even a publisher sample, will have a certain texture and flavor when you put it in your mouth. "Yummy" will mean yes.

Kash's Book Corner: I'm sure that you are aware that there is very little money in bookselling. Why pursue it as a career?

Martina: I want my PinkBeary now!

Kash's Book Corner: Here you go.

Martina: [Squeezes her pink bear really hard.] Money! I don't even get an allowance. I don't get to pick any of my own clothes and they spoon feed me all sorts of mashed up vegetables. Now, I can get a few dresses, and the reps will take me out to sushi. Minimum wage sounds pretty good to me.

Kash's Book Corner: What are your favorite new books?

Martina: I'm a big fan of A.S. Byatt's Children's Book. Does Goodnight Gorilla count? I'm also really curious about Arguing with Idiots by Glenn Beck. Daddy won't let me read it because he says I'm too impressionable. I think it's because he doesn't want me to know how to argue with him.

Kash's Book Corner: Thanks a lot, and good luck on the job.

Martina: Can I go climb up and down the stairs now?

Kash's Book Corner: Go back to sleep, please.


Rosanna said...

this is hi-larious!!!!

lady t said...

One of the best interviews I've read in awhile:)

Anonymous said...

WOW, sounds like Martina is a tough sell.. I think I'll just keep on selling remainders to Arsen and Steph!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!! I am looking forward to more of her kid-picks. It sounds like she has excellent taste. (Glenn Beck, hee hee)

Praveen Madan said...

Love it!

Avid Bookshop said...

What a remarkable employee.

CKHB said...

AWESOME. I'm sure that some day in the future your budding book buyer and her PinkBeary will do some profitable business with my budding writer and her Green Turtle.

They'll probably use telepathy to do the deal and will laugh at us old farts who don't get the "new technology."

Autumn said...

She looks EXACTLY like you. Good thing you're a good lookin' son of a gun!

Nikki Dunas said...

This is completely Fabulous. Thank you, Arsen, for brightening my day!


Nicole Peeler said...

Someone just forwarded me this, and I nearly died of cute. I hope she enjoyed Tempest Rising, although I hope you censored the naughty bits. ;-)

A Concerned Cousin said...

Cute, but I wouldn't expect Martina to answer any differently. PS... You're nuts!