Though economy is slow, books tell a different story

Sales of books are always brisk at Christmas, a local bookstore owner says.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once said, "A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."
This past holiday season, people must have been thinking a lot. Sales of books were extraordinarily strong despite reports of a sluggish economy.
At Twice-Loved Books in Boardman, sales for late November through December were up 10 percent over the same period last year, said owner Peggy McKissick.
"That's pretty good considering what happened to retail sales. I would have been happy just to match what we did last year [2000]," she said.
"Christmas is always busy for us," McKissick continued. "A book is something you can give to almost anyone."
Unlike the large chain stores that try to carry everything for everyone, Twice-Loved concentrates on what McKissick calls "important books," new books that have received great reviews and are respected by the publishing community, and classics.
"Instead of carrying 900 books on dogs, we carry the best five books on dogs," she said. "We go for the things we know are excellent."
In demand: Although the Sept. 11 terror attacks triggered an initial surge in demand for books about the Middle East, the demand did not hold up through the holiday season, McKissick said. Instead, shoppers were looking for classics.
"We sold a lot of really beautiful leather-bound books of classic literature," she said. People were looking for books that would help make their homes feel warmer, more welcoming, safer, McKissick said. They were also looking for more used books, which are often in like-new condition at Twice-Loved and sold at low prices, she said.
For children, the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling and "The Lord of the Rings" books by J.R.R. Tolkien sold well, she said. "I sold a $75 set of 'The Lord of the Rings.' "
"Books were a very, very hot item this year," agreed Alan Cohen, owner of Copperfield & amp; Twist in Boardman.
Copperfield & amp; Twist specializes in out-of-print and rare books that Cohen said are "always in demand and always make good gifts."
Online: Most of the store's business is done throughout the United States by the Internet, he said. The holiday season, however, spurred a deluge of orders from around the world. The store shipped books to 30 countries.
Best-seller lists prompt some shoppers to buy books as gifts, but Jean Bolinger, owner of the Book Nook in Warren, said "Best sellers are going to sell anyway."
This Christmas, some of the top sellers at her store dealt with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, such as "One Nation: America Remembers September 11, 2001," produced by Life Magazine, and "The Brotherhood," published in conjunction with American Express.
Movie releases renewed interest in the Harry Potter and "Rings" series "and sales of related gift items," says Ann Roman, who works in the corporate affairs department of Borders Group, which owns the local Borders Books and Music and Waldenbooks stores.
Roman says that with all the anticipation of the movie releases, a sales increase was noticeable even before the movies came out.

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