4 min read

Book Fair

Thanks for visiting! Subscribing is free – ad free, personal-tracking free, everything-free, and it unlocks the weekend posts as well (they are usually my best stuff). Plus, I jump for joy every time I get a new subscriber... which means I've been jumping a lot lately. And, really, this is free: I have a career that gives me the time to do this out of love, and the only stuff people pay for is my book(s).

As my wife stays on her road to recovery post-ACL surgery, I've jumped in on a number of things that she would normally do. Help run the back-office for her CrossFit box? Check. Make chia pudding? Check. All the kid activities, instead of splitting it? Check.

One thing that I didn't realize I'd also have to perform her duties at book fair. She's really involved in the school – she runs both the school store and the book fair – and both of those have fallen to me.

School store isn't such a big deal, because all we can do is have a pop-up in the park when the weather gets nice, and that's mostly selling t-shirts and stuff that we have in inventory.

But book fair... that's a different story. Book fair requires lugging about a dozen metal shelves filled with books to the one COVID-approved area in our school: outside, under an awning.

You'd think that the people who designed these shelves would think about basics, like whether or not it should be easy to tip over the shelves, or if we should be able to lock the wheels in place. They didn't. This resulted in about an hour of barely catching shelves before they rolled the wrong way before we balanced them, precariously, against each other for the book fair.

Also, the cash registers needed to be reset a few times, and I had to call a special support line for that.

It's drizzling, so we've got pop-up tents to protect the books as well.

At the end of the day, we have to bring everything back inside, and then tomorrow – and every day this week – we do this all over again.

Thankfully, there were a lot of wonderful volunteers who showed up, because no one from Scholastic comes to help.

Also, my book is outselling Dav Pilkey's books there, which makes me feel good in general. It helps that I'm autographing them and undercutting Amazon's prices (by $3!), plus donating everything after printing costs to the school (which works out to about $7 to the school per book sold).

And all the money goes to a good cause, since our book fair funds after-school programs and other things that wouldn't exist if we didn't have the fair in the first place.

The set-up for this got me so angry that I want to start my own company that does nothing but set up book fairs for school, with things like shelves with locking wheels and books from places other than Scholastic (which makes most children's books, but really misses out on a lot of good indie stuff that hipster parents like me tend to go for: stuff like What do you do with an idea, which is what I'd like to write and draw when my writing and drawing grows up).

So, of course, I researched that. Scholastic, in a non-COVID year, can make a half a billion dollars a year from book fairs.

That's a third of their revenue, sold directly to consumers without the headache of a middleman. They do have to have a lot of inventory – you can't really do just-in-time for a book fair – but they also sell all of those books wholesale to both the book fair, which is the same as any retailer would get. It's not like they cut schools a break.

And do you know how they pay the organizations running the book fairs? Partially in Scholastic dollars, which you can only use to buy stuff from Scholastic, which we use in our book fair to outfit classrooms and programs. Scholastic dollars are like credit card points for school supplies – they give you more scholastic dollars than actual dollars so that you're enticed to buy more from them.

This sounds to me like a scam. A really compelling scam... but shouldn't PTAs get to use the money for whatever? And, like, half of the stuff from Scholastic at our book fair is branded merch from Disney or LEGO or whatever, which is just more corporate indoctrination of children and junk that we end up throwing away after a week or two anyway. Ick.

If you're a subscriber, write me and tell me what you think. I might want to start yet another business here. If you're a subscriber that works at Scholastic, then I'd love to pick your brain on this so you can tell me why you'd crush me, since a quick internet search pulled up few alternatives to Scholastic that aren't local bookstores or religious (which we can't do at a public school, even if we wanted to), and one giant educational publisher that seems to have made zero real inroads because Scholastic crushed them.

I got far enough down the road with this idea to look into buying the website bookfairy.com. I even came up with a mascot:

the book fairy

Other neato stuff

I got this email today from one of the many lists I'm on, and I publish it here in its entirety to make those of you at work who feel bad about minor mess-ups so that you feel better:

Yup. That's the entire email. The subject line was, "You Don't Need More Time. You Need This," which is the type of clickbait I normally hate... but how can I hate clickbait that literally tells me to unsubscribe?

Ever wonder how they get cars inside the mall? Me too:

How do they get the cars inside? from webcomics

That's it for today! Have a good one!

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