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Literary trends


There has been increasing evidence in the last few months that business owners and managers, no longer content to lament the stagnant economy, are taking steps to improve their own fortunes. The Business Record took a few moments last week to speak about the trend with John Heitzman, who for four years has owned The Book Store in downtown Des Moines.

Q: What are you seeing with sales of self-improvement titles?

A: Self-help titles always do well, in good times and in bad. I do see a little bit of an uptick in the business section. Companies are buying books that might deal with a certain issue, such as ways to increase sales or productivity or how to better deal with the changing business climate. There’s a lot of restructuring going on in companies right now. Some of the more forward-thinking managers want to find answers, and they’re looking at these books. People are saying, “This is the situation. Let’s try to work around it and find a strategy that will work in this economy.”

Q: When did you notice the trend?

A: Overall, I started to see more of it at the end of last year with some select titles. It’s still going pretty strong. I’ve seen sales of business titles jump at least 10 percent. It’s great. I love to see some of the more forward-thinking companies encourage their managers to read.

Q: How are companies getting involved?

A: Companies are encouraging their employees to read and to find new strategies and adapt them to the changing market. Some companies encourage upper management to read to be more productive and to help them think outside the box. Wellmark (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa) is really big on that. So are Ruan (Transportation Management Systems) and Wells Fargo Financial. Some companies set up purchase orders and others just have managers come in with a company credit card.

Q: What’s selling well?

A: One book that’s doing well is “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins. Another is “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” by Malcolm Gladwell. Those are two of the big ones. Another one that’s hot right now is “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” which is a marketing book by Seth Godin. Some Six-Sigma titles are selling. That’s so versatile. Six-Sigma started as a management application, and now people are using it for everything, including customer service. “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton – that’s been a really good seller.

Q: What about Harry Potter?

A: Harry Potter, well that’s going to be the blockbuster of the year. Hillary Clinton’s new book is also selling very well. Those are going to be two of the best this year. I’ve already pre-sold more than 50 copies of Harry Potter. For this store, that’s an incredible number. People are always looking for good fiction to read.

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