Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Perfect Book 2011

We all know books make great gifts in general, but there is something really special about finding the perfect book for someone on your list. Here are some suggestions to help you find those books. (And check out our lists from last year. These books are still perfect for the right person.)

Crafting with Cat Hair: Fun, eco-friendly crafting projects mixed with information about cat grooming and care. Definitely a neat gift for all cat lovers, whether they're crafty or not!

Design Sponge: For those who like to adorn their homes and personal spaces with a unique touch--and on a budget.

Spencer Tracy: Anyone who loves Old Hollywood will find the new biography of Spencer Tracy by James Curtis a special treat.

Flip Flop Flyball: The intellectual sports fan and/or anyone interested in graphic design.

Train Dreams: For the reader in search of America.

Ready Player One: It is perfect for the techie and gaming guru in your life; the one who has the latest and greatest of everything, both in this world and in galaxies far, far away. No batteries required.

Noir, Fatale, and He Died with his Eyes Open: Perfect for the reader who likes a little smarts and a lot of edge in their mysteries.

More to come. And while you're thinking about books, check our What a Book is Worth posts for some wonderful and inspiring meditations on the importance of books in our lives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Ebooks as Holiday Gifts

Want to give ebooks this holiday? Want to support PSB? Here are some devices and how they work with us, along with some other ebooks info.


iPad2 (16G/Wi-Fi)
With thousands of apps, great design, and cool features, it is still the industry standard.
Price: $499
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Use a web browser to buy from
How to Read: The free Google Reader and IndieBound Reader (coming in December) apps will automatically sync with your purchases, both available at the App Store

Toshiba Thrive (16g/Wi-Fi)
The closest thing to a portable all around work station. Perfect for students, writers, & anyone looking to be productive and entertained on the go.
Price: $379
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Use the IndieBound Reader app to buy straight from Porter Square Books, available at the Android App Market
How to Read: The IndieBound Reader app will automatically sync with your purchases, even those made on other computers.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (16G/Wi-Fi)
A slick device that packs all the features you want from a tablet into a very bookish size.
Price: $469
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Use the IndieReader app to buy straight from Porter Square Books, available at the Android App Market
How to Read: The IndieBound Reader app will automatically sync with your purchases, even those made on other computers.

The IndieBound Reader App for the Android will allow you to make purchases directly from Porter Square Books (or the Indie bookstore of your choice). You can adjust the font, font size, line spacing, margins, and more. It supports bookmarks and annotations, has brightness controls and a "Night Mode." It will also support other ebooks in industry standards like Adobe Digital Editions, ePub, and PDF. The app will be available for Apple products in December.


NOOK Simple Touch/Color (Wi-Fi)
The NOOK is consistently one of the best reviewed ereaders out there. With a little know-how the NOOK Color can be turned into a general tablet. (I use a rooted NOOK Color.)
Price: $99 (Nook Color $199)
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Download ebooks from onto you computer.
How to Read: Use the free software Adobe Digital Editions to move the ebook from your computer onto your Nook.

iRiver Story HD (Wi-Fi)
This inexpensive reader has the highest resolution of any e-ink screen on the market and automatically syncs with your Google ebook purchases from
Price: $139.99
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Use a web browser to buy from
How to Read: Automatically syncs with your purchases whenever you connect it to the internet

Sony Reader WIFI PRS-T1BC
Sony released the first ereader and they’ve been making quality devices at a reasonable price ever since.
Price: $149.99
How to Buy Ebooks from PSB: Download ebooks from onto your computer.
How to Read: Use the free software Adobe Digital Editions to move the ebook from your computer onto your Sony Reader.

Include a Porter Square Books Gift Card in with the device. Our gift cards are good for ebooks and all other online purchases.

For more information about devices visit the hardware section of our ebooks resource page. Things change quickly in the world of devices. Barnes and Noble has released a new Nook Tablet and though we haven't had a chance to look at it yet, it should work with our ebooks the same way the other Nook devices do. With a big decision like this, it's best to do your research. Wired, Engadget, and CNET, are three sites that consistently review devices like these. (and I scoured all of them for this post)

If you have any questions just ask. If we don't know the answer, we'll find out. Stop in or send an email to

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Very Foodie Holiday

It’s probably too early to use terms like “golden age,” but we might be living in a golden age for people who like to read about food. Food writing, memoirs, cookbooks that read like works of art, and classics brought back into print. Here is a list of books for the foodie in your life.

The Classics

Escoffier: With maybe the exception of the Larousse Gastronomique, Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire is the most important and foundational book of modern French cooking. Whether used as a cookbook or a reference book, it’s on the shelf of all the important chefs.

The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin: If you’ve watched Iron Chef, you’ve seen at least one quote from this beguiling and philosophical meditation on all things gastronomic. First published in France in 1825, this epicurean masterpiece has never been out of print.

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee: It might be a stretch to credit On Food and Cooking with the current wave of creative cooking in homes and restaurants, but McGee’s book certainly laid a foundation for interesting thinking about food. By providing a background of science he helped open up the possibilities of cooking.

LinkFood Writing

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain: Anthony Bourdain’s most famous book is his memoir Kitchen Confidential and he is now paying the bills hosting No Reservations, what I consider one of the best shows on television. In this collection, written in conjunction with his first TV show, Bourdain explores the cultural resonances of food and travel, demonstrating how both activities can be pathways to a deeper understanding of life.

Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir was one of the most highly acclaimed works of food writing in the last couple of years. On top of being an unflinching and lyrical work, Hamilton’s book (and life) proudly barges into a restaurant world that is still largely a bit of a boys club.

The Art of Eating: This probably belongs up in the Classics section above, but Brillat-Savarin beat MFK Fisher to it. Regardless, modern American food writing started with MFK Fisher and this is the definitive collection of her writing. Not willing to dive into a 748 page tome, her smaller collections, like How to Cook a Wolf and Consider the Oyster are good places to start.

On The Edge

Thai Street Food: If you want to get a true taste of a place’s culture, eat their street food. This gorgeous book presents the street food of one of the world’s most vibrant and interesting culinary cultures. The pictures make this book as much at home on the coffee table as on the kitchen table.

Mission Street Food: Part graphic novel, part memoir, part cookbook, the story of the Mission Street Food book is about a changing American food culture and a couple of people following their dream to run a restaurant.

A Day at elBulli: The recently closed elBulli was considered by many to be the best restaurant in the world, and its head chef, Ferran Adria, to be one of the world’s most creative minds. Though there are recipes in the book, this isn’t a cookbook, so much as it is an exploration of the process of creation focused around food and eating. A great book for artists and writers whether they read about food or not.

Something You Might Actually Cook From

Family Meal: Every day the staff at elBulli sat down together for a family meal before service. The meals were simple, hearty affairs designed to help power the chefs through their long night, but still spiced with the creativity that made Ferran Adria and elBulli world famous. With elBulli now closed, this book will be the closest we can get to tasting Adria’s genius.

Momofuku Milk Bar: If there’s an American Ferran Adria, it might be David Chang, whose restaurants and cookbooks, and now a quarterly food magazine, infuse food and cooking with the rebellious raucous energy of a punk rock show. This book is recipes from the bakery of the same name run by the equally creative Christina Tosi. Who wouldn’t want to whip up a compost cookie, crack pie, and cereal milk ice cream.

The Good Eats Trilogy (Vols 1, 2, and 3): I make more recipes by Alton Brown than by anyone else. His DIY philosophy combined with his commitment to share the reasons for recipes make his one of the most educational cooking shows out there. These books collect all the recipes and techniques from his long running show.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Come Home for the Holidays

It’s hard to believe it’s time to start thinking about holiday shopping, but, well it is. As you plan your gift-giving this year, we’d just like to tell you about some of the extra benefits of shopping at locally owned independent stores.

Shopping Local is a Job Creation Program. There is a lot of debate about how to create jobs in America, but an easy way for everyone to participate is to shop local. A bookstore the size of Porter Square Books employs 11.6 full time equivalent employees for every $1 million in sales. Walmart employs 5 people for every $1 million in sales. Amazon employs 1. (Institute for Local Self-Reliance) In terms of revenue and actual job creation, another study found that $1 million in revenue shifted to locally owned business would create 2.14 jobs, as compared with 1.27 jobs at chains and .39 jobs when you include online only retailers. And it doesn’t take much. A study in San Francisco found that if shoppers shifted only 10% of their buying to locally owned businesses, it would create 1,295 jobs.

And Those Jobs Usually Pay Better. Economists Stephan Goetz and David Flemin analyzed 2,953 counties, including both rural and urban places, and found that those with a larger density of small, locally owned businesses experienced greater per capita income growth between 2000 and 2007. The presence of large, non-local businesses, meanwhile, had a negative effect on incomes.

Keeping Us Here Makes Your Home More Valuable. And speaking of stimulus, a report studying 27 neighborhoods in 15 major cities found that home values in neighborhoods with thriving independent businesses outperformed their broader markets by 4 percent per year and 50 percent cumulatively over the past 14 years.

It Helps Us Give Back. A 1991 study (most recent I could find for this specific data) found that small businesses donate twice as much, per employee, to charities as large companies. Other studies have confirmed this general trend. Furthermore, because this is our home, we donate to charities in our community and work with organizations like Breakthrough Cambridge and Youk’s Kids that improve the lives of people living here.

Your Money Stays in Your Community. Because we give here and live here, more of your money stays here when you shop with us. With taxes, profits, wages, and the giving mentioned above, $45 out of every $100 you spend at a locally owned store like us, stays in the community. It funds schools and other public services, it pays the rent, it goes back into other local businesses through our own shopping. Only $13 out of $100 stays here when you shop at a national chain. Even less would stay when shopping at an online only store.

For more information about the effect of shopping local visit Civic Economics, The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and Cambridge Local First. And a special thanks to Senior Researcher and author of The Big-Box Swindle, Stacy Mitchell for finding some of this data for me.

And on top of all the good economic stuff, you get to give someone a book. To borrow a little business-ese, I don’t think there’s a much bigger return-on-investment.

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