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Wed, Aug 09, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Starbucks taking a novel approach to coffee bar reading


Music and movies were only the beginning. This fall, Starbucks will have something else on sale at the coffee bar: Mitch Albom's latest novel, For One More Day.

"This is the next step of our entertainment strategy," Starbucks Entertainment president Ken Lombard said on Monday.

"Our plan has been to start with music, take the next step into film and add books as the third leg of the stool," Lombard said.

Already offering a growing variety of CDs and DVDs, the coffee-chain has been quietly selling the children's classic The Little Engine That Could and officially launches its book "strategy" with For One More Day.

Promotion will include an online video conversation with Albom and an eight-city author tour.

Starbucks will contribute US$1 from each sale -- and a minimum of US$50,000 overall -- to Jumpstart, an educational organization that works with preschoolers.

"I am honored that Starbucks has chosen my book, and I am proud to support any effort that helps bring people together to read," Albom said in a statement released by Starbucks.

"Over the years, I've spent many hours myself reading in Starbucks. It's a fine environment to absorb and discuss a good book. And funding literacy efforts for our nation's youngest readers -- a key part of this for me -- helps ensure a future where books and writers remain integral to our culture," he said.

Albom's sentimental narratives are far from the Beat poetry traditionally associated with coffeehouse culture, and from CDs by Coldplay, Antigone Rising and others that Starbucks has sold. But Lombard said the author's new book, the story of a son reunited with his late mother, "embodies Starbucks values" because it's "an inspirational tale that encourages people to examine their lives with family and friends."

Lombard declined to say how many books Starbucks intended to order, but with The Little Engine That Could selling more than 25,000 copies in just one week, For One More Day seems a good bet to sell hundreds of thousands. Albom's memoir, Tuesdays With Morrie, has sold more than 11 million copies, while his previous novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, topped 8 million.

Albom's publisher, Hyperion Books, is scheduled to release For One More Day late next month. Starbucks will begin selling the novel in early October and plans to keep it in stores through the end of the year.

Booksellers, already competing with price clubs, drugstores and other nontraditional retailers -- many of whom offer books at large discounts -- now face a new player in a tight market. But Lombard says For One More Day will not be sold at full price and that Starbucks has no plans for a major expansion of books or other entertainment offerings.

"We don't want customers to walk into their favorite Starbucks store and think it's become a music store or a DVD store," he says. "We're going to stay true to the core of who we are. We're a coffee company."

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