At the risk of waxing philosophical, I’ve decided to write about the concept of value. This is a subject I deal with daily at work as I assess how much store credit or cash to give customers for their used books, and as I price new inventory. It used to be that the word ‘value’ indicated the inherent worth of an item, or alluded to some benefit gained from having it, hence the term ‘valuable’. Most things can possess value — there are valuable pieces of information, valuable books, valuable friendships…

A problem I’ve been seeing lately, though, is that the word ‘value’ has become misused. Companies advertise ‘better value’, when really what they are pointing out is a reduction in price: direct mail coupons are termed the ‘ValPak’; bulk foods are marked Value Size.

Unfortunately, what people have taken away from this is that the way to get a better value is to try to get the same thing for less money.

In response to this, companies have changed their strategy. Rather than trying to have the best product, many simply try to have the cheapest. Consumers initially thought this was great — paying less money has to be better, right?

That was true initially, but it’s become a slippery slope. Now companies launching new products are looking at how to make them even cheaper than the last. And they’re doing that by subtracting value. Products don’t last as long (this is a strategy called ‘planned obsolescence‘). The ingredients they include aren’t as good. The problem is, we as consumers have not pushed back enough. Companies have lowered their standards of quality, and we have gone right along with them. They are looking for the quality floor (i.e. how low they can go), and we haven’t shown it to them yet.

At some point (and in some cases that point has already been reached), this is going to have a very real effect on our society. Cheaper isn’t always better. We all know this, deep down. We all realize that something is being sacrificed along the way. Whether it be the wages of those producing the goods, the health of those consuming them, the overall economic health of the world… skimping on quality is not sustainable. Neither is skimping on service. And yet these are things we continue to shoulder more and more in modern society.

Remember when milk used to be delivered to people’s doors? Remember when all gas stations were full service? I don’t. But it used to be the case. I’m 26. It hasn’t been that long, and we’ve gone from a society where companies bend over backwards with service incentives to win our business, to one where we save a few bucks here and there. So the question for all of us becomes… does this sound like value to you?

Today’s book:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

The first volume in a favorite fantasy adventure series of mine, entitled A Song of Ice and Fire. This is an epic novel, grand in scope, original in content, rich with numerous interesting characters. And the interesting part about Martin’s approach — no one is safe. Gone are the days of traditional fantasy, where no matter the predicament the protagonist finds him/herself in, they are impervious to harm. Martin keeps you guessing with every page, which speaks to his talent, considering each book in this series is a hefty tome (500-700 pages).

Published in: on April 19, 2009 at 5:26 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Ophelia Paige’s Meet and Greet!

This is Ophelia Paige, our bookstore cat. Ophelia

A few weeks ago, probably 3 at this point, this sweet little cat wandered to our door. Jonathan was at the store alone for once and I was over at the apartment getting ready to have dinner with a friend. He calls me and says: ‘Kristine! There is a cat meowing at our door… what should I do?’ And of course I respond ‘Let it in! It’s freezing out!’ I brought food over for her but apparently by the time we had gotten off of the phone she was already gone, wandering off in search of other adventures.

Being the bleeding heart that I am I call my friend, Sam, and tell him that I needed to rescue a cat and was going to be late. He grudgingly understood  and Jonathan and I bundled up for the winter night and headed out in search of the elusive feline. Behind our bookstore is a construction site where they are building a new firehouse (yay!) and rolling around in the dirt is a shadowy figure who looks suspiciously like an adorable kitty.

We talk to her from where we stand and she meows back, almost as if to say ‘Hey, I was wondering when you’d get here. Can we go inside now?’
She allows Jon to pick her up and take her in where she explores the store fearlessly — eating her delicious canned food and indulging in some fresh water, content to finally be in a warm, safe place.

We took her to the vet in the following weeks after no one called us to claim her from the ads we posted.
She was not microchipped and was indeed a feral cat who had chosen the perfect home.

Ophelia Paige now enjoys the same creature comforts as every bookstore cat, such as never-ending attention, a soft cat bed, many mice toys, a gigantic cardboard box fort, and a boundless amount of love from all who meet her. Anyone interested in coming to meet her is welcome, though we can’t promise she won’t be sleeping in her favorite spot — a J. Jill paper shopping bag under the checkout counter.

Published in: on April 11, 2009 at 4:02 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Newsletter.

Yesterday’s Muse Books is proud to present it’s new online subscription form for our newsletter. All our members receive coupons, discounts and event news for the store and the website. We ship all over the world. If you are interested in joining click here.

Thanks again!

Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 3:09 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Rainy with a chance of showers

It’s been a rainy week here in upstate New York, which is typical for this time of year. It’s interesting to see, though, how despite all our technological innovations, despite all the conveniences we now enjoy… weather still wins. No matter what we throw at her, mother nature can basically swat us like flies. It’s humbling, and in an important way, I think. We need to know that we are not the center of things, even though our senses would have us believe otherwise. We need to realize we are part of something greater, and try to figure out where we fit into that. Easily said, right? Well, luckily, I think that the process is the important part — learning, adapting, trying new things… the truth is, there is no answer, no end of the rainbow. But we need to behave as if there is, because that is what life is about. What weather tells me is that this world isn’t here for me — it’s the other way around. It will be here long after I’m gone. What I need to decide is what part I want to play in the ongoing cosmic game. Am I going to treat a rainy day like a wasted chance, or am I going to learn to live with what I’m given? Once we ask the question, the answer is easy — the problem is, many of us never do.

Today’s book:

Viktor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’

Published in: on April 3, 2009 at 6:21 PM  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Our Next Event


My name is Kristine, although I don’t think I’ve been properly introduced yet. I’m Jonathan’s girlfriend and I’ll be writing on occasion to let people know what has been going on with us and what events the store has planned. I am 19 and also have a love of the written word (hence my current profession.) I was attending Nazareth College for English education and now work full time in the bookstore.

I’ve been with Jonathan going on 2 years in August and working with him for about 5 years. How time flies when you’re having fun! And by ‘fun’ I mean working all the time. 😉

When we opened the store in December we were lucky to be able to have the children’s librarian from Webster Public Library available for storytelling.  It went very well — about 15 kids showed up.

GropinThis event coming up on April 18th is also a storytelling with Gardner J. Ryan — a local author & illustrator.  He involves the children with items that have been taken right out of the pages of his stories for them to hold. For his first visit to the store he will be reading ‘Gropin and the Magic Canes’ which is an adventure story full of thrills and adventure that takes place at Mendon Ponds Park.

It would be appropriate for ages 6-10 and Gardner will be returning monthly for a series of original tales featuring all of his hand-crafted characters. Children can feel free to bring pillows for the floor. Our storyteller will be here once a month on a designated Saturday afternoon so drop on in!

Anyway, I should probably actually start doing work.. although blogging makes me feel at least partially productive.

Have a wonderful rest of your week.

%d bloggers like this: