HR Strange But True!
July 26, 2007

Does it ever seem that workers at Silicon Valley-area companies have all the fun? You know, perks like fitness classes, massages, recreation trips, and the like. Well, here's one more to add to the list: Lunch hours with high-profile authors.

For the last several years, companies like Google (surprise), Yahoo, Microsoft, and Starbucks have been hosting authors for weekly -- and sometimes daily -- lectures and book-signings that once were the exclusive purview of bookstores, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Yelena Gitlin, publicity manager for Bloomsbury Books, started bringing authors to Microsoft and Starbucks in 2003. "It's hard to get people into bookstores these days, so book publishers and sellers have to come to readers -- and they are often at work," Gitlin told the Chronicle.

The bring-an-author-to-work phenomenon dates back at least as far as the late '90s, when technology authors were invited to Microsoft's think tank division. The program was soon expanded to include other departments and all kinds of authors, and in 2002 it was named SmartMoney magazine's employee perk of the month.

"We sold and do sell a lot of books at companies," Kim Ricketts, formerly Seattle's University Bookstore event organizer, told the Chronicle. "It immediately became clear to me that this is a more efficient way to sell books."

Ricketts left University Bookstore in 2003 to run her own company whose clients now include Nordstrom, Real Networks, Boeing, Kimpton Hotel Group, Cnet and YouTube, and she is planning to open satellite offices this fall in New York and Washington, D.C.

Ricketts told the Chronicle that business is booming because publishers are eager to increase book sales and because companies want to "create a culture that stimulates innovation" [Boss -- take note].

It's a win-win for authors and participating companies, with 50 percent to 80 percent of attendees purchasing books as compared to 10 percent to 20 percent at bookstore events. In addition, companies often buy the books on behalf of their employees, sometimes by the hundreds.


TGIF - It's HR
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