State of the Shopping Cart Update

moneytreeAfter some unsatisfactory experiences with shopping carts for digital downloads, I came to Gumroad in early 2012, adopted it, and have been using it ever since …

Until now.

The real trouble began last year when I had a client who wanted a shopping cart and had multiple products. I was still loving Gumroad, so I put them on it and I monitor the account.

I have multiple products, too, but since all my customers had bought one copy of one title, I didn’t know there were two problems I couldn’t live with until my client’s wares started selling like hotcakes.

1. The merchant is listed as GUMROAD on the customer’s credit card statement. No one who bought from B10 Mediaworx complained, but plenty of my client’s customers complained. As a result, there were quite a few sale disputes.

2. There is no “add to cart” for digital products. No one who bought from B10 Mediaworx complained, but plenty of my client’s customers complained. They had to check out each time they bought a title. Can you imagine if you need all ten?

So I went on the hunt again and found this WordPress plugin: EasyDigitalDownloads [EDD] (in conjunction with Paypal).

The last WP shopping cart plugin I had broke every time WP had to update, and I had to reenter everything each time. As a result, I didn’t update WP. And I got hacked. Twice.

So I’m not going to say I’m in love with EDD, because I’ve been hurt so many times before, but so far it really has been easy and I have no complaints.

Furthermore, as an author-in-dire-need-of-marketing (Buy my books!) (Please!) (I need a finish nailer!), I’ve been exhorted (several times) to have a newsletter and a mailing list. To build this list, I have to go through six years’ worth of purchases and find every purchaser’s email. This can be done, but I haven’t got an intern, and my kids are learning how to keep house, which is more important to me anyway.

One of the things I like so far is how EDD monetizes itself. The nuts-and-bolts plugin is free, but there are add-ons you can purchase and one of them is MailChimp integration. I bought this one because I need it. I realized I needed this while I was combing through purchase records, before I found EDD.

If there’s a functionality that has ever been needed by any digital download cart anywhere ever, I have to assume EDD covered them all because I can’t think of one I could add to their page.

It did mean I had to go back to Paypal as my payment processor, but I’ve never really had an objection to doing so. I’ve never really liked that you get shipped off to Paypal and then shipped back, but they have the Paypal Pro and Paypal Express plugin for that, too.

My biggest concern, however, was the “add to cart” functionality for digital downloads, and that the actual merchant name shows up on the customer’s credit card statement.

And that is the latest update to my digital content delivery ecommerce on a shoestring series.

PS: I’m still in love with SquareUp, since I also have services for hire.

PPS: WP has updated twice since I started using EDD and it never broke.

PPPS: Here’s what the product page looks like: We Were Gods

I love SquareUp even more now.

squareYesterday, as many people who follow me on Twitter know, Square and I had a bit of a misunderstanding, a SNAFU, if you will. This, from the Square TOS, was our snag:

16b. Payout Schedule – Card-Not-Present Sales.

If you accrue more than $2,002 in card-not-present sales during any trailing seven day period, Square will defer depositing the amount in excess of $2,002 for 30 days. Card-not-present sales are transactions where the payment card is not swiped using the Square Reader. If you think your account is likely to exceed $2,002 in card-not-present sales per week, contact Square support to inquire about accelerating your payout schedule. Upon receiving this request, or once you exceed $2,002 in weekly card-not-present sales, Square will conduct a review of your Square Account to determine if you qualify for acceleration. Square will consider a variety of factors in making its decision, including but not limited to a proprietary set of rules, chargeback rates, transaction behavior, and other supplemental data about your business.

Now, before anybody accuses me of not having read the ToS before going batshit crazy, I did read the ToS, but it was 18 months ago and I’ve slept since then. Remember, I have only recently been able to nudge my clients over to using a credit card over the phone, so my revenue in that channel has been slowly increasing. I’ve never reached this threshold. In short, I forgot about it.

Thursday I signed onto a particularly wonderful project which put me far over the threshold. Imagine my shock and dismay when I found only 37% of the money had been deposited in my account. You know, somewhere in the back of my mind, it did occur to me they might put a hold on that money.


Three days would not have cramped my style. Ten days would not have cramped my style overmuch. Hell, banks only put a 10-day hold on a large check.

THIRTY DAYS cramped my style in ways that would have been really rather devastating.

I went to the website to see a notice that informed me I could have my account looked at if I filled out the online request form. If I also uploaded some documents, they would expedite the review and possibly maybe upgrade my deposit limit. I did that, fuming the entire while.

Somewhere in here I emailed and filled out the contact form.

What I really needed was to talk to a human being. Seriously. I would have actually called someone and talked to them on the phone to beg and plead and scrape for fast-tracking. But there is no phone number on the support page.

That’s when my head sploded and I took to Twitter.

This is the part where I tell you how wonderful Square was. Because they were. It took less than ten minutes from my first tweet as @MoriahJovan to put me together with B10 Mediaworx and get on to the expediting. (AND they addressed me as “Elizabeth” in the email, so in the middle of my rampage, they still managed to impress me.) By four pm central time, it was resolved. My deposit limit was increased and my funds were to be released to me. I got the confirmation email this morning and the money will be in my account on Monday, which was what I had originally expected.

Now, they put up with a lot of shit from me, which is not easy to do. Ask my husband. And my mother. And my partner. And my bishop. And just about anybody in romancelandia, publishing, and Mormon lit.

And they did it with the utmost of graciousness and style.

So this is my way of giving credit where credit’s due, thanking them profusely for the quick service, and commending them for being able to put up with me. (Also, to ask them very nicely to put a phone number on their website, pretty please with a cherry on top?)

But mostly this is a followup post to yesterday’s to both warn future users to read and remember this tidbit, because I recommend them most heartily. Those of you Twitter friends who have found themselves in need of such services and had been eyeballing SquareUp (but then expressed doubt), do it. You know who you are, Shiloh Walker, Carolyn Jewel, and Voirey Linger.

Do me a favor, willya, folks? Tweet this post like crazy.

Stripped-down ecommerce

gumroad_squareTwo years ago, I wrote “Content delivery on a shoestring,” (which cemented my love for Baldur Bjarnason). A little before that, I wrote “Tools of my trade,” which is marginally relevant to this post.

But over the years I’ve been doing this (years…oh my bob, I can’t believe I can say that, “years”), I’ve experimented and watched things change and seen things go obsolete.

For instance, when there was no iBooks, I made The Proviso an app. Sadly, Apple rejected the app on the grounds of profanity, so I spent months (I don’t remember how many, exactly) of the app’s life fighting with them about it until it was accepted. It wasn’t too long after that that iBooks came along, which didn’t impress me a whole lot anyway. I decided having a book with Apple probably wasn’t worth the time or energy. (I still think that to some extent, if one doesn’t use a third-party distributor like Smashwords.)

Another change was that many of the formats in use when I started out are pretty much gone: LIT (Microsoft Reader), IMP (eBookWise), PDB (Palm).

And then there was the fact that self-publishing exploded. (I like to think I directly influenced two traditionally published authors to try their hand at it, but that is probably me stroking my own ego.)

What has NOT happened, though, is self-publishing authors selling their wares on their own websites in the manner of indie musicians. I’ll tell you now that it’s not a tragedy and there’s very little money to be made when Kindle et al are available. Customers want a one-stop-shopping experience and the Kindle’s value, as everyone knows, is its ubiquity and easy-button delivery system. No author in the world can replicate that from their website.

But you can get pretty damn close and in my opinion, it’s worth the effort just in case.

This is my stripped-down-nekkid method of conducting ecommerce:


With each iteration of my shopping cart, I’ve tried these:

and I’ve experimented with

and what I won’t touch with a 10-foot pole

and what lit up my world

Of the first four, Linklok is my hands-down favorite. I started out with it because I needed instant downloads for my needlework patterns, but I only had one format. When I got into selling ebooks and print books, though, I knew I wanted a drop-down menu, so I fiddled with Zen Cart and Os Commerce. They were far too tedious for someone with the patience of a hungry infant. Then I found and began using the WP e-commerce plugin, which broke every time I had to update WordPress and obliged me to re-enter all my products and suffer two malware attacks on my site because I didn’t want to update WordPress for obvious reasons. But dammit, I had my drop-down menu and I wanted to keep it!

But after the second attack and many wasted hours and money later, I threw in the towel, reinstalled Linklok, and made separate buttons. By this time, I only had four formats: print, EPUB, Kindle, and PDF. I soon dropped the print because I got tired of shipping books and having a disproportionate number of them go missing.

Then one day, Jane Litte of Dear Author put out a Twitter call for someone to run an experiment with her involving a thing called Gumroad and its ease of use for a mobile consumer. I happened to see her tweet and volunteered for the project. I think it shocked both of us how incredibly easy it was from start to finish, on the merchant and consumer side. I talked to the founder of Gumroad a couple of nights later and was very heartened by what I heard. Whenever I had a free minute, I gradually switched all my downloadable products to Gumroad. (As mentioned, I had stopped selling print copies from my site, but you can also sell physical products.)

I have, since, put two of my clients (one nonprofit and one corporation) on Gumroad, both of whom love it. It’s the easy-button of shopping carts. Set it and forget it.


GUMROAD. Gumroad is both the delivery system and the payment processor for your stuff, nobody else involved (unless you want it to be). For those authors and companies who have no need to sell services like I do, Gumroad will be sufficient. But! Since I do sell custom services, I have to have something extra, and for the longest time the only thing I had was…

PAYPAL. We all know some or most or all of the issues involved with using Paypal. I use it because it was there when nothing else was, it’s the largest, with the most users. People either trust it or use it because they have to. I have long wanted to get away from Paypal but had no attractive alternatives, and thus, Paypal could screw me over with impunity. And they did here and there. And ranting about it on the internet is ineffective.

SQUARE. Then in 2011, I was invited to be a panelist at the Sunstone Symposium because of Magdalene, and they told me to bring books. I had to have a way to sell them via credit card. My partner Eric suggested SquareUp, which was, at that time, still a bit unknown. It was perfect. It worked beautifully…for print books. Ebooks not so much, but I considered it unreasonable to expect it from them considering their reason for existence, and found a workaround solution that actually worked (even if it was a bit clunky).

Since, I’ve used Square as my payment processor for my services. It’s worked marvelously for the past 18 months. So marvelously, in fact, I have been nudging my clients in the direction of paying by credit card or check (yes, a paper check) in an attempt to get away from Paypal completely. I found it funny that Paypal just introduced their own little credit card swiper thingie, a full year after I was already using Square. Really. What took ’em so long? Didn’t matter, though, because I wasn’t going to use that. The point was to get away from Paypal. So my revenue via Square has been growing and my revenue via Paypal has been decreasing. So increasing, as a matter of fact, that yesterday’s transaction hit a snafu.

Thus it was that today Square and I had to have a come-to-Jesus meeting. I’ll write about that tomorrow, but the spoiler is that it’s all turned out dandy and these posts are meant, in part, to sing their praises some more.

To summarize:

Authors who don’t sell anything in person or hire out services: Use Gumroad.
Authors who sell physical goods out in the wild: Use Square.
Consultants like me: Use Square.

Tomorrow, the snafu and what you need to know when using Square.

Guest post: The state of academic publishing by @Dhympna

My friend @Dhympna, she of Culinary Carnivale, is a medievalist (historian) (a cranky one, at that) working on her PhD. You wouldn’t know it, though, since she thinks and talks like an anthropologist. Maybe that’s redundant. Anyway, she sent me notes on a discussion panel I might categorize as publishers versus libraries. Those of you in the Publishing Wank Community know where I’m headed with this and why. I thought you might be as interested in her rough thoughts as I was.

I recently attended a roundtable discussion about the state of publishing for university presses (it should be noted that this does not include Oxford University Press or Cambridge University Press, as these two adhere to a different model).  Listening to one of the press representatives talk, I was a bit disturbed by the anti-library rhetoric that seemed to be the subtext for his whole presentation.

The presentation was a look at the history of publishing from the 1970s to the present, while paying particular attention to what influenced the output of university presses.

Starting in 1975, the shortage of tenure jobs created what many academics would recognize as the current “publish or perish” environment. Serials (we are talking about journals) also started to take over the buying budget for librarians, especially science serials. The result is that university presses were pumping out more individual titles per year to compensate for libraries buying less and to meet the departmental demands that all new hires and tenure track faculty have published works to prove that they are adding to their field.

Here are some of the main points I took away:

  • Contrary to popular belief, the number of individual titles published each year by university presses has grown each year.
  • Many libraries spend most of their budget on serials and not on book titles.
  • Since libraries are buying less, print runs for individual titles have been cut in half. Where a publisher could count on selling at least 1K copies for each book, now many titles only sell about 200.
  • It is clear, from what I heard, that publishers only view tenured professors and libraries as their market and some are now price gouging the libraries that do buy titles ($100+ for a new hardcover monograph). My thoughts: while they admit that the price difference between a hard cover and a paperback is negligible, they prefer hard cover because they can charge premium prices. No one will buy a $300 paperback on medieval history, but put it out in hard cover and they seem to think it is more acceptable and the library does not have to bind it.
  • Many university libraries are now faced with storage issues and must get rid of books before they can add to the collection—digital books helps solve this issue.
  • Librarians want to own their license and many academics want to do away with copyright—this does not please many publishers.
  • Some publishers are worried because some librarians are calling their corporate model, which is at odds with scholarship, into question and they worry that libraries will become the distributors of content.
  • One publisher said that they felt bullied by libraries to embrace digital and that libraries were bullies because they helped create the flood of individual titles and were now causing a rush to the digital.
  • University publishers, or the ones I listened to, are not interested in embracing a new model and seem to resent digital.

Guest Post: A Dose of Realism for Aspiring Authors by Warren Adler

Posted with permission from Warren Adler, author of War of the Roses, who also happens to be an ebook pioneer and rabid digital evangelist.

The announcement that Penguin Books is getting into the self-publishing genre fiction game was inevitable. Under the guise of a talent search, a la American Idol, Penguin and other publishing entities, including many startups soon to overload the field, the promise of so-called “literary” fame and fortune will be the lure and the goal of the sponsors, as always, will be profits.

In general terms, here is the way it will work: Authors with hopes and dreams of becoming known genre writing brands will post their work in the various genres and sub-genres in the fields of romance, detective, fantasy, science fiction, vampires, zombies and on and on into numerous subcategories within subcategories.

According to newspaper reports, in addition to complete works, individual chapters and short stories, the authors can also post ideas, outlines and whatever else their creative writing urges dictate. Readers will interact, provide comments, suggestions and conversation, critique characters, plots and other aspects of particular interest in whatever genre fits their fancy.

One of the obvious hurdles to this potpourri will be the copyright challenges and the risk of what one can best describe as “stolen ideas,” a vague definition that will raise hackles on those who believe their ideas spring from original inspiration. In my long career as a novelist I have discovered that many people who believe in their imaginative uniqueness will quickly learn that numerous minds in many lands have concocted similar ideas, plots, and characters that tend to be mirror images of each other. Intellectual property lawyers will have a field day.

What the publishers and website sponsors hope is that there might be one or two breakout books that they might scoop up for commercial exploitation, while mining money through fees and advertising based upon what the sponsor hopes will be a vast audience of readers and wannabe genre fiction writers.

This critique in no way is meant to denigrate the individual writers who will step up and accept the challenge. I believe strongly in the creative impulse that motivates authors who write creative fiction, even those who work with the tight restraints of the genre palette.

Indeed, getting their work out to be read and commented on by others will garner many personal psychic rewards, especially if some readers register approval of their work. Unfortunately, they will have to bear the brunt of a compendium of negative comments, a kind of multiple rejection process that will be difficult for those who cannot face negativity with a well-armored constitution. Internet comments are rife with such postings, especially if they are anonymous.

There is no question that wannabe professional genre writers will flock to the Penguin site and others in operation or about to be. Many will have been badly bruised by an endless search for agents and traditional publishers. Most will believe that their work deserves a broad audience and will yearn for the time when they can quit their day job and earn enough money to support themselves with their writing.

Such fantasies equate with dreams of winning the lottery. Rising above the chatter of millions of books available on the Net will be the author’s challenge, whether they are aspiring or established. Unlike the brief performance segments on American Idol or the song business in general, reading or listening to a book takes considerable time and mental concentration. Reading is not a casual enterprise.

Consider this then a cautionary tale of what writers who post on Penguin and other burgeoning sites will have to face. The odds of finding a traditional publisher or agent in this uncertain environment will be beyond formidable. Even if one were lucky enough to acquire them through this process, the cash advance is likely to run from small to none. Nevertheless, expect to hear success stories, promotional ploys designed to keep the pump primed for the sponsors and continue to attract more and more postings. Caveat Emptor!

On the other hand, such postings will provide psychic joy to aspiring authors in the genre field. They will be able to point with pride to the fact that their book has been published. People might comment on the text, a good sign that some have read the material which is the object of the exercise. That alone could be well worth the effort for some.

In general, the creation of such material is a remarkable achievement for anyone. It is extremely difficult to write a long-form genre novel, an awesome challenge to the imagination and one’s self-discipline. There is a lot to say for such an achievement.

As for expectations of achieving popularity, fame, fortune, praise or discovery, authors should temper their hopes with realism.

On the plus side, remember, someone always wins the lottery.

Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections. The War of the Rose, adapted from his novel is an international classic. Other films include Random Hearts with Harrison Ford, and The Sunset Gang. His newest collection of short stories, New York Echoes 2, will be available soon.

MOBI wins

I’ve said this before. Actually, I said it when sales of Kindle took off. And there’s a reason it wins: Whispersync. MOBI is an ancient and limited/limiting format. EPUB is an evolving and flexible (if not quite limitless yet) format. MOBI was all but dead when Amazon used it for the Kindle, but readers don’t care. They want their ebooks and they want them to be more convenient than paper.

Here’s the problem: Technology gets in the way of reading ebooks. MOBI wins simply because it happens to be the format Amazon used to make it painless for people to get books. (And if you think Barnes & Noble’s nook is going to become the EPUB equivalent of Kindle, you’re kidding yourself.)


I released my third book yesterday: Magdalene. In it are beautiful illustrations my fabulous artist Adam Figueira did for me.

Unfortunately, for EPUB readers built on the Adobe Digital Editions developer kit, those illustrations won’t scale. But they do in Overdrive, Kobo, and iBooks. Imagine that. So I had to manipulate the images down to the smallest size that was still barely readable, because most people read EPUB on ADE-based readers. (I use Bluefire in iPad.)

MOBI, on the other hand, that ancient and limited/limiting format, scales the images and while they’re still small on the Kindle, you can read them and they do zoom a tad. You can argue that it’s a reading software problem, and not a format problem (why blame EPUB? you wail), but it’s really irrelevant.

In this equation, the person who bought the book is the only person who matters.

No format does what it really needs to do to replicate the convenience of the print reading experience. All you have to do to read a print book is know how to read.

This format bullshit isn’t like having mismatching books on a book shelf. This is like having print books you can only read if you have a GE 75-watt bulb in your 60-watt lamp that has to plug into a European outlet. In the United States.

Ads in ebooks

Last night I was perusing Fast Company, as I do, and found this:

Amazon Debuts Kindle for $114, Packed With Visa, Olay, Buick Ads, Sponsored Screensavers

I was rather sanguine about it for a bit, wondering what was so special about $25 that you’d put up with ads, but figuring if it was just a screensaver, well, okay. I don’t look at my Kindle screensaver now and a couple of the pictures are really pretty. Otherwise, I didn’t really think on it too much. There are ads everywhere and I ignore them. I initially compared it to a magazine, even though it’s not analogous; a book is an immersive experience. A magazine is not.

But after some discussion on Twitter, it was pointed out to me that it wouldn’t take long before there were intratextual ads at points in the narrative with mentions of name brands. Now, when I write, I’m a brand-name dropper. I can’t get my head around people who say “tissue” instead of “Kleenex,” although I’ve been told this happens on the East Coast. So I would be annoyed if, after my Midwestern characters said “Kleenex,” you turn the page and there’s an ad for Kleenex.

Then I got to thinking other things. Bear with me while I do some stream-of-consciousness what-iffing.

Cheap ad-laden ebooks and premium non-ad ebooks

Publishers required by Amazon/etailer to create code for Amazon’s ease of insertion of ads

Publishers pay to keep ad insertions out

Publishers beat Amazon to the punch and solicit their own ads to subsidize the book

Publishers get hit with an Amazon vig for already having ads in the book

Publishers have reason to keep harping on print as the Kindle killer* and jack around with digital production for another five years

But then…

Someone creates apps for blocking the ads

Devices upgraded to disable the apps

[insert app update versus hardware update war here]

I could probably keep spinning out the what-ifs, but follow the money, then read back the history of every open-source web initiative that ever got around someone who wanted to force something on a consumer.

Notice: Implicit in my list is the assumption that ads in ebooks will happen, and there will come a point when they will not be avoidable without paying for the privilege in one way or another.

And watch ad-less file sharing soar to new and breathless heights.

*Richard Curtis declared print books “the Kindle killer” at the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference. With a straight face.

Guest Post: My Book Problem by Warren Adler

Posted with permission from Warren Adler, author of War of the Roses, who also happens to be an ebook pioneer and rabid digital evangelist:

In another few weeks, I will be moving to another apartment in the same building in Manhattan where I have spent the past few years. While moving in itself is a traumatic event as everyone knows, my principal problem is books.

I have a huge collection of books. In the three or four major moves in my lifetime I have culled, boxed, given away and donated thousands of books. During each nesting experience, however, I have acquired yet more books and have repeated the culling process each time. I could never pass a bookstore without buying one or more books.

The fact is that I am probably a bibliophile in my soul. I love books. Reading books takes up much of my time, when I am not writing books. For years I have collected sets of leather bound books by favorite authors. It is a valuable collection. I have leather bound books by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickens, Hardy, O’Henry, Balzac, Henry James, Turgenev, Twain, de Maupassant, and on and on. To list them all would make this essay endless.

I also have duplicate copies of my own books in every language in which they have been translated and published. They amount to hundreds of copies. I will never part with them. They are as much a part of me as my DNA.

I love reading novels, older novels and contemporary novels. My tastes are eclectic. I have many non-fiction books as well, on politics, history and religion with particular emphasis on American history, which is yet another passion.

Now here is the kicker.

I am a pioneer in electronic publishing. All of my books have been reversed from major publishers and digitized since the late nineties. I have for years been touting the inevitable switch from print to digital. It was a no-brainer bound to happen. And it has reached the tipping point.

I made the first pitch for digital books on handheld reading devices at the Las Vegas International Consumer Electronics Show for the SONY reader when it was introduced in 2007. I bought one of the first Kindles and for kicks have been collecting other reading devices like the iPad and the Nook.

For years I have been addressing groups on the joys of reading content on screens. At first my reception had been hostile. I have listened to the same complaints ad infinitum. They all have the same ring. I love the tactile feel of a book. I love the smell of ink and paper. I love to hold them. Books are my friends. I like to see them on my shelves. A curse on screen-read books.

My response is always the same. I feel your pain. I cite other examples of lost items, both corporeal and emotional: The clip-clop sound of a horse’s hooves on city streets, the beauty of horse-drawn vehicles, the smell and sounds of sizzling logs in fireplaces, the fading art of writing letters, the lost joys of childhood, the reassuring scratches made by pen points dipped in inkwells, my mother’s cooking, the reassuring house calls of the family doctor, the old New York Herald Tribune, penny candy, knickers, saddle shoes, the Brooklyn Dodgers. It didn’t bring tears to the eyes of my audience and did not soften the blows to my advocacy of digital books.

I would explain to those early listeners and those I speak to today that there is a lot to say for the psychic joys of a physical book, but, in the end, there is one hard truth that is inescapable. The heart of a book is its content. Content trumps all. When all is said and done reading is a one on one communication system, an author’s presentation of his or her insights, stories, opinions, a distillation of his or her thoughts, instructive, inspirational, original, and, in its own way, a miracle of transference through words. I suppose one can find numerous other definitions, both literary and instructive. Content and its dissemination is the beating heart of civilization. Enough said. I’m sure the point is made.

In one tiny device, Kindle, Nook, iPad et al, I can fit the content of every book on my shelves and can, if I chose, soon be able to download at my whim the content of my choice among most books ever published since the discovery that content can be portable.

That said, it does not diminish my love of physical books as objects of admiration and devotion.

But here I am culling once again. I find I am being more ruthless than ever with less second thoughts or pangs of conscience on what to keep and what to discard. I no longer really want to shelve paperbacks and am making my culling judgments on the basis of my emotional attachments, my love of the content presented by those authors who have truly moved me, whose content has given me hours of pleasure and made a difference in my understanding of the human condition.

I will keep those books in my new apartment as a monument to my love of books and my favorite authors as well as a symbol of enduring friendship.

Oh yes, one more thought. While I can enjoy the sight of seeing many of my “friends” tucked comfortably on my bookshelves, I can now carry these “friends” everywhere I go and in both a physical and symbolic sense hold them close to my heart.