Thursday, January 20, 2011

A weird coincidence;
and why is Breinigsville, Pennsylvania so important to publishing?

(left-click to enlarge image)

A lot of my mostly funny/mostly true book, Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults), takes place in the Lehigh Valley of east-central Pennsylvania. I attended Lehigh University in Bethlehem. The central story in the book took place there, and I also wrote a bit about nearby Allentown and New Tripoli (pronounced nutri-PO-lee).

Yesterday I looked at a MapQuest map of the area. I spotted a lot of towns and cities I had visited back in the 60s, and one place I had never visited or known about back them -- but which has become an important part of my life.
  • Breinigsville, Pennsylvania is not as well known as Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or even Bethlehem.
  • Breinigsville is an unincorporated community in Lehigh County in Upper Macungie Township, between Trexlertown and Maxatawny (one of those great Pennsylvania names, like Punxsutawney, Hokendauqua, Catasauqua, Intercourse and Blue Ball). 
  • Breinigsville is about 10 miles from Allentown (where Lehigh students of my era went for Chinese food, Jewish food and girls at Cedar Crest College).
According to Wikipedia, Breinigsville was named for George Breinig, who established a farm in the area in 1789. In the 1860s, the Catasauqua and Fogelsville Railroad ran tracks into Breinigsville to serve iron mines. These mines shut down by the end of World War I, and the rails through Breinigsville were removed in the 1940s.

Not a hell of a lot happened since then. Breinigsville has no Indian casinos, presidential birthplaces, TV studios or natural wonders.

After 222 years, Breinigsville has fewer than 4,000 people.

But, it's conveniently located less than two hours from New York City and one hour from Philadelphia. Breinigsville apparently has lots of low-priced land that's used for manufacturing and warehousing that replaced farming and mining. Sam Adams beer, Kraft cheese, Grey Poupon mustard and A-1 Steak Sauce are made in the area.

So are my books -- including the book I wrote with stories about the area!

Strangely (to me, at least) Breinigsville, is home to a 130,000-square-foot printing plant operated by Lightning Source -- the dominant print-on-demand company and the company that prints and distributes most of my books.

And just a few minutes away from Lightning Source is a giant 600,000-square-foot warehouse operated by -- the company that sells most of my books.


Even weirder: Yesterday I received a purchase order from Amazon. They want to buy 10 copies of one of my books. The books are supposed to go to the Amazon warehouse in Breinigsville.
  • Does Amazon really need me to arrange for the books to be shipped two and a half miles down the road?
  • Does Amazon really expect me to sell them books for 25 cents above my cost (about HALF of what they'd pay Lightning), AND I'll pay for shipping, AND I'll take back unsold books?

(left-click to enlarge image.)

Maps from MapQuest.


  1. Weird, funny, and interesting. Thanks.

  2. I don't understand the purchase request.  Lightning Source and Amazon are connected, all purchase orders should be fulfilled automatically.  Perhaps you have something wrong with your setup?

  3. An even more interesting, right next to Lightening Source is RR Donnelley, who also makes books.