Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 18, 2014
Amazon: Delivery Competition; Strike; Bezos Interview
In his State of the Art column in today's New York Times entitled "Amazon Not as Unstoppable as It Might Appear," Farhad Manjoo speculates that Amazon may be increasingly vulnerable because smartphones are changing how Americans shop--and new companies are linking with bricks-and-mortar retailers to provide delivery service that is much faster than what Amazon can.
Manjoo cited the Bay Area in California as "a hotbed for some of the most innovative retailing start-ups. With Instacart, you can get groceries delivered instantly from big and small supermarkets. With Google's Express delivery service, you can get household goods from big-box stores delivered on the same day you order. The app Curbside lets users order items from Target, and have them ready when they drive up to a store. And with Postmates, it is possible to order takeout, and pretty much anything else, and have it delivered directly very quickly."
Manjoo said that his own household's expenditures with Amazon have slid by a third from their 2012 peak as a result of such services.
This is not news to Amazon. Last night the company announced that Prime Now, which provides one-hour delivery services to Prime members, has launched in "select areas of Manhattan." (A portion of Amazon's new W. 34th St. building is being used for the service.) Products available for order via mobile app include paper towels, shampoo, books, toys and batteries. Amazon intends to expand the service to other cities next year.
The latest strikes against Amazon warehouses in Germany have spread to six of the seven facilities and have been extended to December 20--and through December 24 at one facility--the Wall Street Journal reported. Originally the strikes were to last this past Monday through Wednesday and were planned at first for just four of the warehouses.
The union Verdi has conducted partial strikes regularly against Amazon since May 2013, but this is the largest yet. At issue is how Amazon warehouse workers are categorized for collective bargaining purposes. Amazon calls them logistics workers and says they are well paid for that job. The union says they should be considered part of the mail order and retailing sector.
Business Insider U.K. has the full transcript of Henry Blodgett's interview with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the Business Insider Ignition conference in New York City December 2, which was widely quoted, including at Shelf Awareness. Read it and ponder.
Holiday Hum: Shopping Season in Full Swing, Part 2
At Chapter One Bookstore in Hamilton, Mont., the holiday rush kicked off right after Thanksgiving. According to co-owner Shawn Wathen, the two-day total for Friday and Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend was the store's best two-day total in more than a decade.
"Ever since then, things have been hopping and getting busier," Wathen said. "For us, the busiest time is the 20th to 23rd of December."
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand has been "going gangbusters," with a major movie adaptation coming on December 25. Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience by Shaun Usher, which features facsimiles of real letters between historical figures (one is a handwritten letter from a young Fidel Castro to Franklin Delano Roosevelt), has emerged as a surprisingly strong holiday seller. Molly Gloss's novel Falling from Horses has moved briskly as well; Gloss, Wathen explained, has a passionate following in Montana. And in fiction, as is the case at many indies this season, Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See is selling strongly.
In terms of sidelines, Wathen stocked up on Folkmanis Puppets, and they've moved well. To coincide with Jane Austen's birthday on December 16, Wathen brought in a lot of Jane Austen-themed items, including action figures and puzzles. And because there is no conventional toy store in Hamilton, Wathen has ordered a lot of board games and toys from the company Blue Orange Games.
Despite brisk sales and a great Thanksgiving weekend, Wathen doesn't expect to be up over last year. Depending on how the next 10 or so days go, he said, his store will either be even or little bit below last year. "It's been a slide since 2009," he explained. "Due to our location, it's a really long-term thing to come out of any severe recession. My hope is from here we've seen the bottom and can start to climb.... It's just the nature of where we live. The recession lingers long-term here."
Steve Salardino, the manager at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif., has seen strong sales of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle as well as the novels of Elena Ferrante, Amy Poehler's Yes Please and Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Skylight Books' own low-priced zines, which cover topics such as "How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety," have been doing very well as stocking stuffers. Salardino has been surprised that The David Foster Wallace Reader, published in November, has not taken off, particularly since the store "has been a big supporter of David Foster Wallace and has always sold a bunch of his titles."
Salardino said the store has been unable to bring in new copies of Megahex, a graphic novel about a depressed, drug-addicted witch that was written by Simon Hanselmann and published earlier this year by Fantagraphics.
According to Salardino, Skylight Books is shooting to be up 5% over 2013's holiday season, which, given the strong, steady sales since Thanksgiving, appears likely. Over the past few holiday seasons, Salardino added, there has been an increase in awareness of the need to shop local. "Many customers even mention it," he said. "It is nice to know that people are starting to understand how important a local, living community is, and that when they shop at Skylight Books, they are contributing to local culture as well as local lives."
Since Thanksgiving weekend, Rita Maggio, the owner of Booktowne in Manasquan, N.J., has had only one slow day, and that was due to a nor'easter passing through. Weekends especially have been very, very busy, and Maggio expects this coming weekend, the last one before Christmas, to be "exceptional."
On Saturday, Booktowne will host Frank Caruso, the illustrator of Outlaw Pete, written with Bruce Springsteen. "We hope this signing on Saturday will be good," said Maggio. The Boss, it turns out, has a beachfront house in Manasquan. "We don't expect Bruce to stop in, but we always hope that he will."
One of the biggest sellers for Booktowne this season has been All the Light We Cannot See, which unfortunately Maggio has had trouble getting back in stock. "It's a phenomenal book," she said. "And when it took off, it took off big."
Maggio has been surprised by the lukewarm sales of Ken Follett's newest book, Edge of Eternity. She also expected 41, George W. Bush's biography of his father, to sell well, but it hasn't. "It's sold, but not big," she said. "This is a community that would buy that, but it's not something I keep re-ordering."
For Steve Bercu, the owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., the holiday rush has been in full swing for weeks already, and it's coming on the heels of the best October and November that BookPeople has ever had. Bercu's store is up about 9% so far over last December, and it's shaping up to be one of the best Decembers ever. As for the full year, he can already say that 2014 will be BookPeople's fifth consecutive best year ever in sales.
Unbroken and All the Light We Cannot See are among the top sellers, but Bercu was quick to point out that this year his store is selling a bit of everything. "We're probably not going to have a book that we sold 1,000 copies of this Christmas," he explained. "We're selling all across everywhere."
The biggest surprise this season, Bercu said, has been the staggering popularity of a log-shaped neck pillow. "We got in about a dozen, and we've re-ordered it in the hundreds now," said Bercu, laughing. "I don't know what the deal is with it. We can't seem to order enough. Nobody was thinking much about them. It was just some novelty."
The two best days that BookPeople ever had were the Saturday and Monday before Christmas last year. Bercu expects this coming weekend to be huge, but is not sure if he can top last year. "No one around here really expects we can exceed those days last year," he said. "But last year, no one could believe that we'd exceed the previous best, either." --Alex Mutter
Trinity University Press Acquires Maverick Publishing
Trinity University Press, San Antonio, Tex., has acquired Maverick Publishing Company, which was founded by Lewis F. Fisher in 1996 and is also located in San Antonio. Early next year, Trinity will launch Maverick Books, an imprint that will include Maverick's backlist while building a larger list of titles focused on the history and culture of Texas and the American Southwest. In addition, Maverick's backlist will be available in digital form for the first time.
Thomas Payton, associate director of Trinity University Press, commented: "Core to our mission is a commitment to explore the history and culture of Texas and its peoples, as well as the Southwest more broadly. The Maverick acquisition helps to deepen our catalogue of available print and e-book titles."
"Trinity has proved itself a first-rate publisher in the broader world while still doing regional books of high quality," said Fisher, who will remain with the company as an editorial advisor, assisting with acquisitions and writing additional books to be published by Trinity under the new imprint. "Maverick and Trinity could have prospered on this parallel path indefinitely, but it was obvious to me that given Trinity's strong organization and depth in the publishing industry it made more sense to join forces and increase our effectiveness."
Obituary Note: Terence Doherty
Terence Doherty, longtime sales rep and father of HarperCollins sales rep Ian Doherty, died December 16. He was 81.
Doherty was born in London, England, and moved to the U.S. in the 1950s. He worked as a sale rep for Bantam Books, New American Library, Harper & Row and, for the longest period, Simon & Schuster. In his later years, he was an associate publisher for Middle Atlantic Press.
Services were held privately at the request of the family. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Reading Is Fundamental. For more information or to e-mail a condolence, please visit lpwoosterfuneralhome.com.
Image of the Day: Wimpy Kid Milestone
Abrams editorial director Charles Kochman (l.) and Jason M. Wells, executive director, publicity and marketing, cut a cake to celebrate 300 weeks of Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid on the New York Times series bestseller list. The first Diary of a Wimpy Kid book was published in 2007, and the newest book in the series, The Long Haul, has sold two million copies worldwide since its release November 4.
Library Advice: 'Please Don't Shelve Sandwiches'
'Americans & Their Books'
Deutsche Welle reporter Rainer Traube took "a road trip in the U.S. for a closer look at America's relationship with books." The pilgrimage included stops at the Strand in New York City, Kramerbooks in Washington, D.C. and the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, N.C.
Video of the Day: Reading Across Rhode Island
In this fun video, it seems that about half of Rhode Island appears to tout the 2015 Reading Across Rhode Island selection, Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller--to the tune of All About the Book, the popular adaptation of Meghan Trainor's All About that Bass.
Karen Davis: Santa's Helper at Parnassus
|Karen Davis at Parnassus|
Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn., offers a q&a with Karen Davis, best known as part of the old Davis-Kidd Booksellers team, which once had four stores in Tennessee and was sold to Joseph Beth in 1997. Davis has been "a friend and advisor" to Parnassus, which opened in 2011--and has worked in the store every December.
Asked how she envisions "the future of independent bookstores," she responded: "It is almost impossible for me to imagine a time when people will not want books in the paper format. That includes me. I want to hold a book in my hand. I want to underline. I want to flip back to re-read sections. However, all independent businesses--whether bookstores or hardware stores--will have to continue to add value to their product in some way... impressive service, convenience, knowledge. I also think our communities are short on gathering places and need them. Look at Starbucks. A bookstore is a logical gathering place. Davis-Kidd had an excellent inventory, but more than that it was a gathering place."
Book Trailer of the Day: Adventure Time
Adventure Time: The Art of Ooo by Chris McDonnell, introduction by Guillermo del Toro (Abrams).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Marcus Baram on Tavis Smiley
Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Marcus Baram, author of Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250012784).
Also on Tavis Smiley: Rob Bell, co-author of The Zimzum of Love: A New Way of Understanding Marriage (HarperOne, $24.99, 9780062194244).
The epic poem Beowulf is being adapted by ITV as a 13-part dramatic series "set in Britain's mythic past" that will deliver "epic fights, thrilling chases, raids, celebrations and battles," the Guardian reported. Tim Haines, ITV's creative director of drama, will team with Katie Newman (with whom he collaborated on Primeval) and writer James Dormer (Wallander, Strike Back) to create the series.
"Hundreds of years ago our ancestors listened to the story of Beowulf because it was a great adventure story--it scared them, thrilled them, made them laugh and cry," Dormer told Deadline.com. "But they also listened because they recognized themselves and their fears in it. By holding a mirror up to them, this story helped define them and thus--us. So it's incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to make it relevant again for a wide audience--to let them own it again. To let them see themselves in it."
This Weekend on Book TV: William Deresiewicz
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.
Saturday, December 20
12 p.m. Book TV interviews authors and visits literary sites in Lafayette and West Lafayette, Ind. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 a.m.)
1:30 p.m. Ezra Greenspan, author of William Wells Brown: An African American Life (Norton, $35, 9780393240900), at Politics & Prose Bookstore.
5 p.m. Charles N. Edel, author of Nation Builder: John Quincy Adams and the Grand Strategy of the Republic (Harvard University Press, $29.95, 9780674368088), at Island Books in Middletown, R.I.
7 p.m. Bob Herbert, author of Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America (Doubleday, $27.95, 9780385528238).
8 p.m. Wayne Thorburn, author of Red State: An Insider's Story of How the GOP Came to Dominate Texas Politics (University of Texas Press, $29.95, 9780292759206). (Re-airs Sunday at 6:30 p.m.)
9 p.m. Jack Kelly, author of Band of Giants: The Amateur Soldiers Who Won America's Independence (Palgrave Macmillan, $27, 9781137278777), at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
10 p.m. William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life (Free Press, $26, 9781476702711). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
11 p.m. Suki Kim, author of Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite (Crown, $24, 9780307720658) and Jenny Nordberg, author of The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Crown, $25, 9780307952493).
Sunday, December 21
12 a.m. Peter Thiel, author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Crown Business, $27, 9780804139298).
12:30 a.m. Robert Howse, author of Leo Strauss: Man of Peace (Cambridge University Press, $29.99, 9781107427679).
2 p.m. Peter Laufer, author of Organic: A Journalist's Quest to Discover the Truth behind Food Labeling (Lyons Press, $25.95, 9780762790715), at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash.
3 p.m. A panel exploring James Burnham's Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism (Encounter Books, $17.99, 9781594037832).
7:30 p.m. Brandon Garrett, author of Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations (Belknap Press, $29.95, 9780674368316).
10 p.m. Mark Leibovich, author of Citizens of the Green Room: Profiles in Courage and Self-Delusion (Blue Rider Press, $26.95, 9780399171925), at BookCourt in Brooklyn, N.Y.
11 p.m. Hugh Howard, author of Houses of Civil War America: The Homes of Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, and Others Who Shaped the Era (Little, Brown, $40, 9780316227988).
Books & Authors
Awards: Her Majesty's Gold Medal for Poetry
Imtiaz Dharker is the winner of Her Majesty's Gold Medal for Poetry, which will be presented by the Queen in the spring. The Bookseller reported that the Poetry Medal Committee "was unanimous in recommending Dharker as this year's recipient of the award on the basis of her 2014 collection Over the Moon and a lifetime's contribution to poetry." Dharker's books include Postcards from God, I Speak for the Devil, The Terrorist at My Table and Leaving Fingerprints.
"Whether Imtiaz Dharker writes of exile, childhood, politics or grief, her clear-eyed attention brings each subject dazzlingly into focus," said poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. "She makes it look easy, this clarity and economy, but it is her deft phrasing, wit and grace that create this immediacy. She draws together her three countries: Pakistan, land of her birth, Britain and India, writing of the personal and the public with equal skill. Hers is a unique perspective and an essential voice in the diversity of English language poetry."
Dharker said the medal "feels like a connection to a whole line of poets who have been my heroes, all the way from Auden to U.A. Fanthorpe to John Agard. It reminds me how Britain has opened its heart to many kinds of poetry and somehow recognized and made space for the unexpected voice."
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
Wait For Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories by Craig Johnson (Viking, $22, 9780525427919). "Sometimes short stories hit the spot, especially when they're set in a favorite world. For years, Johnson has gifted his friends with stories at Christmas, and this anthology has brought them together for the first time, along with one new story. For the uninitiated, this is a wonderful introduction into Walt Longmire's world, and for those already familiar with Absaroka County, Wyoming, these little snippets of time spent with favorite characters will be like little vacations, a series of short visits with old friends. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and always entertaining, Wait for Signs is a complete delight." --J.B. Dickey, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Seattle, Wash.
The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man: A Novel by W. Bruce Cameron (Forge Books, $24.99, 9781765377487). "This madcap romp through the not-so-scenic parts of northern Michigan--a very beautiful and scenic part of the country for the most part--will keep you laughing until the very last page. Let us hope that there are more Ruddy McCann adventures on the way as Cameron, the bestselling author of A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey, could well become the Carl Hiaasen of the North." --Jill Miner, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, Mich.
Stringer: A Reporter's Journey in the Congo by Anjan Sundaram (Anchor, $15.95, 9780345806321). "The tumultuous history of the Congo is fraught with power at its most corrupt, capitalism in its greediest form, and human survival at its most desperate. Sundaram, who lives in Kigali, Rwanda, knew nothing of journalism or the Congo when he traveled there to write about the country and pursue a writing career. This debut is the result of an 18-month occupation during which Sundaram is robbed, contracts malaria, and sees firsthand the undignified crushing of the human soul. This is reportage in its most excellent form--immediate, informative, and riveting." --Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.
For Teen Readers
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $18, 9780316222723). "Glory O'Brien's best friend lives on a commune, her dad never leaves the couch, and all she has left of her mom are memories, an interest in photography, and a basement darkroom. High school is coming to an end, but Glory's future doesn't look like much--until a spontaneous decision unexpectedly results in Glory gaining the ability to see people's pasts and futures. King's fantastic novel slips easily between Glory's ordinary life and her terrifying visions, which she records, hoping to stop a horrible future that only she can see. Unabashedly feminist and wickedly smart, I can't recommend this novel highly enough." --Molly Templeton, WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 23:
This Shattered World: A Starbound Novel by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99, 9781423171034) continues the YA Starbound series.
We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, A True Story by Josh Sundquist (Little, Brown, $18, 9780316251020) follows a series of failed dates.
Now in paperback:
Choose It to Lose It: The Ultimate Pocket Guide to Save 500 Calories a Day! by the Editors of Cooking Light Magazine and Amy Brightfield (Oxmoor House, $17.95, 9780848704230).
Super Foods Cookbook: 184 Super Easy Recipes to Boost Your Health by the Editors of Reader's Digest (Readers Digest, $17.99, 9781621451976).
Unbroken, based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, opens December 25. Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini, an Olympian who survived a plane crash, 47 days at sea and two years in Japanese captivity. A movie tie-in (Random House, $16, 9780812974492) is available.
Review: Murder at the Book Group
Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King (Pocket Books, $7.99 paperback, 9781476762463, December 2014)
You can't judge a book by its cover any more than you can judge a book club by its members. Maggie King entertainingly darkens the common perception of book clubs (a benign assembly of readers who've come together to discuss books) in her quirky debut, Murder at the Book Group. The story begins when normally even-keeled, vain Carlene Arness--a 50-year-old member of a small Richmond, Va., book group--hurls the cozy mystery under discussion into a fireplace. "This book sucks," she exclaims. "There should be a law protecting the reading public from such trash!" The shocked members try to placate irate Carlene, who is also a mystery novelist, then rationally discuss and analyze the plot, which has to do with cyanide slipped into the teacup of an unsuspecting victim.
When the group breaks for refreshments, Carlene suddenly drops dead. Remarkably, her death is deemed the result of cyanide poisoning. When a note is discovered, Carlene's death appears to be a suicide. Many in the group, however, suspect someone killed her and forged the note--or is this kind of thinking the result of having read too many mystery novels? The quest for both who done it and why unearths a host of insidious rivalries and romantic entanglements.
The narrator, Hazel Rose, is a computer programmer turned aspiring romance novelist who cofounded the book club with Carlene. Four times married and financially secure, Hazel is a commitment-phobic transplant from Los Angeles who lives a quiet, unassuming life with her cat and her widowed cousin, Lucy--and has an on-again, off-again relationship with a retired homicide detective who writes true-crime stories. Carlene's death gives Hazel's banal existence a much-needed jolt. Her amateur, high-minded sleuthing is driven by a thirst for justice and is also inspired--and similarly complicated--by the fact that Carlene was married to Hazel's first ex-husband.
Hazel's search for a would-be killer is riddled with snags when Carlene's friends, family and acquaintances offer compelling details of Carlene's multiple identities, surprising secrets and sordid love affairs. Coupled with the deceased's recent estrangement from her husband, this evidence points to a host of possible motives for her demise. "The shock and drama of Carlene's death explained our tears, not any real affection for her," Hazel admits.
The amateur sleuth's pseudo-investigative skills and her interactions with a cast of well-drawn, small-town characters reveal a deception that ultimately coalesces into a study of human nature and the limits of perception. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Shelf Talker: A cofounder of a book club investigates the death of a member who dies in a manner similar to the victim in the novel they're discussing.