Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 2, 2010
Quotation of the Day
The Perfect Bookstore Offers a 'Transformative Experience'
"What is the dream of book lovers everywhere? To visit the perfect book store, one that stocks only the best of books, where 'best' is defined by the guarantee of a transformative experience via the magical linking of words into sentences into paragraphs into chapters into BOOKS. A place where tables display not the latest products of publishers and marketers but instead the trustworthy choices of other book lovers. A place with couches to sit on, a place with long opening hours and a welcoming staff, a place where customers spend as much time as they want browsing or reading. A place where only good books are sold and no bad choices can be made.... The function of a bookstore is to match lover and loved to ensure the perfect date. The purpose of the bookseller is to provide what we addicts need, and a good bookseller recommends the best stuff to satisfy our love for books."
of A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé.
Notes: Sony's New E-Readers; Digital Divide in the Home"Will pricing matter?" ZDNet asked in reporting the launch yesterday of Sony's new line of touch screen e-readers. "The catch is that Sony's line carries higher price points relative to rivals Amazon and Barnes & Noble." The Pocket's SRP is $179, the Touch is $229 and the Daily Edition--the only one with wi-fi and 3G connectivity--is $299.
Steve Haber, president of Sony's digital reading unit, contends that cut-throat pricing has been overrated as a sales incentive, Forbes reported. "Our original thinking was that we needed to hit a lower price point," said Haber. "But folks kept stepping up to purchase our higher end products. Price is not the main component of this business. It's the user experience."
Forbes observed, however, that Sony "faces major challenges in the e-reader market. Perhaps in a bid to gain more international market share and avoid complex dealmaking with wireless carriers, the company no longer offers wireless connectivity in either the Touch Edition or Pocket Edition, a definite black mark against those devices when compared to the Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook."
In a related development, the Motley Fool's analysis of the e-reader market and Amazon's Kindle deal with Staples (Shelf Awareness, September 1, 2010) has led to a change of heart regarding prior skepticism about Amazon's "initial foray into bricks-and-mortar distribution" with Target.
Citing this summer's e-reader price wars, which escalated again this week when Borders cut prices on two e-reading devices, the Motley Fool noted Amazon "won't necessarily have to respond directly to the latest round of price cuts," and suggested the Borders move was "probably a bigger affront" to B&N's Nook and Sony's e-book readers. "They're all trying to position themselves as the viable Kindle alternative--and that skirmish will most likely come down to price. Just three years ago, Amazon hit the market with a $399 Kindle. They grow up--and get marked down--so fast these days."
He reads, she reads. While acknowledging that the e-book vs. print book debate "is wreaking havoc inside the publishing industry," the New York Times observed that "inside homes, the plot takes a personal twist as couples find themselves torn over the 'right way' to read."
For example, editor Alexandra Ringe and her husband, writer Jim Hanas, "fell in love over books, with one of their early dates at a used-book festival in Manhattan. They married in a SoHo bookstore and live in an apartment in the Park Slope neighborhood with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. She collects vintage yearbooks and self-help books. But he likes to read on his iPhone."
The battle lines are being drawn with remarkable speed. Market research company Forrester predicts that by the end of 2010, 10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the U.S., buying about 100 million e-books. This is up from 3.7 million e-readers and 30 million e-books sold last year, the Times wrote.
At the latest Apple summit yesterday, CEO Steve Jobs took time out from the hoopla surrounding new product launches to share some updated iTunes sales numbers, noting that customers have downloaded 35 million books, 11.7 billion songs, more than 4.3 million TV episodes and 100 million movies.
Jeremiah's Vanishing New York reported that Jonathan Franzen frenzy didn't strike at Manhattan's St. Mark's Bookshop, which offered extended hours for the midnight release Freedom. When the books were finally unveiled, "there was a barely discernible ripple of acknowledgment from the patrons. [The bookseller] placed a handful of copies on the New Fiction shelf, mixed in among the other authors whose names begin with F."
Tonight, A Novel Adventure bookstore, Boise, Idaho, will host its final First Thursday celebration. The following notice was posted on the bookshop's website: "It is with great sadness that we will be closing our storefront location after September 2, 2010. We are moving all of our selling efforts online. We have loved being in and around--and in some small way an important part of--the downtown community of Boise for so many years."
A book busking fundraiser held recently at Australian indie Pages & Pages Booksellers to benefit the Indigenous Literacy Project (Shelf Awareness, August 10, 2010) raised more than a thousand dollars. The Green Eggs & Ham duo in this video garnered the most donations.
Author Neal Stephenson is co-founder and chairman of Subutai Corp., a new digital publishing company that "has developed what it calls the PULP platform for creating digital novels. The core of the experience is still a text novel, but authors can add additional material like background articles, images, music, and video. There are also social features that allow readers to create their own profiles, earn badges for activity on the site or in the application, and interact with other readers," the New York Times reported.
"I can remember reading Dune for the first time, and I started by reading the glossary," he said. "Any book that had that kind of extra stuff in it was always hugely fascinating to me."
Subutai's launch publication will be a serialized story, The Mongoliad, featuring a new chapter each week. It will cost $5.99 for a six-month subscription or $9.99 for the year. Stephenson is writing the book with a team--led by Mark Teppo--that includes novelist Greg Bear.
Scholastic is "taking a new approach to getting its books into classrooms" this year, the New York Times reported, noting that the publisher "plans to reach teachers using a combination of social networking, expanded e-commerce and new back-to-school promotions, in addition to the standard paper catalogues."
"There’s just a tremendous amount of volatility and movement,” said Judy A. Newman, president of Scholastic Book Clubs. The times cited numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics indicating that "of the 3,867,600 public and private school teachers in the United States in the 2008-9 school year, about 7%, or 279,700, moved to a different school and about 9%, or 347,100, left the profession."
"The 2009 school year was particularly difficult because of the economic climate," Newman said. "There was a tremendous amount of dislocation and uncertainty."
"Not since Vietnam have so many books and movies been produced about an American War," the Daily Beast wrote to introduce its list of the "Best Movies and Books on Iraq."
"After all, if I don't help myself, who will?" On NPR.org, Lisa Unger recommended three books for the self-help skeptic: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston and Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress and Fear into Vibrance, Strength and Love by Judith Orloff.
Charting the night sky... for aliens. Mark Pilkington, author Mirage Men: A Journey into Disinformation, Paranoia and UFOs--The Weird Truth Behind UFOs, chose his top 10 books about UFOs for the Guardian.
"The UFO arena acts as a kind of vivarium for a range of psychological, sociological and anthropological experiences, beliefs, conditions and behaviors," Pilkington wrote. "They remind us that the Unknown and the Other are still very much at large in our modern world, and provide us with a fascinating glimpse of folklore in action. A tiny few UFO reports also still present us with genuine mysteries."
Book trailer of the day: The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven: How a Ragtag Group of Fans Took the Fall for Major League Baseball by Aaron Skirboll (Chicago Review Press).
Borders Second-Quarter Sales Fall 11.5%
Sales at Borders Group in the second quarter ended July 31 fell 11.5%, to
$526.1 million, and the net loss was $46.7 million compared to a net
loss of $45.6 million in the same quarter a year ago.
Sales at superstores open at least a year fell 6.8%; sales at Borders.com rose 56.2%, to $15.5 million.
"While we continue to succeed in strengthening our financial structure, we are highly focused on driving profitable sales and increasing market share," Borders CEO Mike Edwards said in a statement. "Based on extensive consumer research, we are doing a number of things to excite our customers going into the critical holiday shopping season, including launching our new Borders Rewards program, which includes the new paid Borders Rewards Plus. Recognizing that online and digital will be a significant part of our business moving forward, we are focused on increasing our share of the eBook market by growing our digital offerings to position Borders as the preferred destination for digital reading. Yet as we grow our online and digital business, we cannot underestimate the importance of our brick and mortar presence. This will be top of mind as we work on improving the in-store experience by shifting our product mix to include additional non-book products that are both compelling and relevant, and providing an escape for our customers though an inspirational in-store environment and consistent customer service."
Alaskan Booksellers Join Group Filing Anti-Censorship Suit
On Tuesday, several independent Alaskan booksellers, including Fireside Books, Palmer, and Title Wave Books, Anchorage, joined a coalition of organizations and filed a lawsuit against Alaska Attorney General Daniel Sullivan (in photo at r., holding a copy of the U.S. Constitution) "to block a broad censorship law that bans constitutionally protected speech on the Internet. The law, Section 11.61.128 of the Alaska Statutes, which went into effect on July 1, imposes severe restrictions on the distribution of constitutionally protected speech on topics such as contraception and pregnancy, sexual health, literature, and art on the Internet and in book and video stores and libraries," Bookselling This Week reported.
According to Media Coalition, "the law could make anyone who operates a website or communicates through a listserv criminally liable for nudity or sexually related material, if the material can be considered 'harmful to minors' under the law’s definition. In effect, it bans from the Internet anything that may be 'harmful to minors,' including material adults have a First Amendment right to view."
"We carry 24,000 books and there is no way to know the contents of each one. If I make a mistake and sell the wrong book to a kid, I could be prosecuted," said David Cheezum, co-owner of Fireside Books.
The coalition of plaintiffs in the lawsuit also includes the Alaska Library Association, Bosco’s Inc., Don Douglas Photography and the Entertainment Merchants Association.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Gunn's Golden Rules
Tomorrow on a repeat on Oprah: Tim Gunn, author of Gunn's Golden Rules: Life's Little Lessons for Making It Work (Gallery, $23.99, 9781439176566/1439176566).
This Weekend on Book TV: Counterinsurgency
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this Labor Day weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Tuesday 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, September 4
9 a.m. At an event hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Dave Zirin, author of Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games We Love (Scribner, $25, 9781416554752/1416554750), argues against the business actions of professional sports owners. (Re-airs Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.)
3 p.m. University Book Store, Seattle, Wash., hosts an event featuring Eric Jay Dolin, author of Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America (Norton, $29.95, 9780393067101/0393067106), who profiles several of the fur trade's key players throughout its history. (Re-airs Monday at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 7 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Retired Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson interviews David Kilcullen, author of Counterinsurgency (Oxford University Press, $15.95, 9780199737499/0199737495). Kilcullen presents his latest insights on counterinsurgency, a warfare tactic he's studied for 25 years. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m. and Sunday, September 12, at 12 p.m.)
Sunday, September 5
3:15 a.m. For an event hosted by Politics & Prose Bookstore, Gail Dines, author of Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality (Beacon Press, $26.95, 9780807044520/0807044520), presents her research on the social and cultural impact of pornography on American society. (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)
12 p.m. In Depth. Gordon Wood, author most recently of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford University Press, $35, 9780195039146/0195039149), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or submitting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter (@BookTV). (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)
6 p.m. At an event hosted by Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., Gwynne Dyer, author of Climate Wars: The Fight for Survival as the World Overheats (Oneworld Publications, $24.95, 9781851687183/1851687181), talks about future wars he contends will occur as a consequence of global warming. (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m.)
8 p.m. Linda Bridges and Roger Kimball, editors of Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations--A William F. Buckley Jr. Omnibus (Encounter Books, $29.95, 9781594033797/159403379X), discuss this collection of Buckley's writings. (Re-airs Monday at 5 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., and Tuesday at 3:30 a.m.)
Television: Fox Lands Locke and Key
It may have been inevitable--given that 20th Century Fox TV is producing--but now it is official. Variety reported that in spite of "hefty interest from other nets, Fox has landed Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci's TV adaptation" of Joe Hill's graphic novel Locke and Key, designed by artist Gabriel Rodriguez.
The project, an hour-long series, is being adapted by Josh Friedman. Also producing are DreamWorks TV and K.O. Paper Products, but Steven Spielberg, "whose name was originally attached to the project, is no longer an exec producer."
Movies: Everybody Loves Whales
Ted Danson and Vinessa Shaw have been added to the cast of Everybody Loves Whales, a Working Title project adapted from the book Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event by Tom Rose, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Ken Kwapis is directing the project, which stars John Krasinski as a small-town reporter and Drew Barrymore a Greenpeace volunteer. Kristen Bell and Tim Blake Nelson are also in the cast. Shooting is scheduled to begin soon in Alaska.
Books & Authors
Awards: Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalists; ReLit Shortlist
Finalists for the 2010 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, which celebrates the power of literature to promote peace, include:
A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett (Ignatius Press)
A Good Fall by Ha Jin (Pantheon)
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Knopf)
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (Penguin/Putnam)
The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim (Holt)
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adiche (Knopf)
Enough: Why the Worlds Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman (Public Affairs)
In the Valley of the Mist by Justine Hardy (Free Press)
Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson (Penguin)
Tears in the Darkness by Michael and Elizabeth Norman (FSG)
The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe (Knopf)
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers (McSweeney's)
Winners will be honored at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on November 7.
Finalists were named for the ReLit awards, which honor the best new work released by Canadian independent publishers. The winners will be honored in Ottawa on October 20, Quillblog reported. The ReLit shortlists include:
Away From Everywhere by Chad Pelley (Breakwater Books)
Wrong Bar by Nathaniel G. Moore (Tightrope Books)
Overqualified by Joey Comeau (ECW Press)
The Beautiful Children by Michael Kenyon (Thistledown Press)
Holding Still For As Long As Possible by Zoe Whittall (House of Anansi Press)
The Plight House by Jason Hrivnak (Pedlar Press)
After the Red Night by Christiane Frenette (Cormorant Books)
Lisa Robertson’s Magenta Soul Whip by Lisa Robertson (Coach House Books)
A Nice Place to Visit by Sky Gilbert (ECW Press)
The Others Raisd in Me by Gregory Betts (Pedlar Press)
Always Die Before Your Mother by Patrick Woodcock (ECW Press)
Paper Radio by Damian Rogers (ECW Press)
Red Nest by Gillian Jerome (Nightwood Editions)
The Last House by Michael Kenyon (Brick Books)
Short Story Collection
Men of Salt, Men of Earth by Matt Lennox (Oberon Press)
Buying Cigarettes for the Dog by Stuart Ross (Freehand Press)
The Moon of Letting Go by Richard Van Camp (Enfield & Wizenty)
What Boys Like by Amy Jones (Biblioasis)
Fatted Calf Blues by Steven Mayoff (Turnstone Press)
What We’re Made Of by Ryan Turner (Oberon Press)
Sentimental Exorcisms by David Derry (Coach House Books)
Book Review: The Way of Kings
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books, $27.99 Hardcover, 9780765326355, August 2010)
The Way of Kings takes some time to find its bearings: after a brief, enigmatic prelude in which a pair of centuries-old warriors on a desolate battlefield discuss the abandoning of "the Oathpact," the narrative skips ahead 4,500 years to the assassination of a king in his palace, then another five years to a war fought in that king's memory, then another eight months, as a soldier who distinguished himself in that battle is being transported as a slave.
This is where the novel starts to find its groove, however, as the slave, Kaladin, is sold into bondage with the bridge crews at the Shattered Plains, an expansive landscape of mesas where the Alethi highprinces have gathered their forces to seek vengeance upon the Parshendi (the nation accused of killing the monarch). Though pressed into brutal service in a military quagmire--the bridge crews are essentially used to draw enemy fire, and their high casualty rate is not only tolerated but expected--Kaladin slowly forges his comrades into a fierce fighting unit, intermittently remembering the chain of events that led him to this place. (There's a supernatural element to his success; a fairy-like creature, called a spren, continually goads him from falling back into despair.)
But The Way of Kings is not just Kaladin's story. There's also Dalinar, an Alethi highprince (and the dead king's brother) who seeks a way to hold the kingdom together while struggling with visions of unexplained disasters from the ancient past. Half a world away, a young girl named Shallan manages to be accepted as an apprentice scholar with Jasnah (Dalinar's niece) in order to steal a magical item with which she hopes to restore her family's failing fortunes. Sanderson maneuvers between these three storylines skillfully--although there's a long stretch where Shallan & Jasnah fall off the radar--until forging explicit links in the final chapters.
If there's one thing that disappoints about this sprawling novel, it's that those connections are made, after nearly 1,000 pages, primarily to set up the continuance of "The Stormlight Archive," as Sanderson has named his new series. Every bit of closure is counterweighted with another narrative opening—and that's even before you include the "interludes" that offer additional perspectives on this fantasy world sprinkled throughout the book. Accept the fact that you need to commit for the long haul, however, and you'll gain access to a combination of rousing adventure, insidious intrigue and philosophical probing cast in events where Sanderson is able to push his meticulously etched characters to their most dramatic stress points. --Ron Hogan
Shelf Talker: Sanderson was already a rising star in epic fantasy when he was tapped to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time saga, starting with The Gathering Storm; the fans he's acquired in the last year should be captivated by this original series.