Also published on this date: Monday, January 24, 2011: Maximum Shelf: West of Here
Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 24, 2011
Image of the Day: May the Sales Force Be with You
During the Winter Institute last week, Tom Angleberger showed off his own origami design of Darth Vader after announcing Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book. The book, the sequel to The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, will unfold this fall from Amulet Books.
Notes: Bookstores Profiled; YAllapalooza!
Noting that "there's nothing like a good independent bookshop to warm your heels in on a cold winter’s day running errands in town," the Bronxville-Eastchester Patch praised Womrath's Bookshop, Bronxville, N.Y., and observed that "one of the nice things about local booksellers is their selection of, well, local books. Sure you might find many of the local volumes Womrath offers online, but would you really think to look for them? The care in which these little shops put into their displays, not to mention the need for tight inventory control, means that you're likely to find only the most interesting local volumes on their shelves."
Cascade Patch catches up with Medu Books at the Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, Ga., which specializes in African American literary works and Africana gifts. Owner Nia Damali said the store, which she founded in 1989, is "a home to writers and authors, educators and parents, and the community members who need a place like ours to go to nourish their mind and souls…we are home to the community."
Sales during the holiday period rose compared to the same periods the previous two years. In the new year, Medu Books is offering more events, including writer's workshops, storytelling and financial and health lectures.
Book trailer of the day: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson (Riverhead).
Some 2,200 college stores offered textbook rental programs this past fall, more than expected, and some 3,000 will be offering some textbook rental programs by this coming fall, according to a survey by National Association of College Stores' OnCampus Research. During the fall of 2009, only 300 colleges stores offered any kind of textbook rental programs.
The fall 2010 figures of stores offering textbook rentals include 786 of the stores managed by Follett Higher Education Group, 300 managed by Barnes & Noble College Bookseller and all 300 managed by Nebraska Book Co.
Julie Traylor, NACS chief of planning and research, estimated that students who rent textbooks save 33%-55% of the price of buying textbooks and said, "Our members are just as concerned as everyone else about the increasing cost of course materials, and I think the savings rentals can generate really caught their imaginations and they ran with it."
Cool idea of the day: on Saturday, January 29, Changing Hands Bookstore presents YAllapalooza 2011, "a literary extravaganza for tween and teen readers featuring free pizza, games, prizes and chance to mix and mingle with your favorite YA authors!" The Tempe, Ariz., store will host a game show that tests contestants' knowledge of YA and middle-grade literature. Authors who will appear include Lisa Mangum, Bree Despain, Karen Hoover, Cameron Stracher, Jessica Day George, Obert Skye, Janette Rallison, James Owen, Angela Morrison, Tom Leveen, Jon Lewis, Adam Rex, Laurie Brooks, Lisa McMann and Kofi O. Okyere.---
Aesop's Tables, a small café tucked in a corner of Toadstool Bookshop, Peterborough, N.H., changed ownership last week even though it wasn't on the market when Allison Fredericks asked former co-owners Natasha Meehan and Tiffany Quilty last year about the possibility of selling.
"Aesop's wasn't for sale when we she approached us, but we saw it as a good opportunity to move on. And Allison seems like a really good fit for it," Meehan said. "It's nice to know it's in great hands."
Meehan and Quilty plan to stay remain for three months as consultants. "Seeing Allison succeed is important to us," Meehan said. "We definitely want the business to succeed and continue and be successful."
Dan Brown and Lee Child topped a list of the 1,000 most-loaned library books in the U.K. last year. The Bookseller reported that the rankings are based on Nielsen LibScan data covering "about 20% of all U.K. library loans, but the figures have been weighted to give an indication of the overall market." The top five:
- The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (183,000 checkouts)
- Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child (149,000)
- 61 Hours by Lee Child (141,000)
- I, Alex Cross by James Patterson (139,000)
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (134,000)
Flavorwire featured a selection of book cameos in movies, noting, "it turns out that the characters in some of our favorite films also dig books, and that makes us like them even more. A character reading a book can either be a plot element, or character development, or a little joke, a secret between the director and those in the know, but it's unlikely that it's totally meaningless."
Hercule Poirot, of course. The Guardian showcased 10 of the best moustaches in literature. And the New York Times noted that the careers of mustachioed Mark Twain impersonators is at an all time, curly high.
WI6: Once Again, a Winner
Yet again, major book industry news occurring during the Winter Institute emphasized the importance of independent booksellers in the book world. Last year during the Winter Institute the strange battle between Amazon and Macmillan over e-book pricing played out and the online retailer showed that it could be even nastier than feared. This year during the Winter Institute, Barnes & Noble laid off as many as 50 people, including much of the buying department, making many people in the business begin to question B&N's dedication to traditional bookselling at a time when Borders is teetering on insolvency. We commend the ABA for its impeccable timing in scheduling the last few Winter Institutes.
The Winter Institute began with a large, happy opening party Tuesday evening at Politics & Prose, the iconic Washington, D.C., bookstore. It was also an event to honor Barbara Meade, and her longtime co-owner, Carla Cohen, who died last fall. The store is said to be close to having news about a possible successor.
Because of WI6's location in Arlington, Va., Wednesday was legislative day, with a program much like that of the ABA when BEA was in Washington in 2007: first, in the morning, attendees heard about and discussed shop local campaigns, tax collection fairness, alliances with other independents, Small Business Administration changes (Shelf Awareness, January 20, 2011), and then in the afternoon they fanned out on Capitol Hill to meet with their senators and representatives. (This usually meant meeting with staff members, who in a few cases needed education on some of the issues.)
Late in the day, the Center for the Book hosted a party at the Library of Congress, where ABA CEO Oren Teicher presented a plaque of appreciation for NPR's coverage of books and authors to NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller, who said that NPR will increase its coverage of books.
The ABA board was busy, holding its own board meeting, a booksellers advisory council meeting, and meeting with representatives of booksellers associations from the U.K. and Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The ABA also took the initiative of organizing a day-long gathering of representatives of independent retailers in other industries to discuss programs that work and possible joint efforts.
Thursday and Friday focused on educational panels, rep picks sessions, bookseller roundtables and the socializing and networking among booksellers that makes the Winter Institute so special and attractive. The 500 booksellers in attendance ranged from neophytes to legends like Mary Gay Shipley of That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, Ark., and Roberta Rubin, owner of the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., the extremely proud mother of John Rubin, founder of Above the Treeline and Edelweiss.
Most booksellers reported improved holiday sales compared to the previous two years, although they were quick to point out that the holidays in 2009 and 2008 made for easy comparisons because they were so poor. As always at the Winter Institute, most booksellers left energized and full of new ideas--and with optimism about the challenges they face.
Panels covered everything from nuts-and-bolts issues such as creating solid events, the basics of book buying in the era of Edelweiss, adding cafes, telephone reps and e-mail to how to sell e-books, new business models for booksellers (see following story) and e-commerce.
In this age of fast e-growth, these last subjects were particularly important: most every bookseller had stories of longtime customers "lost" to e-readers and of "customers" browsing in their stores, finding books they want, then scanning or inputting book information to buy them online from Amazon and other e-tailers--often while still standing in the store. Most stores are just exploring the possibilities available through the ABA partnership with Google eBooks.
Incidentally, at WI6, Paul Lee from Google said that as the company rolls out Google Local Shopping, keeping small retailers in the loop is a priority. Google will pay $250 per bookstore to spend 15 minutes to provide them the information needed to make sure their stores are included in Local Search. Thus, if someone searches for "Dragon Tattoo book," the results will include bookstores where the book is available. Lee noted that people are 40% more likely to click on search results if the search shows up that way.
Publishers were in attendance at WI6 in full force, introducing more than 100 writers, many of them debut authors, at the author reception alone, as well as at many informal gatherings and quite a few delightful dinners. By late Friday some publishers were hoarse from all the talking but, as one of them said, "This crowd is our bread and butter."
The Winter Institute has become so established and renowned that this year it attracted Julie Bosman, who covers book publishing for the New York Times. Her piece on WI6, "Small Bookstores Struggle for Niche in Shifting Times," appeared this morning in the business section.
The conference ended with excellent news: the ABA announced that Winter Institute 7 will be held in New Orleans.
More coverage of WI6 follows this week.--John Mutter
Staff Picks Press, a New Bookseller-Publisher Model
At one of several Winter Institute panels focused on new business ventures, Susan Novotny, owner of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., and Market Block Books, Troy, N.Y., as well as co-owner of Troy Book Makers, talked about her new project, a publishing house called Staff Picks Press.
Noting that mainstream houses are publishing fewer titles and often pass on books that booksellers could sell, Novotny said, "New York is not the center of publishing. We booksellers are. We know readers and we can find brilliant authors."
Booksellers will be integral to Staff Picks Press, from evaluating manuscripts to selling the books. For most books, the model will work this way: authors interested in being published will send 50 pages of their manuscript to Staff Picks. "If they send in more than 50, they fail," she said. Novotny and two of her employees, both also named Susan, will go through the submissions. If "the three Susans" like a 50-page submission, they will send it to a network of seven to 10 independent booksellers around the country whom Novotny will pay $25 for an evaluation. If the manuscript passes this hurdle, the author sends the complete manuscript and it will be sent around again.
Staff Picks Press will not offer the usual editing services; it requests polished, ready-to-publish manuscripts. The press will focus on genre and general fiction and narrative nonfiction. The press will not pay advances, but aims to work in partnership with authors. If a book takes off, Staff Picks Press hopes to sell rights to commercials houses in New York. Booksellers who recommend titles offered by customer-authors could get a percentage if their books are resold to commercial houses.
The house's first title is Comeback Love by Peter Golden, a novel published in November that Novotny described as "just the kind of under-the-radar eccentric book that indies recognize can sell."
Novotny printed Comeback Love offset for $2 each in a first printing of 2,000 copies, not using her Troy Book Makers POD service. Novotny included the book in the ABA's White Box, and 10 booksellers ordered copies. The book, which made the December Indie Next list, is under consideration at a New York house.
Novotny said Staff Picks Press titles will be available at Ingram and Bookazine, and can also be bought directly, with a six-copy minimum, nonreturnable, at a 50% discount with free freight.
Bill Petrocelli of Book Passage, with stores in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., called the idea "genius" for its market research potential and pointed out that the press is useful for booksellers who are often approached by customers with book proposals. "It gives us deniability," he said.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Jonathan Karp Stands in for Anonymous
Today on NPR's All Things Considered: Jonathan Karp, executive v-p and publisher of Simon & Schuster, discusses O: A Presidential Novel by Anonymous (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781451625967). He also appears tomorrow morning on the Today Show.
Tonight on the Daily Show: Anand Giridharadas, author of India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking (Times Books, $25, 9780805091779).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show:
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun (Harper, $25.99, 9780061583254).
Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture (Harper, $25.99, 9780061711527).
Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594202841).
Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda (Free Press, $28, 9780743278935).
Tomorrow on CBS's The Doctors: Scott W. Cohen, author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year (Scribner, $16, 1439117063).
Tomorrow on the Joy Behar Show: Johnny Weir, author Welcome to My World (Gallery, $26, 9781451610284).
Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Aminatta Forna, author of The Memory of Love (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24.95, 9780802119650).
Tomorrow night on Conan: Patton Oswalt, author of Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Scribner, $24, 9781439149089).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594202841). Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America teenagers talk about this book.
Movies: The Rite; From Prada to NadaThe Rite, based on the book by Matt Baglio (Doubleday, $15, 9780385522717), opens this Friday, January 28. Anthony Hopkins stars as a modern exorcist trained at a Vatican university.
From Prada to Nada, starring Camilla Belle and Alexa Vega, opens January 28. The film is a loose Latina adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.
Books & Authors
Awards: NBCC Finalists
The National Book Critics Circle finalists can be seen here. Winners will be announced Thursday, March 10, at the New School.
The NBCC's Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing went to Parul Sehgal, and the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award went to Dalkey Archive Press.
IndieBound: Other Indie FavoritesFrom last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
Gideon's War by Howard Gordon (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781439175811). "A state-of-the-art offshore oil rig called the Obelisk is the setting for this debut thriller from the executive producer of the television series 24. Hang on to your seat as Gideon Davis, a world-class negotiator and peacemaker, is called in to bring his rogue agent brother to Washington, D.C., from Southeast Asia in the face of an advancing typhoon."--Liz Heywood, the Babbling Book, Haines, Alaska
Our Man in Tehran by Robert Wright (Other Press, $25.95, 9781590514139). "In November 1978, Iran dumbfounded the international diplomatic community when students overran the American Embassy and took nearly the whole staff hostage with the support of their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini. Six Americans were able to avoid being captured and found refuge in the Canadian Embassy. They were saved and finally smuggled out of Iran thanks to the brave actions of Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador. The story of Taylor's actions remains very relevant to the current situation in Iran, and this book reads like a high-level nonfiction thriller."--Jean-Paul Andriaasen, Water Street Books, Exeter, N.H.
This Glittering World: A Novel by T. Greenwood (Kensington, $15, 9780758250919). "When Ben Bailey went outside to enjoy the first snowfall and to fetch the paper, he found a dying young man. He had no idea that this would be the catalyst to look into himself to find out who he was and what he really wanted to do with his life. His planned future becomes uncertain as he finds himself more and more enmeshed in helping the beautiful sister of the man prove that this was a homicide and a hate crime. This is a riveting tale of what we owe to the people in our lives, what we owe to ourselves, and the cost of the compromises we make."--Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, Colo.
For Teen Readers
Dust City by Robert Paul Weston (Razorbill, $16.99, 9781595142962). "How to explain Dust City? Think of the children's books you read as a child, where the animals wore clothes and walked on two legs and were human in every way but looks. Now take those images and put them into Batman's Gotham City, and that's the setting for Dust City. This is a dark fairytale for young adults, one in which the magic has been tainted and familiar characters from our watered-down version of Grimm's tales walk the streets as hardened businessmen, cops, and criminals. A thought-provoking mystery!"--Natasha Hayden, Summer's Stories, Kendallville, Ind.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Book Review: Caribou Island
Caribou Island by David Vann (Harper, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780061875724, January 2011)
On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a tragedy is occurring. Its inevitability is heartbreaking; we can only watch as Gary and Irene, married 30 years, are coming undone. Madness, violence, oceans of regret over roads not taken finally come to a head when Gary insists that they will build a cabin on remote Caribou Island. Irene knows that Gary wants to leave her, and his method is building the cabin of his dreams--finally. He knows that it will be so sparse and miserable that Irene will leave him, so he can be the good guy.
As with everything else in his life, this, too, is doomed to fail. He doesn't know how to build a cabin. They came to Alaska years ago, young adventurers fresh out of college, and everything that Gary touched went sour. Irene took a job as a preschool teacher, supported the family and swallowed her resentment. What had become of that graduate student she fell in love with? She really liked her work, but now is retired.
Gary insists on taking the boat filled with lumber out to the island on a very cold and windy day. Irene develops a piercing pain in her head after that outing, and sees two doctors, the last of whom tells her to see a psychiatrist because x-ray and CT scans show nothing. The pain persists, growing worse with time.
Even Vann's secondary characters are fully realized. Rhoda and Mark are Gary and Irene's grown children; she's a vet's assistant, he's a fisherman in season and a doper the rest of the time. Rhoda has moved in with the local dentist and is waiting to hear a proposal. It isn't until he has had a very unexpected affair that he decides to propose--having determined that it is possible to cheat, he can now get married.
This is Vann's debut novel, following Legend of a Suicide, short stories and a novella, and a memoir, A Mile Down. He has complete control of his material. This might be his 10th novel or his 20th, such is his mastery of language, landscape, human desire, the dark side that waxes and overwhelms profoundly disappointed people. He foreshadows the horrible conclusion perfectly. These are disconnected people, writing both sides of the script, glancing off each other like cueballs. Nothing works as it should in this book except the book itself, which is perfect.--Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: In the frozen wilds of Alaska, a marriage that was never very good will not be able to stand the latest test: let's build a cabin with all the wrong tools, boards that are too short and the weather against us. Soul-killing conversation and accusations abound and the conclusion is horrifying, even though we see it coming.
To 'E' or Not to 'E'
On the Paz & Associates website, Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman offer this take on the rush "to 'e' ":
Hamlet likely wasn't the first to ponder matters of life and death, but the question he poses in his famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be," remains as relevant today as ever before--especially for independent booksellers. Of course, the question needs to be updated a bit, since it's now "To 'e' or not to 'e'," as booksellers define their stance when it comes to e-books.
Just as we've seen a number of booksellers celebrate the launch of Google Editions--giving them the opportunity to offer e-books to their customers and make a bit of money doing so--we've also heard from others who are adamant in their refusal to join the fray. Since critical thinking seems to be in such short supply in today's culture, we thought that it might be beneficial for indie booksellers to look at both sides of the current debate before they decide on an approach that will work best for them and for their customers.
Everywhere you look, there seems to be yet another pundit predicting the demise of the printed book or the bricks-and-mortar bookstore. After all, no one can dispute that the rapid acceleration of technology has contributed to obsolescence--just think of cassettes and VCR tapes, vinyl records and turntables. There will always be a segment of the population enthralled with the newest innovation.
Some perspective here might be valuable. Industry figures tell us that publishing is a $12-plus billion a year business, with e-books accounting for 3%-5% of that figure; some are predicting that e-books will continue to grow in popularity, and account for 10% of the market within the next few years. A closer look at the "digital reading revolution" shows that Amazon/Kindle is the dominant market force, with Barnes & Noble and its Nook e-reader and Apple's iPad distant runners-up; between them, they account for at least 80%-90% of the market.
Thanks to Google Editions and the American Booksellers Association's efforts to provide its members with competitive web-based technology, indie booksellers can now tout as an advantage that the e-books they sell can be read on just about any device except a Kindle. But to whom should this message be aimed? Customers who don't yet own a reading device of any kind but are expected to? After all, the argument goes, readers are readers, and want to be able to read whatever, wherever and whenever they please.
It's understandable that booksellers desire to remain "relevant," whatever that means. We wonder, though, if this fascination with technology may be causing too many to stray too far from the core business practices that contributed to their success in the first place. Almost all the indie booksellers we know are passionate about books, and love nothing more than to talk up a great read. Passion and knowledge are but two of the characteristics that define them, along with character, personality and community--the cornerstones of ABA's old BookSense program.
In our work with prospective booksellers, we want them to be clear about what it takes to compete in today's retail environment, and what they should claim as a competitive advantage. We still believe that it all comes down to the customer experience, from their perception of the physical surroundings the moment they enter the store, to their face-to-face interaction with a bookseller, to how they feel as they're ready to leave the premises.
There's no question that our lives will continue to be impacted by technology, but if we are guided by our core beliefs and a sense of how we treat others and want to be treated by them in return, there will always be an important place for independent bookstores to anchor our communities. Let's remember to embrace the words of Mark Twain, "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."