Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 14, 2007

Viking: Holiday Thank You Ad

St. Martin's: Saltwater Cowboy by Tim McBride

Delacorte Press: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Tarcher: Four Ways to Click by Amy Banks & Leigh Ann Hirschman

Harper: A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

Macmillan Children's: Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks

Macmillan Children's: Shutter by Courtney Alameda

St. Martin's: The Tragic Age by Stephen Metcalfe

 

News

Amazon Purchases Rowling Book for $4 Million at Auction

The Tales of Beedle and the Bard, a limited edition, handwritten and illustrated book of fairy tales by J.K Rowling, fetched nearly $4 million at auction yesterday.

Although early reports had named the winning bidder to be London art agent Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, the AP reported that the company was acting on behalf of Amazon.com Inc., which has since posted a thank you note, early review and photographs on its website.

The book "originally had been expected to sell for about $100,000," according to the AP.  "The standing-room-only crowd at Sotheby's auction house applauded as bidding topped the $2 million mark."

Amazon now owns one of only seven copies of The Tales of Beedle and the Bard, which is leather bound with silver mounts. Rowling said the remaining six copies "had been given to people closely connected to the Harry Potter collection."

Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Children's Voice, a charity co-founded by Rowling and Baroness Nicholson that "campaigns for children's rights across Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, where many children and teenagers grow up in institutions, often in what many activists regard as unacceptable conditions."

Rowling, who watched the auction on the Internet from her home in Edinburgh, Scotland, said, "This will mean so much to children in desperate need of help. It means Christmas has come early to me."

 

Abrams: Holiday Thank You Ad

Notes: Indie Trade Groups Unite; New Indie Bookstores Open

Seven independent trade groups have joined forces to call for the equitable collection of sales tax for online purchases and have sent a letter to governors in the 45 states that collect sales tax urging them "to enforce existing tax laws by requiring out-of-state online businesses with nexus in their states to collect sales tax," Bookselling This Week reported.

The letter to the governors grew out of a meeting of independent trade organizations on November 29 and 30 in Washington, D.C., BTW continued. "The letter's signatories--the American Booksellers Association, American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, Coalition of Independent Music Stores, Independent Florist Association, Independent Office Products & Furniture Dealers Association, North American Retail Dealers Association, and the National Bicycle Dealers Association--were among those who met at the 'Independent Trades Summit' to discuss common goals and challenges specific to independent retailers and businesses."

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BTW also profiles Brad Smith, owner of Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, Ore., who recently opened "a second, 2,600-square-foot store in nearby Redmond, which has a population of 25,000."

"When I bought the first bookstore [in Sisters], I always intended to open another in Redmond, which doesn't have an independent," said Smith. "I just felt there was a really good opportunity there. The new store will be very similar in character and displays, but I have to get in there to find out what my customers' interests are to know what to stock."

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What's a great gift for a reader when a book just won't do? The Guardian offered some tips. We like the British Library's "adopt-a-book" program.

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Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople, Austin, Tex., was quoted in an AP article that focused on how "this season finds independent retailers across the country dealing with a new set of economic challenges even as they still contend with growing competition from big-box retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Borders Inc."

"We've had our best season in store history each of the last seven years and I'm expecting this year to be another really pretty good year," Bercu said.

"BookPeople differentiates itself from the chains in several ways," the AP wrote. "It offers a big selection of gifts alongside its massive book inventory; Bercu estimates gifts account for 30 percent of revenues. It also has developed its own offbeat culture--BookPeople is a proponent of a tongue-in-cheek movement called Keep Austin Weird--and uses it as a marketing tool."

"We have a looser view of things," said Bercu.

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Fifteen new bookstores opened in November and became members of the American Booksellers Association. See the list here.

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The Book Nook and Java Shop is now the "hot spot" in downtown Montague, Mich., according to the Muskegon Chronicle, which called the store "a place where people call out your name the minute you walk through the front door, a place you feared didn't exist anymore."

Debra Lambers opened the bookstore five years ago, "armed with a business plan and a basic belief that every town--no matter how big or small--deserves a bookstore," as the paper put it.  

"I've always loved books and coffee," she said. "They're the two staples in my life. I think we have an inviting atmosphere. It feels somewhat nostalgic. It's cozy . . . friendly. You know what's unique about this place? People meet each other in the store for the first time, and it's like they've known each other forever. That's what this is all about."

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Boasting that "San Diego's blessed with fine specialty bookstores," the Union-Tribune featured "our guide to 10 that are tops." 

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The Brattleboro Reformer profiled David Lampe-Wilson, owner of Mystery on Main, Brattleboro, Vt., which opened November 9 after Lampe-Wilson had done "a little sleuth work with the locals" and discovered "where to open shop and what books to carry."

"We made the full move and got the store opened in a three-week period," he said of his family's relocation from Connecticut to Saxtons River. "People are finding us. There's interest once they know we're here." Describing Mystery on Main as "a place to sit and relax for a few minutes," Lampe-Wilson added that he "was going for something homey. I wanted to keep it friendly, open and relaxed."

Mystery on Main is located at 119 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt. 05301; 802-258-2211; mysteryonmain.com.

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U is for USA Today, which invited readers to vote for one of five suggested titles for Sue Grafton's next novel, the follow-up to her current bestseller, T Is for Trespass. The winner was U Is for Undertaker, which got 54% of the vote, trouncing also-rans like U Is for Unravel (28%), U Is for U-Turn (14%), U Is for Usurper (3%) and U Is for Uxoricide (2%).

"I don't believe I've ever used four syllables for a title," said Grafton. "I've used three: Evidence, Innocent. I have to make sure it's not going to wrap all the way around the book. I have thought of Undertaker, but I let the book tell me, and I don't know yet what the story is for 'U.' "

U is for Uncertain?

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Hilary Reeves has been named director of digital ventures at Milkweed Editions and continues as managing director. She was co-leader of the press for five years following the retirement of founder and publisher Emilie Buchwald. Earlier she worked at Johns Hopkins University Press and the Smithsonian Institution Press.

Emily Cook has been promoted to marketing director at Milkweed Editions. She joined the publisher in 2004 as publicity and marketing manager and earlier was program director of the Printers Row Book Fair, was a bookseller and ran a literacy outreach program in the Chicago public schools.

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Christopher Gruener has joined Faherty & Associates as a sales rep and will work with Jack Colwell, splitting sales responsibilities in northern and central California and northern Nevada. (The group has now expanded to four sales reps in California.) Gruener was formerly a retail territory manager for Baker & Taylor, where he serviced eight Western states. Earlier he worked at MacAdam/Cage and Nolo Press. Gruener may be reached at 415-342-6796 or chris@fahertybooks.com.

 

Akashic Books: Holiday Thank You Ad

Holiday Hum: Unwrapping Sales in Christmas City

The Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, Pa., has served bibliophiles since 1745, earning it the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating bookstore in the U.S. and possibly the world.

The store's customer base expands dramatically during the holiday season. Known as Christmas City, Bethlehem draws tourists by the bus load this time of year. Many come specifically to shop, both at a crafts fair and at retailers in the historic and festively adorned town. The Moravian Book Shop has a full-time decorator who has decked its aisles and shelves in finery--garlands, lights and a plethora of Christmas trees in the windows and throughout the various sections of the sprawling, Colonial-era building.

The store consists of six departments, one of which is books. (The others are gifts, cards, gourmet food, an eat-in deli and the Moravian Room, which sells Christmas-themed merchandise year round.) So far book sales are on par with those of the last few holiday seasons. Customers are gravitating toward titles that have "moved well here all year and are continuing to sell," said Stephanie Anderson, assistant book buyer. They include the memoirs Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, the latter of which is a handselling favorite of Anderson and other employees.

A surprise bestseller for the store is Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish. Tom Shachtman's account of an Amish rite of passage in which young people are given freedom to explore the world is benefiting from prominent table placement in a heavily-trafficked spot near the register. "There are some books that if they're on the shelf no one will buy them," Anderson said, "but if people can see the cover they fly out." Also featured on the table and having a good run is Anna Quindlen's Good Dog. Stay.
 
Another table display features art and photography titles--the standout is Monkey Portraits by Jill Greenberg. "That book has been selling itself," said Anderson, mainly because customers are intrigued by the striking primate pictured on the cover. The store is offering customers 10% off art books as well as 20% off business books. "Those two categories tend to sell better during the holidays," Anderson said, "and we figured offering people a discount would give them an extra push."

Other books selling in spades are John Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and the backlist fantasy title A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin—both of which are staff picks—along with The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Dogs: A Parody by Rex and Sparky.

Tomorrow the Moravian Book Shop is hosting separate events with four authors. One is sportswriter Evan Burian, known as "Mr. Football," who will also be back for an encore appearance on December 22. "He's very personable, and he knows everything about Pennsylvania football," Anderson remarked. His books Ancient Rivals and Thanksgiving Day Football and Football Legends of Pennsylvania are perennial gift selections for sports enthusiasts.

Other afternoon events include singings with Delana Bettoli, illustrator of the picture book This Is the Stable, and Chet Williamson, author of Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet. Williamson's Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas is handsold by the shop's booksellers. And rounding out Saturday's quartet is meteorologist and naturalist Tim Herd, who will entertain customers with an evening discussion and slide show based on his book of celestial wonders, Kaleidoscope Sky.

Titles with a local slant attracting attention are Allentown Remembered, Myra Yellin Outwater and Robert Bungerz's historical look at the nearby town, and Christmas in Bethlehem by Vangie Roby Sweitzer, a coffee table tome about the traditions of the Moravians, the town's founders. Music sales are on the rise this season, led by Il Divo's The Christmas Collection, Christmas Eve at Central Moravian Church and recordings by the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics and select other Random House cookbooks are stirring up sales due to a 20% discount promotion offered by the company. Among the other culinary titles spicing up gift lists are Christmas with Paula Deen and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach.

A sideline item selling well is the Banned Books bracelet produced by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. Anderson first brought in the accessory in September for Banned Books Week, and they have been selling steadily since. Linked tiles in the bracelet (two versions are offered) show color covers of Howl and other challenged titles as well as the declaration "I read banned books."

Shaping up to be top seller for the year is a tome with ties to the store. 550 copies of Bethlehem Ghosts--co-written by the shop's manager, Dana DeVito--have sold since it arrived just before Halloween. The book reveals supernatural tales about the historic buildings lining Christmas City's Main Street, including a haunted happening at the Moravian Book Shop.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 

FSG: Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

NBN Adds Seven Publishers

National Book Network is now distributing the following publishers:

  • Hampton Court, Shanghai, China, which publishes books on doing business with China as well as learning to speak Chinese.
  • Professional Communications, West Islip, N.Y., which publishes a series of medical handbooks for the primary care practitioner.
  • Mount Alpha Media, Ontario, Canada, which publishes Thackray's Investor's Calendar, a bi-annual publication.
  • Flower Press, Knightsbridge, England, which publishes illustrated books on flower design.
  • Capizon Publishing, Torrance, Calif., which publishes books on addiction and self help.
  • Jupitalia Productions, Covelo, Calif., which publishes books on traveling on motorcycles.
  • Larson Publications, Burdett, N.Y., which publishes books on global issues, spirituality and cooking.

 

Caravan Project Rolls Out Digitally

In the next few months, eMusic will begin selling some 60 Caravan Project titles, becoming the first digital audio retailer for the project that sells nonfiction titles from academic and non-profit publishers in a range of formats, including traditional book, e-book, large print and audio.

Launched in September, eMusic sells music and audiobooks in the U.S. and the European Union in MP3 format and offers more than 1,500 audiobooks. Subscriptions range from $9.99 for one book or $19.99 for two with another free as part of an introductory offer.

In a prepared statement, Peter Osnos, Caravan Project executive director said: "As our first digital retailer, eMusic is a strong addition to the expanding Caravan network of booksellers of all types, and by providing Caravan books in the MP3 format, we make it easy for readers to enjoy our books on any digital audio device they own."

David Pakman, eMusic president and CEO, said, "eMusic targets a sophisticated, intellectually curious customer, and Caravan's serious nonfiction is a great fit for our subscribers. eMusic excels at exposing 'long tail' music and book titles, and we're looking forward to working with Caravan and its publishers to increase sales for these worthy books."

 

Media and Movies

Movies: Bookish Golden Globe Nominations; The Kite Runner

Book-to-movie adaptations scored high marks with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which announced its 2008 Golden Globe Award nominations yesterday. A complete list of nominees is available at the HFPA's website.

Atonement, based on the Ian McEwan novel, led all contenders with seven nominations, including best dramatic film, director, screenplay, actor, actress, supporting actress and score. Charlie Wilson's War, adapted from the late George Crile's book, garnered five nominations.

Other books honored with nominations for their film versions were No Country for Old Men, A Mighty Heart, Away From Her (based on an Alice Munro story), The Kite Runner, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Persepolis, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Into the Wild, Love in the Time of Cholera and Lust, Caution.

Golden Globe winners will be announced January 13.

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For The Kite Runner, which opens today, Newmarket Press is publishing The Kite Runner: A Portrait of the Marc Forster Film (paperback $19.95, 9781557048011; hardcover, $29.95, 9781557048042), which includes more than 100 full-color photos, a foreword by novelist Khaled Hosseini and the complete screenplay by David Benioff. Incidentally the movie was unusually complicated to make: the cast and crew came from 28 countries and spoke 13 languages. 

 

Media Heat: Martha Celebrates 25 Years of Entertaining

This morning on the Early Show: Burt Boyar, author of Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. (HarperEntertainment, $49.95, 9780061146053/0061146056).

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Today on Ellen: Paula Deen, author of Christmas with Paula Deen: Recipes and Stories from My Favorite Holiday (S&S, $23, 9780743292863/0743292863).

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Today on the Martha Stewart Show: A 25th anniversary tribute to the book that launched an empire--Entertaining (Clarkson Potter $24.95, 9780609803851/0609803859) by Martha Stewart, of course.

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Today on NPR's Fresh Air, in a repeat: the late George Crile, author of Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times (Grove, $16, 9780802141248/0802141242) and the Texas congressman who inspired the book. The movie Charlie Wilson's War will be released later this month.

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Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Bill Clinton discusses Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307266743/0307266745).

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Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book: A Novel (Viking, $25.95, 9780670018215/067001821X).

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On Sunday, C-Span will feature an event in Abington, Pa., about Ellery's Protest: How One Young Man Defied Tradition and Sparked the Battle over School Prayer by Stephen Solomon (University of Michigan Press, $29.95, 9780472108374/0472108379).

 

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Paper Calendars Still Rule the Day

At Christmas time we spent a feverish ten days struggling with Christmas cards and calendars, which are tiresome things to sell but good business while the season lasts. It used to interest me to see the brutal cynicism with which Christian sentiment is exploited. The touts from the Christmas card firms used to come round with their catalogues as early as June. A phrase from one of their invoices sticks in my memory. It was: "2 doz. Infant Jesus with rabbits."--George Orwell, "Bookshop Memories" (1936)

On Wednesday, at the China Internet Information Center's website, I read that "wall calendars, which used to be decent seasons gift to a friend, have unceremoniously receded from the city's consumer market. The Yantai Daily has reported that Xinhua Bookstores in the city's urban area have stopped selling them completely. Wall calendars are no longer considered a must in [peoples'] daily life as many new digital devices can do the work better and easier."

That news certainly hasn't reached bookstores in Vermont, where customers still seem to care about paper calendars--big time.

How big?

"But I get the same one every year and you always used to carry it!"

That big.

"Where are your calendars?" customers often ask when they first enter the bookshop this time of year. For many of them, it is the gift of first, as well as last, resort. And customers seldom arrive at the checkout counter with just one. Multiple buys are the rule.

For booksellers, dealing with calendar inventory is a year-round affair. Orwell's "good business while the season lasts" has evolved into a season that never ends. Bookstores started ordering their 2008 calendars last spring while still selling the 2007s. They blew out most of their remaining 2007 stock during mid-year sales--Memorial Day Weekend, perhaps--just weeks before deliveries of the 2008 models began rolling in.

Despite the fact that a bookstore may carry dozens of variations on theme, size, and function--wall and engagement and page-a-day calendars; Zen Gardens and Great Fish of North America and Snowboarding and John Deere Tractor and Fruit Crate Labels and Modigliani and Bad President calendars--at least one customer a day will be disappointed that we don't carry the specific one they're looking for.

In Vermont, we also offer suitably regional options by artists Sabra Field and Wolf Kahn and Woody Jackson (his is actually a "cowlendar"); and traditional scenic versions like the Vermont Life and Covered Bridges of Vermont calendars. Ours is a state of time as well as a state of mind.

Is it all worth it? Is it really so important? Is there still a role for paper calendars in a digitized world?

Well, how many calendars did you receive as gifts last year? How many did you give? How many did you buy for yourself after you re-gifted the ones that came your way? How many times did you replace the perfect engagement calendar you bought in October with a better one you saw in January, and then again with one that was on sale in March?

How many calendars did you sell last year? What role do these "tiresome things" play in your bookstore's bottom line?

The biggest challenge when writing about calendars is to avoid sounding like Andy Rooney, whining in a cranky, gravelly voice, "Remember when calendars were something the insurance guy or the fuel company left at your house; something you hung in an obscure corner of the kitchen and scribbled on all year long? Whatever happened . . . ?"

Maybe it's Orwell's memory of the "2 doz. Infant Jesus with rabbits" or just a bad case of holiday season dysfunction disorder, but I'm reminded of a black velvet painting I once noticed for sale at an impromptu gas station parking lot exhibition. Picture this: Santa Claus kneeling before the manger in Bethlehem, paying his jolly respects to the baby Jesus. Mary looked justifiably concerned for her son's welfare.

What a calendar that would have made.

Neither cynicism nor nostalgia is really the point, however. Paper calendars are still in the game. Will they ever be rendered obsolete by the digitized alternatives that are within such easy reach in our quiver of personal electronic devices?

Shouldn't they be obsolete already?

Perhaps, but for now calendar season just lasts and lasts.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 

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