Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 30, 2011

Workman Publishing: Meltdown: Discover Earth's Irreplaceable Glaciers and Learn What You Can Do to Save Them by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Lily Padula

Tor Teen: The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

Graphix: The Tryout: A Graphic Novel by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Joanna Cacao

Yen on: Dark Souls: Masque of Vindication by Michael Stackpole

Grove Press: A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories by Leonard Cohen

Apollo Publishers: Why Not?: Lessons on Comedy, Courage, and Chutzpah by Mark Schiff

John Scognamiglio Book: In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari


University Book Store to Pop Up in Renton

University Book Store, which has eight stores in and near Seattle, Wash., is opening its ninth store, at the Landing in Renton, next month. It's a 3,000-sq.-ft. "pop-up" store that may lead to a permanent store in the area. The store will offer new, used and bargain books, University of Washington Husky gear and gift items.

Bryan Pearce, CEO of University Book Store, said that the store aims to serve "a special and growing community of people, those who enjoy reading and appreciate the value and experiences provided by a high quality independent bookstore. We also know that there are many longtime University Book Store customers and University of Washington fans and supporters in the greater Renton area."

University Book Store is 111 years old and has four stores in Seattle and one each in Bellevue, Mill Creek, Bothell and Tacoma.

Flyaway Books: The Coat by Séverine Vidal, illustrated by Louis Thomas

Popular NYC Pop-Up Keeps on Popping

"Washington Heights residents just want to read books--and have a place to hang out," the New York Daily News observed. They're getting their wish: Word Up Books, which opened in June and was originally going to be in business for just a month (Shelf Awareness, July 15, 2011), "has been granted its second extension until the end of November."

"I'm really relieved," said Veronica Liu, who runs the community bookstore and is an editor at Seven Stories Press. "We're here for everyone here, and I think that comes through. It's an open community space."

Liu and other organizers now hope to keep the bookstore going permanently, either at its current location or elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Soho Crime: Blown by the Same Wind (Cold Storage Novel) by John Straley

Brilliant Idea: Michigan Store to Open Second Location

Brilliant Books, which has 1,600-sq.-ft. store in Suttons Bay, Mich., that was founded in 2007, is opening a second store, in a 3,600-sq.-ft. location in Traverse City, about 16 miles away.

Bookselling This Week reported that owners Peter and Colleen Makin "hope to be selling books by October 17 and throw a grand opening party in November."

Suttons Bay's year-round population is just 600, while Traverse City has a population of 12,000-15,000 as well as many commuters. Peter Makin praised the Traverse City for its "vibrant culture," which includes a film festival, an opera house and theater.

AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.08.22

Book Sales Spike at Borders: Returns? What Returns?

One of the more curious side effects of the Borders liquidation may be the momentary sales boost for authors as 600 bookstores dumped inventory at high discounts. Author Karen Dionne explored the phenomenon in the Huffington Post, noting that in September, sales of her novel Boiling Point "doubled the second week of September, doubled again the week after that, and then held steady at the same peak level during the fourth week of September," according to Nielsen Bookscan.

Sara J. Henry, author of Learning to Swim, told Dionne that her sales also "soared two weeks ago, nearly tripling the number of sales from the week before. Last week, the number dipped, but remains high. My publisher said yes, this was because of the Borders's close-out sales."

"Same story for me," added Paul McEuen, whose debut, Spiral, spiked in September. "It took me a week or two to figure this out."

Dionne said her Bookscan numbers for Boiling Point "correlate almost exactly with the number of books the remaining 300 Borders bookstores would have had in stock--two copies per store--which means that ALL of the Borders copies of my books have been sold."

Weiser Books: Hearth and Home Witchcraft: Rituals and Recipes to Nourish Home and Spirit by Jennie Blonde

Sales Tax Study Unveiled in New Jersey

The latest state where bricks-and-mortar retailers are campaigning for sales tax fairness is New Jersey. Yesterday proponents held a press conference in Trenton to present the results of a study conducted by Rutgers University that showed the state lost nearly $171 million in tax revenue in 2009 on online purchases residents made from out-of-state online retailers and that the number will grow to $310 million by 2015.

Commissioned by the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association, the study also found that online purchases are increasing faster in New Jersey than elsewhere in the country because of "relatively high broadband connection rates and household incomes."

If the sales tax loophole is closed, the study said, the effect could be $393 million in sales returning to New Jersey retailers, "adding 1,442 in-state jobs, $44 million in personal income and $95 million in gross domestic product for the State annually."

Among the speakers was Harvey Finkel, owner of the Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, who said, according to the Star-Ledger, that shoppers will browse his bookstore, then tell him they'd rather buy the book online to save money. "We're just looking for fariness," he said. "It brings less people into the store. It's just not good for our communities."

Harper Muse: When We Had Wings: A Story of the Angels of Bataan by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner

Dotn Reamde, At Leest Not Originle E-dition

The e-version of Neal Stephenson's new novel, Reamde (Morrow), has "missing content" and many typos, leading Amazon to "recall" the Kindle version. The Awl reported that Amazon notified customers yesterday that a corrected version is available. A key sentence in the Amazon missive wasn't encouraging: "The version you received had Missing Content that have been corrected." That are good news!


Bookseller Nabs Library Thief

Our hero: Donald Davis, owner of East Village Books in New York City, caught a man who was stealing books from the New York Public Library and selling them to bookstores. According to the New York Post, Davis had been fooled by the man before and "was prepared this time around." His capture involved some planning--and some hand-to-hand combat.

"There's no other situation where I would do this," Davis told the Post. "I was so angry that he was stealing from the library. The library is just a very important piece of our community."


Image of the Day: Literaturewurst

On Tuesday, Katie Herzog, a Los Angeles librarian and performance artist, made Literaturewurst at the UConn Co-op, Storrs, Conn. She took requests, downloaded a chapter or two, printed out the pages, shredded them and stuffed them into sausage casings. Requests ranged from Strega Nona to Atlas Shrugged to Fahrenheit 451. Customers got to keep, though not eat, their requested literaturewursts.



St. Louis Indie Alliance 'Best Thing to Happen' to Readers

Congratulations to Subterranean Books, which won "best book store (independent)" in St. Louis, in voting by readers of the Riverfront Times.

The other big winner: the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance, which was named "best thing to happen to St. Louis readers this year." The Alliance, the paper wrote, "maintains a lively website with recommendations, reviews, a calendar of events and a weekly bestseller list. It has also organized a 'bookstore cruise' and an evening of literary speed-dating to bring readers together. The alliance has proven that although both reading and selling books can sometimes feel like lonely enterprises, they don't always have to be. And that's a good thing."

Happy Birthday, Modern Times!

Congratulations to Modern Times, San Francisco, Calif., which celebrates its 40th birthday tomorrow. The bookstore collective, which completed the third move in its history earlier this year (Shelf Awareness, April 19, 2011), will offer cake and refreshments from its neighbor, La Victoria Bakery, and also celebrate the 90th birthday of Jean Pauline, who started working at Modern Times in 1971.

photo by Luis Garcia

Media and Movies

Media Heat: It's Classified

Tomorrow on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour: Nicolle Wallace, author of It's Classified (Atria, $25, 9781451610963).


Sunday on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Dick Cheney, author of In My Time (Threshold, $35, 9781439176191).


Television: Labyrinth

John Hurt will star in the three-part mini-series Labyrinth, adapted from the novel by Kate Mosse, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. Christopher Smith (Black Death) will direct. Shooting begins October 10 in southern France and then moves to South Africa.

The cast also includes Katie McGrathof (Merlin) and Sebastian Stanand (Captain America), Emun Elliott (Game of Thrones), Janet Suzman (Nicholas and Alexandra), Jessica Brown-Findlay (Downton Abbey), Vanessa Kirby (The Hour) and Claudia Gerini (The Passion of the Christ).

Movie Poster: Dr. Seuss's The Lorax

Universal has released the first poster for Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, the 3-D animated adventure with Danny DeVito as the title character and Zac Efron as "a wide-eyed young boy named Ted who is trying to win over the girl of his dreams (Taylor Swift)," Entertainment Weekly reported. The movie opens March 2, 2012.

Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Rebecca Coleman

Rebecca Coleman's manuscript for The Kingdom of Childhood (Mira, September 27, 2011), an unsettling novel set in the controversial Waldorf School movement, was a semifinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. She lives and works near Washington, D.C. 

On your nightstand now:

Stolen Lives by Jassy Mackenzie. Also, The Serial by Cyra McFadden, which is a permanent fixture--I first read it in fourth grade because my parents had warned me it was the one book that was absolutely off-limits.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Sweet Touch by Lorna and Lecia Balian. In it, a girl makes a wish that everything she touches would turn to candy, but after the fairy grants it and they both eat sweets until they get sick, they decide it wasn't such a great wish after all. Come to think of it, The Kingdom of Childhood is basically about the same thing.

Your top five authors:

Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Arundhati Roy, Barbara Kingsolver and Lois Lowry.

Book you've faked reading:

That would be Vineland by Thomas Pynchon. I was a Lit major and had this professor who was into making us read the least-recognized works of great contemporary authors. This one about killed me.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Wonderful. Heartbreaking. I try to convince all my Mormon friends that they'll love it because it's very affectionate toward Mormon culture, but they just nod very quickly and change the subject. Maybe I should suggest they buy it as an e-book so no one can tell they're reading it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought Pagan Babies by Greg Johnson at the old Lambda Rising bookstore in DuPont Circle when I was a teenager. I carried it around at school, and people would see the cover and ask, "Is that two dudes kissing?"

Book that changed your life:

I'm going to say Lolita by Nabokov. The language blew me away, and the story is just so daring. Reading it opened my eyes to how limitless writing can be, and that it can be simultaneously dark and beautiful.

Favorite line from a book:

"So lively shines in them divine resemblance"-- from Paradise Lost by Milton. I have it tattooed on my arm.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich. By that one I was in such a hurry to find the juicy bits with Morelli and Ranger that I totally missed the plot.


Book Review

Review: The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje (Knopf, $26 hardcover, 9780307700117, October 7, 2011)

The epigraph for Michael Ondaatje's new novel, The Cat's Table, is from Joseph Conrad's Youth, a tale told by Conrad's ubiquitous character, Marlowe, to his listeners: "And this is how I see the East.... It is all in that moment when I opened up my young eyes on it. I came upon it from a tussle with sea." So, too, does Ondaatje's 11-year-old narrator, Michael, in this lovely novel, come upon "it," at sea, on a liner sailing on a three-week cruise from Sri Lanka to England, where he will join his divorced mother. Like Conrad, Ondaatje arrived as an immigrant (when 11), first to England and later to Canada, mastering a new language along the way. This novel seems autobiographical, and yet, as with his "fictionalized memoir" Running in the Family, Ondaatje prefers to blur the line between reality and invention in favor of the writer's freedom to go anywhere he pleases.

And so the young boy begins a great adventure aboard the Oronsay, the "first and only ship of his life" that seems to him almost a city that has been added to the coast. For meals, he's relegated to "the cat's table"; as a woman there tells him, "the least privileged place." But it's there that he meets his new friends, the quiet and thoughtful Ramadhin and the exuberant Cassius, a past schoolmate. Together, these three musketeers, like "freed mercury," explore their new world and its inhabitants and make plans from the inner sanctum of the turbine room or under the lifeboat tarps where they feast on the food stored for emergencies.

Like Chaucer with Canterbury Tales, Ondaatje tells tales about people brought together on a trip (who they are, what secrets they keep), the children thus learning about adults and life "simply by being in their midst." Here are Max Mazappa (aka Sunny Meadows), ship musician; Sir Hector de Silva, wealthy philanthropist seeking a cure; demure Miss Lasqueti and her "laugh that hinted it rolled around once or twice in mud"; the Australian girl who roller skates along the deck at dawn; the all-knowing Hyderabad Mind who performs evenings; the shackled, mysterious prisoner who is let out for late-night walks....

This ship, this city, this book, a paean to life, full of tales, is a very wise tale indeed, wonderfully told. Listen. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Shelf Talker: A masterfully told, literary voyage into the past, into the memories of family, friends, strangers, all living together in the mind of a great writer's imagination.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: POS Scriptwriting for Booksellers

How are you today? Did you find everything you were looking for? Are you a member of our frequent buyers' program? Would you like to join? Could you tell me your ZIP code, please?

The POS script is a longstanding tradition in bricks-and-mortar retail stores. Lately the cashiers at my local supermarket seem to have been commanded to say something nice about precisely one item per customer ("Oh, that's my favorite coffee, too!").

When my days on the bookstore sales floor ended a few years ago, I was sure that I would stop thinking about POS scripts, but I haven't. If anything, I'm hyper-aware of them as a customer because I know what it's like on the other side of the counter, where you have to ask the same question(s) again and again.

Those memories, along with an unpleasant shopping experience recently, have ramped up my interest in POS scripts considerably. To help me exorcise this demon, I'd like to pose a few questions to you booksellers out there:

  1. Does your bookshop use a POS script?
  2. If not, why not?
  3. If you do, what does it require cashiers to say?
  4. What do you like and/or hate about POS scripts?
  5. How has your script changed over the years?
  6. What chaos might ensue were you to go scriptless?

A couple of years ago, SmartMoney shared an anecdote about a cashier for a chain bookstore in Manhattan who was tired of the "elaborate scripts" she had to recite during each transaction:

It's tedious to keep blurting out those little phrases, she says, and customers just look away. But recently, the aspiring illustrator tried something new: singing her lines. Now shoppers look up. They smile. Some even sing back, which is pretty awesome, says Gleaves. Depending on the reaction, she sings the official welcome, the rewards-card offer, even the sales total.

Questions arise. How long did she last? Where is she now? Did this store close during the past year?

A minimal POS script is probably unavoidable. If the customer is a member of the shop's frequent buyer program, for example, the cashier does need to know this. But it's the add-ons (ZIP code collection, programmed talking points) that can make the difference between friendly, efficient interaction and just another cold transaction. All the best handselling in the world can be undone by a bad POS experience.

While I always understood the necessity of organizing (though not micromanaging) the POS exchange, I was never good at POS line readings in two retail environments that captured a significant portion of my working life--the supermarket and the bookshop.

As a customer, I find indie bookstore POS scripts generally less irritating than chain bookstore scripts, if measured on a sliding scale that puts department store scripts at the hellish extreme.

Oh, the unpleasant shopping experience I mentioned above? POS script ghosts came back to haunt me recently while paying for purchases in a department store that shall remain nameless (let's call it "Sears"). A pleasant woman greeted me at the checkout counter and asked whether I was in their discount program (no); asked if I would like to apply for a Sears credit card (no); asked again if I was sure I didn't want to apply for the card (no); rang up my order and, when handing me my receipt, talked about something I should do with information on the back (I'm still not certain what that was about). Finally, after I had signed the electronic credit card screen display, another window popped up with a multiple-choice question about my shopping experience, which I had to answer immediately in front of the sales clerk. I was essentially, and instantly, evaluating her.

I felt far more sorry for the cashier than myself because I would soon be escaping to the sunlight. But the real downside for "Sears" is that the next time I need a shirt, I will recall being trapped in a seemingly endless transaction. It may influence my decision to return, which is one way, I suspect, that many online shoppers are born.

Thankfully, I've never had an equivalent bookshop horror story. One possible conclusion to draw would be that great booksellers make the final, crucial interaction between bookstore and reader a pleasant, profitable one, with or without a script. I don't think it's quite that simple. And unfortunately, the best booksellers aren't always stationed at POS.

Now I'm starting to sound like a retail consultant, but I'm really just a guy who's been wondering about POS scripts in indie bookstores. Will that be all? Have a nice day.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
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