Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine


To the Editor: Cave Lectorem

Warren R. Johnson of Second Harvest Books in Westlake, Ore., writes about a comment we quoted yesterday. During a panel at BEA, Marjory G. Ross, publisher of Regnery Publishing, said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "People even sabotage books. [Liberal bookstore clerks] will put [a conservative] book on the bottom shelf, or on a back table."

I work part-time in a bookstore where we have tried to present books showing both sides of an issue. We are not the problem; the customer is.

Frequently we find books of both persuasions dropped behind bookshelves, turned upside down, defaced, and piled under other books. It seems the customers don't want to consider two sides of any issue.

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black


Notes: Robinson Dies; Credit for Bookstore Classes

Pat Robinson, a longtime New England bookseller who served on the board of the American Booksellers Association and served as executive secretary of the New England Booksellers Association for years, died May 17. She was 88.

Trained as a librarian, Robinson ran the purchasing department of the Dartmouth College Bookstore, was a buyer for MacBeans Books & Music and until 2004 worked at Bookland of Brunswick, in Maine, where she was known most affectionately as "the book lady."


Cool idea of the day: Beginning this summer, students at Dominican University, San Rafael, Calif., will be able to get graduate and undergraduate credit for the many writing and literature classes and conferences offered by Book Passage, Corte Madera. According to the school, the students will take the classes as part of an independent study program. The Marin Independent Journal took notes.


Ottakar's, which last week rejected a low takeover bid from HMV, said that comp-store sales in the first 16 weeks of its fiscal year dropped 8%, according to the Independent. The company continues to be hurt by competition from online booksellers and grocery stores and suffers from an out-of-date inventory control system. Richard Ratner, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce, told the paper: "Whilst the non-executives at HMV appear to be playing 'hard ball,' it needs Ottakar's to achieve economies of scale; conversely Ottakar's needs a deal."


Because of the impending opening of a Borders Books & Music, Village Booksmith in Medina, Ohio, is closing a week from today, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

Owners Clayton and Carolyn Van Doren told the paper they had made a pact that if a chain bookstore opened in Medina County, they would close. "We knew they'd be coming eventually," Clayton Van Doren said. "The store was a marginal business even without the Borders here. It didn't make a living for anyone. It bordered on being a public service.''

Clayton Van Doren does not blame Borders. In fact, he said, he is in awe of the store's selection, "including obscure topics he favors, like those on number theory." The Van Dorens bought the 30-year-old bookstore in 1995.

Employee Barbara Barry will keep one part of Village Booksmith's business going: she will continue to provide reading material for schools and libraries through Booksmith Educational Resources, something she's coordinated for 15 years.


The Burbank Leader buzzes through one of the most unusual specialty stores in the country, Autobooks-Aerobooks, in Burbank, Calif., which has more than 7,000 titles about cars, planes and motorcycles and is more than 50 years old.


With the end of the school year, the MBS Universal Digital Textbooks Program has released a general evaluation of its beta test selling e-textbooks in college bookstores. "Bookstores carrying eBooks have noticed increased traffic and sales (textbooks and general merchandise) as a result of offering digital textbooks," MBS said. Being able to shop and compare all versions of a textbook in one place drew students to stores, the company added.

During the past semester some 30 college stores participated, offering nearly 400 titles. Publisher participants included McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Thomson Learning, Houghton Mifflin and SAGE Publications.

In the last academic year, computer science/technology was the bestselling category of e-text, followed by reference, education, medicine and history and geography. The number of titles is expected to increase this fall as more publishers become involved.


More gate crashing: Chelsea Green proudly notes that in cooperation with Politics & Prose, the Washington, D.C., bookstore, people organized by the Roots Project converged on the capital yesterday and distributed copies of Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (Chelsea Green, $25, 1931498997) to all Democratic members of the Senate and the House. The book was published in March (Shelf Awareness, April 5).

All copies of the book that were distributed were donated by people from around the country; Politics & Prose provided the logistics for the donations.

The Roots Project grew out of the blogs FireDogLake, Crooks & Liars and Unclaimed Territory.

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation! Checks into

At BEA, we caught up with, which on the eve of the show, bought a 40% interest in, launched last August by Tim Spalding. Spalding himself was 100% in the Abebooks booth and said that the site has some 35,000 bibliophile members who catalogue their books--either what they're reading or their personal libraries or both. Already members have catalogued some 2.7 million books.

Members can tag the titles in their catalogues and write reviews. Based on all this information, the site makes suggestions for members, and those selections can be books that were published long ago, an example of Long Tail theory in action. "They're deeper in time than Amazon," Spalding said. "They're not just what's selling now."

Spalding sees the site as a social thing. "Books connect you with others," he said. "You can relate with others who have the same interests, and if you find someone who has the same unusual book you have, it can be very striking."

A member's first 200 books can be catalogued for free. After that, fees are $10 a year or $25 for life memberships; most people choose the latter, Spalding said.

Abebooks intends to help LibraryThing by exposing the Web site to its customers, most of whom are also book lovers. "A lot of members already use Abebooks," Spalding said. "The overlap is very strong."

Quarterly Reports: Borders, B&N, BAM, Hastings

The major chains struggled for sales in the first quarter and predict that comparisons in the second quarter will pale because of the magic last year of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Borders Group

Sales at Borders group in the quarter ended April 29 rose 1.5% to $860 million and the net loss grew to $18.9 million from $5.4 million a year ago. The net loss was within Borders's guidelines but higher than analysts' expectations--which likely will not be a good thing for the share price today. (In late-day trading yesterday, after Borders announced its results, the share price dropped 8.9% to $20.49.)

The company attributed the loss to "costs related to strategic initiatives combined with a challenging sales environment." Sales were particularly difficult in the U.K. and at Waldenbooks as well as "at domestic Borders superstores late in the quarter," CEO Greg Josefowicz said in a statement.

The company predicted that in the second quarter, comp-store sales at U.S. superstores will drop in the low single digits, drop at Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores in the low double digits, and be flat internationally measured in local currencies.

Sales at U.S. superstores rose 4.7% to $606.4 million. Sales at superstores open at least a year rose 0.7%, and book sales at superstores open at least a year rose almost 2%. Music continued to hit a sour note: comp-store sales were down 12%. But the company's major remodeling investment appears to be paying off: on a same-store basis, sales at remodeled stores were 2.6% better than other stores in the chain. The café, gifts and stationery sections were the strongest performers in the remodeled stores. The company opened five Borders superstores in the U.S. during the quarter and now has 478.

Comp-store sales in the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail division, which includes Borders Express and airport stores, dropped 7.3% mainly because of "weakness in hardcover bestsellers." Total sales dropped 11.1% to $127.2 million. The company closed 16 stores and now has 665 in the division.

International sales rose 1.4% to $126.4 million; without foreign currency translation, international sales would have risen 7.7%. The net loss rose to $8.1 million compared to a loss of $5.8 million last year. Comp-store sales in local currency rose 0.4%. Borders opened one superstore abroad and now has 56 stores outside the U.S.

Borders's gross margin as a percentage of sales declined 2% mainly because of "increased promotional discounts" stemming in part from an ironic "problem": higher-than-anticipated sign-ups for the new Borders Rewards loyalty program. Gross margin was hurt, too, by increased supply chain costs and higher occupancy costs in the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail and International divisions. Interest expense increased by $3.2 million to $5.4 million mainly because of higher debt levels resulting from capital expenditures, inventory investment and stock repurchases. By the end of the third quarter, most of the year's investment will be completed. Josefowicz commented: "We remain confident that our investment strategy is the right path for our long-term growth."

In the first quarter, the company repurchased 741,000 shares of its common stock totaling $17.7 million.

Barnes & Noble

In the quarter ended April 29, sales at Barnes & Noble rose 2% to $1.1 billion, and net earnings rose a fraction--$85,000--to $10 million. Sales at B&N stores were $980.5 million. Sales at B. Dalton Bookseller stores were $23.3 million. Sales at B& of $91.1 million were flat.

Bestselling titles during the quarter included John Grogan's Marley & Me, James Patterson's Fifth Horseman, Stephen King's Cell, Giada de Laurentiis's Giada's Family Dinners and Jim Cramer's Real Money.

Sales at B&N stores open at least a year dropped 0.3%, and sales at Dalton stores open at least a year fell 1.8%. During the first quarter, eight B&N stores were opened and five were closed. Dalton closed five stores during the quarter. The company predicts that comp-store sales in the second quarter will be down "in the low-single digits."

The company is paying a dividend of 15 cents a share next month.


Sales at Books-A-Million in the quarter ended April 29 rose 1% to $113.8 million, and net income rose 36.4% to $1.5 million. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 0.3%.

In a statement, Sandra B. Cochran, BAM's president and CEO, said that "a weak bestseller lineup and a soft media environment contributed to the disappointing comparable store sales results. While history, game books, humor titles, gifts and bargain books all performed well, they did not make up for the difficult quarter in the children's books, cooking, diet and health and inspirational categories."

Cochran said the company is "somewhat encouraged by a stronger book lineup, including new titles from Fannie Flagg, Patricia Cornwell, Anne Coulter and Janet Evanovich. We are also encouraged by the summer movie season that includes tie-ins with successful titles like The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Running With Scissors, and The Devil Wears Prada."

The company attributed much of the gain in net income to "lower depreciation expense as capital expenditures made several years ago became fully depreciated in the current period as well as reduced interest expense as a result of lower average debt balances versus the prior year."

BAM will pay a dividend of eight cents a share next month.


Sales at Hastings Entertainment in the quarter ended April 30 rose 1.8% to $131.4 million, and net income rose to $1.9 million compared with $800,000 in the same period a year ago.

Sales of books at the multimedia stores open at least a year rose 2.7% because of "increased sales of new release paperbacks and used books, partially offset by decreased sales of hardback new releases."

Total comp-store sales rose 2.4%. Music and in-store video rentals were a drag on sales while videos for sale and video games had healthy comp-store sales gains.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Oprah and Elie Wiesel Visit Auschwitz

This morning on the Today Show, a hopefully rested Michael Ferber, M.D., talks about his new book, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (Fireside, $15.95, 0743201639).


This morning on Imus in the Morning: Patricia Cornwell, whose new book is At Risk (Putnam, $21.95, 0399153624).


Today the Readers Review on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show focuses on My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin.


Today Oprah travels to Auschwitz with Elie Wiesel, whose Night (FSG, $9, 0374500010) is the TV diva's current Book Club pick.


Today on the View: Bill Carter, the New York Times TV writer and author of Desperate Networks (Doubleday, $26.95, 0385514409).


In a repeat of a show that aired earlier this month, tonight the Daily Show with Jon Stewart hosts Eric Shawn, Fox News correspondent and author of The UN Exposed: How the United Nations Sabotages America's Security and Fails the World (Sentinel, $23.95, 1595230203).


Tonight on Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Tim Russert whose new book is Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters From Daughters and Sons (Random House, $22.95, 1400064805).

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Books Next Week, Vol. 2

Significant titles appearing in paperback next week include:

  • Superman Returns by Marv Wolfman (Warner, $6.99, 0446606529). The title says it all.
  • Until I Find You by John Irving (Ballantine, $15.95, 0345479726). An actor and screenwriter searches for his father--and some normalcy.
  • The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger (Broadway, $13.95, 0767925955). The tie-in to the movie, which walks down the theater runway June 30.
  • 4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Warner Vision, $9.99, 0446613363). Last year's early summer hardcover bestseller is ready for mass market primetime.

Book Review

Mandahla: Radical Prunings Reviewed

Radical Prunings: A Novel of Officious Advice from the Contessa of Compost by Bonnie Abbott (Clerisy Press, $14.95 Paperback, 9781578602032, December 2005)

This delightful book is comprised of horticultural advice columns written with verve and attitude by Mertensia Corydalis, along with catalog offerings ("You'll wonder how you did without it! RUBBER POTTING APRON. Authentic knee-length morgue equipment."), global questions (should we leave growing rutabagas up to Canada?) and musings about her chaotic life. Dispensing guidance and opinions with both warmth and severity, she writes that the man spraying his lawn with chemicals "will pay for his evil job, carcinogens going first for the gonads." A reader with a Bing cherry tree wants to know how to keep the birds away: "Dave, here is how it works: the top third of the tree is for the birds; the bottom third is for your dogs and visiting raccoons. The middle third of the tree is yours, which conveniently you can reach without a ladder. Don't be greedy . . . if the wildlife hadn't pollinated the cherry blossoms, you wouldn't have any fruit at all." And don't get her started on impatiens or orange-colored flowers.
As the months go by, she adds more of her personal life to the newsletter, with asides about her ex-husband, Norton, and his wife, Delphine; her spoiled brother Artie, who has had "more suspended sentences than a beatnik poetry reading"; her office assistant, Miss Vong; and Miss Vong's brother, Tran. The long-haired, handsome Tran was sent to Saigon to study horticulture after his early experimentations in pollination "got to be too much of a distraction for the country girls who cut and bundled the flowers," and now assists Mertensia with her gardens.  
The gardening columns are not only amusing, they are informative--"always give yourself permission to rearrange or remove whatever displeases you in your own garden"--and the senders' names reward careful reading (Raf and Silvana, A few simple recipes, a paean to dandelions, a rebuke to a man who thinks wild violets are invasive--Abbott's prose is alluring as well as amusing. On January 31, she writes:
"The garden is as new and full of surprises as if it were the first day of June. The iron leaves and vines of my main garden gate have a tracery of snow, and there is a meringue ribbon piped along the top of the iron fence. A statue of Bacchus, always the party boy, wears a pillow on his head. The contorted hazelnut is a fountain of lacy convoluted twigs and deep golden catkin pendants, and nearby, the apricot, its two main branches espaliered into a heart, is an early valentine."
Mertensia's life unwinds over the course of two years, with much charm and humor, and more than a trace of poignancy and yearning. The physical book is also charming, small-sized with the layout, drawings, and paper combining for a tactile pleasure. Radical Prunings is a bewitching book.--Marilyn Dahl

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