Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 7, 2006
Quotation of the Day
It's Official: Japanese Company to Buy Cody's Books
Cody's Books, which has a store in Berkeley and a store in San Francisco, is indeed being acquired by Yohan, Inc., the Japanese company that distributes English-language books and magazines in Japan, operates 18 bookstores in Japan and owns publisher IBC Publishing and Stone Bridge Press, which is in Berkeley. Cody's officially announced the sale yesterday; the Berkeley Daily Planet had reported on it on Tuesday.
owner Andy Ross will remain president of Cody's Books, and Leslie
Berkler becomes v-p, focusing on store operations and off-site
programs. Cody's will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yohan.
In a statement, Ross said that Yohan "shares our commitment to independent bookselling," adding that "Yohan's financial resources and international relationships will strengthen our existing operations and will allow us to properly restock our shelves and offer the broad in-depth selection that customers expect from Cody's."
For his part, Hiroshi Kagawa, CEO of Yohan, said that the company's "ultimate" mission is "to promote culture and communications worldwide." He also said, "I've loved Cody's ever since I first visited the store in 1983."
Ross told the Contra Costa Times that Cody's needed outside investment--as well as someone to continue the store far into the future.
During discussions with Kagawa, Ross related, "He said, 'If you think you want to retire, I'll buy you out.' I had no such plans last year, but then this spring we got into a serious financial emergency, and I took him up on the offer."
The sale marks what may be the end of a rollercoaster year for Cody's. Last fall it opened a 20,000-sq.-ft., $3.5 million store in San Francisco, and in July it closed its flagship store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Cody's also has a store on Fourth Street in Berkeley.
Notes: Torture Taxi Speeds Up; Borders Lands at RDU
Following President Bush's admission yesterday that the U.S. has
maintained a network of prisons abroad, Melville House is pushing
forward the release date of a new book about the program, Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights by A.C. Thompson and Trevor Paglen ($23, 1933633093) to next Wednesday, September 13, from October 1.
Melville touts Torture Taxi as "the first book on the secret Bush administration program of secret prisons, kidnappings and torture," one that "proves that terror suspects are rarely brought to justice via the rendition program."
Thompson is the winner of a 2005 George Polk Award and a staff writer at the San Francisco Weekly. Paglen is an artist and photographer, an "expert" on clandestine military installations and author of Secret Bases, Secret Wars.
James Frey and Random House have agreed in principle to settle lawsuits with readers who claimed they were defrauded by Frey's A Million Little Pieces, the New York Times reported. In January Frey admitted that he had made up parts of the bestselling memoir. Readers who bought the book before January 26 will be eligible for a refund.
At the beginning of October, Borders Group will open a 1,237-sq.-ft. store in the A terminal of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The store will stock more than 8,000 book titles, including audiobooks, and feature bestsellers and "key titles for leisure and business travelers." It will also sell magazines, DVDs and CDs. This is the company's first airport store in North Carolina.
Lisa Gallagher, senior v-p and publisher at Morrow, tells us that there was more to The Way We Were
than was apparent, as it were. The book by Paul Burrell ($25.95,
0061138959), Princess Diana's former butler and confidant, that appears
next Tuesday, was sold without title or author not to create buzz, as
many industry observers have speculated, but because Morrow's
"publishing partner had a serial deal in the U.K. that meant we could
not divulge the author or title until after the first excerpt had
appeared on September 3," Gallagher said. "We completely understand
that selling in without title or author makes it very difficult for our
accounts and our reps to evaluate the book, and therefore we did not
take this decision lightly--but in the circumstances it had to be done."
At the beginning of October, Borders Group will open a 1,237-sq.-ft. store in the A terminal of the Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The store will stock more than 8,000 book titles, including audiobooks and feature bestsellers and "key titles for leisure and business travelers." It will also sell magazines, DVDs and CDs. This is the company's first airport store in North Carolina.
LightWedge (see yesterday's issue), Greenleaf Book Group was named one
of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. Magazine, the
first time in six years that a publishing company has made the Inc. 500
list, according to Greenleaf. (The last was Sourcebooks.) The Austin,
Tex., publisher had three years of sales growth of 562%. Under its
publishing model, Greenleaf aims to "support the independent author and
to make it possible for authors to retain the rights to their work and
still compete with the major publishing houses."
Speaking of Sourcebooks, it has signed an agreement with Hasbro Properties Group, the intellectual property development arm of Hasbro, to publish some 20 Playskool parenting guides for both new and experienced mothers. This is Playskool's first adult license. Under the agreement, the first four titles will be released next spring followed by an additional four by the end of 2007.
Playskool parenting guides will offer "practical baby care solutions
and tackle many topics facing care givers from preparing for pregnancy
to breast feeding, what to expect in the first year, and potty
training." The books will retail for $7.95-$12.95.
Media and Movies
This Weekend on Book TV: Five Years After 9/11
Saturday, September 9
4:30 p.m. Public Lives. Brooke Masters, a Washington Post staff writer, talks about her Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer (Times Books, $26, 0805079610), about the New York State Attorney General, who is running for Governor.
6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In a segment originally aired in 2003, Jessica Stern discusses her book Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill (Ecco, $15.95, 0060505338), in which she argues that many leaders use religion as justification for violence and that the war on terror is more psychological than military.
9 p.m. After Words. James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, interviews Lawrence Wright, a New Yorker staff writer and author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, $27.95, 037541486X). (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.)
10 p.m. History on Book TV. From the Roosevelt Reading Festival at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y., Fergus Bordewich discusses Bound for Canaan (HarperCollins, $14.95, 0060524316), his history of the Underground Railroad.
Sunday, September 10
7 p.m. General Assignment. Louis Uchitelle talks about the economic and psychological effects of layoffs on the American workforce, the subject of his book The Disposable American (Knopf, $25.95, 1400041171).
10 p.m. General Assignment. Brian Jenkins, senior advisor for the RAND Corporation, talks about his book Unconquerable Nation (RAND, $19.95, 0833038915), in which he argues that to defeat Al Qaeda, the U.S. must implement a multi-pronged counterterror strategy that includes an ideological and political component. At the same time, he says that the U.S. needs to preserve its legacy of limiting government power and safeguarding civil rights.
Media Heat: Gary Hart's Courage
This morning the CBS Morning Show talks with former Senator Gary Hart, whose new book is The Courage of Our Convictions: A Manifesto for Democrats (Times Books, $22, 0805081011).
This morning the Today Show pairs up with Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0060753633).
Today on KCRW's Bookworm: Stacey Levine, author of Frances Johnson (Clear Cut Press, $12.95, 0972323465). As the show put it: "Using the model of the 'nurse romances' of the 1950s, Stacey Levine has concocted a small-town romance--with a difference. The undercurrents of sexuality, repression and gender uncertainty rise to create flood tides. We discuss the nightmarish emissions from the unconscious that rock this seemingly placid novel."
Books & Authors
Mandahla: Making Comics; While You Are Sleeping Reviewed
Scott McCloud is the author of two books, Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, and now has written about the creation of comics, from simple framing to the design of intricately imagined worlds. Putting one picture after another to tell a story may sound and look simple, but artistic ability is only the start. He says, teasingly, "there are no limits to what you can fill that blank page with--once you understand the principles that all comic storytelling is built on. In short: there are no rules. And here they are."
He begins with communication--how stories are paced, framed and rendered, i.e., how the reader's eye is guided from panel to panel, and how the reader's mind is persuaded to care about what it sees. For instance, writing with pictures involves clarity, persuasion and intensity. Those in turn involve choice of moment, frame, image, word and flow. In the chapter on the power of words, McCloud illustrates interdependent combinations of words and picture with three panels from the comic adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass. In the second panel, only the words tell of an emotional wound, and in the third panel, only the art portrays the same moment as polite conversation. "Interdependent combinations keep readers' minds fully engaged because they require them to assemble meanings out of such different parts. Such effects can be stimulating, gratifying, and a kind of experience rarely found outside of comics."
In "Stories for Humans," he talks about facial expressions, saying that some of the most emotionally complex comics in history have featured protagonists with a limited palette of expressions; yet in context, those faces seem to have both breadth and depth. Illustrations from Art Spiegelman's Maus and Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan convey this well. (One of the best things about Making Comics are the examples from other artists as well as McDonald.) In another section, he discusses comic script and lowercase vs. mixed upper and lowercase usage--continuity vs. subtlety, ease of use vs. easier doesn't equal better, filling in space vs. white space, and more.
One of the most interesting chapters is on world building. Paying attention to the details in creating a world, while making a difference between drawing a page in six hours or in twenty, makes a difference for the readers between knowing where the story takes place and being there. Creating a richly-drawn and imagined silent panel "allows readers to step off the twin conveyor belts of plot and dialogue long enough to let their eyes wander and explore your world, instead of viewing it as nothing more than a passing backdrop." One of his examples, a panel from Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind is haunting and elegant; he says comic artists like Miyazaki have changed comics history with the worlds they've created.
For aspiring comic book artists who feel there is more to making comics than copying drawing styles, and for newbies like me who would like to understand comic art and graphic novels better, Making Comics fills both needs. At the very least, it will give you a new way of looking at the daily comic strips, and perhaps assessing "Mutts" and "Get Fuzzy" with a critical eye after you've had a laugh (a great reason to prolong that morning newspaper break).--Marilyn Dahl
While You Are Sleeping by Alexis Deacon (FSG, $16.50, 0374383308, September 2006)
"We are the bedside toys. Do you ever stop to think what we go through, night after night, to look after you? All day we sit as still as stone, waiting, waiting, waiting." But at night they get busy. The toys--a sock monkey, a bear with a purse, a bespectacled elephant, a tiny dog, and the rookie, a diminutive lion--make sure the young girl in their care sleeps well. They check every corner, every cupboard, and even under the bed, if they are feeling brave. Is she too hot or too cold? They adjust the covers. Are there bedbugs? They squish them flat. Is she sliding out of bed? In a sweet illustration, the little lion valiantly attempts to pull the girl back after she's fallen halfway out. They even scare bad dreams away, in a hilarious spread with the bear wearing a bucket on his head, the monkey sporting ritzy red sunglasses and a rude pose, and the dog hidden under a badminton birdie hat. Why do they do it? To be cuddled tenderly when the little girl wakes up.
Alexis Deacon's story is lovable and reassuring, the illustrations comforting with their soft edges and dreamy colors. His quirky and gentle humor, first seen in Slow Loris, is enchanting. What a soothing bedtime book to allay nighttime fears.--Marilyn Dahl
Robert Gray: The Ideal Bookstore Web Site? A Work-in-Progress
As I write this column in early September, I'm also listening to Julian Barnes read from Arthur & George at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on July 10. I mention this not to laud my multitasking ability, nor to reveal deep secrets about time travel, but to recommend Authors on Tour: Podcasts of Authors and Their Books, a feature that adds considerable luster to an otherwise standard Booksense.com template.
According to Neil Strandberg, Tattered Cover's manager of operations, "The ideal Web site will be able to keep pace with changing technologies and services, even when the future of such ideas is murky or their current return on investment disappointing."
While he admits that this online ideal is still beyond the reach of most bookstores, including Tattered Cover, he believes a Web presence is "indispensable" for independents. Strandberg has given the online book world considerable thought, as you'll discover in my next two columns. This time, I'll share his views on Tattered Cover's work with Booksense.com's Web site service.
It's an important topic. During my siteseeing tour this year, I've encountered a range of opinions about the effectiveness of the Booksense.com approach. Strandberg's take, based upon experience as well as reflection, is an excellent starting point for this discussion.
Tattered Cover is the first example cited on Booksense.com's Q&A page. Strandberg says that the bookstore maintained its own Web site for several years, but switched to the Booksense.com template to keep pace with ever-changing technology and customer expectations: "Booksense.com offered, in our view, the best selection of functions and services for the resources available to us. This 'math' remains true now."
He adds that while the store's Web site helps sustain relationships with customers for whom the current offerings (event schedules, browsing options, etc.) are satisfactory, "I must simultaneously acknowledge that I have responded to many customers who have hoped for something different, 'better,' from a store with Tattered Cover's reputation. Also, the fact that our online ordering growth does not mirror national trends speaks for itself with respect to the kinds of relationships our site is sustaining--or not."
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of the Booksense.com
option? According to Strandberg, "One advantage relates to the cost to
Tattered Cover, be that the cost of labor, equipment, R&D,
software, troubleshooting or the like. Doing this on our own simply
became impossible to sustain. Other stores, of course, have selected
other providers. Booksite comes immediately to mind, but this point
leads me to another great advantage: Len Vlahos and the BookSense.com
crew. They are fantastically responsive, sharp and helpful. They 'get'
our needs, can quickly connect the dots between service goals and
technical abilities, and can translate a rapidly evolving jargon-laden
conversation into plain English."
Strandberg acknowledges, however, the limited range of options available "to completely personalize the Web site and thereby reproduce online whatever is valuable about the in-store experience. Our internal arguments regarding this point center on frustrated desires to make the Web site as special and unique as any of the physical stores, and to offer all our products and services."
He knows that BookSense.com must please a diverse (dare we say fiercely independent?) bookstore community and is inevitably "pushed by users with high expectations and pulled by others whose requirements are more basic. We frequently work with Booksense.com to identify new goals for the Tattered Cover--and all template users--and simultaneously recognize that these ideas will be placed in a queue that BookSense.com prioritizes according to its resources and the demands of other stores."
While there is no such thing as an ideal bookstore Web site, Strandberg does have a dream site and his inspiration is Powells.com, which "has done a wonderful job of capitalizing on its core mission, selling books competitively while expanding its customer relationship via the Web. In fact, a Web site visitor can engage with books, digital media, Powell's staff, the stores, authors and aspects of the literary community in ways that the in-store customer could never experience. As a result, and this is my goal for Book Sense and the Tattered Cover, the in-store and online relationship both complement and expand upon each other. Neither is the pale shadow of the other, each promises to satisfy the ever-evolving spectrum of consumer interests."
"Ever-evolving" precludes arrival. The quest continues. More from Neil Strandberg next time.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)