Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Quotation of the Day

Used Books: 'One More Thing We Can Do'

"This is just one more thing we can do that people have been looking for. That's how independent bookstores stay in business--by providing the best customer service they can."--Barbara Heppe, manager of Bookends Book Store, Napa, Calif., in a Napa Valley Register story about the store's first year selling used books in addition to its usual fare of new books.

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo


Perseus Distribution Plans: Vote of Confidence; Concerns

Harvard Business School Press has made a "long-term extension" of its distribution agreement with Perseus Distribution Services, the future name of Perseus Books Group's CDS subsidiary. Harvard Business School Press said that "in a generally flat business market," it had "robust double-digit growth in each of the last three years."

The Press has been distributed in the U.S. by CDS/Perseus for seven years. Press director David Goehring called the company "a consistent and reliable partner."

The contract extension is a nice vote of faith in Perseus Distribution Services, which will be officially created March 1, when the warehousing, customer service and financial operations of Consortium are merged into the Perseus/CDS warehouse in Jackson, Tenn.

Some booksellers have expressed concerns about the merger. As Barry Rossnick, senior buyer at Books Inc., with 11 stores in California, put it: "Consortium is really good at what they do; CDS is not. If they were absorbing CDS into Consortium, I'd feel a lot more confident."

Lamenting many shipping mistakes made by CDS over the years, Dale Szczeblowski of Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass., said that CDS's customer service department "while not unfriendly are usually ineffectual and often it's my Perseus sales rep that has to intervene."

Another bookseller took the long view, saying that she hopes "CDS learns from Consortium" and noted the potential advantage of dealing with so many publishers through one operation rather than individually.

Perseus has called its Jackson warehouse a "state-of-the-art" facility and stressed that in the period before the March 1 merger, it has "significant time to plan a smooth transition."

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Notes: O.J.'s Book; Brother Odd on CSI; Chattanooga Arrival

It's "true." O.J. Simpson, acquitted for the 1994 murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman, has written a book to be published by ReganBooks November 30 in which he will tell "how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible," the New York Times reported. He will also appear on Fox TV on November 27 and 29 during sweeps, in two one-hour shows. Judith Regan, who is producing the shows, called O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened, will interview him.

The title of the book apparently is If I Did It.

A spokesperson for NBC Universal said the network had passed on the project because, as she told the Times, "from an advertising point of view, from a public relations point of view, everything, it was impossible."


Dean Koontz's next Odd Thomas novel, Brother Odd (Bantam, $27, 0553804804), to be published November 28, is getting some strong advertising support, according to the New York Times. Starting tomorrow night, three ads will begin running during CBS's hit show CSI. The ads "depict a faceless Odd Thomas" and are "mini-biofilms," Koontz said.


Rock Point Books opens today in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., and aims to create "a local feel while having the same capabilities as large chain bookstores," manager Katherine Neilsen told the Chattanoogan.

The store will offer "a large selection of classic literature, Southern literature, new releases, nonfiction, history, children's books and more" the paper said. It also will sell newspapers, greeting cards, postcards, chocolate and Chattz Coffee from the Chattanooga Coffee Company.

The store will feature regular readings and signings and weekend children's programs, offer a section available for birthday parties and other events and display work by local artists, who will sometimes lead workshop and discuss their pieces.

Rock Point Books is located at 401 Broad St., Chattanooga, Tenn. 37402; 423-756-2855. 


Yesterday SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst David Magee upgraded Barnes & Noble stock to "buy" from "neutral," saying that sales trends have improved in the book business, according to the AP via the Houston Chronicle. In contrast to the first part of the year, when sales in stores open at least a year were "modestly negative," comp-store sales gains in the latter part of the year should reach "at least 2.5%," he wrote. He added that "near-term positives should offset slow unit growth of 4% to 5% and strong competition from discounters and Web retailer"


Talk about a specialty store.

The new Martinsville-Henry County (Va.) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals building scheduled to open in March will include a café called Beggars and Chewsers that will sell "gourmet dog and cat treats, coffee, ice cream, books and boutique items," the Martinsville Bulletin reported. The café will be operated by John and Bonnie Hale, owners of Binding Time, a bookstore in Martinsville, and Binding Time Café in, of all places, the town of Bassett.


University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Retail Sales: 'More Spending Money'; September Store Slip

General retail sales in October rose 0.4% over September and were up 6.5% from October 2005, indicating high chances for "robust holiday sales," today's Wall Street Journal reported.

A Commerce Department report suggested that purchases by consumers were "slowing down a bit, but that falling home sales aren't yet seriously affecting spending in other sectors."

Despite falling house prices, "job and wage gains, together with lower gasoline bills, have left [consumers] with more spending money," the Journal said. 


Bookstore sales in September were $1.497 billion, down 0.93% from $1.511 billion in the same month in 2005, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, total retail sales in September rose 4.1% to $316.34 billion compared to $303.761 billion in September 2005.

For the year to date, bookstore sales were $12.075 billion, down 1.6% from $12.276 billion in the first nine months of 2005. The Bureau also revised August sales upward to $2.031 billion from $2.001 billion.

Through June, sales for the year to date had been up 0.8%, but with the 9.3% drop in sales in July compared to July 2005, year to date sales slipped into negative territory.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


Emerging Leaders to Emerge Next Week in NYC

Emerging Leaders NYC will host its third quarterly Emerging Leaders Night Out on Wednesday, November 29. Inspired by the ABA's Emerging Leaders project, the gatherings are geared toward young people in bookstores and publishing houses in the New York City area, as well as others in the book industry, and hope to provide informal networking opportunities as well as a sense of community for young professionals in the city. (Most important, they're a chance for young bookish folks to have a drink together.)  This ELNO will also highlight the Small Press Book Fair, to be held at the Small Press Center on December 2 and 3.

The Night Out will be held at Under the Volcano (a midtown lounge named after the classic novel by Malcolm Lowry) at 12 E. 36th St. between Fifth and Madison, at 7:30 p.m. The last ELNO drew more than 100 young book industry professionals to a Brooklyn bar to celebrate the Brooklyn Book Festival. Organizers Steve Colca of Norton, Amanda Lydon of Good Yarns Bookshop in Hastings-on-Hudson and Jessica Stockton of McNally Robinson Booksellers hope to attract more frontline booksellers to this event, and eventually to parlay the Night Out into more focused meetings on issues faced by booksellers and publishers. Anyone interested in attending the Winter 2006 ELNO, please RSVP to For more information about Emerging Leaders NYC, visit its Web site.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: A Psychic, a Sleep Doctor, and a Former Senator

Today on the Early Show: Carl Hiaasen, author of Nature Girl (Knopf, $25.95, 0307262995).


The Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., will feature two author interviews on today's show, which has the theme Thanksgiving:

  • Richard Bausch, author of Thanksgiving Night (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0060094435)
  • Andrew F. Smith, author of The Turkey:  An American Story (University of Illinois Press, $29.95, 0252031636)

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at; the archived edition will be posted this afternoon.


Today on the Oprah Winfrey Show: Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness (Amistad, $14.95, 0060744871). The film version of Gardner's inspiring rags-to-riches memoir opens in theaters December 15.


Today on the View: Dr. Michael Breus, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health (Dutton, $24.95, 0525949798).


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: J. William Middendorf II, author of Glorious Disaster: Barry Goldwater's Presidential Campaign and the Origins of the Conservative Movement (Basic Books, $26.95, 0465045731).


Today on the Montel Williams Show: Sylvia Browne, psychic and author of The Mystical Life of Jesus: An Uncommon Perspective on the Life of Christ (Dutton, $23.95, 052595001X).


Today on Fox & Friends: former Senator John Edwards, editor of Home: The Blueprints of Our Lives (Collins, $29.95, 0060884541). Edwards also will be at home on Neil Cavuto's show today.


Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show:

  • Rashid Khalidi, a professor at Columbia University and author of The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Beacon Press, $24.95, 0807003085)
  • Antonia Fraser, whose new book is Marie Antoinette: The Journey (Anchor, $16.95, 0307277747)


Tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman: professional redneck Jeff Foxworthy shares lingo from Jeff Foxworthy's Redneck Dictionary II: More Words You Thought You Knew the Meaning Of (Villard, $16.95, 1400065682).

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Conversation with's Len Vlahos is often mentioned on this siteseeing tour. In addition to highlighting bookstores that use the service, I've occasionally directed readers to the ABA's site for basic information. (There, I just did it again.)

During the past few months, I've also fielded numerous questions and comments (positive as well as negative) about the model. I'll be sharing some of those with you soon. There seems to be much to discuss about this important topic.

Many independent bookstores have chosen to use; many have chosen not to use the service, or to use it and then stop using it. In each case, I wondered why. So I thought I would ask. In fact, this upcoming series of columns might be considered an extended Why?

I will begin by going directly to the source: Len Vlahos, director of (aka "the man behind the curtain" in Wizard of Oz parlance). He answered my initial questions in depth and with a minimum of hype, so I thought I should let him speak for himself here, in Q&A format.

Our lengthy exchange will appear over three issues of Shelf Awareness, and then it will be your turn. I'd love to hear from you. Perhaps a conversation will develop.

Conversation is good.

I'll try to be a cordial host.


Robert Gray: I'll ask a big, impossible question first. What do you see as the future for independent bookselling online?

Len Vlahos: Well, that certainly IS a big question. It's my belief that the Internet has become an integral part of commerce in the U.S., and that a Web site is a requirement for retailers to conduct business in the 21st century. For independent bookstores, those Web sites have so far been very effective marketing tools, though less effective sales tools. I think this is likely to change. As broadband access continues to become more commonplace and as consumers become more and more accustomed to shopping online, people will start to look beyond the few top merchants to complete transactions.
In addition, technology costs are dropping. This allows and other providers of independent bookstores Web sites to offer tools to put booksellers on more even footing with corporate retailers.

I'm also a believer in Chris Anderson's Long Tail Theory, which holds that the cumulative sales of products that sell in ones and twos can be as powerful as the cumulative sales of the handful of blockbusters each season. I think this bodes well for independent stores, as we tend to live more in the long tail, while the big boxes live more in the land of the bestseller.

RG: What are the primary advantages for a bookstore that has a Web site?

LV: provides members with the ability to have a full-service, e-commerce-enabled, content-rich Web site at far below market costs. Participating stores present their customers nearly three million titles (courtesy of Ingram's excellent iPage database), a very good search engine (more on that in answer to another question [later], user-friendly (and flexible) commerce tools (i.e., a good shopping cart) and a ton of store-generated content.
We have worked to increase the flexibility of the product, better allowing booksellers to express the unique nature of the bricks-and-mortar store online. For example, booksellers can set their own shipping and pricing policies; they decide which payment methods to accept; they can identify their own in-store inventory levels for items in the database; they can enable and manage their own affiliate program, tracking sales from other Web sites; they have access to individual and detailed traffic reports; and more. The sites are also integrated with the Gift Card program and with Constant Contact.
We provide a robust suite of user-friendly content management tools. Booksellers can upload their events, recommendations, store histories, etc.--virtually any sort of content. The tools require no special knowledge of computers, computer code or even HTML (though knowing a bit of HTML helps).
Through Ingram, we provide consumer direct fulfillment services. Books will ship from Ingram direct to the bookstore's customer, with the store's name on the box and packing slip. As far as the customer knows, the store made the shipment.

We provide excellent customer service from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and monitor site stability and performance 24/7/365.

Finally, the advantage of a Web site in general (and we feel strongly that is the best option available) is an important piece of a store's integrated marketing effort.


In Part II of this conversation, we discuss the primary disadvantages of and why booksellers do or do not sign on for the service.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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