In honor of the Presidents Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, February 18. See you then!
In honor of the Presidents Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, February 18. See you then!
In the third quarter ended December 28, revenue at Indigo Books & Music fell 9.9%, to C$383.7 million (about US$289.2 million), and net earnings rose 20.3%, to C$25.8 million (US$19.4 million). Sales at superstores open at least a year fell 10.1%; sales at small-format stores open at least a year fell 11.2%; and online sales fell 12.7%. Companywide comparable store sales fell 10.5%.
The company blamed the drops in sales on softer traffic, Indigo's efforts to reduce promotions, and the lack of "breakout products" in books or toys.
CEO Heather Reisman emphasized that "we are in the early stages of a fundamental repositioning of Indigo--one that will fully build on our customer affection for our brand but that will allow us to thrive in an environment which is totally different from the one we were 'born into.' " She noted, too, that in the third quarter, "we delivered higher year-over-year earnings achieved through higher margin rates and a lower cost infrastructure. This was done despite lower sales."
In a conference call with stock analysts, Reisman went into some detail about the unusual holiday period, saying, "It's the first year I've ever been in the business where there was not a single book--not a single book--that gained any traction whatsoever." She noted that in the third quarter of 2018, "our top two books accounted for several hundred thousand units" in sales while in the same period in 2019 "our top couple of books altogether didn't break 100,000 units."
The same was true for toys, where there was "nothing that caught the imagination of kids," which is crucial when sales depend so much on "a couple of hit things."
Speaking generally about current bricks-and-mortar retail, Reisman said the company's "biggest challenge" is "binge-watching and the amount of time people are spending on their technology," which has cut into evening traffic in stores. As a result, Indigo is experimenting with "a number of things" to "augment traffic on the weekends to make up for the traffic that we've lost in the night time."
In an effort to encourage their customers to take action in the 2020 presidential election, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., and Changing Hands, with stores in Tempe and Phoenix, Ariz., have joined together for a year-long program called 2020 Fundamentals: Eat Sleep Read Vote.
Through the project, Bookshop Santa Cruz customers will "adopt" Changing Hands by "supporting their efforts on the ground to turn Arizona from a red to a blue state. The actions will aid on-the-ground initiatives identified by Changing Hands to register people to vote and help get them to the polls on Election Day."
Bookshop Santa Cruz will coordinate with Santa Cruz Indivisible to host monthly "Action Nights" through October to recruit volunteers to write postcards, text bank, phone bank and fundraise to support voter registration drives in Arizona. The bookstore will also coordinate a recruitment fair, hold a literary themed fundraiser and coordinate on the ground canvasing during the fall in the swing state.
"Bookshop Santa Cruz believes books are fundamental to our democracy but we might not have a democracy if we don't get everyone to participate in this fall's election," said owner Casey Coonerty Protti. "We were inspired by Changing Hands' activism and wanted to support their efforts to ensure that every eligible person votes and every vote is counted in Arizona. It is the least we can do from our deep blue area."
Cindy Dach, co-owner of Changing Hands, commented: "More than ever the 2020 election is about the human condition. We have always been a politically engaged bookstore, but since 2016 we have stepped up that engagement in a more profound way. We know that a change in leadership will improve the human condition, and we will do all we can to help provide accurate and truthful information and engage all people in the process."
Sixty authors, reviewers and academics have signed an open letter protesting Wayne State University Press's sudden firing of three senior staff members last week, the Detroit News reported.
The trio--editor-in-chief Annie Martin, marketing director Emily Nowak and design and production manager Kristin Harpster--were fired last Friday. While the press has not given a reason for the firing, a statement sent to its faculty editorial board said: "We believe, moving forward, our future can be created through leadership and staff collectively committed and open to new ideas, deeper community connectivity," and, in another statement, the press wrote that the firings "in no way (indicate) a lack of support for the press."
Additionally, a Wayne State spokesperson would not comment on the personnel decision, but did say the press "will continue to operate and publish books as it has for the last 75 years."
Tara Reeser has been named interim director. In a letter to the publisher's authors, Reeser wrote to "offer assurance that the press will continue to remain fully open, with initiatives that will move us forward" and noted that the press will begin hiring for "four critical positions," including a new editor-in-chief, very soon.
Once news of the firing spread on social media, many of the press's authors and past employees expressed shock and outrage. On Wednesday, the open letter demanding that Wayne State University Press immediately reinstate Martin, Nowak and Harpster drew 60 signatures.
The letter reads in part: "We are writing to express our shock and anger at what is tantamount to the destruction of this venerable institution. In a series of moves that has left both published and prospective authors in the dark about the fate of their books, and has undermined the viability of the press, the new administration has, without notice, discharged the press leadership without cause."Martin, Nowak, and Harpster have not commented publicly about the firing. The trio is being represented by attorney Jennifer McManus, who told the Detroit News that they are "still shocked by their termination, as it came without cause and no explanation has been given." She said the three women, who had worked for the press for a combined 54 years, are considering all legal options.
Kirsten Grant is stepping down as director of World Book Day after almost a decade in the position, the Bookseller reported. She will remain at World Book Day until April. Details on her successor are yet to be announced.
"I have decided, after nine wonderful years working on World Book Day, that it is time to take on exciting new challenges," Grant said. "I'm so proud of the progress we have made reimagining the campaign and extending the charity's reach and message to children and families across the country. I am leaving World Book Day in good hands and great shape and wish CEO Cassie Chadderton and the wider industry all the very best for the next chapter. I have relished my time working on World Book Day, and I am excited about exploring new opportunities."
Chadderton commented: "Kirsten has played a fundamental role in making World Book Day one of the country's most loved celebrations, after successive campaigns including the inspirational Share a Story. World Book Day will continue to build on this, finding new ways to introduce the benefits of reading for pleasure and the magic of books to even more children and families."
Publishers Association CEO and World Book Day chair Stephen Lotinga added: "In her time with World Book Day Kirsten has brought an inventiveness that took the World Book Day campaign to new heights and brought more children and young people to our celebration of books and the power of reading."
Claire Bretécher, "one of the most celebrated French cartoonists of recent decades and the first woman to achieve significant prominence in the genre in France," died February 10, the Guardian reported. She was 79.
Bretécher rose to fame in the 1970s with the comic-book series Les Frustres (The Frustrated Ones), "which tackled issues of gender and sexuality with a mordant and deadpan humor," the Guardian wrote, adding that her most famous character was Agrippine, a spoiled adolescent dealing with the troubles of growing up. In 1976, Roland Barthes called Bretécher the "best sociologist of the year."
Dargaud, her publisher, said: "She was one of the pioneers of this literary genre and imposed a style, a tone and an offbeat gaze that was of total originality.... Bretécher traced a path that was unique in the comic book. Her humor and spirit of mind were immense."
The Bookstormer Foundation, in conjunction with Copperfield's, Petaluma, Calif., hosted author Judd Winick at Wilson Elementary School. (Bookstormer supports author visits at Title I schools.) Each of the 100 kids who attended got a copy of the newest Hilo book, All the Pieces Fit, and Winick signed every each copy. One of the third graders told him it was the first book he's ever owned.
Congratulations to Booklover's Gourmet in Webster, Mass., which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next month. From March 3-7, the store will offer 25% off new and used books and gifts, a special raffle each day for a $25 gift card and birthday cake on Saturday, March 4.And later in March, Bookselling This Week reported, owner Debra J. Horan will move her store to a new, larger space down the street.
Many booksellers have been inspired to use their store chalkboards for creative Valentine's Day messages, including:
Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex.: " 'He loved books, those undemanding but faithful friends.'--Victor Hugo, Les Misérables."
Bards Alley Bookstore, Vienna, Va.: "All you need is love & a good book."
Storied Owl Books, Saint Paul, Minn.: "Happy Galentine’s Day!"
Harvey's Tales, Geneva, Ill.: "No Valentine's Day plans? Have a blind date with a book! All the excitement of a first date with none of the stress!"
In the early morning hours of February 9, police were called to a break-in at London's Gay's the Word and "found the burglars had stopped to enjoy Prosecco left over from a bookshop event," the Bookseller reported.
Noting that he had assumed Gay's the Word was targeted in a homophobic attack when told police were outside the shop, manager Jim MacSweeney said, "That was disturbing. Finding out it was burglary was more of a pain, although it's still distressing, certainly. Although why they would break into a bookshop I don't know. Obviously the words of Foucault were drawing them in."
He added: "We have some bottles left over from events and obviously they stopped for a drink. They were in our basement drinking a bottle of Prosecco when the police came."
A subsequent Facebook post was viewed more than 190,000 times around the world. "All of that does just help let people know we exist," MacSweeney said. "It was so heartening. Rather than getting distressed we got so many messages from people. We just feel really held by the community."
At Workman Publishing:
Kristina Peterson, director of international publishing, is retiring effective March 31. She began her career in publishing as a trade book rep in eastern upstate New York, before holding sales and publishing positions at several houses, including Random House, where she was the head of Fodor's Travel Publications. She also held senior management positions at Dorling Kindersley (DK) U.S., the Random House Children's Group, and the Simon & Schuster Children's Division.
Workman CEO Daniel Reynolds commented: "Over the years, international sales have become increasingly important to the health of our industry, and Kristina has done a terrific job at the helm of this crucial department, consistently growing our business each year. Throughout her 15 years at Workman, Kristina has shown us the world and taken great joy in sharing with us how our books take on different lives in different cultures."
Also, Sara High has been promoted to director of international sales, effective immediately, and will manage export sales of Workman, Artisan, Algonquin, duopress, Experiment, Familius, Storey, and Timber titles. She will also work directly with Workman's distributors in the U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as the sales reps who cover Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and South America. She joined Workman in 2003 as export assistant and was later promoted to manager of export sales and international marketing, and in 2009, to export sales and international marketing director.
Mia O'Neill has been promoted to publicist.
Clare Maurer is joining Scribner as a publicist, effective February 18. She was most recently an associate publicist at St. Martin's Press.
Oscar-winner Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl), Dakota Johnson (Bad Times at the El Royale) and Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie) will star in The Lost Daughter, based on the novel by Elena Ferrante, Deadline reported. Maggie Gyllenhaal adapted the book and is making her directorial debut with the project.
"When I finished reading Elena Ferrante's The Lost Daughter, I felt that something secret and true had been said out loud," Gyllenhall observed. "And I was both disturbed and comforted by that. I immediately thought how much more intense the experience would be in a movie theatre, with other people around. And I set to work on this adaptation. I find that the script has attracted other people interested in exploring these secret truths about motherhood, sexuality, femininity, desire. And I'm thrilled to continue my collaboration with such brave and exciting actors and filmmakers."
Searchlight Pictures has released a new trailer for The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci's reimagining of the classic novel by Charles Dickens, starring Dev Patel. IndieWire reported that in the screenplay he co-wrote with Simon Blackwell, Iannucci "puts a quirky spin on the kind of satire he developed in blistering, politically charged series The Thick of It and Veep, and films such as In the Loop and The Death of Stalin. In Iannucci country, no one is left unscathed and everyone--wokeness and politically correct allegiance be damned--is a potential comic slaughter."
The Personal History of David Copperfield has already garnered "a slew of awards since its world premiere," IndieWire noted, with five British Independent Film Awards, including best supporting actor for Hugh Laurie. The cast also features Darren Boyd, Peter Capaldi, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong. The film will be released in the U.S. May 8.
The winners of the 2020 Southern Book Prize, honoring "the best in Southern literature, from the people who would know... Southern Independent Booksellers and their independently minded customers," are:
Fiction: The Magnetic Girl by Jessica Handler (Hub City Press)
Nonfiction: Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy by Cassandra King Conroy (Morrow)
Children's: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books)
The longlist has been released for the 2020 Klaus Flugge Prize, which is awarded to "the most promising and exciting newcomer to children's picture book illustration." The shortlist will be announced May 19 at Foyles Charing Cross Road in London, and the winner will be revealed on September 16. Check out the longlisted illustrators here.
|photo: Kiva Duckworth-Moulton|
Ginger Gaffney is the author of the memoir Half Broke (Norton, February 4, 2020), about her time working with the troubled horses and residents at a prison re-sentencing facility in New Mexico. A top-ranked horse trainer and teacher, Gaffney writes about addiction, incarceration and the transformative effects horses offer to those who are fighting for a sober life outside the prison system.
On your nightstand now:
Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller. I read everything Fuller writes. The way she brings people, animals and the scene and scent of Africa to the page is a constant lesson in craft for me as a writer.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore is a debut novel set in the west Texas town of Odessa, 1970. Wetmore's characters are the come-to-life, real in-the-dirt characters I love. Wetmore writes about working-class people, race and ranching in such raw, living language. She makes me forget I'm reading fiction.
Diving into the Wreck by Adrienne Rich. I always have a half dozen poetry books on my nightstand, my desk, the living room table. I'm reading Rich again in this #metoo time. In this he, she, they time. She reminds me that we have been here before.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Truth is, I didn't read much. And what I did read, because I know I had to read in school, I don't have any recollection of. I'm pretty sure it is a byproduct of the extreme introversion of my childhood. I didn't speak until I was six or seven. Language was not something I trusted, and I think books were not interesting to me because of that. As my childhood goes, I don't have much memory of it. The one memory I have is an assignment in seventh or eighth grade. Our teacher wanted us to give a report on a book we had read. We each had to stand up and read our report. When it was my turn, I stood up and read the words from Gil Scott-Heron's song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised." I'm white, and I lived in a very white town. I don't remember where I heard Gil Scott-Heron perform that early spoken-word song, but the words rang true. I could believe in them.
Your top five authors:
Annie Dillard gave me a spiritual path to memoir. Alice Walker woke me up. Zora Neale Hurston showed me how writing is all about living. Leslie Marmon Silko showed me that same thing in a very different way. Marie Howe and Jane Kenyon give me words to breathe on tough days. Whoops, that is six!
Book you faked reading:
In my freshman English comp class, a nice, crusty old white professor assigned Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden." We were to "do some research" and write a short essay about the poem. To be fair, our professor was trying to push and prod us a bit, given he was a devout Quaker and peace activist himself. I did not even fake read it. I took an "F."
Books you're an evangelist for:
We the Animals by Justin Torres. I love how sparse, lyrical and honest Justin's writing is. This book sits in a category all its own.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. The best book about place, and time, and chance, and change. Should be, and hope it is, a standard for all English majors.
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. If we want to talk about being "woke," then we should read this book.
Book you bought for the cover:
I bought Pam Houston's new book Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country because I love Pam and I love her writing. But, also, I love her dog William, who is on the cover!
Book you hid from your parents:
Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin.
Books that changed your life:
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Black Elk Speaks by John G. Neihardt. All three of these books I read during my first few years in college. These are the books which helped me believe in language--after a long, silent childhood.
Favorite line from a book:
"I like to believe that horses were fashioned moments before us, under us. I like to believe that they sprang from the earth snorting, lifting us loose from the imagination of God." --from Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg. Mark writes about horses the way I feel them, and that's a rare find for me.
Five books you'll never part with:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
What the Living Do by Marie Howe
Power by Linda Hogan
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
Your Native Land, Your Life by Adrienne Rich
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I would love to read this book again, without knowing anything about writing--but with all the knowledge my body knows from the many years of living.
Writer you would most like to write a song:
Songwriter you would most like to write a book:
Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim (Bloomsbury Circus, $26 hardcover, 256p., 9781408882429, March 3, 2020)
Already an internationally recognized, award-winning art historian and filmmaker, Nana Oforiatta Ayim makes her literary debut with The God Child, a compelling and ambitious novel. Through narrative jumps in time and place, as well as jarring disruptions in multiple languages (most notably, untranslated Twi and German, occasionally French), Oforiatta Ayim seems intent on keeping her readers in a state of unsettled flux. Her disrupted presentation vividly underscores young Maya's shifting, peripatetic coming-of-age journey--from Maya's Ghanaian origins and through multiple back-and-forth crossings between Germany and England, with returns to her homeland.
As a rare African immigrant living in a homogeneous unnamed German city in the 1980s, Maya is repeatedly warned by her parents: "You must always be better than them in everything you do, otherwise they will think you are lower." She's the "immaculately groomed" daughter of a respected doctor and his ostentatiously shopaholic, gregariously gorgeous wife, but her German fluency still surprises the locals. When Maya answers her best friend's request to "tell me a story" with tales about the childhood of her princess mother and grandfather king, her attempt is deemed "stupid," even as it's true. Being labeled a "liar," she wonders how she "would ever know what stories it would be all right to tell and when."
Maya's detached, othered existence finds reprieve when her mother's godchild--her cousin Kojo--arrives from Ghana to become Maya's brother, bringing with him secrets and divulgences about their extended--and extensive--royal heritage. Stability proves brief as her immediate family implodes when her father leaves, and her mother moves both children briefly to England, at least until circumstances return them each to separate German boarding schools. Eventual adulthood brings further distancing: Maya retreats to London; Maya's mother and Kojo resettle permanently in Ghana. Both mother and Kojo attempt, through diverging paths, to reclaim the family's scattered regal possessions and reestablish their birthright prominence. In the midst of attempting to assert her own agency, Maya bears witness to her unstable family and the uncertain future of their evolving country.
Through Maya's disjointed experiences of wandering-searching-leaving-returning, Oforiatta Ayim adroitly navigates the lasting consequences of family dysfunction (instability), immigration (to be less than), colonial legacy (erasure), and political upheaval (indiscriminate destruction). Part parable, part history, part warning, The God Child is a resonating, intimate drama of family gone awry across a shrinking global stage. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Shelf Talker: Art historian and filmmaker Nana Oforiatta Ayim makes her affecting literary debut with The God Child, featuring the immigrant-child-to-global-citizen daughter of an ousted Ghanaian royal family.
I am not a robot.
We have to check that box most days just to get on with our digital lives. I did so twice yesterday; it worked both times. Whew. But I also suddenly realized that if they ever go to a voice-enabled Siri/Alexa/etc. version of this security feature, I won't be able to get it to work because I can't say "I am not a robot" out loud and not sound robotic. Try it. You'll see. We're doomed.
Perhaps all is not lost, however, because our old nemesis Amazon tells us robots are our friends (Hmm, where have we heard that one before?) and even released a Valentine's Day-themed ad this week to prove it. In the video, two warehouse robots fall in love, dine together (How does that even work?), go to the movies and finally "have a moment" gazing at a lake from the dock.
Then the corporation known for its "all's fair in love and war" mission statement pulls the plug on the (presumably) young lovebirds: "Robots don't fall in love... but people do." The algorithmic retail/cloud overlord adds: "Every day at Amazon, incredible employees come together to deliver magical experiences for customers. And some of these employees found more than a job at Amazon--they found love. Check out some of our favorite heartwarming love stories from across Amazon Operations, featuring our very own adora-bot Amazon Scout."
The video ends with a link to amazon.com/findinglove, which eerily, maybe presciently, takes us to an error notice ("Sorry, we couldn't find that page. Try searching or go to Amazon's home page."), along with a "Meet the dogs of Amazon" link. Plot twist? Rabbit hole? Escape room?
On its blog, Amazon shares some of the company's "favorite heartwarming love stories." I don't know any of these folks, of course, or how all this came together. They seem like nice people. We'd probably get along just fine. I wish them well, especially on Valentine's Day.
But... I'm a writer and a reader and an editor, so I worry about turns of phrase, even in the blog post's header: "The love behind your order. From Euclid, Ohio to Coventry, U.K, read how associates across the globe found their perfect partner." A sampling:
My favorite part, though, is an Amazon Valentine's Day found poem I discovered while cutting and pasting the blog post over to my Word document. All those sweet pics of couples in love dissolved into descriptive words, like captions for nonexistent photos. Consider this a Valentine's Day love poem from "our very own adora-bot Amazon Scout":
The Love Behind Your Order
A man and woman embrace, a close up item is blurred in the image.
Two men stand together, one has his arm around the other man's shoulder.
A man smiles at the camera. Behind him, his wife leans in with a smile.
A woman stands in an Amazon fulfillment center, with a smile on her face. To her left, a man stands.
A woman stands next to a man. A clock hangs behind them, on the wall.
A woman and man sit on a bench in front of a lake.
A man and woman sit with their child and three dogs.
A woman and man stand together, smiles on their faces.
A brunette woman and brunette man sit together on a sofa, slight smiles on their faces.
No fan of robot rom-coms, Forbes offered a headline of its own: "Amazon wants its employees to know they're not robots, so it made a valentine video with robots." Noting that it is not uncommon "for certain brands that have no relation to Valentine's Day to hop on the V-day bandwagon to get a little free publicity," Forbes said "Amazon's attempt is just... weird."
And what about those poor robots? Although the video sets the stage for a Hollywood ending, "Amazon gets their hopes up and pulls the rug right out from under them," Forbes wrote. "That's not even to mention the irony of Amazon creating a video of their warehouse robots falling in love and then showing how their human warehouse workers actually do, considering Amazon has come under fire in the past for treating their human warehouse workers like robots."
Just in case this hasn't made you feel bad enough, Digital Trends offered some really unhelpful advice to the lovelorn: "Valentine's Day doesn't need to be lonely this year. You have Alexa, and even though Amazon's virtual assistant isn't a real person, there are a lot of ways Alexa can help you through this February 14."
Maybe those robots in Amazon's video could get counseling from Alexa to reprogram their forbidden love.