Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 21, 2008

Random House Graphic: Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha

Wednesday Books: The Mall by Megan McCafferty

Houghton Mifflin: The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey


Borders Fallout; B&N May Take a Look

Investors reacted negatively to yesterday's news about Borders--including its possible sale, financial deals with its largest shareholder and suspension of the dividend. On a day the Dow rose 2.2%, Borders stock fell 28.6%, closing at $5.07, an all-time low. (Last May the stock hit a 52-week high of $24.15.) At one point yesterday, the stock was down 44% at $3.97 a share. Trading volume was extraordinary. Average volume in the past three months was 1.6 million shares a day; yesterday it was 26.8 million shares, representing nearly 46% of the company's 58.7 million shares outstanding. The company's market capitalization (outstanding shares multiplied by the share price) is down to $297.9 million.

Barnes & Noble indicated a willingness to consider an offer for its major rival. (Could there be a Barnes & Borders in the future?) In a report quoted by several media outlets, Matthew Fassler of Goldman Sachs noted that Borders's financial problems would lessen any antitrust considerations.

On the other hand, Credit Suisse analyst Gary Balter wrote that he sees "little opportunity in the near term for Borders to be sold," even to B&N, which likely would not make a move unless Borders filed for bankruptcy.

Interestingly Pershing Square Capital Management, Borders's largest shareholder with a 26% interest, is B&N's second-largest shareholder, with a 10.9% stake. According to the Wall Street Journal, hedge fund Pershing, "which could facilitate a merger, is expected to back a combination." B&N chairman Len Riggio is B&N's largest shareholder, owning 27.6% of company stock.


Barnes & Noble had relatively positive news yesterday. The company boosted its quarterly dividend to 25 cents a share from 15 cents a share, a 67% gain.

As announced earlier, B&N consolidated sales for the year ended February 2 were $5.4 billion and for the fourth quarter were $1.8 billion. Net income in the quarter was $115 million, down 9% from $126.7 million in the same quarter last year. Net income for the year was $135.8 million, down 9.8% from $150.5 million in the previous year.

B&N recently lowered forecasts for the current year, which it said will be challenging.

In contrast to Borders stock performance yesterday, B&N rose 8.1% to close at $30.27 a share on nearly triple the average trading volume. The company's market capitalization is $1.9 billion.  


GLOW: Other Press: Serenade for Nadia by Zülfü Livaneli, translated by Brendan Freely

Notes: Jon Hassler Dies; Several Thriving Indies

Jon Hassler, who "suffered from a longtime neurological disorder," died Thursday at the age of 74, according to the Associated Press (via USA Today), which noted that, despite his deteriorating health, the author of Staggerford and other novels about small-town life "continued work on a book, Jay O'Malley, until his death."

In a 1995 AP interview, Hassler said "he liked writing about misfits. 'You can't write a novel about somebody who's perfectly happy.'"


In a story about Borders's problems, the San Bernardino Sun talked with several independent booksellers, including Brad Hundman, who has owned the Frugal Frigate, the children's bookstore in Redlands, Calif., for four years. Hundman said that business had strengthened in recent months.

"The reason we've been able to be successful is we can provide a different take on the children's book industry," he told the paper. "We have a strong base of customers who have responded. They're the best clients in the world."

Key reasons that customers respond to the Frugal Frigate, according to the Sun: the store provides "a slew of draws that can't be found on the Internet or through the major booksellers: regular conferences bringing authors and illustrators, subscription programs, teacher and student book fairs, and a staff of six knowledgeable book aficionados."


From NACS's Campus Marketplace about an unusual suit filed in late 2006 (Shelf Awareness, November 26, 2006):
A federal court recently dismissed a class-action lawsuit over textbook prices filed by two students at Daytona Beach Community College. The students sued the college and Follett Higher Education Group, seeking at least $5 million in damages for alleged overcharges on textbooks and underpayment on buybacks. The case was dismissed because of a lack of 'predominance of common issues of law, as required for certification of the nationwide class.' " 


Bookselling This Week profiles Bestsellers Bookstore & Coffee Co., Mason, Mich., owned by Jamie and Scott Robinson and managed by their son, Jared Browers. The store has tripled to 2,500 square feet of space since opening 11 years ago. Bestsellers stocks about 10,000 titles and specializes in general interest, children's and regional books.

"The Robinsons recently bought a building on either side of the bookstore's current space," BTW wrote. "In one, they plan to open a high-end deli, wine, and cheese shop, and in the other they'll expand the bookstore another 1,200 to 1,400 square feet. The bookstore and the expansion space were once one retail location, and doorways connecting the two spaces are just dry walled over. 'It was once one big hardware store,' said Robinson. 'So it'll be much easier to expand there.' "

The Robinsons said that when they opened a cafe, book sales doubled.

Bestsellers Bookstore & Coffee Co. is located at 360 S. Jefferson, Mason, Mich. 48854; 517-676-6648;


Mary Marotta has joined Simon & Schuster as director of children's sales, a new position, and will be responsible for all sales of S&S children's titles in the national accounts, mass merchandise and warehouse club channels as well as be a liaison between the sales and marketing division and S&S Children's Publishing. She has been director of national accounts at Scholastic since 2004 and earlier was senior national accounts manager there. Before that, she held national accounts manager positions selling children's titles at Penguin Putnam and Morrow. She began her career as a sales assistant in the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group and has also held positions in marketing and sales support at Scholastic. 


Simon Tepas has been named backlist sales manager in Scholastic's national account sales group, a new position. He joined the company in 2005 as a coordinator in the special markets department working with educational and consumer catalogs, coordinating direct mail, premium and outside book club sales. Earlier he worked in Random House's special markets division. 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger

Image of the Day: West Sound Reads

Last month at Olympic College, Bremerton, Wash., a group of Kitsap Peninsula bookstores and libraries staged another West Sound Reads event, which featured author Lisa See and drew more than 100 people. From l. to r.: Charm Mello of Olympic College Book Store; Suzanne Droppert of Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo; Lisa See; Martha Bayley of Kitsap Regional Library; and Mary Gleysteen of Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island. Other participants included the Traveler, Bremerton; the Dauntless Bookstore, Port Gamble; Bethel Avenue Book Company, Port Orchard; Mostly Books, Gig Harbor; Sage Book Store, Shelton; and Port Townsend Public Library. West Sound Reads' next event will be held April 16 at the Jewel Box Theater in Poulsbo and stars Jane Smiley.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Deep by Alma Katsu

Media and Movies

Media Heat: On Good Friday, Who Killed Jesus?

Today on Fresh Air: John Dominic Crossan, author of The Birth of Christianity and Who Killed Jesus? whose latest title, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (HarperOne, $13.95, 9780060858315/0060858311), has just come out in paperback.


Tomorrow on NPR's Chef's Table: Kathy Kastan, author of WomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbook (Rodale Books, $29.95, 9781594867965/1594867968).


Books & Authors

Awards: Book Sense; Miriam Bass; Design Museum

The winners of the 2008 Book Sense Book of the Year Awards, honoring the titles ABA members most enjoyed handselling, are:

  • Fiction: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead/Penguin)
  • Nonfiction: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver (HarperCollins)
  • Children's Literature: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press)
  • Children's Illustrated: Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems (Hyperion Books for Children)

The awards will be presented at ABA's annual Celebration of Bookselling on Thursday, May 29, at Hotel ABA (the Renaissance Hollywood) during BookExpo America. For the honor titles, click here.


Archipelago Books, the Brooklyn, N.Y., not-for-profit publisher specializing in world literature, has won this year's Miriam Bass Award for Creativity in Independent Publishing. The $5,000 award is in memory of Miriam Bass and sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group and National Book Network.

The judging committee cited Archipelago for its "commitment to enriching and broadening the American literary landscape through the publication of classic and contemporary literature by a host of distinguished international authors."

The award will be presented at BookExpo America during the AAP Smaller and Independent Publishers Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 29.


Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions won a Design of the Year prize in the graphics category from the Design Museum in London.

The judges wrote: "The art direction of Paul Buckley and Helen Yentus is a great achievement in commissioning a highly skilled group of illustrators and cartoonists whose creative visions have produced some fantastic atmospheric yet very individual covers with high artistic flair and design integrity."

The Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions feature one-of-a-kind book cover illustrations that encompass front and back covers and flaps by major cartoonists and illustrators, including Frank Miller, Chris Ware, Julie Doucet, Art Spiegelman, Roz Chast and Dan Clowes. The illustrations connect a literary genre on the inside with a cartoon genre on the outside.


Book Brahmins: Dr. John Medina

Dr. John Medina is the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Pear Press/Perseus Books Group, March 18, 2008). He explores how exercise, sleep and stress influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. Visit him online at Here we explore his mind with a few questions:

On your nightstand now:

The 1001 Dumbest Things Ever Said by Steven Price.
Favorite book when you were a child:

Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman.

Your top five authors:

William Faulkner, William Shakespeare, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Friedrich Nietzsche.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't think I have ever done that.
Book you are an evangelist for:

Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Scientific Progress Goes Boink by Bill Watterson.

Book that changed your life:

Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge
by E.O. Wilson.

Favorite line from a book:

"There cannot be a God because if there were one, I could not believe that I was not He."--Friedrich Nietzsche.

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

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

And a comment:

The Bible is by far and away the most influential, scary, beautiful, infuriating, exhilarating, ultimately life-changing book I have ever read. I am not even sure I would call it a book. It is a bit difficult to fit its effects on me in the nine comments listed, so I decided to write these sentences instead.  

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Spring Break Proves It's Easy Being Green

Symptom: As spring grudgingly hits the Green Mountain state this week, some things are all too familiar--frost heaves, unexpected snow storms, an impatience with the lingering chill and so much mud that, when driving, I need a thesaurus just to enhance my string of obscene adjectives with some noun variations: muck, mire, sludge, ooze . . .

Prescription: Remember it is spring, and take one dose of Robert Frost's poetry per day. Maybe "A Patch of Old Snow" to start:

There's a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I've forgotten--
If I ever read it.  

That may be the news of the day on the ground, but online this is a week in which bookstores celebrate an odd but perfect confluence of signs of spring, with the vernal equinox sandwiched between St. Patrick's Day and Easter Sunday. There is probably great cosmic meaning in this convergence, but I'm an editor, not a prophet, so I'll confine myself to more earthbound, if admittedly virtual, matters.

A little spring web-cleaning, you might call it.

In response to last week's column, Bruce Harris of Urban Think! Bookstore, Orlando, Fla., e-mailed me to say that the piece inspired him to make a suggestion to the owners of Infusion Tea @ Urban Think!, an urban vegetarian teahouse that recently opened inside his bookshop. For next year's St. Patrick's Day, Harris has conceived an event featuring their "truly 'green'" local, sustainable and organic beer and wine.

He also has a great suggestion for a future column here: "How about doing a story on various holiday events indies around the country promote? The big ones are easy, but what are some of the unique events we can learn about from each other?"

Good question. We do spend a considerable amount of time at Shelf Awareness searching websites and e-mail newsletters for just such events and promotions. They often appear as "Cool Idea of the Day" segments. But I'm also sure we miss some excellent stuff.

So help us out with this one. We pass Bruce's question on to you. Please let us know what your bookstore does to tap into unusual--maybe even strictly regional--holidays, as well as unique promotional ideas for the usual suspects. And, as if I needed to add this, the stranger the better.

Now back to our spring break: How did some of you welcome the season this week?

Misty Valley Books, Chester, Vt., has a scenic spring/maple sugar-themed slide show on the home page of its website, with no mud in sight.

Opting for a "Savin' O' the Green" theme for St. Patrick's Day, The Blue Heron Bookstore, Peninsula, Ohio, features a BOGO (Buy One Get One) promotion on hardcover fiction. In addition, any title in the store that has green on the cover is discounted 10%, which would challenge at least one color-blind bookseller I know (that would be me) at POS.

In its March e-mail newsletter, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., highlights a selection of Irish-themed books to begin the week, then really hits its holiday promotional stride with the appearance of Chet the Bunny: "Yes, our Spring Holiday mascot is back with his baskets. Buy $15 of anything in the store and get a basket, grass, plastic egg, a mylar bag and ribbon to tie it all up." Also recommended are their Last Supper After Dinner Mints at $2.29--"Perfect for choir presents!"

The Learned Owl Book Shop, Hudson, Ohio, showcases children's reading suggestions "for the Easter basket," including a couple of Passover-themed titles.

You have to love "The Hungry Duckling Campaign" launched by Orinda Books, Orinda, Calif., which combines a springtime display featuring "lots of children's books with a ducky theme" and a project "to help one local family raise money for a Burmese orphanage . . . duck by duck."

You can read the backstory at Orinda's website, but the basic deal is that for every book purchased from the display, the bookstore "will donate 10% toward the duckling fund. . . . So, if you are thinking about your Easter holiday baskets, forget the candy and pop in a book. . . . And if Easter is not part of your annual celebrations, it's a wonderful springtime gift for anyone."

Maybe books are the first sign of every season. Spring forward, but watch the mud.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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