Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Bloomsbury YA: Dreamland (YA Edition): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones

Balzer & Bray: The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy

Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1) by Kwame Mbalia

Magination Press: Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne

Sourcebooks Explore: Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton, illustrated by Zane Wittingham

Central Avenue Publishing: Into Captivity They Will Go by Noah Milligan

Carolrhoda Books: A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity by Nicole Valentine

For Fun

Rebranded, ABA's Book Sense Makes Major Acquisition

After several years of debate, the American Booksellers Association has decided to rebrand Book Sense and, in the process, refocus and greatly expand the book retailing marketing effort.

"The new Book Sense will have immediate recognition nationally--and around the world, too," ABA CEO Avin Domnitz said. "We are also taking an exceedingly proactive and hands-on approach to bookselling and competition."

Effective this month, Book Sense's new name is the Booksellers Organization for the Revival of Downtowns and the Expansion of Retail Sales. In its first act, the new organization, to be known as BORDERS, is acquiring a range of storefronts across the country that recently came onto the market. Many of the outlets, which coincidentally have the same name as the new organization, are in prime locations and have more square footage than the average ABA member store. The purchase is being funded by the ABA endowment, which because of some aggressive short selling of book retail stocks by investment managers, has ballooned in value to several hundred million dollars.

"ABA members will be offered individual BORDERS locations or will share ownership with one or two other indies," Domnitz added. "Overall we're acquiring about 600 stores to divvy up among 1,600 members." The association said that it expects some indies to close their current shops to focus on the new stores. As for independents that are not members of the association, Domnitz said, "We wish them well as we compete on a playing field that is finally level."

The acquired stores were recently put up for sale by Borders Group (Shelf Awareness, March 20, 2008), which has been squeezed by the credit crunch, a restive hedge fund investor and sluggish sales. The hedge fund (see interview below) is retaining an interest in the new operation.

"Considering the difficulties our member booksellers have had during the past 15 years, we have a generous amount of sympathy for the predicament in which Borders currently finds itself," COO Oren Teicher said. "We believe we have the know-how to turn things around, as evidenced by the stabilization, nay flowering, of independents in the past several years."

ABA president Russ Lawrence of Chapter One, Hamilton, Mont., put it more succinctly, saying, "We're going to kick some Book Sense into 'em."

In the past year, Borders Group has in fact sought to remake itself, taking back its website from Amazon, launching "new concept" stores and expanding its membership program. Domnitz noted that the new initiatives will be continued and in some cases, current ABA programs will be merged with them. For example, booksense.com will be rebranded as well, becoming BORDERS.com.

There may be more news from Tarrytown soon. Speaking off the record, several ABA insiders said that to reflect its expanded role in the bookselling world and more accurately indicate its primary function, the association may change its own name, too, perhaps by adopting the moniker of its marketing and bookselling operation and becoming either ABA-BORDERS or simply BORDERS.

 


Mango: The Restaurant Diet: How to Eat Out Every Night and Still Lose Weight by Fred Bollaci


Notes: Perseus, Shelf Awareness Acquisitions; New Imprint

In a move that further conslidates book wholesaling, Perseus Book Group is buying Ingram Book Group's wholesaling and distribution businesses. Ingram's Lightning Press and other digital subsidiaries are not included in the sale. The purchase makes Perseus the largest book wholesaler and distributor in the country.

Effective immediately, all titles in Perseus Distribution's Jackson, Tenn., warehouse will be trucked around the country for a while before being unloaded at random Ingram warehouses. Once Perseus titles have been put into Ingram inventory, Perseus will then vacate the Ingram warehouses and move all stock into several new warehouses, where construction started this week.

In an exclusive interview, Perseus president and CEO David Steinberger told Shelf Awareness that the purchase had come about in large part because "things had settled down too much" after the company's battle for control of PGW and the absorption of Consortium and much of PGW into the old CDS system. "Frankly many of us have missed the drama."

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Shelf Awareness is buying Publishers Weekly. So far, plans include a merger of the two well-known brands into one entity, most likely Publishers Shelf Awareness Weekly, or PShAW.

Although Reed Elsevier had initially intended to sell Reed Business Information properties as one unit, the credit crunch and ever-shrinking revenues associated with print advertising led to a change of plan by the Anglo-Dutch media giant. Unfortunately during the time that elapsed since PW was put on the block and when it was sold, Reed Elsevier continued to administer the business in what it called "our tradition of full and unequivocal support."

The resulting layoffs of most of the remaining PW editors brought the magazine to a near standstill. The last full issue appeared in late January; intermittent stories have been posted online since then.

Editor-in-chief Kevin Howell said, "Oh yeah, it's a lean operation. The two of us share a little cubicle in the far corner on the 13th floor. The rest of the floor has been taken over by Reed Elsevier's mortgage foreclosure and identity theft operations."

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In a surprise announcement following the sudden cancellation by comedian Lewis Black, the headliner for the Saturday night show at BookExpo America, to held in Los Angeles May 29-June 1, will be Lance Fensterman, BEA's own industry v-p and event director.

"I'm a standup guy and anyone who knows me knows I'm a funny standup guy who could easily do standup, particularly funny standup," Fensterman said. "Despite my many fulfilling jobs--including bookseller, entrepreneur and now show director--I have always had a dream of doing comedy in front of a live audience. I've always wanted to be a professional comic. In fact, I was a little disappointed after I accepted the position of head of New York Comic Con to discover that it was about graphic novels and such."

The annual event raises money to promote literacy and fight for free expression.

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Random House has created an imprint, Memoiries, which will specialize in autobiographical titles whose editors are reluctant to do fact checking. Because this is a presidential election year, initial titles on the spring list have a decidedly political bent:

  • On the Front Lines in Bosnia by Senator Hillary Clinton
  • How I Uncovered Iranian Support for Al-Qaeda in Iraq by Senator John McCain
  • A Million Little Accomplishments: My Stupendous Presidency by George W. Bush with James Frey

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Bills similar to the new Indiana law requiring booksellers and all other businesses that sell "sexually suggestive material" to register with the state have been introduced in nearly all 50 states and are expected to be signed into law in the near future.

The stunning development has dismayed some free speech advocates, but several legislators who spoke anonymously with local media explained the phenomenon. Apparently many government workers view the registry as an excellent guide for after-hours activities.

The only state official to speak on the record recently left government and viewed the trend positively. Eliot Spitzer told the New York Post: "If only I'd had something like this resource, I might not have spent so much money or had to move it around in ways that attracted attention. Dang."
 


Charlesbridge Publishing: Baby Loves the Five Senses by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan


Potter Prosecution: Rowling's New Move to Protect Work

Lawyers for J.K. Rowling have indicated in public filings that the author of the Harry Potter series has directed them to use their "full powers" to protect the reading experience of fans of her iconic work.

To that end, legal staff are continuing the suit again RDR Books over the Harry Potter Lexicon and will remain vigilant in opposing in court any other similar infringement on Rowling's intellectual property.

More strikingly, in an additional new move, the lawyers have copyrighted and trademarked the words "Harry" and "Potter" and will protect those brands. In a statement, the author said, "Muggles everywhere should be happy that I have been so restrained. Some thought I should protect every word I wrote in the seven Harry Potter volumes."

Nonetheless, a range of affected people and groups have already protested, and Rowling quickly responded with suggestions that she said would be legally satisfactory to her. For one, new editions of Peter Rabbit titles can have the byline "Beatrix P." Likewise future DVDs of the 1989 classic may be retitled When Harold Met Sally. And Chapin and Connick, Jr., should be enough to convey the identities of those magical musicians.

 


imon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Max & Ruby and Twin Trouble (Max and Ruby Adventure) BY Rosemary Wells


Book Brahmin: Victoria Pastiche

Victoria Pastiche, award-winning author and mime, divides her time between a charming 16th-century restored farmhouse in Tuscany, where she presses her own olive oil, and Martha's Vineyard, where she writes haiku in Catalan using organic ink. Her most recent book, from Odds Bodkins Press, is titled Pearls Among the Swine: My Life in the Arts.

On your nightstand now:

The Secret, Skinny Bitch, Pro Football Prospectus 2008 and Juiced, plus old favorites to dip into: Proust, Derrida, Mandingo, Catcher in the Rye.
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

Der Struwwelpeter: Fearful Stories and Vile Pictures to Instruct Good Little Folks
by Heinrich Hoffmann

Your top five authors:

It's hard to pick between enjoyment and eruditon, but off the top of my head, I'd say Sidney Sheldon, Barbara Cartland, Friedrich Nietzsche, Joel Osteen, Louis-Ferdinand Céline.

Book you've faked reading:

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
 
Book you are an evangelist for:

Martha Stewart's Cookies
. Sometimes, life comes down to the basics, and what is more basic than a cookie?
 
Book you've bought for the cover:

The Physician's Desk Reference Manual, 1997 edition
 
Book that changed your life:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. After reading her story, I impulsively purchased an old farm in Italy, and can now say in my author bio, "Divides her time between Italy and Martha's Vineyard." Priceless.
 
Favorite line from a book:

"Dr. Weiss, at 40, knew that her life had been ruined by literature." The Debut by Anita Brookner
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

 


Charlesbridge Publishing: Sumokitty by David Biedrzycki


Five Questions: The Country's No. 1 Bookseller

Shelf Awareness recently sat down to speak with the most powerful man in American bookselling, who despite his influence and power is little known personally in the book business. In fact, initially he did not even wish to speak with us, citing a long-held disinclination to state his views and plans publicly.

In his tasteful, elegant Manhattan offices, he spoke deliberately and carefully as an aide unobtrusively took notes. He warmed at several points, especially when talking about his personal goals and what he calls misperceptions about himself prevalent in the industry. He was dressed impeccably and at times was even charming.

No, we didn't speak with Barnes & Noble chairman Len Riggio. Instead our partner in conversation was Bill Ackman, founder and managing partner of Pershing Square Capital Management, which is the largest shareholder of Borders and second-largest, next to Riggio himself, at B&N.


Busy times, yes?

First, let me say I'm delighted by the ABA purchase of Borders. As part of the agreement, we retain a stake in the newly formed entity, which will allow us to continue to nudge the powers that be in the right direction for shareholder value.

As for B&N, we have amicable, constructive relations with the management of the company. We will be working together to maximize shareholder value.

According to news reports, half of your hedge fund assets are invested in McDonald's stock, and in the past several years you owned a sizable stake in Wendy's. You seem to dig into certain businesses, as it were.


Indeed, I like fast food--in more ways than one. In the same way, I love books, especially quickly digestible ones--business titles and anything by Sun Tzu and von Clausewitz. Moreover, I value book value, which by definition means I value the value of books. Also I like companies' books, particularly when they carry many underutilized assets. I read companies' books every day.

Pershing Square Capital Management represents exactly what book retailing needs. I'm humbled and honored to provide this service.

Tell me about your investment track record. What can the book industry expect?

At Wendy's, we successfully encouraged management to spin off the Tim Horton subsidiary and at McDonald's we've nudged management to franchise more and own fewer stores. At all the companies we invest in, we have helped management rein in costs, buy back stock when it's low priced and spin off operations that aren't part of the core business.

What plans do you have for B&N?

Several things come to mind. We've noted that B&N and its cafes might appeal to a broader audience were they to serve fare that was more popular than, for example, panini and lattes. In that spirit, we have facilitated initial discussions between McDonald's and B&N for the bookseller to begin converting cafes to McDonald's.

We've also noted areas where B&N could be more profitably run. For example, many of the booksellers make several dollars an hour more than minimum wage, creating an opportunity for improving shareholder values. In addition, a policy of selling only books that sell would help B&N's bottom line.

How is Pershing faring in the current credit crunch?

As you saw from the Borders announcement several weeks ago, very nicely indeed. For the right interest, we're happy to lend any amount to the companies we own. And we're not worried about confidence. We have experience with that--the run on Gotham Partners, Pershing's predecessor, in 2002, for example. All "problems" merely represent more opportunities to increase shareholder value. We make money coming and going, my friend.

 

[Many thanks to Marilyn Dahl for her Book Brahmin and to Tom Clarkson and Susan Weis for a few funny comments and suggestions that provided seeds for several stories!] 

 


Atheneum Books: Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Alexander Nabaum



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