Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 4, 2008

Thank You Booksellers For Making Our Award-Winning Books a Success!

St. Martin's Press: Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Franz

Walker Books: The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye, Book One) by Joseph Elliott

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


Notes: Minors' Access Bill Killed; Amazon POD Protest

The Colorado state Senate has killed a bill banning the sale to minors of works that might be "harmful" to them because of sexual content, according to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

"Booksellers played a critical role in the defeat of S.B. 125," Chris Finan, president of ABFFE, said in a statement. "While the sponsors tried to paint it as protecting minors from pornography, the booksellers made it clear that the law would affect many books and magazines with serious literary, artistic and political value." At a hearing in February, Matt Miller, general manager of Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, and Lisa Knudsen, executive director of the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, spoke against the measure.

ABFFE and local booksellers worked with a variety of organizations against the bill.


PMA, The Independent Book Publishers Association, which represents more than 4,000 independent publishers, has joined the protest against Amazon's new policy that POD titles must be printed by Amazon's BookSurge subsidiary to be sold without extra charges on the online retailer.

In a statement, executive director Terry Nathan said: "This policy imposes a significant financial burden on tens of thousands of small and independent publishers who can least afford it. Without the opportunity to benefit from competitive pricing, small publishers risk at best an expensive and needless overhaul of their manufacturing process, and at worst, the loss of their livelihood.

"On behalf of all the small and independent publishers whose businesses are in jeopardy, we urge Amazon to reconsider its position. Over the years, Jeff Bezos and his company have given small and independent publishers a level playing field to compete with the largest of companies. Suddenly, this magnificent playing field has been converted into a 'members only' club, to the detriment of those very publishers who have contributed to Amazon's success. We will continue to monitor developments in the weeks ahead."


Inspired by the realization that she "hadn't patronized a single local, independently owned bookstore" despite owning hundreds of books, Rachael Daigle wrote an article for Boise Weekly detailing her book-buying transgressions, while simultaneously offering an in-depth look at the history and current state of indie bookshops in the Idaho city.

Bruce DeLaney, co-owner of Rediscovered Bookshop, told her that "many of the stores that went out of business across the country had gone most of the way to insolvency themselves, and then the big stores provided that final push." His plan for success includes treating his bookstore as a serious business rather than a retirement hobby. "Everyone here loves books, or they would not work at a bookstore. . . . Boise needs independent bookstores. If just 10 percent of the people who shop at the big stores switch to shopping at independents, it would support two or three more stores our size."

Daigle contends that Rediscovered "may be the closest to filling the big shoes left empty by the Book Shop," owned by legendary Boise bookseller Jean Wilson. "Those who did know Wilson say her death and the closure of the Book Shop left a void in Boise's literary community."


Effective this spring, the following publishers have joined International Publishers Marketing, Dulles, Va.:

  • Dicmar Publishing, a boutique press that is just releasing its Prepared Parent's Operational Manuals, a series designed to help parents whose children are going off to college.
  • Garnet Publishing, a British press that focuses on the fiction, art and current affairs of the Middle East.  
  • Strokes International, European creators of DVD-based language courses that is now entering the U.S. market, starting with Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian and Spanish courses.
  • Double Storey, one of the largest publishers in South Africa, which puts out books on wine and food, current events, politics, social interest and natural history.
  • 30° South Publishers, a relatively new South African press that has a strong African military history list. The house has recently branched out into travel guides for the area.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

E-Changes: Miller's New Concept House; E-Cleary

Two significant moves at (or to) HarperCollins were announced yesterday. Bob Miller, who founded and led Hyperion for many years, is leaving the Disney house and will start a global publishing program at Harper that will feature 25 books in "multiple physical and digital formats, including those as yet unspecified." And next Tuesday, all of Beverly Cleary's books will be available as e-books, making her "one of the first children's book authors to make all of her books available in up-to-date formats."

Miller's new program, as yet unnamed, will take an untraditional approach toward authors and booksellers. "Authors will be compensated through a profit sharing model as opposed to a traditional royalty, and books will be promoted utilizing on-line publicity, advertising and marketing," as the company put it. The program will sell to retailers on a nonreturnable basis only, and authors will not receive traditional advances, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the AP (via the New York Times), Oren Teicher, the ABA's chief operating officer, "said owners would likely want bigger discounts in exchange for books not being returned. But Teicher said he would be willing to hear any ideas that might spare 'the colossal waste of books being shipped back and forth.' "

Likewise, Robert P. Gruen, executive vice president for merchandising and marketing at Borders Group, said in a separate Times story, "We generally support the idea of looking at potential solutions to a return system that is not working well for the industry as a whole."

Miller will start on April 14 and develop his program with the aim of combining "the best practices of trade publishing while taking full advantage of the Internet for sales, marketing and distribution."

In a statement, HarperCollins president and CEO Jane Friedman said, "Our industry needs digital and financial innovation to match its publishing expertise to thrive in an increasingly competitive world. Combining Bob's creativity with HarperCollins' sales acumen and digital leadership, this new entity will create a unique publishing platform to incubate a new publishing paradigm--one that is unparalleled in the industry."

Miller said, "Our goal will be to effectively publish books that might not otherwise emerge in an increasingly 'big book' environment, an environment in which established authors are under enormous pressure to top their previous successes, while new authors are finding it harder and harder to be published at all."


In a very related note, congratulations to Ellen Archer, who has been promoted to president of Hyperion, effective immediately. Archer was formerly senior v-p, publisher. Before joining the company in 1999, she was v-p and associate publisher at the Ballantine Publishing Group and v-p and director of publicity at Doubleday.


In other e-book news, publishers say that since the introduction of Amazon's Kindle late last year that the sale of e-books for a variety of devices has risen in double digits, according to the AP.

"The Kindle has increased awareness," Michael Smith, head of the International Digital Publishing Forum, which tracks e-book sales, told the AP. "Publishers have told me that in some cases the Sony numbers were double or triple to what they had been."


Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

Media and Movies

Media Heat: MLK, Maya Angelou and Douglas Feith

On Sunday on Meet the Press: Michael Eric Dyson, author of April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death and How It Changed America (Basic Civitas Books, $24.95, 9780465002122/0465002129).


On Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Marcia Ann Gillespie, author of Maya Angelou: A Glorious Celebration (Doubleday, $30, 9780385511087/0385511086).


Sunday night on 60 Minutes: Douglas J. Feith, the former Rumsfeld Defense Department aide and author of War and Decision: Inside the Pentagon at the Dawn of the War on Terrorism (HarperCollins, $27.95, 9780060899738/0060899735).


BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Books & Authors

Book Brahmins: Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown is the author of graphic novels including Clumsy and Unlikely--not to mention a director of videos by Death Cab for Cutie and screenwriter for a forthcoming film by the director of Hannah Takes the Stairs. Little Things: A Memoir in Slices (Touchstone, $14, 9781416549468/1416549463, April 1), a collection of autobiographical short stories, is his first full-length book in several years. Dealing with every aspect of daily life--crushes, work, friendship, death, and music--it shows how even the smallest and most insignificant parts of life can be the most meaningful. In April 2009, Touchstone will also publish Brown's next memoir, Funny Misshapen Body, about his coming of age as a young cartoonist at the Art Institute of Chicago.

On your nightstand now:

Schulz and Peanuts, the new biography by David Michaelis. I'm only a short way into it, but so far I really like how Michaelis has drawn revealing moments out of the Peanuts strips.
Favorite book when you were a child:

Small in the Saddle by Mark Alan Stamaty. Unfortunately out of print, but you can find it used. Humorous, infinitely detailed and charming, this is a book I can still go back and enjoy today, all nostalgia aside.

Your top five authors:

Chris Ware, Haruki Murakami, Dan Clowes, Lydia Davis and Grant Morrison. Although I don't know if this list is really accurate. Maybe just this week? These things change, and every time I look at the book shelf the list might change. But this group is pretty consistently near the top.

Book you've faked reading:

The Book of Joshua. There was lots of skimming through that one.

Book people think you've faked reading:

Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I went through a phase where I read a lot of physics, starting out with easier reading like Lawrence Krauss and moving on to the likes of Kip Thorne and Richard Feynman.

Book you are an evangelist for:

The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
by Carl Sagan. A reasonable, intelligent counterpoint to a modern world surprisingly filled with aggressive beliefs in myth and superstition.
Book you've bought for the cover:

Most recently, Amy Fusselman's 8. Although technically, I only picked the book up and looked at it because of its cover, and after reading some bits along with realizing that I'd read her other book, The Pharmacist's Mate, I decided to buy it.
Book you ignored at first because of the cover:

Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I was late to the bandwagon. In my defense, there's something about the softcover that feels nicer than the hardcover.

Book that changed your life:

Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library series of books. I don't know what I'd be doing if I hadn't started reading them, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be answering these questions.
Favorite line from a book:

"Look at those big bales of hay!" It's from a DK book about tractors, so this may be my 15-month-old son's influence here . . .

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

The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger's masterpiece is THE apex of adolescent coming-of-age literature. So it'd be interesting to read it for the first time being somewhat older and possibly even wiser.

Book you sold to a used bookstore and then went back and bought again:

My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet. This book disappeared when I sold off pretty much my entire comics collection a while back. Silly, since I've ended up re-buying a lot of those books. I found a limited edition signed version of this book, which is kind of nice, so maybe it's okay that I bought it twice.

Book you've given as a gift the most times:

Don't Go Where I Can't Follow by Anders Nilsen. Beautiful, touching, heartbreaking. The truest statement of love in the form of a book I've ever seen.  


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

Awards: NCIBA Books of the Year; Scribe Nominees

The winners of the first Book of the Year Awards--sponsored by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, honoring regional authors whose books were published last year and chosen by NCIBA members--are:

  • Fiction: Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcon (HarperCollins)
  • Nonfiction: The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter)
  • Poetry: Time and Materials by Robert Hass (Ecco)
  • Poet to Watch: Disposed by Steve Dickison (Post-Apollo Press)
  • Children's Literature: The Wild Girls by Pat Murphy (Viking)
  • Children's Illustrated: Penguins, Penguins Everywhere by Bob Barner (Chronicle)
  • Regional Title: Historical Atlas of California by Derek Hayes (University of California Press)

There will be no formal ceremony but the winners will likely be acknowledged at NCIBA's fall show. By the way, these Book of the Year awards are not connected to the Northern California Book Awards, being presented Sunday, April 13, at the San Francisco Main Library by the Northern California Book Reviewers.  


Nominees for the Second Annual Scribe Awards, sponsored by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers to honor "excellence in licensed tie-in writing--novels based on TV shows, movies, and games," are:

Best General Fiction Original

  • CSI NY: Deluge by Stuart M. Kaminsky
  • Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants by Lee Goldberg
  • Murder She Wrote: Panning for Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
  • Criminal Minds: Jump Cut by Max Allan Collins
Best General Fiction Adapted
  • American Gangster by Max Allan Collins (nominee and winner)
Best Speculative Original
  • Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Stargate Atlantis Casualties of War by Elizabeth Christiansen
  • Star Trek: Q&A by Keith R.A. DeCandido
Best Game-Related Original (Special Scribe Award)
  • Hitman by William Dietz
  • Forge of the Mindslayers by Tim Waggoner
  • Night of the Long Shadows by Paul Crilley
Best Speculative Adapted
  • Resident Evil: Extinction by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • 52: The Novel by Greg Cox
  • 30 Days of Night by Tim Lebbon
Best Young Adult Original
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Deathless by Keith R.A. DeCandido
  • Goodlund Trilogy: Volume Three: Warriors Bones by Stephen D. Sullivan
  • Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew #10: Ticket Trouble by Stacia Deutsch and Rudy Cohon
Best Young Adult Adapted
  • Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Steven Paul Leiva (nominee and winner)

The association's Grandmaster Award, which honors "a writer for his extensive and exceptional work in the tie-in field," goes to Alan Dean Foster, author of novelizations for Star Wars, the animated Star Trek series, Alien, Black Hole, Starman, Outland, Pale Rider and Alien Nation.

The Scribe Awards will be given at the Comic Con show in San Diego, Calif., in July, and the special gaming scribes will be awarded at Gen Con Indy in August.


Book Review

Book Review: Animal's People

Animal's People by Indra Sinha (Simon & Schuster, $25.00 Hardcover, 9781416578789, March 2008)

Animal's People should have won the Booker Prize.

It towers over the other shortlisted novels, entertainment on a grand scale, hugely ambitious, brilliantly written in slang-laced language that's a pleasure to savor aloud, and teeming with unforgettable characters. (Can you remember even one character from The Gathering?) There's Animal himself, a 19-year-old with a spinal deformity who runs on all fours and is narrating the story into a tape recorder; Elli, the bold, no-nonsense American doctor who has come to open her own free health clinic; Zafar, the beloved leader of the poor who would starve for his cause of justice; Ma Franci, the crazy French nun awaiting the Apocalypse; and Somraj, internationally famous Hindu singer with a damaged throat who now hears music in all the sounds around him. And that's just a few of them.

The novel takes place 19 years after a nightmarish industrial gas leak in the American factory that dominates the town. This is clearly inspired by the very real industrial disaster at Bhopal, India, on December 3, 1984, when a Union Carbide pesticide plant chemical gas leak resulted in more than 3,000 deaths, deformed births, contaminated food and polluted water.

As a stylist, author Sinha falls somewhere between Rohinton Mistry and Yann Martel, but his classic passion for social justice links him more with Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, and his host of characters verges on Dickensian in numbers, memorability and sheer delight. Sinha loves these characters passionately (Google the incredible lifesize statue by Eleanor Stride that the author commissioned of the novel's central character, Animal) and tortures the reader with worries over their various fates, as a hunger strike in the deadly hot season and a huge protest movement by the poor veer angrily out of control and erupt into city-wide violence.

Here's a hefty slice of the human comedy, served up with generous portions of every pleasure fiction can offer: language, character, plot, suspense, surprise and wisdom. Go ahead, start with the first sentence. "I used to be human once."--Nick DiMartino


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Little Boomer Bookselling Engine that Could

Returning from Atlanta last weekend, I felt that I had to put the baby boomer issue behind me forever. The SIBA conversation reinforced what many booksellers have been telling me in person and by e-mail. The consensus seems to be a fervent belief that boomers will retain their love of books until death do them part with the printed page.

With apologies to my Shelf colleague Jenny Brown for venturing near children's bookworld, I'll admit that my brief foray into Chicken Little territory is over and I'm now opting for The Little Engine that Could approach.

Whether the technological sky falls on the industry--and whether boomers continue to buy books in traditional form even as their interest in digital toys concurrently evolves--may ultimately be a matter of adaptation rather than speculation for most booksellers.

After last week's column, I heard from boomer librarian Liz Frame, who wrote, "I have definitely become more tech-savvy during the past 10 years (I used my first e-mail account in 1996). I would even guess that my personal knowledge and comfort level in technology will double within two years, based on how much I've learned and how much further I have to go. And in two more years, where will I be? Probably needing to double again within 18 months."

And Elizabeth Burton, executive editor at Zumaya Publications, noted that "this boomer had an SF novel or three on her Palm Zire when she flew to Portland last month. Tucks into the pocket of my microfiber travel blazer, weighs maybe an ounce or four. I had my EB-1150 in my carry-on, too, but the Zire was fine. In other words, given how much I read, having the e-books handy is so much nicer than hauling books around."


Of all the driftwood notions that might have washed up in my mind as I flew over Long Island Sound, beginning a final descent into Albany, the curious one that did was a recollection of a gutsy thoroughbred race horse named Engine One. For a couple of years during the 1980s, I became a big fan of this decent but unspectacular horse.

Back then--and this easily falls under the category of TMI--I used to study the daily race result charts in a New York tabloid. At some point, the performance line for Engine One began attracting my attention. What appealed to me about the horse was his adaptability and work ethic.  

Engine One's typical race would find him flying out of the starting gate and going immediately to the front, running his lungs out on the backstretch, increasing that lead by three, four, sometimes five lengths, then holding on desperately as the rest of the field chased him down the stretch. He might finish first or last in any given race, but I found myself loving the horse's speed and his heart. He always gave an honest day's work.

Then, a mysterious change took place. A new trainer began turning Engine One into a "closer." Instead of setting the pace for the entire race, the jockey would keep him back in the field, saving his energy for one last run from behind as they hit the top of the stretch.

I wanted to call this trainer and ask what the hell was going on? Why mess with success? Despite this substantial adjustment, however, Engine One maintained his consistency, and even moved up in class. Eventually, I made a special August pilgrimage to Saratoga Springs just to watch "my" horse run in the Forego Stakes, which he won in an upset.

Was Engine One's success a lesson in adaptability or just the natural instinct to win no matter what was asked of him? While confessing my anthropomorphic tendencies (a horseplayer's curse, I've observed), I think there was unquestionably an element of The Little Engine that Could in that horse, and I still conjure up the memory of his inspiring adaptability years after I stopped haunting race tracks.  

The question I asked in January--By the year 2018, will boomers still be shopping in bricks-and-mortar bookstores or primarily online?--was speculative, not rhetorical nor even answerable. I can look out the window of my office today and see clear blue sky; whether it's falling remains to be seen.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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