Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 13, 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

News

Notes: New Orleans Bookstore Returns; 'Bibliophile Haven'

The Afro-American Book Stop, destroyed three years ago by Hurricane Katrina, will reopen on July 1, Bookselling This Week reported. The 1,500-sq.-ft. store will be near its former location in New Orleans East.

Owner Michele Lewis plans a grand opening celebration July Fourth weekend, which coincides with the Essence Music Festival. She opened the first Afro-American Book Stop in 1992. Since Katrina, she has conducted business in Beaucoup Books.

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Borders Group's "comfortable" liquidity is allowing it more "flexibility" in evaluating bids from potential buyers, CEO George Jones told Reuters. The company has been cutting operating expenses, reducing inventory as sales have declined and just sold its Australian, New Zealand and Singapore operations for a minimum of $90 million.

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"We are a haven for independent bibliophiles," suggested the Times Argus, noting that "when it comes to independent bookstores, Montpelier [Vt.] has a high number of offerings per capita."

Although the Yankee Paperback bookshop is closing soon, other Montpelier bookstores "have not only survived, but thrived by answering a call to readers--and finding a niche," the Times Argus wrote.

"I don't know what's going to happen once [Yankee Paperback is] gone," said Robert Kasow, co-owner of Rivendell Books. "I don't know if some of those people will vanish into the ether, or if they'll dribble around to the other stores."

Kasow and his wife, Claire Benedict, also own Bear Pond Books, a general independent bookstore that has been in Montpelier for three decades. "The two stores are very different, we have different clientele," said Kasow. "There's a lot of people who can afford new books but like the idea of re-using and recycling. . . . We definitely draw from a lot of outside towns."

At the Book Garden, co-owner Chris Tanner said, "We have niches; we have different roles that we fill. It's been hard finding exactly what people want; that's always the trouble with used bookstores. Special orders are our specialty. . . . You look at what sells and just keep a general stock of everything. . . . We try to have something for everyone--especially the nerds, because they're not very well represented in this town, sadly."

Black Sheep Books "community space and bookstore is an all-volunteer organization operated by a five-member collective. "We do minimal business, minimal advertising, pretty much rely on word of mouth," said Kevin Moore.

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The Grand Rapids, Mich., Downtown Development Authority has approved a special liquor license for Schuler Books Downtown. Grand Rapids Press reported that "the $20,000 non-transferable licenses are designed to encourage development of restaurants in the downtown area, where traditional licenses can cost $80,000 to $100,000."

While the license still requires City Commission approval, Schuler's co-owner Cecile Fehsenfeld said gaining the option to serve beer and wine would help draw customers: "We're a bookstore. This is simply a way to enhance it, maintain viability and be competitive within the market."

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"Walking into Book Zoo feels like stepping into someone's living room," according to the Berkeley Daily Planet, which profiled the "funky little used bookstore in North Oakland" run by co-owners Erik Lyngen and Nick Raymond, "mavericks who don't use a cash register or sell books online and are trusting souls who leave a cart with sale books out overnight with a slot in the door for payment."

"You can't easily browse online," Lyngren said. "They can't compete with us." Raymond added, "It depresses me to think the Internet's highest function is a home-based shopping mall."

Lyngren's wife offered this perspective: "I want more independent stores like this where you can ask questions about what's important to you. I want to live in a community where I know the people who run the stores, and they know their customers."

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Keith Galestock, editor of the National Association of College Stores's College Store magazine--one of our must reads--and director of the NACS Store, is resigning, effective a week from today, June 20, to pursue other interests. He may be reached at kgalestock@nacs.org.

 


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


April Bookstore Sales: Who's Doing So Well?

Although most booksellers and publishers say this has been a soft spring--"down a little is the new up," as one bookseller put it to us at BEA--the U.S. Census Bureau says otherwise. Bookstore sales in April rose 8% to $1 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 5.4% to $5.5 billion.

By comparison, total retail sales in April rose 3.7% to $375.5 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales were up 3.8% to $1.450.1 billion.

Also, general retail sales in May rose 1%, double expectations, according to Commerce Department data. Most economists attributed the unexpected gain to stimulus checks from the federal government and higher prices, particularly of gasoline. Sales were 2.5% lower than in May 2007. The New York Times noted that "on an annual basis, sales have fallen for the last six months when adjusted for inflation."

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.

 


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


BEA at L.A.: Caravan Project Checkup

A panel of representatives of companies participating in the Caravan Project gave an update on the effort at BEA. Caravan Project founder Peter Osnos, editor-at-large of PublicAffairs, noted that he has been asked regularly if the project, begun in early 2006, has been worth it. "Yes," he said emphatically. "It has definitely been worth it."

Already some 100 titles have appeared through the Caravan Project, available as books, e-books, print on demand, large print and audio downloads--or as Osnos said, "Good books anyway you want them now." The Project has "addressed many technical issues and in most cases resolved them." The only area the Project has not continued to include after its first season is chapter books because of "too many goddamned ISBNs."

One indication of how the program has helped: none of the publishers who participated had published audiobooks beforehand, Osnos said. Now they're experimenting in this area--and the one publisher on the panel was very enthusiastic about the audio market.

John Ingram, chairman of Ingram Content Companies, said that his company "has no plans to be a publisher but lots of plans to support publishers" and wants through Lightning Source and its traditional warehouses to provide a range of "digital and physical solutions." With all due respect to Bronson Ingram, he said, "this is not my Dad's Ingram." He also noted that demand for titles in the Lightning Source digital library was much higher than the company had expected.

Several participants noted the prevalence and importance of digital materials at BEA. As Steve Potash, CEO of Overdrive, put it, "It's a show where people did not just check out digital but needed to be in it."

Overdrive has been a digital book distributor for 15 years and works nonexclusively with a variety of accounts. It helps circulate million of copies of books digitally through public libraries, handles W.H. Smith's e-books and manages download audio for Borders.com, among other ventures.

Potash called public libraries "one of the best catalysts" for e-books since they allow people to try e-books for free. Many library patrons start buying e-books because they don't want to go on a wait list. "Patrons of public libraries are our best barometer" of e-book acceptance, he said. "Every month marks a new record."

Chris Morrow, general manager of Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., called this show "the first digital BEA," saying, "Everyone got on board." He praised the Caravan Project, which "has enabled small independents like me to play in the digital realm." He agreed, too, with Osnos's premise about the Caravan Project making titles available in a variety of ways, saying, "My customers want content in any format and they want it quickly."

Northshire has an Espresso print on demand machine, allowing the store soon "to be able to download digital material from Ingram and publishers and print a book in five minutes." He called the store's solution a "hybrid version of digital downloading."

Osnos, who from the beginning of the Caravan Project has encouraged booksellers to be involved in digital delivery, said that in the future "the great bookstore has to be a showroom with a large digital warehouse in back." Potash said his company is "enabling independent booksellers to quickly open a catalogue of e-books."

Tom Hallock, associate publisher of Beacon Press, discussed several broad issues, including how to "address new opportunities with limited resources." He noted that the impact of technology is "overestimated in the short run and underestimated in the long run" and said that digital books "fit in with green initiatives, and even with POD waste is reduced."

Participation in the Caravan Project "gave us an opportunity to learn and experiment," Hallock said. Beacon already is "thinking differently about rights," now seeking paperback distribution and publishing rights on titles it publishes. It also has been increasing the number of its titles available at Lightning Source and is now up to 20% of its list. "We're getting Long Tail sales," he said. Those titles, which started with the OSI ones, now account for 2% of Beacon sales.

A major surprise for Beacon was learning that there is a large market for large print POD. "As my generation ages," he continued. "Demand will grow." The only difficulty with large print has to do with production, he said. The books often require a second typesetter and reformatting and a second round of proofing.

Beacon distributes e-books through a variety of channels, mainly institutional, and the numbers are still "not huge," but "we're using it to repurpose content and to be prepared for the next round." An "iPod device may tip the scale" and lead the industry into the next round, he observed.

The audiobook market continues to grow and some audio titles Beacon have released are not related to a book, Hallock observed. Studio fees are expensive--$800-$1,000 per hour--he said, but Osnos noted that "one of the most important things we found" is that some studios auction time online and can be obtained at rates below what Hallock mentioned.--John Mutter

 


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


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Recalling and Not Remembering

Tomorrow on the Today Show: Stephanie Klein, author of Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp (Morrow, $24.95, 9780060843298/0060843292).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Day to Day: Sue Halpern, author of Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research (Harmony, $24, 9780307406743/0307406741).

 


Charlesbridge Publishing: Sumokitty by David Biedrzycki


Books & Authors

Awards: De Niro's Game Wins IMPAC Dublin

De Niro's Game by Rawi Hage, who was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and now lives in Montreal, Canada, has won the 13th annual International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, which carries a prize of 100,000 euros (about US$156,000) and aims to promote "excellence in world literature." Books are nominated by public librarians and can be from any country but must be published in English, at least in translation. This year 137 titles were nominated by 162 public libraries in 45 countries. The prize is managed by the Dublin Public Libraries.

De Niro's Game was first published by House of Anansi Press in Canada and was nominated by the Winnipeg Public Library. Last August it was published here in hardcover by Steerforth Press, distributed by Random House ($23.95, 9781581952230/1581952236), and will appear in August in paperback from Harper Perennial ($13.95, 9780061470578/0061470570).

The Prize described the book this way: "De Niro's Game is told through the eyes of Bassam, as he grows up with his childhood friend George, in war-ravaged Beirut. As the young men reach adulthood they must choose their futures: to stay in the city and embrace a life of crime or go into exile abroad, alienated from the only existence they have known."

The five judges praised the book for being "an eloquent, forthright and at times beautifully written first novel. Ringing with insight and authenticity the novel shows how war can envelop lives. It's a game where there are no winners, just degrees of survival. It's a wonderful debut and a deserving winner."

 


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



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Book Groups Redux--Where are the Men?

After a two-week "hiatus" for BEA and Ian Fleming's birthday, we return with part three of the discussion formerly known as "Authors in Conversation with Their Readers" and "How Important are Book Groups?"

Today's question: Why don't more men join book groups?

"Fact is, like it or not, men just don't share their feelings easily," Mary Alice Gorman, owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop, Oakmont, Pa., observes. "Book groups often fall into discussion of how they feel about what they read. Let's face it, the shared experience of growing up to be a woman in this culture bonds these groups in a unique way and is the reason they go on for so long."

Random House New England district sales manager Ann Kingman--who has been "a member of five or six or ten book groups in my lifetime"--and her colleague Michael Kindness "speak to 300-500 book group members each year through presentations in bookstores." In their "spare" time, they recently started the blog and podcast, Books on the Nightstand, to share more book info with readers.

Kingman believes people often "join a book group for the social aspect in the beginning. Many of them, in my experience, are women who used to read but have lost the habit due to time and family responsibilities. I think those are the key people that we can help get back into the enjoyment of reading. As for men? I have no idea. I hear a rumor that a man is coming to our next book group. I'll let you know how that goes."

Barbara Drummond Mead of Reading Group Choices thinks "men's book clubs are rare but are starting to rise in number. This is a generalization, but women 'talk' more than men and a reading group is all about conversation."

There's just no clear answer, according to novelist Joshua Henkin: "One thing I've been struck by is that, though some women when I ask them say that they wouldn't want their husbands/men in general in their book groups, others say they'd be happy to but that the men they know aren't interested or don't read fiction, and that seems to me a shame."

On the other hand, Valerie Koehler's Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex., has a book group called "Couples & Bob--all senior couples and one widower. Their list is very diverse and after getting to know some of the men over the past few years, I'd love to be a fly on the wall in their discussions. I don't know why more men don't join book groups. The men in my life are nonfiction readers by and large and I don't know if the discussion can be as lively as it can be when you are dissecting a completely made up world."

Marie Leahy, Northshire Bookstore's marketing director, notes that "men in book groups have not been in short supply since my time here. When we had a book group evening with Random House in February, about 15% of the 80 or so participants were men. There is one particular book group in the area that has about 25 members, half of them husbands/partners who come not only for the delicious potluck each month, but also for the books. Just a few days after our book group presentation, a group of charming, middle-aged to older men came into the store, looking for book suggestions. Theirs is a 'Gentlemen’s Book Group.' The ten men in this group are a very proud bunch."

Other alternatives?

The book club Ami Greko, marketing director for Folio Literary Management, belongs to "has more men than women, and we have yet (thank god) to read a biography of a Civil War general." (See Books & Booze (I Mean, Brunch) for their reading list.)

I also received a press release from SCORPIONS: All Hard Guy Book Club, "a worldwide fraternal organization that originated in Boston's North End. Membership is by invitation only and includes individuals from the legal, tech, media and publishing industries. The primary objective of SCORPIONS is to motivate, educate, elucidate, and intimidate. Not necessarily in that order. . . . Each meeting of the SCORPIONS incorporates discussion of selected reading material as well as competition, gambling, tests of strength (mental and/or physical) and trivia. In some way, losers always pay."

SCORPIONS must read, and discuss intelligently, books like Robert Young Pelton's Licensed to Kill and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian because "failure to do so will result in undesired consequences."

Sometimes, even as book group members, boys will be boys.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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