Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Albatros Media: Words about Where: Let's Learn Prepositions by Magda Gargulakova, illustrated by Marie Urbankova

Blackstone Publishing: Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella


E-Text Pilot Program Takes Full Course Load Next Semester

MBS Textbook Exchange's pilot program selling digital textbooks from four publishers in 10 college bookstores (Shelf Awareness, August 10) has earned a passing grade and is being expanded in January, MBS announced yesterday. The company hopes to add about 100 stores, increase the number of participating publishers and boost the title base to more than 800 from the current 300.

From the beginning, the Universal Digital Textbooks program has adapted in response to student concerns. In that spirit, with the January term, prices on the e-textbooks will be reduced to as much as 45% below the price of a new print copy of the same text. In addition, most of the e-books will have no expiration and will allow for unlimited printing. The titles with limitations will last at least a year until they expire and allow at least 100 pages per week of printing. (In the very first e-iteration of the program, the discount was 33%, the books expired after five months and printing was severely limited.)

During the fall rush, sales of the e-texts were 5.7% of total textbooks sales in the participating stores, MBS said. The bestselling categories were history, law and technology. A survey of purchasers showed that "convenience and portability" was most important to students (cited by 59% of them) while price followed closely (54%). Some 78% said they had no technical difficulty downloading, but many needed some time to learn and understand how to use the digital format.

A separate survey of 1,600 students on the campuses where the pilot program took place found that 60% of respondents would be willing to try a digital textbook. Some 84% said a favorable price would encourage them to buy--and that price needed to be 33%-50% off the new print version. They also found the following features important: note-taking (54%); highlighting (53%); printing (48%); and searching (40%).

In a prepared statement, Kevin McKiernan, MBS's director of digital product strategy, called the initial response from students "positive" and noted that e-text pricing in part recognizes the value of the ability of students to sell most traditional textbooks back at the end of the course. "Instead of a student getting value for a book at the end of the semester, we want the pricing to reflect that savings at the beginning, in essence giving them their buyback money up front."

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo

Notes: Librarians on Google; 'Wanted' Prospective Bookseller

Google plans to resume scanning copyrighted library books "soon" although it will focus on works that are out of print and is seeking publishers' permission to digitize books that are still available new in bookstores, according to today's Wall Street Journal.

The article noted the "debate in the library community" about Google's Print Library Project. Articulating the point of view of one side: John Wilkin of the University of Michigan's library, which is part of the Google project, who said: "We think that what Google is doing is legal and consistent with copyright law because copyright law is about striking a balance between the limited rights of the copyright owner and the long-term rights of the public."

On the other side is Tom Garnett of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries, who said, "In general I think that libraries need to observe copyright."

The president of the ALA, Michael Gorman, university librarian at California State University at Fresno, offered several objections, including one stemming from his status as a published author: "It's a flaunting of my intellectual property rights."


Uh oh. After an article in yesterday's Sarasota Herald-Tribune revealed that one of the two buyers of Sarasota News & Books, Sarasota, Fla., has an outstanding warrant for his arrest, the closing on the store's sale was postponed, according to today's Herald Tribune.

Thomas Coelho and his business partner, Derek Filcoff, were to have bought Sarasota News & Books from Caren and Dick Lobo. According to Monday's article, the Lobos knew that Coelho had been arrested several times for fraud and theft and was convicted of grand larceny in California in 2000 for stealing $5,400 from an artist. The Lobos and Filcoff said they had talked about the matters and were confident that Coelho, who told the paper, "I'm not proud of my past, but I have learned from it," had turned his life around.

It turns out that the Lobos did not know that because Coelho had missed a probation hearing, there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest.

While Caren Lobo said yesterday, "We are and we continue to be in a binding contract," the couple have checked with their attorneys and are "exploring their options," as the paper put it. Coelho told the paper that he's trying to do something about the outstanding warrant. "I want to terminate all these issues once and for all," he said.


Fear that demand will dampen when the weather turns colder and consumers face high heating bills--on top of other financial pressures--continues to drive general retailers to push forward the Christmas season, today's New York Times reported. Wal-Mart begins its holiday campaign today, two to three weeks earlier than usual. Other retailers will start next week. In addition, "some retailers are canceling parts of their holiday orders amid fears they may be overstocked."


Hot topic. The AAUP's Books for Understanding, the online bibliography of university press titles dealing with current events and news, has a new category: global climate change. The section includes such titles as:

  • The Two-Mile Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future by Richard B. Alley (Princeton University Press).
  • Warming the World: Economic Models of Global Warming by William D. Nordhaus and Joseph Boyer (MIT Press).
  • Assessments of Regional and Global Environmental Risks: Designing Processes for the Effective Use of Science in Decisionmaking edited by Alexander E. Farrell  and Jill Jäger (RFF Press).
  • Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment by James Gustave Speth (Yale University Press).
  • Protecting Our Environment: Lessons from the European Union by Janet R. Hunter and Zachary A. Smith (SUNY Press).

Incidentally Books for Understanding has been relaunched and has a new look and new features, including an RSS feed of new list topics, expanded cross-referencing of lists and enhanced expert directories for selected bibliographies.

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Boxer to Spar on the Daily Show

This morning the Today Show serves up Scott Conant, author of Scott Conant's New Italian Cooking (Broadway, $35, 0767916824).


WAMU's Diane Rehm speaks with Andrew Weil, author of Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being (Knopf, $27.95, 0375407553).


Today on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show:

Anne Farrow and Jenifer Frank, two of the authors of Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery (Ballantine, $25.95, 0345467825).
Comedian and actor Chris Elliott whose debut novel is The Shroud of the Thwacker (Miramax, $22.95, 1401352456).
Peter Guralnick, author of Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke (Little, Brown, $27.95, 0316377945).


Today Oprah checks up with Alexander Tsiaras, author of The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart (Collins, $19.95, 0060855932).


Tonight the Daily Show with Jon Stewart welcomes Senator Barbara Boxer, whose new political novel is A Time to Run (Chronicle, $24.95, 0811850439).


Tonight on Charlie Rose: Jimmy Carter, whose new book is Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis (S&S, $25, 0743284577).

Movie Tie-in: Jarhead

Jarhead, directed Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition and American Beauty), is the adaptation of Anthony Swofford's book, Jarhead: A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles (Scribner, $14, 0743244915), a classic of the first Gulf War. In the movie, to be released this Friday, November 4, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Swofford. Jamie Foxx, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper and Lucas Black also star. Swofford will be making appearances for the film.

Books & Authors

Mandahla: Music Through the Floor Reviewed

Music Through the Floor
Eric Puchner's debut story collection, Music Through the Floor (Scribner, $24, 0743270460, October), is filled with people seeking identity and connection. In "Legends," a man re-doing his first disastrous honeymoon after several years of marriage, attempts to change his persona of a careful non-risk taker by taking a chance on the guide services of a slick English instructor in Mexico. Made anxious after developing mild arrhythmia, Desmond contemplates the city they are in: "A maze of a city, straight from a fairly tale. All considered, [he] ranked it about a 7 on the untimely-death scale. That was how he tended to judge cities--whether he wouldn't mind dying there unexpectedly."
An ESL instructor struggles to teach a sometimes unruly group of students in "Mission," an account of myriad losses. It opens with a comic scene as they riff on a sentence with a modifier in the wrong place, and closes with a poignant tale of loss of language and then connection through that loss. In between, Nils, the teacher, realizes that he has no idea what his students have left behind. Hoping to bridge the divide between himself and the students, he organizes a potluck, but finds they don't understand the concept of bringing a favorite dish--"You need dishes?" they ask--until one of them gets it and explains: "We should cook homemade food and bring it in Tupperware . . . Everyone shall eat at our teacher's house, to taste the lost nourishment of our countries."
A rootless young man, living off his father's Mobil card, settles in Oregon and takes a job as caretaker and companion for two mentally retarded men in "Children of God.: Puchner's powers of portrayal are dazzling in this piece. One of the men, Dominic, has a voice that "was sleepy and far-fetched. He preferred the middles of words. 'Abyoola!' he liked to say, meaning 'Fabulous!' When he told a story, it was like Rocky Balboa channeling a demon." The other man, Jason, is confined to a wheelchair and takes so many meds they are delivered in a garbage bag. He loves to ride in the van, and the narrator would "roll down the windows and listen to Jason scream words at the top of his lungs, naming the passing creatures of the world like Adam on a roller coaster."
Eric Puchner has a gift for phrase: "My heart was an onion making me cry"--and description: "a boy with extravagant piercings all over his face . . .  looked as if he'd been dragged across the bottom of a fishing hole." He also has a gift for narrative, combining tenderness and anguish with wit and slapstick humor. Occasionally he uses words that are a bit esoteric--collocation, peyos, mizzling--but prose this good is worth some effort with Webster. Music Through the Floor is a fine book for short story fans and lovers of language.--Marilyn Dahl

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