Soft Skull Press, the independent publisher that was acquired by Counterpoint in 2007, closed its New York office last Friday and laid off editorial director Denise Oswald and associate editor Anne Horowitz.
Counterpoint's CEO Charlie Winton told the New York Observer that Soft Skull "will live on from California, though there will not be anyone there dedicated to running it.... Eventually Mr. Winton hopes to designate a 'point person' within Counterpoint who would be responsible for overseeing the Soft Skull list, but he does not expect to appoint a full-time editorial director."
Oswald said there had been pressure over the past year and a half from Counterpoint to publish more books in order to increase revenue, according to the Observer. "I tried to explain that we can't do the work of producing good books if we're just trying to do books at volume," she said. "Anne and I were working tremendously long hours just to try to stay on top of the workload and trying to bring in more projects."
Former Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash observed that publicity and marketing efforts had been problematic: "Anne and Denise were acquiring books that exemplified the Soft Skull spirit. But another part of the Soft Skull spirit is the drum banging, and their books weren't getting the drum beat hard enough for them."
Toni Morrison has been inducted into the French Legion of Honor society. The Huffington Post reported that Frederic Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication, called Morrison "the greatest American novelist of her time.... I want to tell you that you incarnate what's most beautiful about America... (that) which gives a black child, born during segregation into a modest family in a medium-sized Ohio city an exceptional destiny. You were the first woman writer to tell the painful history of Afro-Americans."
Morrison said she has "always felt welcomed in France and especially in Paris, and it's important to me, the receipt of this medal, the Legion of Honor, because now I know in addition to being welcomed, I am prized."
Book embargoes are making news once again this week as the New York Times "obtained" a copy of President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points, which is set for a November 9 release. In the Washington Post, Steven Levingston wrote: "Book publishers have gone to great lengths in the past year to keep big political memoirs out of the hands of journalists. In response, journalists have worked themselves into a lather to obtain them. But outside of newsrooms and political parlors, it's a safe bet that most Americans are not salivating over the juicy details."
Levingston concluded that "publicists may pull their hair out trying to protect their embargo and members of the media may fall over themselves to break it, but it's hard to say if there are any winners in this game. In fact, the two biggest losers may be the customers and the booksellers. Both miss out when books that are hyped online aren't available for purchase at the store. Will a disappointed reader's interest still be piqued next week?"
Carpe Librum Booksellers, Knoxville, Tenn., plans to close by the end of the year. Knoxnews.com reported that co-owner Shiela Wood-Navarro said the indie bookstore--which she opened six years ago with Flossie McNabb, Claire Poole and Martha Arnett--had been hit hard by the economy and changing book business.
"It seemed the time to make the decision even if it was one we didn't want to make. But with the economy and the book industry changing so much, it's gotten increasingly difficult," said Wood-Navarro.
In an e-mail sent to Carpe Librum customers, the owners said, "We hoped our store would grow into a community bookstore as well as a meeting place for authors, readers, and book lovers. Well, it happened! We opened and you came in droves to our many events and to inspect and buy our handpicked books. Or, just to browse and eavesdrop or join in on conversations and book discussions. You were more than just customers, but friends and partners in the small book world of Carpe Librum.
"Regrettably, the changing dynamics of book distribution combined with the current state of the economy have encroached on our little world. After much thought, we have reached the painful decision not to renew our lease in January. Nonetheless, we plan to have the BEST HOLIDAY SEASON ever and count on your continued support."
Barnes & Noble has reversed its previously announced decision to close the bookstore at University Park Village, Fort Worth, Tex. (Shelf Awareness, October 12, 2010). The Star-Telegram reported that B&N and property managers reached an agreement "that extends the store's lease for several years."
Brownstone Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., has closed after 10 years in business. Customers and supporters have been leaving messages of support and consolation on the bookshop's Facebook page, including the following: "Your store has made an amazing positive contribution to the neighborhood. Your Wednesday and Saturday story time sessions have been a vital component in my daughter's love of reading, for which I will always be grateful. They say 'it takes a village' so thanks for being a part of all of ours."
Digital versions of 14 James Bond books by Ian Fleming will be published in the U.K. for the first time, "but not through their current print publisher Penguin. The e-books instead are to be published by Ian Fleming Publications, which has administered the rights to the Fleming estate since the author died in 1964," the Bookseller reported. The Bond novels first launched as e-books in the U.S. in 2008.
The titles are scheduled to be available today, the result of a deal that "throws a spotlight on how agents and publishers are scrambling for digital rights not previously assigned under old publishing contracts." While Penguin holds the license to publish the Bond books in print editions for two more years, "it would not renew the relationship without digital rights included," according to the Bookseller. The publisher's stand was backed by agent Anthony Goff, who is president of the Association of Authors Agents: "It remains my view and that of most agents that we should not be seeking to separate out rights to different formats."
Another agent, Piers Blofeld, said he was not surprised by the move: "It makes little sense for a brand like this to share revenue with a publisher, James Bond hardly needs a publisher’s distribution and marketing skills, such as they are."
Huffington Post readers chose "7 Movies That Are Better Than the Book."
Congratulations to Mike Jones,
director of sales at Keen Communications, which includes Wilderness
Press, Menasha Ridge Press and Clerisy Press. Tuesday night Jones was
elected to the City Council of West Linn, Ore., a town of 25,000 just
south of Portland. A civic booster already, Jones noted that last year
West Linn was selected by Money magazine as one of the 100 Best Small Cities in the United States.
Book trailer of the day: Passion: Erotic Romance for Women edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Cleis Press).
To help celebrate the fifth annual NY Art Book Fair, which begins tomorrow, "10 Art Book Publishers You Should Know About" were showcased by Flavorwire.
Video treasure of the day, unearthed by MobyLives: John Cleese, Bookseller.