Also published on this date: Monday, February 28, 2011: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Okay for Now
Shelf Awareness for Monday, February 28, 2011
Books and Flip-Flops, Flip-Flops and Books
Portraying the trend as something relatively new (by the way, we hear newspaper readership may be down), the New York Times looks at sales of books in nontraditional outlets, particularly at a time when Borders is closing 200 stores and Barnes & Noble is emphasizing e-books, e-readers and games and educational toys.
One example of a hot new spot for books: Kitson, which has boutiques in Los Angeles and sold 100,000 books last year, double what it sold in 2009. In addition, the Times wrote, "The fashion designer Marc Jacobs opened Bookmarc in Manhattan in the fall. Anthropologie has increased the number of titles it carries to 125, up from 25 in 2003. Coldwater Creek, Lowe's, Bass Pro Shops and even Cracker Barrel are adding new books. Some mass retailers, too, are diversifying--Target, for instance, is moving away from male-centered best sellers and adding more women's and children's titles this year." And at Sam's Clubs, "more children's books and cookbooks have been added lately."
Although they are hit or miss and often take a lot of effort, sales to such outlets are attractive to publishers for a variety of reasons. Chief among them: they can result in huge sales for the accepted titles and those sales are nonreturnable.
David Steinberger of Perseus Books Group put the matter in perspective, saying, "The national bookstore chain has peaked as a sales channel, and the growth is not going to come from there. But it doesn't mean that all brick-and-mortar stores are cutting back."
At the same time that non-book retailers stock up on books, many booksellers are stocking up on all kinds of other products. Case in point: Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif. Allison Hill, the bookstore's president, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune: "We're always changing the product mix. We have to. We started selling appliances this Christmas. Rice cookers! Tea kettles! There were some booksellers who thought we were crazy. But they sold! Right next to the cookbooks. It's people who are buying gifts for college students."
"This business has never been high-profit, even for the Barnes & Nobles of this world," Vroman's owner Joel Sheldon told the Valley Tribune as he highlighted the pressures on traditional bookstores. "The difference today is that just 20 years ago the only places you could go to find information were your bookstore and the library. People had to come to us. We didn't ever think of it that way at all. If you think of the ways people get information today, it's just radically different."
Sheldon and Hill also spoke about Vroman's future with the Pasadena Star-News, which noted that the store has always diversified. "Just 68% of Vroman's business is books--and for the last half-century, the ratio has been more like 60/40. Last year, I visited with Allison in the store, and joked, 'Hey, you're selling flip-flops in here!' Those flip-flops,' she replied, 'are what makes it possible for us to sell you books.' "
Notes: Christchurch Booksellers; Foyles on the Move
Booksellers New Zealand featured updates from Christchurch, the city that was ravaged by an earthquake last week. On Beattie's Book Blog, Mary Sangster of the Children's Bookshop
offered a more detailed damage report: "The shop is a mess. 70-80% of
the stock seems to be on the floor plus there is about 6 inches of waste
water through--what type of waste who knows, although I did see the
storm water drain at the back of us burst.... By fluke, there was only
one staff member downstairs in the shop at the time of the quake and she
and the customers all got out okay. The customers were shaken and Liz a
bit bruised, but otherwise okay.
"The rest of us were upstairs having the time of our lives. Sheila and I were in the tearoom with only a flimsy trestle table so we headed to safe spots. Mine moved as I reached it and I was tossed around with a filing cabinet and some other stuff. Sheila managed to hang on to something, she can't remember what. The other two staff made it under their desks, then we had to move stuff to get them out again. One, it was even a matter of climbing over fallen book cases to get to her.
"The long and the short of it is that we got all customers and staff out safely with minimal injuries--Liz a few bruises, me bruised bones in my legs so I'm on crutches now, everyone severly shaken but alive and breathing.... Thank you everyone for the kind messages that we have received--if you want to contact us, I've started a new temporary email firstname.lastname@example.org. We at the Children's Bookshop, and all the book sellers in Christchurch really appreciate the support."
Late last week, the trustee handling Borders bankruptcy reorganization appointed the committee of unsecured creditors, which consists of some of the company's largest creditors: Penguin Group, Random House, HarperCollins, Perseus Books Group, Sony, General Growth Properties and Simon Property Group, the Wall Street Journal reported. The last two companies are among Borders' landlords whose leases it is breaking.
The committee will serve "as a kind of watchdog" and have a major voice in how and whether Borders will continue as a going business.
The legendary Foyles bookshop in London is moving next door on Charing Cross Road into a building recently bought by members of the Foyle family, according to the Bookseller. The 75,000-sq.-ft. space will be rebuilt and will have three floors and more selling space than its current location, where Foyles has been since 1906. Move in date is 2013.
Foyles CEO Sam Husain said, "This is a wonderful opportunity for Foyles to create a modern, purpose-built flagship store and guarantee the future of bookselling on London's historic Charing Cross Road. Although our customers may not realise it, we currently occupy over 40,000 square feet in five separate buildings at 113-119 Charing Cross Road; our new home, just 15 yards down the road, will provide a fantastic environment for book lovers and booksellers alike."
Amazon's proposed $139.1 million distribution facilities in Southeast Tennessee came under fire from critics who contend that "the tax giveaways to Amazon could be nearly as much as the company will pay the 1,476 workers it plans to hire this year in Hamilton and Bradley counties," according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Tennesseans for Fair Taxation estimates "state and local governments could lose more than $30 million a year in sales tax revenues and millions more in property and franchise taxes because of tax exemptions granted to Amazon."
"The economic output from Amazon just won't measure up to what is being given away," said Elizabeth Wright, executive director of the group. "Amazon can afford to collect these taxes, but Tennessee can't afford not to have them do so."
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield argued that Amazon will boost local economy "and all of those Amazon employees will pay taxes on the cars, homes and goods they buy."
Congratulations to Clarence Lusane, author of The Black History of the White House (City Lights), who will speak today with White House staff members "about the many generations of black servants who preceded them," as the Sydney Morning Herald put it.
Lusane met President Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, at the Winter Institute last month, and she passed on a signed copy of the book to the first family. Soetoro-Ng is coming out with her first book, Ladder to the Moon, in April.
Cool idea of the day: Strand Books, New York City, has created Curated Collections: a selection of must-reads by authors and artists that are featured in the store and online. The first collection consist of picks by Art Spiegelman, who commented, "I always dreamed of working in a bookstore (though not on the payscale and probable tedium that comes with the territory) and the Strand has offered to fulfill the fantasy--the part where you get to shove the books you love in fellow bibliophile's faces!"
Upcoming curators include Maira Kalman, Nora Ephron, Gary Shteyngart, Jennifer Egan and Chuck Palahniuk.
Book trailer of the day: Found: A Memoir by Jennifer Lauck (Seal Press), the sequel to her memoir, Blackbird, which came out in 2000. The music in the background is by the Dimes, a band Lauck, who lives in Portland, Ore., knows. The Dimes will perform at her launch party on Tuesday, March 8, at Powell's Books.
Obituary Note: Warren Cassell
Very sad news: Warren Cassell, who owned Just Books in Greenwich, Conn., for many years, died over the weekend. He was 80.
Cassell sold Just Books in 2002, and he and his wife retired to Portland, Ore., to be near family. But typically, he did not retire in the general sense of the word: among other things, he worked part-time at Broadway Books, started a memoir and recently became involved with operationpaperback.org, a group dedicated to providing gently used paperbacks to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, to VA hospitals and to families with members serving overseas.
Founded in 1949, Just Books had only 600 square feet of space and sold just books, mainly hardcovers, had an extensive reading program usually offsite and boasted some of the highest per-square-foot sales of any bookstore in the country.
Cassell was a smart, gregarious, larger-than-life bookseller who knew the fine art of salesmanship. He had opinions on everything and wrote us regularly--as recently as three weeks ago. He stayed engaged and active right up until this month, when he had emergency surgery and heart complications. We'll miss him.
NACS-CAMEX 1: 'Stop Worrying, Start Acting'
College booksellers are gathered in Houston, Tex., for the National Association of College Stores's CAMEX trade show, which began last week with several days of education and events. The trade show opened yesterday.
Between the economy, state budget squeezes and heightened competition that now includes Amazon, Wal-Mart and text rental sites, many member stores are "feeling the pain," NACS CEO Brian Cartier said at the annual business meeting and member forum last Friday. To help those stores, NACS "remains committed to providing the information, tools, services and knowledge you need to compete tomorrow."
He noted that college retailers are easily "caught up in the day-to-day environment" and encouraged them to take advantage of those resources and "do the things to keep relevant on campus and define the value proposition that's so important today."
One measure of the stores' progress: as textbook rentals have grown in popularity as a possible way of keeping textbook costs down, in the fall of 2009, just some 300 members rented textbooks, but now more than 2,400 do, a change that he characterized as "huge."
Cartier suggested stores develop more of a "retail mindset," the lack of which is at the root of many students' complaints about college stores. "It's important that we are not just college bookstores but we are retailers." He also congratulated the 13 stores that won NACS Foundation investment grants to reinvent themselves. "These stores didn't need to spend a lot of money to change how students perceived them," he said.
Cartier also introduced National Student Day, which is set for October 6. At the center of the campaign: college stores across the country will hand out to students T-shirts designed and selected by students with a theme of social responsibility. NACS is aiming to have a million T-shirts donated for the project, which is intended to help change the widespread negative perceptions many students have of college stores because of the prices of textbooks. The association is hiring a communications and marketing firm to help spread the message, a campaign that will include social media. NACS hopes to create a lot of viral buzz about National Student Day.
"Think about one million students wearing T-shirts reflecting on social responsibility," Cartier said. "Let's start something that matters. Let's do something collectively as an industry and have full participation by stores. Let's stop worrying and start acting."
The T-shirts will be allocated based on member dues; if members want more T-shirts, they can be ordered, likely at cost.
NACS and its subsidiaries had a solid year financially, exceeding budgets, and despite the uncertain economic times, the association should hit its 2012 budget, Steve Alb, director of western retail services at the University of Western Ontario and head of NACS's finance and budget committee, said.
NACS gross revenues rose 0.9% to $8.25 million and total expenses dropped 2.2%, to $9.7 million. The association's core operations generated a surplus, in large part because the Select Services program of PartnerShip, NACS's logistics management subsidiary, had "exceptional growth" and because CAMEX last year in Orlando, Fla., was successful.
NACSCORP, the association's wholesaling operation, which now has some four million titles available for POD, had its eighth consecutive year of profitability with an increase over the previous year.
Other good financial news: NACS was able to operate without using any investment reserves, and 2012 dues will remain at current levels.
Last year NACS made a "sizable investment" in digital delivery, and NACS Foundation continued to fund and promote the College Store of 2015 Project, in part via an informational website, an action kit and a YouTube webisode case study series about how one store, the Florence O. Wilson Bookstore at the College of Wooster, Wooster, Ohio, was made over.
In a little over a year, NACS and its subsidiaries have created more partnerships. Among them:
A digital content platform partnership with Campusebookstore.com that that is being used by more than 100 stores in the U.S. and Canada already. NACS is working with higher education publishers to upload access codes and should have a range of commercial content by this summer. The platform allows publishers to have one point of contact and one solution--"as easy as working with Amazon," Ed Schlichenmayer, president and CEO of NACS Media Solutions, said.
A program with Verba that has added college stores in results when students go to the site to compare textbook prices.
A pilot program with Flat World Knowledge, which provides a range of textbooks free online and for sale in print, to simplify the process by which college stores buy material.
A partnership with the Internal Revenue Service that led to the creation of textbookaid.org, which is designed to help students take advantage of the textbook credits and payments possible under the American Opportunity Tax Credit law.
Three new services from BookRenter, the online textbook renting company, being offered through NACSCORP. They are: RapidReturn, under which students can return textbook rentals to a NACS store rather than a post office or other mail service; Inventory Purchase and Fulfillment, whereby NACS stores will be able to sell texts to any BookRenter Partner store's customer from its own inventory; and a warehouse service, under which NACS stores will be able to act as warehouses for BookRenter's nearby customers.
NACS Media Solutions is also exploring mobile technologies and social media apps and plans to start a pilot program this summer offering regional POD services that focus on custom published content and include pre-press and print management.
Schlichenmayer, who is also deputy CEO of NACS, stressed that NMS continues to evaluate programs and strategic partnerships, some of which don't work out. "We're happy to fail and move on," he said, adding that it was better for the association to sift through possible projects to find the best rather than have individual stores go through such a process.--John Mutter
Media and Movies
Oscars by the Book
While The King's Speech, which took many of the top Oscars last night, is based on an original screenplay, The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi (Sterling) is a striking consort. Logue is the grandson of Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who worked with King George VI on his stutter--which is the focus of the movie. Geoffrey Rush plays Logue in the movie and was nominated for best supporting actor.
The winner of best adapted screenplay was The Social Network, which was based on The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich (Anchor). The movie also won best score.
The animated film Alice in Wonderland won for best art direction and costume design.
Now that this year's Oscars are over, here's a preview from NPR of the many upcoming films based on books, from Jane Eyre to the U.S. version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Media Heat: Alan Arkin on An Improvised Life
This morning on the Today Show: Bethenny Frankel, author of A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781439186909).
Also on the Today Show: Carolyn Savage, author of Inconceivable: A Medical Mistake, the Baby We Couldn't Keep, and Our Choice to Deliver the Ultimate Gift (HarperOne, $26.99, 9780062004635).
Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Andre Dubus III, author of Townie: A Memoir (Norton, $25.95, 9780393064667).
Today on CBS's the Talk: Mackenzie Phillips, author of High on Arrival: A Memoir (Gallery, $15, 9781439153864).
Tonight on Charlie Rose: Mike Huckabee, author of A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't!) (Sentinel, $26.95, 9781595230737).
Tonight on the Colbert Report: Michael Scheuer, author of Osama Bin Laden (Oxford University Press, $19.95, 9780199738663).
Tonight on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson: Patton Oswalt, author of Zombie Spaceship Wasteland (Scribner, $24, 9781439149089).
Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Dan Abrams, author of Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt That Women Are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else (Abrams, $17.95, 9780810998292). He will also appear tomorrow on CNN's In the Arena (formerly Parker/Spitzer).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Sarah Brokaw, author of Fortytude: Making the Next Decades the Best Years of Your Life--through the 40s, 50s, and Beyond (Voice, $23.99, 9781401341190).
Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Alan Arkin, author of An Improvised Life: A Memoir (Da Capo, $17, 9780306819667).
Tomorrow on PRI's Takeaway: Helen Castor, author of She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (Harper, $27.99, 9780061430763).
Television: Grimm Developments
Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights) and Bitsie Tulloch (Quarterlife) have joined the cast of NBC's drama pilot Grimm, a fanciful spin on Grimm's Fairy Tales that "revolves around Nick (David Giuntoli), a cop who starts to see some humans for what they actually are--animals/beasts--and realizes it’s his destiny to protect society from them," TVLine reported.
Books & Authors
Awards: SIBA Book Award Longlist
The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced its longlist, "the ultimate southern reading list from the people who would know--southern indie booksellers," for the 2011 SIBA Book Award. SIBA booksellers will vote on finalists in each category, with the final winners, chosen by a jury of booksellers, named in July. See the complete list here.
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
The Anatomy of Ghosts: A Novel by Andrew Taylor (Hyperion, $24.99, 9781401302870). "I was blown away by the novel set in 1780s Cambridge. Filled with intriguing characters, sharp and witty dialogue, and a plot that keeps you guessing, Taylor's novel is a gem. This is a must for historical fiction fans and mystery enthusiasts. Happy reading!"--Ken Favell, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis.
House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home by Mark Richard (Nan A. Talese, $23.95, 9780385513029). "Mark Richard is the greatest writer you've probably never read, but with this book, that will thankfully change! Richard writes with an otherworldly grasp of voice and description and uses his prose to deconstruct everything familiar. The result for the reader is a hyper-colored world rendered with the senses turned up. Reading House of Prayer No. 2 is like having a bucket of icy water poured over you: it forces your eyes open, sets you gasping for air, and leaves you utterly refreshed!"--Rachel Meier, The Booksmith, San Francisco, Calif.
I Know I Am, but What Are You? by Samantha Bee (Gallery, $15, 9781439142745). "This is a witty, gritty and graphic memoir that talks about dysfunctional family life, flashers, gift giving and more. This is a must read for folks who enjoy the style of humor of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart."--Fran Wilson, Colorado State University Bookstore, Fort Collins, Colo.
For Ages 9 to 12
Artsy-Fartsy: The Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel Series, Book 1 by Karla Oceanak, illustrated by Kendra Spanjer (Bailiwick Press, $12.95, 9781934649046). "This is a book that definitely speaks 'kid speak.' The first installment in an A-to-Z alphabet series, this is perfect for reluctant readers. It's fun for kids and will be appreciated by parents and teachers for the amusing 'back door' approach to enriching vocabulary. Look out Wimpy Kid!"--Stacy Morris, Katy Budget Books, Houston, Tex.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Book Review: Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters
Heat Wave: The Life and Career of Ethel Waters by Donald Bogle (Harper, $26.99 Hardcover, 9780061241734, February 2011)
Ethel Waters was famous almost from the moment she sang on stage professionally for the first time in 1917 for her exuberant performing persona: laughing and smiling, warm, sexy and sassy. She interpreted songs from the 1920s onward with such flair that songwriters courted her to introduce their material; she established classics like "Stormy Weather," "Am I Blue?" and "Heat Wave." Audiences were crazy about her "hot-cool style," and she sold records by the thousands, not only in the "race music" market but in the mainstream.
Her stage allure was so strong and distinctive that many influential people wanted to be her friends as well as her fans. If any of them had expected to meet in a living room the same person they adored onstage, they were in for a rude awakening, as Donald Bogle tells us in this monumental, definitive biography. Author Zora Neale Hurston summed Waters up as "one of the strangest bundles of people I have ever met. You can just see the different folks wrapped up in her if you associate with her long. Just like watching an open fire--the color and shape of her personality is never the same twice."
Ethel Waters was an early diva, mercurial, demanding and complex. Because of her turbulent childhood, many cut her slack when she went off on spectacular tirades; Bogle traces the sources of those legendary outbursts with sympathy and understanding. Waters lived a long life (1896-1977) and was successful enough for a time to be considered one of the leading stage performers in America. Yet, in true diva tradition, she never got over herself. When her temper was unleashed, smart people took cover. One who had suffered abuse at her hands remarked, "She was very religious. She talked about God all the time, until she got ready to curse you out. Then... she'd lay God on the side." Waters told another unfortunate target, "I don't intend to beat you up--today. But I'll get you some other time when I'm more in the mood."
"The poor girl from nowhere [actually Chester, Pa.] who had risen to the top through hard work and a fierce talent" is now primarily remembered for the films Cabin in the Sky and A Member of the Wedding. Thankfully, Bogle refreshes our memories about the important role Ethel Waters played in American popular music. After all, as Duke Ellington confided to Lena Horne's daughter, "My dear, she wrote the history of jazz."--John McFarland
Shelf Talker: A monumental and definitive biography of the great (and notoriously difficult) singer and actress, who did not have to watch reality TV to learn diva behavior.