Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 10, 2011
Quotation of the Day
Reading Experience 'Shattered by the Presence of a Mob'
"I'm reading a new book I downloaded on my Kindle and I noticed an underlined passage. It is surely a mistake, I think. This is a new book. I don't know about you, but I always hated underlined passages in used books.... And then I discovered that the horror doesn't stop with the unwelcomed presence of another reader who's defaced my new book. But it deepens with something called view popular highlights, which will tell you how many morons have underlined before so that not only you do not own the new book you paid for, the entire experience of reading is shattered by the presence of a mob that agitates inside your text like strangers in a train station.
"So now you can add to the ease of downloading an e-book the end of the illusion that it is your book. The end of the privileged relation between yourself and your book. And a certainty that you've been had. Not only is the e-book not yours to be with alone, it is shared at Amazon which shares with you what it knows about you reading and the readings of others. And lets you know that you are what you underline, which is only a number in a mass of popular views.... Conformism does come of age in the most private of peaceful activities--reading a book, one of the last solitary pleasures in a world full of prompts to behave. My Kindle, sugar-coated cyanide."
Riggio at AAP: 'Markets Readily Expandible'
Even as sales of e-books and e-readers grow dramatically, Barnes & Noble is "committed to the future of our stores," chairman Len Riggio said yesterday in a speech at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers yesterday in New York City. If anything, he added, "Our emergence as major digital player enables us to continue to support retail stores and make them stronger."
Without using the word synergy, he said that Nook e-reader owners are proving to be avid readers--and in many cases, this applies to print books as well as e-books. Loyalty club members who own the Nook "are buying 60% more units in total compared to members who don't own the Nook, and they're spending 120% more," Riggio said, adding that many B&N customers browse the shelves, see a book they want and then download the digital version immediately. Some buy both the digital and printed versions of the same book.
Other booksellers will succeed, too, Riggio continued. "Smaller format and specialty stores will do well," he said. "As they always do, independents will adapt." But he predicted that mass merchants, "who represent half of all book sales," will reduce shelf space.
Saying that everyone in the book industry "does important work," Riggio stated that the goal of Barnes & Noble has always been to "serve the aspirants in this world, not just the already arrived. Books are the building blocks of society and everyone should embrace the idea that they should be widely available. A world without bookstores not a place we want to live, and we don't want that." He also said, "Whether you see our stores as portals, incubators, showrooms, our stores loom very important. They make a statement of who we are as a people and represent the ideal for all those who aspire."
Riggio seemed to wonder at the digital revolution: "Who could imagine that an entire bookstore could exist in your pocket?" he asked. Nowadays booksellers can offer 20 million e-books or more, "and no e-book will ever go out of print. Ours has always been a long-tail business, but the tail has gotten even longer."
The digital market is growing "exponentially faster than most people think" and will continue to grow without cannibalizing sales, he maintained. "Too many of us see bookselling as a zero sum game," he said. "Some say there is a limit to how many books people will read and buy." But now "we're realizing that more publishers, bookstores, formats all mean more sales. Markets are readily expandable."
Riggio urged publishers to rethink what and how they sell. For one, they can immediately add thousands of books whose copyright has lapsed to their catalogues. More important, they can publish shorter works, chapters, novellas, a single short story. "Who says all books are read cover to cover?" he asked. He pointed to free information on the Internet that's hard for a consumer to navigate. "Someone needs to rationalize this content, and you've done that throughout history. You can do more of that." He suggested also that publishers "rethink the world of color publishing," which might become a profit center now that devices like the Nook Color display color well. Last but not least, he advised publishers, "Think about books for which updates can be sold." He envisioned a scenario whereby authors could establish a dialogue with readers through updates that could go to everyone who purchased the authors' e-books.
He stressed that publishers and booksellers will always have a role because for consumers seeking content in a digital world with so much content available is "like finding a small needle in a large haystack. This virtually guarantees the existence of booksellers and publishers."
Noting that he addressed the AAP 11 years ago, he recalled the Rocket eBook, which was ahead of its time. "It was a revelation: we sold 175,000 downloads of Stephen King's new work in eight hours," he said. "Imagine how different things would have been if we all had led on this rather than followed."
In any case, now that the digital revolution has come, Riggio said he enjoys the change sweeping the book world. "I've never seen anything like this," he said. "The company and I get dizzy because there is so much to do and so much is possible. I'm more excited about the future of bookselling and publishing than I've ever been in my life." And the challenge is much greater than any challenge he's ever faced, including creating superstores. "For super bookstores, there wasn't much to figure out," he said. "Create a grand emporium, offer a full catalogue, the wow factor, offer a cup of coffee and a restroom. This is much larger." Smiling, he added, "I don't really want to be 40 again, but now is the first time I ever felt like it."--John Mutter
Notes: NYSE to Delist Borders Group; U.S. Congress & Amazon
No surprise but still striking: the New York Stock Exchange plans to delist Borders Group on March 21, according to a Borders filing
with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Trading in Borders stock
has been suspended since the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
reorganization on February 16. Before then, Borders had trading under $1
a share for 30 consecutive days, which had started a separate delisting
Is it time for Congress to step into Amazon's Internet sales tax fray? Howard Gleckman suggested in Forbes that as the battle between individual states and Amazon continues, "I wouldn’t be surprised to see the whole issue land in the lap of Congress--which has been ducking the controversy for 20 years. That would be just the thing for anti-tax Republicans who’ll get squeezed between their governors and local retailers on one hand, and the e-tailers on the other."
In 1992, the Supreme Court "practically begged Congress to sort out the mess, noting both the complexity of these issues and the danger to business of conflicting rules in different states," he observed. But mail-order companies argued it would be too complicated to track different sales tax rules and rates nationwide.
That objection is no longer valid, according to Gleckman: "Technology has changed since 1992. Data miners know more about us than I want to contemplate. Keeping track of our zip code and the applicable tax rate is child’s play. Yet, the battle over Internet sales taxes drags on. For a decade, a group of two dozen states has been trying to sort this out on its own, with limited success. It is long past time for Congress to straighten it out."
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has joined with more than 40 free speech, civil liberties and civil rights groups--including the American Library Association--to protest plans by the House Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Representative Peter King, to investigate the threat of Islamic "radicalization" in the U.S. The hearings are scheduled to begin today.
"By focusing on allegedly dangerous ideas, Congressman King may repeat the mistake of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, which ran roughshod over the First Amendment right of Americans to say what they want, even when it is unpopular," said ABFFE president Chris Finan.
In a letter to King, the groups argued that Congress "simply has no business examining Americans' religious or political beliefs in official hearings.... It would be inappropriate and unwise for Congress to conduct an inquiry into the nature of Islam, the different interpretations of faith among Muslims, whether there exists an 'an ideology' of 'political Islam,' or whether some Muslims are more loyal Americans than others, just as it would be inappropriate for Congress to examine different interpretations of Christianity or debate whether Baptists or Catholics are more trustworthy."
A marginal note to the hearings: In today's New York Times, Noam Cohen deconstructs King's novel Vale of Tears, a "barely veiled 2004 thriller about a congressman who must thwart a planned 'dirty bomb' attack by Qaeda operatives working in Brooklyn and on Long Island."
Cohen notes some fictional prescience in the story: "On the final page, when you think tragedy has been averted, it is the congressman who gets the call to say the ringleaders have gotten away--off to Yemen. And perhaps a sequel."
The Gothamist showcased its choices for the "Ten Best Independent Bookstores of NYC," focusing on categories like best prices, ambiance, cute employees and "the all-important Cat Factor."
When Borders announced the closure of 200 stores and declared bankruptcy last month, Nicola Rooney and Bill Cusimano of Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich., "were busy serving a steady flow of customers browsing a selection of 52,000 titles. And unlike their cross-town big-box competitor, they were paying their bills," the Kansas City Star reported.
"Yes, bricks-and-mortar physical bookstore business is shrinking," Rooney said. "But if you are in an area where you have the right kind of people with the right kind of disposable income who want to spend on books, you can succeed.... The key is a customer who comes in after you recommended a great book for their son and asks the buyer to suggest another exciting title. Our clerk might even remember your son's name, something that might not happen at a chain store."
Added Cusimano: "For a retail store to work it's got to be part of the community. Sure, we do big events with authors like Anthony Bourdain or Elizabeth Kostova but we're also doing poet Martha Rhodes reading at the University of Michigan's English Department. We'll be lucky if we sell five books. But if you're going to be an independent bookseller you have to provide a venue for the literary world, even if it's a loss leader."
The owners of Pride & Joy, Northampton, Mass., have put their LGBT book and gift store up for sale. Bay Windows reported that Jeff Wheelock, Melissa Borchardt, and Kelly Wagoner have their shop on the market just two years after purchasing it. In a statement, the owners wrote: "Hard economic times, business and personal transitions, have all taken their toll on our lives. After much soul-searching, we have made the decision to put Northampton’s Pride and Joy up for sale. This decision was not an easy one for us to make. We’ve put our hearts and souls into this business, and we will miss it on many different levels."
"Movie memories have a long shelf life" at Larry Edmunds Bookshop, Los Angeles, Calif. Owner Jeffrey Mantor has a tattoo of Rita Hayworth on his left bicep and one of Anita Ekberg from La Dolce Vita on his right. The Los Angeles Times noted that the bookshop, founded in 1938 and specializing exclusively in movie books and memorabilia, is now facing serious online competition.
"It's tough to be in a specialty business where I spent 20 years learning to do what I do for a living only to have someone come along and type something into a search engine to get the same information," said Mantor. "That's the problem with eBay; everybody thinks they're a dealer."
The Advocate Weekly showcased the print-on-demand services offered by Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. "The vision for print-on-demand is twofold," said Chris Morrow, Northshire's general manager. "The first is to democratize publishing so anybody can be published, so you don’t have to go to New York and get an agent and all of this. The second is having access to all of the combined knowledge of the world.... We should be able to have, within the next decade, access to any book that’s ever been printed in any language."
Self-publishers are also self-marketers, Morrow added. "This is true with traditional books, too. It used to be the publisher did a lot of the work with marketing your book. A lot of authors are finding they have to do a lot of their own in terms of blogging and Facebooking and book tours. It’s different than it used to be. It really depends on how active and creative the author is."
Owen Laster, a former literary agent whose clients included Judy Blume, Gore Vidal and the estate of Margaret Mitchell, has died, the Associated Press (via ABC News) reported. He was 72.
"Egypt's New Chapter: Three Books to Catch You Up" were recommended by Yasmine Mariam Kloth for NPR's Three Books series. Her choices: Cairo: The City Victorious by Max Rodenbeck, Cairo Modern by Naguib Mahfouz and The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden.
In the U.K., the Royal Mail has released a special set of stamps featuring "some of the world's--and fiction's--"most famous wizards, witches and enchanters," including Merlin, Dumbledore and Nanny Ogg, the Guardian reported.
Book trailer of the day: Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead).
Yesterday's book trailer of the day, for My Name Is Not Alexander by Jennifer Fosbery (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky), unfortunately had the wrong link. Please try this one instead!
Eating Healthy with the Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar will serve as the centerpiece of a new "Eating Healthy. Growing Strong." campaign to help facilitate discussion between doctors and families about good eating habits for children. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the American Academy of Pediatrics joins with We Give Books to launch this campaign as part of the Alliance's mission to combat childhood obesity.
President Bill Clinton, whose William J. Clinton Foundation helped start the Alliance for a Healthier Generation along with the American Heart Association, said in a statement, "By joining with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the classic children's brand The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we are starting a dialogue between parents and doctors that will go beyond the waiting room." More than 17,500 pediatricians' offices will receive specially created editions of Carle's book, along with growth charts and handouts that encourage conversations between doctors and parents about what constitutes healthy eating (including tips that integrate the book, such as, "Talk about how when the caterpillar overeats, he gets a stomachache--so it is important to stop eating when you feel full").
We Give Books, a digital initiative from Penguin (publisher of The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and the Pearson Foundation will provide the materials for the campaign. In addition, whenever visitors to the We Give Books site read a digital book in its library, the Pearson Foundation will donate a brand-new book to a leading literacy group. "I'm so pleased that my caterpillar can help to promote healthy eating in the fight against childhood obesity," said Caterpillar creator Carle in a statement. "I hope The Very Hungry Caterpillar will be a happy reminder for children to grow healthy and spread their strong wings, like the butterfly in my book."--J.M.B.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: How Italian Food Conquered the World
Today on NPR's Marketplace: Caitlin Shetterly, author of Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home (Voice, $23.99, 9781401341466).
Tomorrow on the Rachael Ray Show: Michele Hakakha, co-author of Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy (Windsor Peak Press, $14.95, 9781889392370).
Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: John F. Mariani, author of How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan, $25, 9780230104396).
Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (Basic, $26.95, 9780465014910).
Tomorrow on the View: Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, author of Hiroshima in the Morning (Feminist Press at CUNY, $16.95, 9781558616677).
Tomorrow on 20/20: Bethenny Frankel, author of A Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out of Life (Touchstone, $24.99, 9781439186909).
This Weekend on Book TV: Tucson Festival of Books
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.
Saturday, March 12
12 p.m. Book TV features live coverage of the Tucson Festival of Books, held on the campus of the University of Arizona. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)
7 p.m. Jack Cashill, author of Deconstructing Obama: The Life, Loves, and Letters of the First Postmodern President (Threshold Editions, $25, 9781451611113), questions the president's life story. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m.)
8:15 p.m. Former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee talks about his book A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need From Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't) (Sentinel, $26.95, 9781595230737). (Re-airs Sunday at 11:15 a.m.)
9 p.m. For an event hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Bruce Riedel, author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad (Brookings Institution Press, $24.95, 9780815705574), examines Pakistan's role in the global jihad movement. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Dinesh D'Souza interviews Peter Firstbrook, author of The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family (Crown, $26, 9780307591401). Firstbrook discusses his exploration of 27 generations of President Obama's Kenyan ancestors. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m.)
11 p.m. Kay Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys (Basic Books, $25.99, 9780465018420), argues that 20- and 30-something males prefer to put off adulthood. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m.)
Sunday, March 13
1 p.m. Book TV's live coverage of the Tucson Festival of Books continues. (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)
8 p.m. Edward Glaeser, author of Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Penguin, $29.95, 9781594202773), argues that the city is humanity's greatest invention and our salvation for the future.
10 p.m. For an event hosted by Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, Calif., Siddhartha Mukherjee talks about his book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner, $30, 9781439107959).
Television: Julianne Moore as Sarah PalinJulianne Moore has been cast as former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in HBO's Game Change, based on the book Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. The project will be directed by Jay Roach, with a script by Danny Strong.
Books & Authors
Awards: RWA Awards; Bisto Children's Book of the YearSharon Sala will receive the 2011 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, which is presented to a living author in recognition of significant contributions to the romance genre. This year's Emma Merritt Service Award recipient, honoring the accumulated body of work a member has contributed as a volunteer to RWA, is Michelle Monkou.
Other 2011 RWA Award recipients:
Service Awards: Linda Howard, Stephanie Feagan, Amy Atwell and Nikki Enlow
Librarian of the Year Award: Wendy Crutcher, OC Public Libraries, Calif.
Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year Award: Kaori Suzuki Fischer, Barnes & Noble, West Melbourne, Fla.
RWA will present the awards at its 31st Annual Conference, June 28 to July 1 in New York City.
The shortlist for the 2011 Children's Books Ireland Bisto Children's Book of the Year:
Dancing in the Dark by Peter Prendergast
Mac Rí Éireann by Caitríona Hasting and Andrew Whiton
Prim Improper by Deirdre Sullivan
Taking Flight by Sheena Wilknson
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
The Lunatics Curse by F. E. Higgins
The Owl and the Pussycat, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
Tiny Little Fly, illustrated by Kevin Waldron
Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers
The winner will be announced May 16 in Dublin.
Shelf Starter: My Korean Deli
My Korean Deli: Risking It All for a Convenience Store by Ben Ryder Howe (Holt, $25, 9780805093438, March 1, 2011)
Opening lines of a book we want to read:
Last summer my wife's family and I decided to buy a deli. By fall, with loans from three different relatives, two new credit cards, and a sad kiss good-bye to thirty thousand dollars my wife and I had saved while living in my mother-in-law's Staten Island basement, we had rounded up the money. Now it is November, and we are searching New York City for a place to buy.
We have different ideas about what our store should look like. My mother-in-law, Kay, the Mike Tyson of Korean grandmothers, wants a deli with a steam table, one of those stainless steel, cafeteria-style salad bars that heat the food to just below the temperature that kills bacteria—the zone in which bacteria thrive. She wants to serve food that is either sticky and sweet, or too salty, or somehow all of the above, and that roasts in the dusty air of New York City all day, while roiling crowds examine it at close distance—pushing it around, sampling it, breathing on it. Kay's reason for wanting a deli of this kind is that steam tables bring in a lot of money, up to a few thousand dollars per hour at lunchtime. She also wants a store that is open twenty-four hours and stays open on Christmas and Labor Day. She'd like it to be in the thick of Manhattan, on a street jammed with tourists and office workers.
I don't know what I want, but an all-night deli in midtown with a steam table isn't it. I'm the sort of person who loses my appetite if I walk past an establishment with a steam table. I get palpitations and the sweats just being around sparerib tips. Of course, I don't have to eat the food if we buy a deli with a steam table. I just have to sell it. That's what Kay says she plans to do. But Kay has an unfair advantage: years ago, after she came to America, she lost her sense of smell, and now she can't detect the difference between a bouquet of freesias and a bathroom at the bus station. My nose, on the other hand, is fully functional.
Luckily, I'm in charge of the real estate search, and so far I have successfully steered us from any delis serving hot food. As a result, Kay's frustration is starting to become lethal.
"What's the matter?" she asked me the other day. "You not like money? Why you make us poor?" --selected by Marilyn Dahl
Book Review: Blood, Bones, and Butter
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781400068722, March 2011)
Blood, Bones, and Butter, the latest entry into the pantheon of chef memoirs, arrives in the wake of a great deal of pre-publication buzz, including hyperbolic praise from culinary stars Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali. "I am choked with envy," Bourdain states, while Batali plans to "burn all the books I have ever written." Such hype evokes a bit of consternation. Given the crowding of this overstuffed genre, one has to wonder how Hamilton, the chef-owner of New York City's famed Prune restaurant, can not only stand out but rise above it. It turns out she can and does. Hamilton, who has an MFA from the University of Michigan, writes beautifully about the discovery, preparation, and enjoyment of food, but her own story--interesting, unique and intense--is just as compelling.
The youngest of five children born to inventive, free-spirited, but ultimately feckless parents, Hamilton learned early in life to survive by her own wits. Her parents divorced before Hamilton was in her teens and the family split up so completely that Hamilton stayed close to only one of her siblings in adulthood and was estranged from her mother for 20 years. From this hardscrabble childhood, there followed some fairly hard living, a backpacking trip across two continents (during which she learned a great deal about food), drugs, a stop-and-go college career and a series of restaurant jobs (one of which ended with felony charges against her). When she decided--almost on a whim--to open Prune, Hamilton was living with her longtime female lover and had absolutely no idea how manage a restaurant, let alone own and run one. A few short years later, Prune was pulling in $2 million a year and Hamilton (now the mother of two young sons) was married to an "Italian Italian" man. The final portion of the memoir recounts her unusual marriage (which seems to be coming to an end just as the book does) and her love and attachment to the new family it brings her.
Hamilton has packed the experiences of several lifetimes into her 40-odd years and has lived all of them with intensity and passion. This makes for a peripatetic and free-ranging journey on the page that some may find unsettling. Yet, while Hamilton does not linger on some of the details (how Prune developed into the success that it is, for example), there is so much more for the reader to feast on here. Hamilton is a fascinating, unusual person and an immensely talented writer who well earns all the praise this book has and will receive.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: A unusual and intriguing memoir from Gabrielle Hamilton, the famed chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City, that pulls far ahead of the foodie memoir pack.
Top-Selling Titles in Florida and Chicagoland Last Week
The bestselling books at independent bookstores in Florida during the week ended Sunday, March 6:
1. Swamplandia by Karen Russell
2. Night Vision by Randy Wayne White
3. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
4. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
5. Bringing Adam Home by Les Standiford and Joe Matthews
6. Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand
7. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman
8. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
9. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
10. Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford
Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:
The Book Mark in Neptune Beach: Swamplandia by Karen Russell
Inkwood Books in Tampa: Swamplandia by Karen Russell
Vero Beach Book Center: Night Vision by Randy Wayne White
Books & Books in Coral Gables/Miami: Bringing Adam Home by Les Standiford and Joe Matthews
The bestselling books at independent bookstores in and near Chicago during the week ended Sunday, March 6:
1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
2. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
3. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
4. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
5. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
6. West of Here by Jonathan Evison
7. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
8. Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
9. Open City by Teju Cole
10. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Reporting bookstores and their handselling favorites:
Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove: Little Princes by Connor Grennan
Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock: Mary by Janis Cooke Newman
The Book Table, Oak Park: Almighty Black P. Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of an American Gang by Natalie Y. Moore and Lance Williams
The Book Cellar, Lincoln Square: Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Lake Forest Books: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka
57th St. Books, Chicago
Seminary Co-op, Chicago: Information by James Gleick
Women and Children First, Chicago
[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]