Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 10, 2011
Online Sales Tax Revision: Marketplace Fairness Act Introduced
A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators has introduced the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would grant states the authority to compel online retailers to collect sales taxes. The proposed legislation "seeks to both ensure that online retailers are collecting taxes while dealing with concerns raised by smaller e-tailers who claim they would be unfairly impacted by previously suggested regulations. The proposed law would exempt online sellers whose annual sales are less than $500,000," the Consumerist reported.
During the summer, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and several Democratic colleagues introduced the Main Street Fairness Act (Shelf Awareness, August 2, 2011), but it "went nowhere," the Seattle Times wrote, calling the new measure "compromise legislation" that includes five Republicans as co-sponsors. Although the proposed bill "seeks to preempt previous opposition from online auction site eBay by exempting small online vendors from collecting the taxes," eBay's initial response did not appear to be encouraging.
"This is another Internet sales tax bill that fails to protect small business retailers using the Internet and will unbalance the playing field between giant retailers and small business competitors," said Tod Cohen, the company's v-p for government relations. "It does not make sense to expand Internet sales tax burdens on small businesses at a time when we want entrepreneurs to create jobs and economic activity.”
Amazon, however, reacted positively. Paul Misener, the company's v-p, global public policy, said, "Amazon strongly supports enactment of the Enzi-Durbin-Alexander bill and will work with Congress, retailers, and the states to get this bipartisan legislation passed."
National Retail Federation president and CEO Matthew Shay also welcomed the introduction of the Marketplace Fairness Act: "In a 21st Century retail industry, we ought to have a 21st Century system to ensure uniform collection of sales tax.... With three bills offered in just over three months, Congress has gotten the message and is ready to act. As the industry that employs one out of every four Americans, we are determined to help make this goal become reality."
Hocking Self-Publishes Her Way into Kindle Million Club
Amanda Hocking, author of the My Blood Approves series and the Trylle Trilogy, became the second self-published author--along with John Locke--to qualify for Amazon's Kindle Million Club. David Baldacci and Stephenie Meyer also joined the increasingly non-exclusive gathering of writers who have sold more than a million paid copies of their books on Kindle.
Hocking sold the majority of her e-books independently, using Kindle Direct Publishing. In addition to the more than two million books sold by Locke and Amanda Hocking, 12 KDP authors have sold more than 200,000 books and 30 KDP authors have sold more than 100,000 books, Amazon reported.
Borders Group Foundation: New Mission & Name in 2012
The future is a bit clearer for the Borders Group Foundation, an independent charity created in 1996 that earlier this year said it would continue its efforts and expand its reach in the wake of the book chain's bankruptcy (Shelf Awareness, August 23, 2011).
Beginning in 2012, the foundation plans to include the book industry as a whole in its efforts, starting with booksellers at "major book retailers and independent bookstores" nationwide. To reflect these changes, the group will be renamed the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BInC), though it will operate under both names for the next 12 months.
During that time, the foundation will continue its existing programs for former Borders associates and their families, including the emergency financial assistance program, as well as the annual scholarship program for former associates and their dependents. For more information and to join BInC's e-mail list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ohio Museum Gets Taschen "Pop-Up" Store
Taschen's newest "shop within a shop" is located in the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University in Columbus. The dedicated Taschen section expands the museum shop's book inventory into an area not previously devoted to books. The Wexner Center is the second American museum, after the Art Institute of Chicago, to have a Taschen "pop-up" store.
"We're very excited to see this partnership come to fruition," said store manager and buyer Matt Reber. "Taschen books are among bestselling and most browsed titles, and have always been a good fit. It's really wonderful to see all these amazing books grouped together."
Image of the Day: Thoroughly Modern Myths
Last Saturday, Modern Myths, the comics and graphic novel store in Northampton, Mass., hosted a launch party for Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow (Candlemark & Gleam). Here (from l.), Candlemark & Gleam editor-in-chief Kate Sullivan, Modern Myths general manager Mike Gendreau and Bigelow.
Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer: Unusual Education
Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer stole the show at the 40th Annual BookFest, held at recently at Bank Street College of Education in New York City. The longtime friends and collaborators touched on everything from education to creativity born out of necessity to the importance of breaking the rules. Children's literature scholar Leonard S. Marcus, who wrote the annotations for The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, published last month in honor of the novel's 50th anniversary, moderated the discussion.
Juster, Marcus and Feiffer on the steps of the Brooklyn brownstone where author and artist met.
"I grew up in the Bronx during the Great Depression. There was class warfare," Feiffer began his critique of education. "Teachers versus kids, and kids versus teachers. You gave teachers the answers you thought they wanted, and did that until you graduated and started your real life." Juster didn't like school either, and summed up education this way: "There's a wonderful Peanuts strip in which a child says, 'What does it mean?' And the classmate answers, 'Somebody tells you.' "
Feiffer's breakthrough came with the discovery of comics. "Letters didn't make sense to me," he said. "But when comics came along, the combination of words and pictures made it so I could understand better the stories being told." Juster, who became an architect, described his early challenges with math. "I had synesthesia--I couldn't do numbers if I didn't have colors," Juster explained. This began his interest in "translating things differently from what was intended," such as how words or letters taste. He added, "There is no one way to look at anything, which is the opposite of what we learned in school." Feiffer chimed in, "There's something to be said in favor of brain damage. Something kept us from integrating. Either we understood rarely, or differently from everyone else. That created habits of thinking--around the box, outside of the box--thinking in a sub rosa way."
The collaborators met while taking out the trash in the Brooklyn brownstone that they both called home. They immediately discovered they were of like minds. Juster took a slight detour from his plan to become an architect, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation. He began writing a story littered with puns that evolved into The Phantom Tollbooth. He credits his father as the big influence on the punning. When he had about 50 pages, Feiffer's wife offered to give them to her editor--Jason Epstein. "Jules started drawing little pictures," said Juster. "They were so good, the publisher couldn't ignore them." Feiffer added, "Norman's book had a wit that seemed to be an extension of our normal conversation. It seemed to be a natural that I would play with it." Juster tried to stump Feiffer at times, forcing him to draw horses, which Feiffer felt he was not good at, and Feiffer got his revenge by drawing Juster as the weatherman. "It was a game within a game," Juster said.
Feiffer expressed his concern that our society doesn't value this kind of battle of wits. In times of economic distress, the first cuts are in education and libraries. "There's a deep root of anti-intellectualism, a hostility toward learning things you don't already know," Feiffer said. Ever the kidder, Juster added, "Everyone's worried about education, but it's really the appearance of education and the credentials of education they're worried about. I think at birth we should give every child a Ph.D."
Feiffer maintained that the real education when he was growing up happened through popular culture. "There was music that taught us about broken hearts. Bing Crosby and Bob Eberly, before Sinatra came along," explained Feiffer. "And the movie musicals, along with the radio programs at the time, educated us in a sense of optimism in these rough times that we had. That's lacking today."
Feiffer noticed that the kids he meets now seem to be afraid of breaking the rules. "The first thing I do is give them a license to fail," said Feiffer. Lacking teachers they admired, Juster and Feiffer seemed more than ready to step into the role. --Jennifer M. Brown
Cool Ideas of the Day: Indies Support Veterans
Several independent bookstores nationwide will celebrate Veteran's Day with a Grove Press promotion offering free copies of indie favorite Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes. Beginning this Friday and continuing through the weekend, participating stores are displaying copies of What It Is Like to Go to War and Matterhorn. Customers who buy War will receive a free copy of Matterhorn.
"We’'re very excited about the Veteran's Day/Karl Marlantes promo PGW/Grove is so generously offering stores, and have placed the books front and center in the shop, with signage explaining how it works," said Libby Cowles of Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.
Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C., will have a box dedicated to their local veterans' organization next to the display, giving customers a chance to donate copies of either book if they choose.
Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., featured the promotion in its e-newsletter last week and has already had positive feedback from customers, and the Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., has displays going up in all three stores.
"Buy a book, bring a book, give a book." The Books for Soldiers campaign is currently underway at Martha Merrell's Books, Waukesha, Wis. Co-owner Norman Bruce reports that seven boxes of books were collected at the kick-off event last weekend, which featured authors Deb Baker (Hannah Reed), Bill Rapp, Jerry Peterson and Allan Ansorge. The books are for the Hartford National Guard unit, which will be dispatched in February.
In addition to collecting book donations, Martha Merrell's is offering a 15% discount on any titles purchased for the troops. On Sunday, November 20, 20 authors will be signing their books on behalf of the Books for Soldiers effort.
A Modest Proposition: 'Save the Bookstore Day'
Inspired by the current challenges facing RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, N.H.--as well as many other indies--Nichole Bernier has proposed a monthly Save the Bookstore Day, starting with RiverRun, in a post on her Beyond the Margins blog yesterday.
"I've been thinking about ways Twitter and Facebook could be harnessed to help troubled stores," she wrote. "What if people could be urged to buy one book a month from a bookstore identified as being in imminent trouble? We don't want to pirate from purchases that would be made at folks' own local indies. But well, don't the people who read this blog probably buy more than one book a month, and books as gifts? What if on the 15th of the month, we bought book from that store, long-distance, and urged others to do it, too?"
"So this is my proposition: Save the Bookstore Day on the 15th of the month. Follow the hashtag #SaveTheBookstore, with the contact information (by permission of course) for the store of the month. And retweet it. And post it on Facebook." And so, perhaps, it begins.
Flying the Friendly E-Skies
The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport has partnered with Broward Country Library to offer free e-books to travelers. No library card is required to get a book, according to Good E-Reader, which noted that "you just need a QR Code in order to install the app on your tablet or smartphone. These codes are available at twelve different book stations set up around the baggage claim area."
Book Trailer of the Day: Deliriously Happy
Deliriously Happy by Larry Doyle (Ecco).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Stephen King on Hardball with Chris MatthewsTomorrow morning on the Today Show: Danny Seo, author of Upcycling: Create Beautiful Things with the Stuff You Already Have (Running Press, $18, 9780762441792).
Tomorrow on NPR's Science Friday: Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781451648539).
Tomorrow on Hardball with Chris Matthews: Stephen King, author of 11/22/63 (Scribner, $35, 9781451627282).
Tomorrow on ABC's 20/20: Regis Philbin, author of How I Got This Way (It Books, $25.99, 9780062109750).
Tomorrow on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Chris Matthews, author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero (Simon & Schuster, $27.50, 9781451635089).
This Weekend on Book TV: Back to Work
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week 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, November 12
12 p.m. Roya Hakakian, author of Assassins of the Turquoise Palace (Grove Press, $25, 9780802119117), talks about the 1992 killing of four Iranian-Kurdish dissidents in Germany and the trial that followed. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)
7 p.m. Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Viking, $40, 9780670022953), argues that we are living in the most peaceable era in human existence. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)
8:30 p.m. Condoleezza Rice, author of No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington (Crown, $35, 9780307587862), recounts her tenure as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:15 p.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. S.E. Cupp interviews Corey Robin, author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780199793747). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
11 p.m. Former President Bill Clinton talks about his new book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy (Knopf, $23.95, 9780307959751). (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m.)
Sunday, November 13
9 a.m. Los Angeles Times investigative reporter David Willman discusses his book The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War (Bantam, $27, 9780553807752). (Re-airs Monday at 4 a.m.)
1 p.m. Sanford Levinson, author of Constitutional Faith (Princeton University Press, $22.95, 9780691152400), argues that the U.S. Constitution is worshiped to a degree that is unhealthy for our democracy. (Re-airs Sunday at 8:15 p.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.)
Movie Casting: The Host
Jake Abel (The Lovely Bones; I Am Number Four; Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) is the "frontrunner" to play one of the two male lead roles in a movie version of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer's The Host, which will star Saoirse Ronan and be directed by Andrew Niccol. Deadline.com reported that Abel "was chosen from among a group of young thesps and he is negotiating for the role of Ian. The other male lead role of Jake is down to a small circle of actors including Liam Hemsworth (also a finalist to play Bruce Willis's son in A Good Day to Die Hard), Max Irons, Kit Harington and Jai Courtney."
Books & Authors
Awards: Scotiabank Giller Prize; Mailer Prize
Esi Edugyan's Half-Blood Blues won this year's $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize, which honors the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English.
"Imagine Mozart were a black German trumpet player and Salieri a bassist, and 18th century Vienna were WWII Paris; that's Esi Edugyan's joyful lament, Half-Blood Blues," the jury wrote. "It's conventional to liken the prose in novels about jazz to the music itself, as though there could be no higher praise. In this case, say rather that any jazz musician would be happy to play the way Edugyan writes. Her style is deceptively conversational and easy, but with the simultaneous exuberance and discipline of a true prodigy. Put this book next to Louis Armstrong's 'West End Blues'--these two works of art belong together."
"This is one for the books, if you get my drift--you hacks," joked Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards Tuesday night in accepting the Mailer Prize for Distinguished Biography for his memoir, Life, the Associated Press reported. Also honored by the Norman Mailer Center and the Norman Mailer Writers Colony were Elie Wiesel (lifetime achievement), Arundhati Roy (distinguished writing) and Gay Talese (distinguished journalism).
Review: The Impossible Dead
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur, $25.99 hardcover, 9780316039772, November 21, 2011)
Inspector Malcolm Fox of the Complaints (aka Internal Affairs) of the Edinburgh police department is sent to nearby Kirkcaldy to conduct what at first appears to be a straightforward investigation of police misconduct. Three members of the Kirkcaldy force may have conspired to hide evidence concerning the comings and goings of a fellow officer later found to have been, in general, a bad, bad cop. Inspector Fox and two colleagues are to provide a report of their findings in quick order to the Kirkcaldy police department, whose own Complaints crew has not been given the assignment due to various conflicts of interest. The existence of such conflicts is the first red flag to the team from Edinburgh.
The next red flag flaps in Fox's face when nobody in Kirkcaldy wants to meet with him, much less answer questions. In the hands of Ian Rankin (of the earlier, hugely popular Detective Inspector Rebus series), this follow-up to The Complaints starts off with simple obstructions to a routine assignment and grows increasingly complex as the task of pinning down today's cover-ups leads to previously unquestioned (but disconcertingly relevant) cover-ups over the past 30 years.
Fox must skirt resistance to his digging into the past; more than once he is told that he is in Kirkcaldy to report, not to investigate. Attempts to stymie his methods soon inflame Fox's native curiosity; when he is banished from the team because his sniffing is upsetting too many top dogs, the range of his questions expands exponentially. Why should checking out the background to what looks like a classic set of bad boy antics upset so many? Why do people he interviews end up threatened, beaten and shot? And why has a certain wrecked car been squirreled away for 30 years in a garage where it should never have been parked?
Rankin is as supremely adept at unfolding the mystery as he is at juggling multiple plot threads. Touching on the trade in weaponry to paramilitary groups, assassinations in the name of national security and the use of fear in keeping the downtrodden in their traditional place, his vivid characters josh, connive and inform each other. One source answers the Inspector's question about the motivation of terrorist cells with, "They have a cause, they have passion and commitment. They have seen the systems around them fail, yet the status quo remains. Frustration turns to anger and anger to a sense of injustice." The Inspector is disturbed by that answer, but then he knows that disturbing facts can often hold the key to solving your case. --John McFarland
Shelf Talker: A routine internal affairs investigation widens to reveal decades of corruption, violence and cover-ups in this thrilling mystery.