Also published on this date: Tuesday, April 9, 2013: Maximum Shelf: The World's Strongest Librarian

Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: The Very Very Very Long Dog by Julia Patton

Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet

Katherine Tegen Books: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

Canterbury Classics: Compact Novel Journals

Katherine Tegen Books: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Quotation of the Day

'Book Business in Incredible Flux for 2,500 Years'

"The codex, which is the ancestor of the book, was invented 2,500 years ago, and ever since then the book business has been in incredible flux, and it's not going to change. But one thing that's also not going to change is people love to go to bookstores, and people still have tremendous loyalty for the physical book. And our task and our challenge is to give the people of Concord the best bookstore that we can possibly put up."

--Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., in a video interview with the Concord Patch giving a tour of the new store, which is under construction.

Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


News

E-Creepy: Program Allows Professors to Monitor E-Text Reading

Nine colleges and universities are testing a CourseSmart program that allows professors to monitor students' usage of e-textbooks, the New York Times wrote. "They know when students are skipping pages, failing to highlight significant passages, not bothering to take notes--or simply not opening the book at all." The program should be introduced "broadly this fall."

The dean of Texas A&M's business school commented: "It's Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent." Students interviewed by the Times seemed to have few, if any, privacy concerns. One said, "Amazon has such a footprint on me. It knows more about me than my mother."

Among the problems: students might game the system by leaving their e-textbook "open" while doing something else or they could take notes on a computer or, gasp, on paper.

CourseSmart is a joint venture of Cengage, Macmillan, Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Wiley.


Other Press: Bookselling Without Borders Scholarship


Burning the Page: Book Views from an Ex-Amazonian

The New York Times has a striking q&a with Jason Merkoski, a former Amazon employee who led the team that built the first Kindle and author of Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Reading (Sourcebooks), which for now is available only as an e-book.

Among his comments:

On Amazon, Apple and Google: "As far as social responsibility goes, let me just say this: These companies have entire buildings filled with lawyers. They aren't there to come up with new lawyer jokes. They are there, in part, to keep people like me from even answering this question. That said, I think if people were given a chance to spend a day looking inside Amazon or Apple's veil of secrecy, most of them would be fascinated--although some might boycott."

On censorship: "If push came to shove, I think most of these execs would rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that would avoid bad press. These are major retailers, not your quirky corner bookstores. They're manned by former management consultants in clean shirts and pressed Dockers, not eccentric book-lovers with beards and cats."

On personal privacy issues: "I do trust them with my identity. These companies are obsessed with safeguarding privacy. The worst they're going to do is show me more ads."

On discoverability: "When it comes to book recommendations, [online] retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet--they'll just recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I hope this changes over time."

On the advantages of e-books: "Reading is great, but I don't know whether you need paper and ink for it. You're going to get so much more from e-books because they bring your friends and family into the margins of your reading experience. They will be literally on the same page with you."

On the future of books: "In 20 years, the space of one generation, print books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You'll still be able to find them in artsy hipster stores, but that's about it. So the great advantage of e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if you want to read a book. It's sobering, and a bit sad. That said, e-books can do what print books can't. They'll allow you to fit an entire library into the space of one book. They'll allow you to search for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book. The book of the future will live and breathe."

On the value of printed books: "I found a book at my grandmother's house that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original last name was--before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my past. We're going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all digital."

On his Amazon experience: "Working at Amazon was like getting an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. at the same time. It was an incredible education. These were the smartest people I ever worked with. But Amazon had a dark side as well, as if it were the mean stepmother in a fairy tale. There was this push to get great products out to consumers. It makes a lot of teams very haggard. Amazon is held together by adrenaline, spreadsheets and people running around like crazy."


Ingram Publisher Services: Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Dundurn Press


Countdown to World Book Night: 2 Weeks to Tuesday, April 23

World Book Night has scheduled 27 events around the country for April 19-23 in libraries, bookstores, even a local club and a brewery. Venues include the Mad Art Gallery in St. Louis; Tin House's party in Portland, Ore.; the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Mass.; and Tattered Cover in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Many authors whose books are WBN picks will be appearing at kick-off events: Lisa Genova, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Neil Gaiman, Lisa Scottoline, Hillary Jordan, Walter Mosley, Nora Roberts, Jesmyn Ward, James Patterson, Ann Patchett, Mike Perry, J.R. Moehringer, Sandra Cisneros, Rick Riordan, Alexis Smith, Michael Lewis--and a few surprises. Two poetry events, at Word in Brooklyn and B&N in Glendale, Calif., will feature local poets reading from Favorite American Poems (a WBN pick).

On the evening of April 23, every audience member at Annie and The Lion King on Broadway, and at the Chicago production of Still Alice (another WBN pick), will receive a World Book Night title.

Check out WBN's Facebook page for more information.


Disney-Hyperion: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner


Notes

Bloomsbury USA on the Move

Effective April 29, all Bloomsbury operations in New York City are moving to a central office at 1385 Broadway, at 38th Street. Bloomsbury Adult and Children's Trade will move from the Flatiron Building at 23rd and Broadway, while Bloomsbury Academic and Fairchild Books will move from offices at 80 Maiden Lane and 750 Third Avenue, respectively.

Bloomsbury USA president Richard Charkin said, "Our growth in the United States over the last five years has been phenomenal and we have simply outgrown the space available to us in the Flatiron Building. Macmillan has been our gracious and generous host there for more than a decade, and while we won't be together in the Flatiron any longer, we are happy to continue our distribution relationship."


Cool Idea of the Day: Longfellow Gives Back

Longfellow Books, Portland, Maine, posted this on Facebook:

Readers, after all the post-flood support, we have a chance to give back to our community. We won two tickets in WMPG's annual Begathon to go see Bob Dylan this Wednesday in Lewiston! We are giving them away to the highest bidder and all proceeds will go directly to WMPG. Starting the bidding at $50, will close Tuesday afternoon. Email julia@longfellowbooks with your highest offer... let the bidding begin!



Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Way of the Knife

Today on NPR's Tell Me More: Marc and Maya Silver, authors of My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks (Sourcebooks Fire, $14.99, 9781402273070).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Mark Mazzetti, author of The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594204807). He will also appear on the Laura Ingraham Show.

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Tomorrow on Access Hollywood: Carol Burnett, author of Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781476706412).

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Tomorrow night on Nightline: Mark Geragos, co-author of Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works...and Sometimes Doesn't (Gotham, $27, 9781592407729).


TV: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

BBC America is co-producing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, based on the novel by Susanna Clarke, adapted by Peter Harness (Wallander; Is Anybody There?) and directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who; Sherlock; Wallander). The series will premiere in 2014 as part of the network's Supernatural Saturday programming block. Filming will take place in the U.K. and Canada.

"The production has now developed into a seven part series and we are delighted that Peter Harness is well on the way to completing all seven hours," said Nick Marston, CEO of Cuba Pictures and one of the producers. "He has just delivered episode five and, with Toby Haynes on board to direct, we are in an excellent position to begin pre-production later this month with production due to start filming in late summer."


Books & Authors

Awards: Thriller and Audie Finalists

The finalists for the 2013 Thriller Awards, sponsored by International Thriller Writers, have been selected. The winners will be announced at ITW's ThrillerFest banquet in New York City on June 13.

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Finalists for the Audie Awards' Audiobook of the Year and the Distinguished Achievement in Production awards, sponsored by Audio Publishers Association, are:

Audiobook of the Year
American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen and Garden by Michelle Obama, narrated by Michelle Obama, Jim Adams, Charlie Brandts, Christeta Comerford, Sam Kass, Bill Yosses and a full cast (Random House Audio)
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini (HarperAudio)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, narrated by Colin Firth (Audible, Inc.)
Killing Kennedy by Bill O'Reilly, narrated by Bill O'Reilly (Macmillan Audio)

Distinguished Achievement in Production
Dracula by Bram Stoker, narrated by Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Alan Cumming, Tim Curry and a full cast (Audible, Inc.)
Shadow Show: All New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury, edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, stories by Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Audrey Niffenegger, Dave Eggers and others, narrated by George Takei, Edward Herrmann, Kate Mulgrew, F. Murray Abraham, Neil Gaiman, Peter Appel and James Urbaniak (HarperAudio)
Society's Child: My Autobiography by Janis Ian, narrated by Janis Ian (Audible, Inc.)
We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart by Walter Dean Myers, narrated by Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers, Dion Graham, Olivia DuFord and others (Live Oak Media)

The winners will be announced at the Audie Awards Gala in New York City on May 30.


Book Review

Review: The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens

The Age of the Image: Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens by Stephen Apkon (Farrar Straus & Giroux, $26 hardcover, 9780374102432, April 16, 2013)

On his 1986 album Graceland, Paul Simon sang of "the way the camera follows us in slo-mo/ The way we look to us all." Simon's lyrics, written long before the ubiquity of YouTube, are an apt description of the screen-saturated world Stephen Apkon describes in The Age of the Image, a passionate argument for formulating a new concept of literacy in our hypervisual times.

For Apkon, the founder and executive director of the Jacob Burns Film Center, literacy in any era requires one to be "conversant in the dominant expressive language and form of the age." For us, "awash in a world of screens and moving images," he asserts, that means developing a facility both for interpreting the visual images that surround us and for using the accessible and relatively inexpensive visual storytelling tools available to us. (A lengthy chapter serving as a "basic primer to visual storytelling" is an entertaining diversion, but it's probably too basic for anyone even casually familiar with the subject, while the discussion of the tools and techniques of filmmaking is perhaps overly technical for novices to absorb without the aid of a skilled instructor.)

Apkon offers a crisp summary of the evolving definition of literacy, from ancient French cave paintings to the modern film industry. He also provides an intriguing glimpse into cutting edge neuroscience, including a visit to a company using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brain's response to visual stimuli. And he offers persuasive examples--such as the video of the murder of Neda Agha-Soltan amid protests following the 2009 elections in Iran--of the power anyone with a smartphone camera has to make a political statement that can rocket around the world in hours.

He concludes with a concise argument for why and how the U.S.'s sadly antiquated educational system must be reexamined "through the lens of visual communication"--starting with "a rethinking of how we measure both literacy and progress in this new sphere of literacy" in schools, focused on developing the "talent for using this technology in creative and thoughtful ways."

Stephen Apkon clearly intends The Age of the Image as an opening brief in a vigorous debate on reformulating our definition of literacy in the 21st century. In that effort, he's unquestionably succeeded. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: The founder and executive director of the Jacob Burns Film Center makes a vigorous argument for a new definition of literacy for a world saturated in visual media.


Deeper Understanding

Stalking Big Foot: Myths & Legends from the Road

Jenny Milchman, author of Cover of Snow (Ballantine), has embarked on what may be the longest author tour ever. This is the third installment of her notes from her trip:

When we first set out on this book tour/family odyssey, I was filled with the most combustible mix of emotions. Excitement, doubt, hope and worry. I don't think I'd felt that particular blend since giving birth.

It took me 13 years to get published, and the idea for this trip grew during that time. Although I'm a writer and spend many waking hours inside my head, even I know there's a difference between fantasy and reality. Once we set out, how would the fantasy version meet with the reality of empty roads--and possibly empty rooms?

Publishers tend not to tour debut novelists for good reasons. The dollars and cents just don't make sense. But there are other means of measurement. There's the dream-come-true factor. And there's the long-term investment that arises when the right bookseller or reader discovers a book he or she may otherwise not have.

Because, crazy as it sounds, selling books isn't the only reason to go on a book tour.

Where have we been in the last month? And what other truths about launching a career are we learning?

Myth #1: The success of an event is tied to how many people attend

At Books and Company in Oconomowoc, Wis., nobody attended my event. Well, no readers anyway. This wasn't because I am an unknown (although this can often be a factor). It was because this leg of the journey was planned suddenly, and there wasn't enough lead time. But I didn't want to miss such a widely beloved bookstore, so my publicist called the store to ask if I could stop in to say hello. No fewer than nine booksellers gathered round, serving wine and a luscious combination of nuts and dark chocolate. The conversation was rousing and fun, proving you don't always need attendees to have an event.

Mystery 1 in Milwaukee, Wis., demonstrated the same thing. The weather was gruesome. We seem to bring bad weather with us--it even snowed in Mississippi--hence the suggestion that I title my next book 75 & Sunny. But the white stuff didn't prevent proprietor Richard Katz, of Katz Delicatessen heritage, from picking me up and driving me door-to-door. He also led a discussion as heated as the outside was cold. I learned more about the history of mystery from two booksellers and Jon Jordan of Crimespree magazine than I'd learned in 13 years. And the conversation continued over a Mexican dinner to which Richard and Jon treat all visiting authors.

Myth #2: There is an unbridgeable divide in publishing today

There are certain words--one in particular--most of us know not to say in bookstores. And yet, as much as I am devoted to bricks and mortar, as an author I value every distribution stream that brings books to readers. 

Packed room at Schuler's.

Schuler Books in Okemos, Mich., was able to bridge the yawning chasm in one startling event. Rick Murcer, self-published author of the Manny Williams thrillers, rose to bestseller status on both the New York Times and USA Today lists. He and I were invited to discuss our very different publication paths. And in the hallowed halls of a bookstore, print-loving readers found books they never otherwise would have--just as the author found new fans.

At the Book Cellar in Chicago, Ill., I was paired with a self-published author at the start of his career. Michael Curtis has a strong commitment to print, going so far as to produce a hardcover version of his debut novel. While it's not clear whether this is a viable approach to publishing--POD hardcovers are expensive--this event did confirm that multi-author events are often more robust for a new author than one done on your own.

Legend #1: Authors

Buckley and Milchman

The authors I've been lucky enough to meet on this tour are legendary, or should be. In Ohio I got to appear beside Carla Buckley, whose thrillers about science and family are terrifyingly real. Bookseller Suzanne DeGaetano at Mac's Backs in Cleveland, Ohio, structured an intimate conversation between me and Les Roberts, who writes a retired PI series about the city. And at Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vt., Jennifer McMahon, an author to whom I had written a fan letter years ago, took part in a conversation called "Dealing in Darkness."

Myth #3: New authors don't get publicity

Sometimes on nights when I get to doubting, I replay the words my Random House publicist said when she first discovered my book. (Although I realize this is her job, my publicist truly seems to feel the books she works on are discoveries, precious and rare.) My in-house publicist has garnered national media attention for my debut, attended events and stood by my side at a bookseller dinner gala. Still, a tour of this, um, scope, requires extra support, which is where an independent publicity firm can help. And if the head of the firm throws a dinner party before your event at one of the most illustrious bookstores in the Midwest, the Book Stall? And all of the guests go on to attend your reading, which is hosted by Javier Ramirez, the aptly nicknamed Mayor of Books? Well, let's hear it for all publicists.

Myth #4: Crickets

All new authors are familiar with the event where they walk into an empty room. One way bookstores avoid this fate is to have the author at a table of books, to which browsing customers can wander up. An event at Learned Owl, the coziest bookstore in Ohio, and another at Better World Books in Goshen, Ind., were structured this way. Each contained their share of quiet moments, some of them pleasantly spent in conversation with Kate Schlademan, the passionate new owner of Learned Owl, who set up a ramp herself in order to accommodate one wheelchair-bound attendee. But each also each contained an encounter to go in any author's memory book. At Better World Books, the sole attendee had traveled three hours to see me. And at Learned Owl, three readers gathered round to ask questions about my book with an eye for detail that I would have expected only from my editor--and maybe myself. Maybe.

Myth #5: Genre fiction is less serious than literary fiction

Memories & memorabilia at Aunt Agatha's

Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich., has a museum-worthy collection of memorabilia, including a miniature safe that Steve Hamilton's publisher sent out when The Lock Artist was released. Lines are blurred between booksellers, book club members and browsers when Robin Agnew hosts an event.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa., has a bathroom signed by all the greats. It's hard to go about something as mundane as hand-washing when you're surrounded by their signatures. This legendary store recently was sold, and new owner Laurie Stephens seems to have accomplished the magical act of breathing new life into a place while retaining every single iota of its established greatness.

Signing the Wall of Fame at Mystery Lover's Bookshop.

Myth #6: Barnes & Noble doesn't care about books

I am greatly saddened by the dispute between Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster, which is keeping readers from so many wonderful writers--Randy Susan Meyers, MJ Rose, Jamie Mason and dozens of others. I hope that the differences are settled soon so that everyone can get back to selling books.

This conflict may reinforce the perception that B&N is more of a corporation than a bookstore, but I can report that we've visited over a hundred B&Ns between New Jersey and Denver and found great passion in the people and stores.

Jill Folden of the Easton Towne Center B&N in Columbus, Ohio, has been known to track an author down after reading his or her book and host a lively event for them in the store. She includes titles she loves on a staff picks shelf, and customers routinely ask her what she's reading. Victoria Snoddy of the Creeks at Virginia Center B&N took me aside when I came in to sign stock, urged a cup of coffee on me and embarked upon a discussion of great thrillers.

We've also seen some intensely creative things being done at B&N. Mystery lover and emerging writer Nikki Bonnani started an outfit called the Killer Coffee Club, whereupon Nikki's local B&N gave her a space in which to meet as well as an end cap to feature the books her club is reading.

Myth #7: It's impossible to debunk myths

If there is one thing we're learning on this trip, it's that there's no such thing as truth. I don't mean to go all Foucault on you, but bookstores are as varied as the people who inhabit them, and any author's mileage may vary on a tour. Literally and figuratively. Three recent events prove how hard it is to wrap what we're doing into a neat package.

At Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vt., attendees wander in off the pedestrian mall from which cars are blocked, and author events are recorded as part of a new arts television series. Bookseller Tod Gross's introduction makes his guests feel like movie stars.

At Northshire Books in Manchester, Vt., I appeared two days after legendary author Jodi Picoult. You can bet I was expecting... well, myth #4. But bookseller Amy Palmer was so warm and welcoming, I wouldn't have minded spending the whole night touring this magnificent store with her. I didn't object, though, when a nice (if not Jodi-sized) crowd came out and filled my night with questions, laughter and words.

State of the industry address at The Book House

Susan Novotny of the Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., put together an event was supposed to be a private panel discussion about the state of the industry. But when word got out, 50 people came to hear a seasoned veteran of this very publication, Robert Gray, along with the publisher of a small press, four established authors and two debut authors, bat ideas around. Luckily, Susan provided plenty of cordial. And cookies.

The biggest elephant--or myth--in the room is that bookstores are less relevant today. The opposite is true. As we engage in vast swaths of our lives virtually, the face-to-face conversation becomes more necessary and more valued. Bookstores fit perfectly into the community that locavorism is seeking to preserve or reestablish.

Next stop: Florida. It can't snow there. It just can't. In any case, thanks to the book lovers we are meeting all over, I even suspect something legendary may happen.


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