Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 22, 2013


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

Katherine Tegen Books: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Soho Crime: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Ecco Press: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Read the Book, Lemmings! by Amie Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

Carolrhoda Books: The Disturbed Girl's Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

News

Bay Books, San Ramon, Calif., for Sale

Bay Books, San Ramon, Calif., which sells new, used and rare books, is for sale. Owner Diane Van Tassell described the store, which was founded in 1988 and is located in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, this way: "The store is located in Diablo Plaza, a major shopping center of the city, at the corner of two major surface streets, which is just a block from the freeway. The 4,380-square-foot store is bordered by a UPS store and Weight Watchers. There are acres of off-street parking immediately in front of our door.

"Many of our customers are families that bring their young children to our large children's section that is stocked with educational children's toys in addition to the books. We have regular author events and host an in-house book club that meets monthly in the store. The owners are looking to retire."

Affluent San Ramon has a population of "about 75,000, and it is growing at the rate of 6% per year. A business park that is less than a mile from the store is home to major corporations, including the world headquarters of the world's third largest oil company, Chevron."

For more information, contact richvant@comcast.net or dianevant@comcast.net.


Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Amazon: Czech Warehouses; Where Are the Profits?

First the news, then some unfortunate tales from inside Amazon and, finally, detailed analysis:

Amazon has confirmed that it is opening two warehouses in the Czech Republic, one near the airport in Prague, the other in Brno, which is near Vienna, Austria. The company recently announced that it is opening three warehouses in Poland. When the warehouses open next year, the company will have 25 of them in seven European countries.

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The New York Times pulls a few revolting tidbits from Brad Stone's new book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Little, Brown). By 2004, Stone recounted, Amazon was squeezing large book publishers, demanding "steeper discounts, longer periods to pay, and better shipping," the Times wrote. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "then turned up the heat on the most vulnerable publishers [smaller publishers]--those most dependent on Amazon.

"The company's relationship with those publishers was called the Gazelle Project after Mr. Bezos said Amazon 'should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.' A joke, perhaps, but such an aggressive one that Amazon's lawyers demanded the Gazelle Project be renamed the Small Publishers Negotiation Program.

"Mr. Stone writes that Randy Miller, an Amazon executive in charge of a similar program in Europe, 'took an almost sadistic delight in pressuring book publishers to give Amazon more favorable financial terms.' Mr. Miller would move their books to full price, take them off the recommendation engine or promote competing titles until he got better terms out of them, the book says.

" 'I did everything I could to screw with their performance,' Mr. Miller told the writer. The program was called Pay to Play until the Amazon lawyers changed it to Vendor Realignment."

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Several stories this week about Amazon, which reports third-quarter results on Thursday, focus on the $75-billion company's lack of profits, except for a few periods when Wall Street applied short-lived pressure for the company to make money.

As economist and venture capitalist William H. Janeway told the New York Times: "This isn't supposed to happen. It violates mainstream finance theory. Very few companies have been valued this way outside a systemic bubble."

Consensus appears to be that to make money Amazon would need to raise prices on products and services like below-cost shipping, but that "might alienate customers and slow down [the company's] roaring revenue growth," the Times wrote.

The company likely will continue with its current strategy of seeking to dominate all markets it enters and doing many things customers like--such as allowing many of them to keep products being returned for credit--that other companies would find financially disastrous. It's a simple and unusual model allowed because Wall Street continues to drive up the value of the company's stock. As Colin Gillis, senior tech analyst at BGC Partners, told the Times, "It is easier to sell things and not make money than it is to sell things and make money."

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In the same vein, Seeking Alpha calls Amazon "a fantastic company: dedicated, innovative, even daring," but says "the moment is approaching when investors may no longer be willing to support the current valuation of the company.

"Shares in Amazon.com are trading at price-to-earnings ratio of 360, or 108 using the next year's expected profits, and the earnings multiple was at these levels for most of 16 years since the company went public. Very few companies in history managed to keep their valuations so high for so long. Investors believe that at some point in the future the company will be able to translate its rapidly growing sales into substantial profits." But Seeking Alpha argues that this won't happen soon:

"Benefits of scale have been realized by now. Growing from 1 warehouse to 5 cuts delivery times dramatically. Adding 7 new facilities (announced plans) to the existing 49 distribution centers in the U.S. will not result in the same rate of improvement. The same logic applies to all the other areas of customer experience and internal operations.

"In fact, Amazon may have reached the point where the economy of scale turns negative, i.e. further growth leads to more expenses, not less. For example, the company has many more markets to support--both in geographical and in product terms, more business units to manage, and more platforms to develop and maintain. It used to sell [only] books [only] in the U.S. Now it sells everything from groceries to paintings, operates on several continents, develops its own hardware and software, streams movies, offers software services, etc. It is a valid growth strategy, but this fragmentation makes it very hard to substantially improve operational efficiencies from the current levels."

Even though Amazon has won some major battles, competition continues to be fierce, Seeking Alpha wrote, and "in many areas the company faces tougher competition today than ever before (e.g. media, tablets). There are hundreds of online retailers, like BHPhotoVideo.com or Tennis-Warehouse.com, that carved out their own niches and seem to be doing fine.

"Any attempt by Amazon.com to raise prices or scale back customer service (including free movies, free delivery, etc.), will give a second wind to all the competitors that collectively represent a formidable threat. Selling merchandise online is a low-margin business, and it will remain so in the foreseeable future."

The Kindle was introduced and sold at a loss with the premise that losses would be "more than offset by sales of digital content to the owners of these devices. This assumption has already proved to be wrong. Most buyers of the original Kindles have already upgraded to the newer versions, so any loss on sales of those units was never recovered. More importantly, by now consumers own tens of millions of Amazon devices, and the company already offers a huge selection of content, but the profits never materialized."

Amazon Web Services likely accounts for more than half of all Amazon profits expected this year, Seeking Alpha wrote, which makes the service "the only bright spot in Amazon's portfolio, and, by extension, means that the situation in other businesses is even worse....

"The bottom-line here is that AWS is a viable growing business, but it will be a few more years before it is big enough to contribute at least $1 billion to Amazon's profits. By that time investors may start questioning the wisdom of moving all these packages around, streaming movies and selling tablets at a loss, when most profits come from the services division."


Other Press: Bookselling Without Borders Scholarship


Notes

Image of the Day: Hulks in Seattle

At Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle last weekend, Arsenal Pulp Press launched David L. Chapman's Universal Hunks. The event featured a posing demonstration by professional body builders Benny Mobley and Michael Landon and amateur Peter Cheah (pictured here with the author--can you guess which one he is?).


NetGalley: Bookish First


Cool Coincidence of the Day--Or Not?

Today is pub date for The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Little, Brown), whose title refers to a 1654 painting by Dutch artist Carel Fabritius that, at the beginning of the book, is on loan to the Metropolitian Museum of Art--and is taken by the narrator when a terrorist bomb explodes in the museum, killing his mother.

Strikingly, The Goldfinch, which usually hangs in the Hague's Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis (currently closed for renovation), is part of an exhibition featuring Dutch masters that opens today at the Frick Collection in New York City. A Frick spokeswoman told the New York Times that exhibition was planned "without knowledge of Ms. Tartt's book."


Chronicle Books: William Wegman: Being Human by William Wegman and William A. Ewing


Happy 35th Birthday, Annie Bloom's Books!

Congratulations to Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, Ore., which celebrates its 35th anniversary beginning Tuesday, October 29, with a daily drawing for a $35 gift card each day next week, as well as a free book bag with purchases of $35 or more. On Friday, November 1, at 6 p.m., the store will hold an anniversary party, coinciding with First Friday in the Village, at which it will serve cupcakes, champagne, wine, and cheese and crackers. The store will also hold a pair of drawings that evening, for God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant and The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.


Disney-Hyperion: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner


Wordstock Celebrates the Word

Earlier this month, Wordstock, Portland, Ore., held a week-long celebration of the written word with more than 160 events throughout the city. The "festival of words" culminated with a weekend book fair featuring author panels, writing workshops and exhibitions at the Oregon Convention Center.

Hawthorne Press editor Liz Crain with Wordstock founder Larry Colton.

"There's something about Portland to me that feels like everything about it is a story," said Bitsie Tulloch, an actress on NBC's television show Grimm, after she and her co-star, Silas Wier Mitchell, read from the original Grimm Brothers' fairy tales to a packed house.

In its ninth year and with 13,000 attendees, Wordstock attempts to cover all angles of the life of a book--from writing to publishing to promoting and finally selling. Some 230 authors took part, including T.C. Boyle, Chelsea Cain, Jamie Ford, A.M. Homes, Ayana Mathis, Rick Moody and Alissa Nutting.

"These are some pretty vibrant times for fans of books and literature," said guest curator Kevin Sampsell, novelist, publisher and Powell's Books bookseller. "Wordstock aims to celebrate all of these people--writers, readers, thinkers and lovers."

This was Wordstock's last year at the Oregon Convention Center. The festival is taking off next year and will return in March 2015 on the Portland State University campus.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Lilac Lane by Sheryl Woods


Consortium Adds Three Publishers

Consortium Book Sales & Distribution has added three publishers:

Auzou, Paris, France, which has published children's books for more than 40 years, focussing on early childhood books, albums and novelty books and educational books. For the past two years, Auzou has begun translating titles for the North American market. Consortium begins distributing the company's titles January 1.
Sweetmeats Press, Toluca Lake, Calif., which specializes in both illustrated and unillustrated erotic literature, some 80% of which is written and illustrated by women. Consortium will begin distribution of the company's titles January 1.
Stark Raving Group, Beverly Hills, Calif., which publishes only short e-books of 70 to 120 pages, mainly mysteries, crime fiction, adventure and thrillers. Consortium's agreement with Stark Raving Group is effective immediately.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Howard G. Buffett on Morning Joe

Today on MSNBC's the Cycle: Ira Stoll, author of JFK, Conservative (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547585987).

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Today on Hannity: Peter Schweizer, author of Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780544103344). Tomorrow he'll appear on Fox & Friends.

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Tomorrow morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Howard G. Buffett, author of 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451687866). He will also appear on Charlie Rose.

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Tomorrow morning on Imus in the Morning: Jeff Greenfield, author of If Kennedy Lived: The First and Second Terms of President John F. Kennedy: An Alternate History (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399166969). He will also appear on MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner.

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Tomorrow on Live With Kelly and Michael: John Lithgow, author of Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781442467439).

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Tomorrow on Katie: Hannah Luce, co-author of Fields of Grace: Faith, Friendship, and the Day I Nearly Lost Everything (Atria, $25, 9781476729602).

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Tomorrow on the Rachael Ray Show: Scott Conant, author of The Scarpetta Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35, 9781118508701).

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Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Dick Cheney and Jonathan Reiner, authors of Heart: An American Medical Odyssey (Scribner, $28, 9781476725390).

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Tomorrow on Extra: Tori Spelling, author of Spelling It Like It Is (Gallery, $26, 9781451628593).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Pat Conroy, author of The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son (Nan A. Talese, $28.95, 9780385530903).

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Charles Krauthammer, author of Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics (Crown Forum, $28, 9780385349178).


TV: Philip Marlowe Series

ABC "is taking another crack at bringing one of the most famous detective literary characters to primetime" by putting into development a Philip Marlowe drama project, inspired by Raymond Chandler's legendary private detective, Deadline.com reported. The project is being led by Castle creator/executive producer/showrunner Andrew Marlowe (no relation to the fictional P.I.) and movie producer Michael De Luca (Captain Phillips, Fifty Shades of Grey). The prospective show is described as "a smart, sexy and stylish update of Chandler's character which follows the investigations of wisecracking, edgy and rugged private detective Philip Marlowe as he navigates the morally complicated world of today's Los Angeles--here the bright California sun casts long and dangerous shadows... and where true love can be more difficult to find than justice," Deadline.com wrote.


Movies: Blood on the Snow; Into the Forest

Warner Bros. is "near a deal" for Blood on the Snow, the first of a two-novel series by Jo Nesbø that will be developed for Leonardo DiCaprio. Deadline.com reported that the book, "written under the pseudonym Tom Johansson," will be published next spring by Knopf, "with the sequel, More Blood on the Water, to be published the following year. A year after that, Nesbø will release The Kidnapping, which is kind of connected to all this in that the kidnap victim is Tom Johansson, as Nesbø's pseudonym becomes a character in his own right."

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Evan Rachel Wood will play Ellen Page's sister in Into the Forest, adapted from Jean Hegland's novel by Patricia Rozema (Grey Gardens, Mansfield Park), who is also directing, Deadline.com reported.



Books & Authors

Awards: Whiting Winners; Red House Children's Book

Last evening the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation announced the 10 recipients of the Whiting Writers' Awards, given annually since 1985 to writers of exceptional talent and promise in their early careers. Each writer receives $50,000. The 2013 winners are:

  • Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams, fiction/nonfiction
  • Amanda Coplin, fiction
  • Jennifer duBois, fiction
  • Virginia Grise, plays
  • Ishion Hutchinson, poetry
  • Morgan Meis, nonfiction
  • C.E. Morgan, fiction
  • Rowan Ricardo Phillips, poetry
  • Clifford Thompson, fiction/nonfiction
  • Stephanie Powell Watts, fiction

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Finalists have been named for the Red House Children's Book Award, a U.K. prize voted for entirely by kids, BBC News reported. The winner will be honored in London February 22, 2014. The shortlisted titles are:

Books for Younger Children
Superworm by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Walter and The No Need To Worry Suit by Rachel Bright
How To Hide A Lion by Helen Stephens
Hippospotamus by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Books for Younger Readers
The Land of Neverbelieve by Norman Messenger
Atticus Claw Breaks the Law by Jennifer Gray
Claude In The Country by Alex T Smith

Books for Older Readers
Killing Rachel by Anne Cassidy
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer


Book Review

Review: The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood

The Boy Detective: A New York Childhood by Roger Rosenblatt (Ecco, $19.99 hardcover, 9780062241337, November 5, 2013)

In The Boy Detective, Roger Rosenblatt transforms a winter night's walk through the streets of New York City into a wide-ranging excursion into the territory of memory that invites comparison to Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City. Following the tragedy-inspired memoirs Making Toast and Kayak Morning, this book allows Rosenblatt to showcase his capacious intellect and gift for wry humor.

Rosenblatt's childhood in an eight-room apartment just off Manhattan's Gramercy Park provides the rich lode of inspiration for the sometimes loosely connected musings that compose the book. In the 1940s and '50s, he embarked on "boyhood detecting prowls," fancying himself a junior Sherlock Holmes (with a dash of Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and other literary detectives thrown in for good measure) as he tailed innocent citizens through his neighborhood. Repeatedly identifying an affinity between detective work and writing, Rosenblatt makes an intriguing case for a shared sympathy that links the professions: "Both see people for what they are," he writes, "judging privately, yet leaving cosmic judgment to others--perhaps the deepest sort of sympathy there is."

If he "had to choose one place to make my stand," Rosenblatt says, it would be "the midway point between poetry and prose," and his writing is firmly rooted in that ground. Reflecting on the elusive boundary separating dreams and memory or summoning up a rare tender moment shared with his emotionally distant physician father, he has a gift for sharp turns of phrase--as when he confesses he was "more book-storeish than bookish"--coupled with penetrating insights. Ranging across decades of New York history, Rosenblatt is a knowledgeable and generous tour guide, pointing out the Gramercy Park connections of Herman Melville, Edith Wharton and Humphrey Bogart (as well as E.B. White's Stuart Little), as well as locating the nearby site of the original Madison Square Garden. And though The Boy Detective doesn't come close to being an instructional manual on memoir writing, Rosenblatt still offers some useful, if unconventional, tips to aspiring memoirists.

Memoir, urban travelogue or summing up of a career grounded in the written word, Roger Rosenblatt's The Boy Detective is an elegant and wise journey through an incomparable city and a meaning-filled life. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: A walking tour of Roger Rosenblatt's childhood neighborhood inspires a rich collection of personal reflections--and an intriguing argument for linking the work of detectives and writers.


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