Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 10, 2014


Bantam: The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz

DK Publishing: Stock Your Shelves for Easter!

Soho Press: D'Arc (War with No Name #2) by Robert Repino

Workman Publishing: Flow

Center Street: Death Need Not Be Fatal by Malachy McCourt and Brian McDonald

RosettaBooks: Gratitude in Low Voices: A Memoir by Dawit Gebremichael Habte

News

B&N Holiday Sales: Nook Plummets, Stores Stabilize

Barnes & Noble sales during the holiday period--the nine weeks ended December 28--were decidedly mixed, as Nook division revenues continued to fall substantially, dropping 60.5%, to $125 million, while bricks-and-mortar stores appeared to stem their sales declines of the past few years, with sales down 6.6%, to $1.1 billion, and down just 0.2% when Nook products are excluded.

Wall Street seemed to like the news: yesterday B&N shares rose 7.1%, to $15.67.

The company noted that store sales fell in part because of store closings as well as a drop in sales at stores open at least a year of 5.5%.

Nook device and accessories sales fell 66.7%, to $88.7 million, because of "lower unit selling volume and lower average selling prices." Digital content sales were down 27.3%, to $36.5 million, because of "lower device unit sales and lower average selling prices."

The Nook has been hit by several difficult trends: lower e-book prices, in part because of the Justice Department suit; the dominance of tablets over dedicated e-reading devices, where B&N can barely compete; and a slowdown in the growth in popularity of e-books. B&N said that its share of the e-book market is about 20%, down from previous years' estimates of about 25%.

Michael P. Huseby, B&N's newly appointed CEO, said that the company was "pleased with our holiday sales results, especially our core comparable bookstore sales, which were essentially flat and an improvement as compared to the first half of the year. During the holiday period we benefited from a strong line-up of bestselling titles, great execution by our booksellers and merchants, an effective advertising campaign and strong increases in our Juvenile, Gift and Toys & Games categories."

He added that Nook sales declined largely because the company had not introduced new tablets this season and "instead we executed our plan to sell through our existing high-quality devices."

Huseby told the Wall Street Journal that reversing the decline in digital sales is "a big challenge" and that B&N is talking with other tablet makers about giving the Nook store more prominence on their devices. Also B&N will encourage Nook owners to use their devices, he said, adding, "We have a lot of customers who have bought devices but aren't buying as much content as we'd like."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo


General Retail Sales in December: Stronger than Expected

Aggressive discounting "boosted overall industry sales but hurt profits at many chains" in December, Reuters reported. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year increased "a stronger-than-expected" 2.4% at the nine retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters, which had projected 1.9% growth, compared with a 7.2% jump a year earlier.

"I would categorize it as a season most retailers would prefer to forget about," Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics told the New York Times. Contrasting the retail results with an improving employment, rising stock market and increasing home values, he said it was "a tough holiday season."


Disney-Hyperion: Welcome by Mo Willems


Amazon: France Nixes Free Delivery; Kindle Kiosks Pop Up

Calling the move "a bid to protect France's independent bookshops," France 24 reported that the French Senate has approved a bill that would ban online vendors like Amazon from offering free delivery.

The legislation, which would allow online retailers to cut the regular delivery price by up to 5%, "differs slightly from a bill passed in parliament's lower house in October," CTV News wrote, adding that the two houses "are working out final language for the bill."
 
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photo: GeekWire

Amazon's Kindle Kiosk vending machines, which first popped up in late November at the Westfield San Francisco Centre mall, are now appearing in a variety of locations, including events, malls and airports, according to GeekWire, which spotted one this week at the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, site of this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

"We're very happy with the customer response so far, and are excited to give customers (like you!) another easy way to purchase accessories and also Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets," an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire. 


Counterpoint: Grace by Natashia Deon


IndieReader Launches IRIS with Edelweiss

IndieReader, the consumer guide to self-published books and their authors, has launched IndieReader In-Store (IRIS), which helps self-published authors to get their titles on Edelweiss. The cost to indie authors is $399 per title and includes an IndieReader book review that will accompany the title in the Edelweiss database. The fee also includes entry in the Edelweiss Digital Review Copy (DRC) module. Similar in function to NetGalley, this is a secure, controlled way for authors to share their DRCs with reviewers, bloggers, librarians, media, booksellers, wholesalers, etc. Additional services, including various forms of bookstore outreach, are available for additional fees.

Amy Edelman, founder of IndieReader, commented: "One of the biggest challenges indie authors face is getting their books into bricks-and-mortar stores. It took Edelweiss--and the growing interest among book buyers to carry self-published titles in their stores--to help solve the problem."

She added: "The recent issue of self-pubbed e-books being pulled off virtual shelves only highlights the need for self-published authors to make sure their titles are in more than one basket. And while there is no guarantee that all books will be bought by all stores, this at least puts indie titles and other pertinent information under one trusted brand name in front of interested retailers. And that's a helluva lot closer than they have been before."

John Rubin, CEO of Above the Treeline, which created Edelweiss, said, "It's great to have a way for indie authors to get their titles on to Edelweiss for professional readers to find. With our new 'Community' feature, booksellers and librarians can also now share lists of their favorite indie titles with their peers--which could be a great way for these professionals to share indie author success stories."


ECW Press: The Dhow House by Jean McNeil


Rowman & Littlefield Buys Alban Institute Book Program

Rowman & Littlefield has acquired the book program of the Alban Institute, which includes some 270 active book titles with a focus on church governance, leadership and development and a strong presence in online sales, sales to congregations, ministers and lay church leaders, seminaries, schools, and libraries. Rowman & Littlefield plans to increase the annual title output from 10-12 to 25-30 books under the combined Rowman & Littlefield and Alban imprint. Alban's longtime director of publishing, Richard Bass, will join Rowman & Littlefield as a consulting editor.

Founded in 1974, the Alban Institute, Herndon, Va., operates as a consultant to individual church congregations, denominations, and church leaders and ministers primarily in the Protestant community of North America.

Rowman & Littlefield president and CEO Jed Lyons commented: "The addition of the Alban program to Rowman & Littlefield's religion publishing portfolio is an outgrowth of our history of acquiring respected imprints in the discipline and maintaining them as co-publishing partners," including Sheed & Ward, Cowley Publishing and Jason Aronson.

Effective February 1, orders for Alban books will be handled by Rowman & Littlefield's Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., distribution center.


DK Publishing: Out of the Box by Jemma Westing


NetGalley, ABA Team Up for Digital White Box

The American Booksellers Association and NetGalley have teamed up to launch Digital White Box, a program designed to help publishers introduce new titles to ABA members via NetGalley. The initiative complements ABA's longstanding Red and White Box programs, which provide physical galleys and book promo information to ABA member stores. NetGalley will provide support for booksellers accessing galleys digitally. A sign-up page for ABA members is available at Bookweb.org.

"Every individual working at an ABA member store is a natural recommender," said Joy Dallanegra-Sanger, senior program officer at the ABA. "This program will give more of those individuals the ability to read titles early, and give more publishers the opportunity to introduce a broader selection of titles to indie booksellers."

Susan Ruszala, NetGalley's president, noted: "If more individual booksellers can use our service to preview a more diverse selection of new titles, everyone wins. We're looking forward to working with more indie booksellers and expanding the features we offer to this community."

NetGalley will meet with indie booksellers at the ABA's Winter Institute later this month to answer questions and help booksellers sign up for the Digital White Box program. The first selection of titles will be offered in early February.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Touch by Courtney Maum


ABFFE Children's Art Auction at WI9

The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will conduct a silent auction of children's book art at the American Booksellers Association's Winter Institute 9. More than 30 works by leading artists will be auctioned, with proceeds going to support ABFFE, the Kids' Right to Read Project and Banned Books Week.

The event, which will take place during the author reception on Thursday, January 23, 6-7:30 p.m., in the lobby of the Seattle Westin, includes pieces by Ruth Lercher Bornstein, Ricardo Cortes, David McPhail, Tracey Campbell Pearson, Beth Peck and Adam Rex. In addition, more than a dozen works will be sold in a raffle during the auction.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


Obituary Note: Amiri Baraka

Playwright, poet, critic and activist Amiri Baraka, "one of the most prominent and controversial African American voices in the world of American letters," died yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was 79. Newark Mayor Luis Quintana told the Star-Ledger that the former New Jersey poet laureate will be sorely missed: "He was more than a poet; he was a leader in his own right."

"His fingerprints were everywhere. One cannot talk about black literature, black politics, black music, black theater or even blackness without mentioning the name Amiri Baraka," poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller wrote on his blog yesterday. "Yes, for many of us he was like a father--a guiding star. He was a cultural activist who taught us how to understand the motion of history. He was controversial at times because he was passionate and the times and our social condition demanded nothing less. Baraka taught us how to examine our beauty as well as our ugliness."


Notes

Image of the Day: Champagne Toast for Modesitt

On Wednesday author L.E. Modesitt surprised Macmillan sales executives by showing up unexpectedly at a Tor sales meeting. With champagne, the group celebrated nearly 30 years of publishing Modesitt as well as his latest book, Rex Regis, which went on sale Tuesday.

The author is the dapper fellow wearing the red tie near the center, with Steve Kleckner, v-p, director of merchandise sales, to his left; to his right are senior editor David Hartwell and Malati Chavali, e-book channel director. Also in the picture, among others: Alison Lazarus, president of sales; Christine Jaeger, senior national accounts manager; and Ken Holland, v-p, director of sales; Brian Heller, v-p, sales; Tom Doherty, president and publisher of Tor; Don O'Connor, national accounts manager, trade sales; Krista Loercher, senior national account manager; and A.J. Murphy, national account manager, trade sales.


Mr. Mopps' Children's Books: 'Immersive Literary Environment'

photo: John McMurtrie

"We wanted it to be like a study that happens to be full of kids' books," Devin McDonald, co-owner (with his wife, Jenny Stevenson) of Mr. Mopps' Children's Books, told the San Francisco Chronicle, which profiled the bookstore that opened in October. "We didn't want to make it feel kiddy; we wanted to make it feel like an immersive literary environment for kids. I think one of the awesome results of that is that parents love being here as well."

Mr. Mopps' "is an offshoot of the popular Mr. Mopps' toy shop, which began life as a bookstore in 1962, a few doors down Martin Luther King Jr. Way," the Chronicle noted, adding that the new space "went through a major redesign before opening. Beautiful bamboo flooring was added and the ceiling and walls were painted in pleasing shades of lime green and pale yellow. A globe, dinosaur skeleton and telescope complement the books."


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Co-merchandising' in Oshkosh

Apple Blossom Books, Oshkosh, Wis., "has hit on a successful combination for increased book sales. Over the past 4 years, owner Candy Pearson has created a unique collaborative relationship with her neighbor, Caramel Crisp & Cafe," the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association reported.

During the recent holiday season, Pearson and cafe owner Chanda Anderson "put their relationship to the test in a bigger way by co-merchandising. Bringing together the best of both stores, they created a wide array of gift packages that mingled their merchandise, pairing baby outfits with board books, or wine glasses with a book on wine tasting. They put the pairings in beautiful packages and displayed them throughout both stores, allowing customers to buy whatever they liked from the displays," MIBA noted.

"The feedback has been phenomenal. People loved the one-stop shopping and the adorable, unique gifts," said Pearson. "Up until we did the packaging, my sales were down over last year by 28%. After the packaging, my sales were up by 2.5%. So overall my sales increased by over 30%."

Although they had previously opened up space for a glass door between the two businesses, now Pearson and Anderson are tearing down more of the wall, painting and adding track lighting.

"I think collaborations like the one I have with Caramel Crisp Cafe might be the way for bookstores to survive and promote a network of indie stores as a desirable shopping destination," said Pearson.


Lisa Krebs Magno Leaves IBPA After 16 Years

Lisa Krebs Magno has left her position as assistant director of the Independent Book Publishers Association after 16 years with the organization, earlier known as PMA. She is seeking new opportunities and may be reached at LisaKMagno@yahoo.com or 310-686-1065.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jane Pauley

Today on BBC News: John Rizzo, author of Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA (Scribner, $28, 9781451673937).

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Today on CNN's Newsroom: David Menasche, author of The Priority List: A Teacher's Final Quest to Discover Life's Greatest Lessons (Touchstone, $24, 9781476743448).

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Sunday on CBS's Sunday Morning: Jane Pauley, author of Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476733760).

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Sunday on CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS: Dr. David B. Agus, author of A Short Guide to a Long Life (Simon & Schuster, $17.95, 9781476730950). He will also be on CNBC's On the Money.


TV: Petals on the Wind

Lifetime's "hotly awaited Flowers in the Attic hasn't even premiered yet, but the network is so excited about the film's prospects it's already working on a sequel," Entertainment Weekly reported. The network is developing V.C. Andrews's second novel in the series, Petals on the Wind, which screenwriter Kayla Alpert describes as taking place 10 years after the first film "and I'll just say its a very juicy and compelling revenge drama." Flowers in the Attic premieres January 18.


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
Brown Dog: Novellas by Jim Harrison (Grove Press, $27, 9780802120113). "I've been reading Jim Harrison since I was 16 years old and always look forward to another of his books. Brown Dog is an especially big treat since it brings together five previously published novellas as well as a sixth one never before published entitled, 'He Dog.' Reading all of the novellas, one realizes that the portrait of the travails of Brown Dog is one of the greatest literary journeys of our time." --Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, Miss.

The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250016300). "In 1919, Cathleen Harrington, a young woman from a poor Irish family, emigrates to South Africa to marry a man unknown to her. She befriends the black housekeeper and her baby and makes them both feel that her home is their home, while ignoring the rules of white society where the power of skin is greater than the closest ties of blood. Cathleen teaches Ada, her housekeeper's daughter, to read and play the piano, and Ada becomes a woman with wisdom and intelligence to rival that of any educated child. The Housemaid's Daughter is a novel to cherish and share with all ages." --Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, Mich.

Paperback
For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey by Richard Blanco (Beacon Press, $15, 9780807033807). "Blanco's book is truly for all of us. His heartwarming memoir--complete with humility, awe, joy, and hope--allows readers an intimate peek into his world to share one man's realization of his American Dream. The three poems Blanco wrote for consideration by the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee are accessible to even the most lay readers of poetry. This is a book to read and re-read, and to share with family and friends. A lovely gift, it both aspires and affirms." --Dawn Rennert, the Concord Bookshop, Concord, Mass.

For Teen Readers
Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 9780062006165). "Inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, this novel has everything that I loved from Peterfreund's previous book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, but with a story all its own: a fast-paced plot, a captivating post-apocalyptic setting, crazy-enough-to-be-plausible technology, and a simmering romance. Across a Star-Swept Sea is an enchanting amalgam of adventure, political espionage, romance, and science fiction, tinged with humor and wrapped in a sparkling futuristic world." --Lelia Nebeker, One More Page, Arlington, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Brahmin: Mark Pryor

photo: Alia Michelle Photography

Mark Pryor is the author of the Hugo Marston mystery novels (The Bookseller; The Crypt Thief) set in Paris, France. He was born and raised in England, where he worked as a newspaper reporter in Essex. Now he's a prosecutor for the Travis County D.A.'s office, where he's handled felony cases including rape, robbery and murder. He is the creator of the true crime blog D.A. Confidential. Pryor has appeared on CBS News's 48 Hours and Discovery Channel's Discovery ID: Cold Blood and has written for the Huffington Post and Salon.com. His new book is The Blood Promise (Seventh Street Books, January 14, 2014).

On your nightstand now:

The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas, The Blackhouse by Peter May and Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. That book is a beautiful tale of the power of the imagination.

Your top five authors:

Alan Furst, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Eric Ambler and Fred Vargas.

Book you've faked reading:

I can't bring myself to pretend I've read a book when I haven't, but the book I'm slowest to admit I've not read is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Original, irreverent, funny and subversive--four qualities I'd like to exhibit more often, in life and in my writing.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Do people really do that? I won't discount the importance of a good cover, but I can't imagine buying a book solely for that reason.

Book that changed your life:

Don't think ill of me, but Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. The book opened my eyes to the possibilities of evil in the world, and also the struggle of the good against truly dark people. With his book, my fascination with crime began leading to a career as a police reporter, and then a prosecutor.

Favorite line from a book:

The most recent one I can think of comes from a story (Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason) in which an innocent woman has decided which of two men to trust with her life, both of whom have killed people:

She pounded on the hood of the car and yelled, "Just tell me one thing!" Frozen in the expectation of a rhetorical hailstorm, Jason didn't even breathe. "Just tell me I didn't take up with the wrong f**king murderer!"

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Any of the early Adventures of Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo.


Book Review

Review: The Guts

Guts by Roddy Doyle (Viking, $27.95 hardcover, 9780670016433, January 27, 2014)

Jimmy Rabbitte, the singular hero of Roddy Doyle's 1987 debut novel, The Commitments, makes a bittersweet yet triumphant return in The Guts. Now middle-aged, Jimmy has a successful suburban life with his wife, Aoife, and their four children, all of whom he deeply loves. Still in thrall to the music of his youth, he's run with Aoife's brilliant idea of finding the musicians from old bands and bringing them together to play their resurrected albums and has created a semi-profitable business called kelticpunk.com. He meets his father regularly at the pub for a pint and conversation and even reconnects with some of the former members of the Commitments, especially guitarist "Outspan" and the still-flirtatious Imelda Quirk.

Jimmy has also been diagnosed with bowel cancer; the treatments leave him with memory lapses while his business flounders. In an effort to exploit the upcoming Eucharistic Congress, last held in 1932, he tries to track down original 1930s-era music, but when he fails to find it, he presses his eldest son into a dubious scheme to substitute his own.

As is Doyle's trademark, the characters in The Guts are laconic, their conversations matter-of-fact. Their speech is informal, mostly half-sentences and incomplete thoughts, marked by dashes instead of quotation marks to draw the reader into the conversation, bringing us fully into Jimmy's life as it unfolds. A few pages of terse but pitch-perfect dialogue can carry complete subplots full of devastating emotional currents no less powerful for being unspoken. Doyle pushes this technique further by incorporating text messages--and these characters text constantly, with brief messages that seem similarly mundane but reveal everything about their lives.

Jimmy may make his living by plying nostalgia, and The Guts rests on the notion of time's passing and what endures, but it is not a nostalgic novel. It avoids the emotional pitfalls of its premise and becomes a celebration of the quotidian guts of life--its difficulties and hard, arbitrary tragedies, but also its joys. Doyle's characters are flawed but human and sympathetic. Only Aoife seems slightly unrealized: she is almost too perfect. Still, this novel is a triumph, and the last section in particular, with everyone at the climactic music festival, is as exuberant and celebratory as we all want life to be. --Jeanette Zwart

Shelf Talker: Doyle's often funny, bittersweet and unsentimental follow-up to The Commitments re-introduces Jimmy Rabbitte, now facing his mortality yet still finding joy in the music and people he loves.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Dear FutureMe: The Universe Is Expanding... in 3D

Dear FutureMe,

Hope you've stopped worrying. I can't. There are weeks when even the most optimistic toilers in the field of bookselling have their "The universe is expanding.... What's the point?" moments. In Woody Allen's 1977 film Annie Hall, after young Alvy Singer's mother scolds him ("Brooklyn's not expanding!") because he's stopped doing his homework under the intense pressure of cosmic destruction, Dr. Flicker waves his hand grandly through the air and says, "It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!"

My own universe-is-expanding-what's-the-point moment of doubt arrives annually while reading dispatches from the Consumer Electronics Show. This year, just as I'd finally come to terms with the weirdly commonplace nature of e-books floating in the virtual ether and POD titles instantly available in certain indie bookshops, I learned that I now must gear up for the oncoming ubiquity of a "3D printing trend" that "bodes a future in which shoes, eyeglass frames toys and more are printed at home as easily as documents," as AFP described it.  

At CES, musician will.i.am, speaking as "creative officer for 3D Systems," predicted that within a decade, "3D printers will be in your house like refrigerators, TVs and microwaves."

Is that true, FutureMe?

And just when I was thinking print books might be a refuge for now from this one aspect of digital nation's manifest destiny, I read in Time about the intriguing limited edition of Chang-rae Lee's new novel On Such a Full Sea, which "brings publishing into the future (or, rather, one possible future)" with a 3D-printed slipcover that "features the letters of the title rising off the surface at an angle." Time called the innovation "one direction in which the publishing industry could move, at a time when the future of the physical book remains in question: providing fewer readers who are willing to pay more for each purchase with a reason to splurge for the physical object rather than the digital version, turning books into luxury objects."

Five years ago, Brooklyn-based MakerBot was the only 3D printer company at CES. "Now, it is surrounded by rivals on a large section of show floor devoted to the trend," according to AFP. Company spokesperson Jenifer Howard said, "We feel like this is the year of 3D printing." Was it, FutureMe?

MakerBot plans to market a 3-D Replicator Mini printer this spring for $1,375. "We believe that the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem we are presenting to the world fulfills the vision of a 3D printer for everyone," said company CEO Bre Pettis. "We have laid the groundwork for everyone to be able to be a creative explorer."

Why am I worrying then? I happen to be really good at adapting. POD and e-books already seem so turn-of-the-century to me. And if we really want to get all big-picture about this, as the BBC did recently with its "Timeline for the Far Future," in a thousand years most of our words will be extinct and in a hundred quintillion years the earth will die. Young Alvy Singer didn't know the half of it.

Do you have a 3D printer, FutureMe? Are you printing out life-size characters and scenes to re-create novels in your house and backyard? What do you do with your 3D Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer after you've "read" them? Are they recyclable?

Whatever mind-boggling predictions you're dealing with in your time, FutureMe, please take solace in knowing that some of them will happen (like Arthur C. Clarke's 1974 spot-on explanation of life with a desktop computer), but not all (still waiting for those affordable flying cars). The trick is, as ever, to make our peace with The Machine without getting crushed in its gears or motherboards--or whatever the hell is being invented now to crush you/me later.  

Here, at the dawn of 2014, CES and 3D printers notwithstanding, I'm trying to worry less and be more optimistic. Why? Many reasons. Consider Greenlight Bookstore, Community Book Store, WORD, powerHouse Arena, BookCourt, Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers.... It turns out that Little Alvy Singer's mother was wrong. Brooklyn is expanding, which gives me hope for the future of indie booksellers everywhere.

Thanks for listening, FutureMe. Write when you can. I'd love to hear from you.

P.S.: How did those Amazon Prime Air delivery drones work out? --Robert Gray, contributing editor


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