Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Quotation of the Day
'When a bookstore opens its door. . .'"When a bookstore opens its door, the rest of the world enters, too, the day's weather and the day's news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain--books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can't help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time."--Lewis Buzbee, writing professor at the University of San Francisco, former bookseller and rep and author of the new The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (Graywolf, $17, 1555974503), which is quoted in the Contra Costa Times.
Notes: Federal Library Case Ends; Grogan PromotedThe Justice Department has dropped its effort to force Library Connection, a Connecticut library consortium, to provide information about a patron's Internet usage, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent out a release on the subject yesterday.
Justice Department representatives told the New York Times that they gave up the battle because they were able "to discount the threat using other means and pronounce their investigation complete." They also criticized the librarians. U.S. attorney Kevin O'Connor said of them: "What are you celebrating? You're celebrating the fact that you prevented the government from investigating a potential terrorist threat."
George Christian, executive director of Library Connection, begged to differ, telling the Times that if the government's demand for records had been in the form of a court-sanctioned subpoena or warrant, the group would have been "as cooperative as possible." But the group decided to question the request's constitutionality because it was made in the form of a national security letter, which requires no judicial review. "I never for a moment doubted we were doing the right thing," he added.
Until recently (Shelf Awareness, May 30), the librarians were prevented from discussing the case.
Today's New York Times surveys Jamaican literature, which, it writes, traditionally has been "grounded in folklore and rural byways, or has consisted of chronicles of colonialism and of the island's violent political conflicts. Frequently the subject was migration." Now however, the focus has changed. At the Calabash International Literary Festival in Jamaica, for example, the goal "is to nurture a new generation of writers who are beyond post-colonialism, and who are riding on the power of the reggae movement."
Brian Grogan has been promoted to senior v-p, sales, for general books at HarperCollins. He was formerly senior v-p, director of distributor sales. In his new position, Grogan will direct the field sales force as well as continue directing sales to mass retailers, airports, the military, supermarkets and wholesale clubs. He was also be responsible for sales of adult books to Ingram. He joined Avon 10 years ago and HarperCollins in 1999. Josh Marwell called him "one of the best sales talents in our industry."
Who's That Writer in the Window?Remember the spate of stories last winter about cars crashing into bookstores? For one of the stores on the receiving end of this phenomenon--the Bookstack, Staunton, Va.--the crash was a catalyst to try something owner Suzi Armstrong had thought about for some time: bookstore "performance art." She had been intrigued by the crowds a local glass art shop drew when it had offered free glass blowing demonstrations on site.
All last week the front window of the Bookstack featured Clifford Garstang, a local writer who offered a day-by-day account of his performance in his blog. (Scroll down for last week's entries.) Most people who were interested merely watched, although a few engaged in conversation.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Helen Thomas Answers QuestionsThis morning on the Today Show: Christopher Noxon, author of Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-up (Crown, $23.95, 1400080886). He also appears later today on NPR's Talk of the Nation.
Today on the Diane Rehm Show, Susan Richards Shreve talks about A Student of Living Things (Viking, $24.95, 0670037583).
Today on Fresh Air: Steven Miles, author of Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror (Random House, $23.95, 140006578X).
Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Helen Thomas, longtime Washington reporter, discusses her new book, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public (Scribner, $25, 0743267818).
Books & Authors
Prize: The Samuel Johnson WinnerJames Shapiro, the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, has won the BBC 4-Samuel Johnson Prize of £30,000 (about $55,000) for his book 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare. Harper Perennial published the U.S. paperback edition of the book, called A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 ($14.95, 0060088745), last week. This is Britain's most valuable prize for nonfiction.
Attainment: New Books Out Next WeekAppearing on Tuesday, July 4:
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (Random House, $25.95, 1400061261) is a comedy-mystery about a series of strange or unfortunate events that cause a small Southern town to question the meaning of existence.
Appearing on Thursday, July 6:
Talk Talk by T. Coraghessan Boyle (Viking, $25.95, 0670037702) follows Bridger's hunt for the man whose identity theft scam has left his girlfriend facing multiple felony charges with no way to clear her name.
Wives Behaving Badly by Elizabeth Buchan (Viking, $24.95, 0670034886) unfolds as karma catches up with Minty Lloyd, who recently stole Rose's husband and job. Minty finds motherhood a burden and becomes challenged at work by younger, unattached associates.
Now in paperback, appearing Wednesday, July 5:
The Bormann Testament by Jack Higgins (Berkley, $7.99, 0425212319). A reprint of a 20-year-old title originally called The Testament of Caspar Schultz.
Fire Sale by Sara Paretsky (Signet, $9.99, 045121899X).
Overeager about HarryOops. Magic's involved, but it's not that powerful. In yesterday's issue, we referred to the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which will be released July 13. That is, of course, in 2007.
Robert Gray's First 'Siteseeing' Stop: breathe books"New ground, these days, is rare."--Sybille Bedford, Pleasures and Landscapes
The Information Highway seems to offer unlimited "new ground" to explore. Bookstore Web sites tend to play it safe, however, as if in fear that the online world is flat and they might fall off the edge should they venture too far.
In my first column, I asked why independent bookstores had Web sites. Now we'll begin a virtual pilgrimage to discover some answers; to find out not only why bookshops create the sites they do, but what their online expectations are.
For a number of understandable reasons, including issues of discounting and shipping fees, indies aren't necessarily online to challenge the Goliaths--Amazon or B&N.com--head to head. If a rock and slingshot just won't work anymore, how can a bookstore stake a viable and productive claim out here?
There are so many places to explore, but I'd like to begin with a small bookshop in Baltimore, Md., called breathe books. It's an example of what can, or cannot, be done with limited funds and expectations. We'll visit more ambitious sites in our travels, but breathe books proves that even a modest approach can project a welcoming image and an open window to interactivity; a feeling that there is a human being on the other side of the home page.
Owner Susan Weis, who launched the site when she opened her store in late October, 2004, says that she wanted her Web site to "be a reflection of the store (and maybe me)--a warm, inviting, non-intimidating space; a place to explore at leisure and to be able to feel comfortable asking questions and just hanging out."
From the beginning, Weis focused upon communication rather than direct online sales ("I didn't think, as a one-person shop, that I could maintain it properly"), though the site does generate some e-mail and phone orders.
She believes that the site helps her sustain relationships with customers throughout the region. "We are in regular touch with them," she says. "They either e-mail or call me--we like personal contact here. The e-mails come directly to me, and if I'm away, my employees handle it. We answer everyone."
Weis displays a personal e-mail address, email@example.com, but has not found this to be problematic. "People feel more connected," she says. "They see my photo on the Web site, so they know who is reading their email. I find info@ addresses to be a bit cold and impersonal." E-mails are current forwarded to her AOL account, though she is considering a switch to Google's Gmail, which she believes has superior options for sorting, filing and searching.
Despite the modest appearance of the breathe books site, Weis is able to garner a wealth of information about her online visitors. The statistics page gives her an hour-by-hour read on hits, so she can gauge the most opportune times to update. It also informs her "where the person is on the globe. I was recently in India and Bhutan. I saw that people I'd met were checking out the site because I had numerous hits from there."
She's also interested in how visitors find her site because checking referrals can be a useful tool. "It's great for marketing," says Weis. "For instance, so many hits come from government or medical institutions (Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, Social Security Administration), so I can tailor my events for our primary audience."
While the breathe books site may not be a webmaster's dream, it does showcase a personal and interactive approach to establishing an online presence that is not always apparent on more sophisticated bookstore Web sites.
"I don't think you can function in today's marketplace without a Web site," Weis says. "It's a great way to inform people about who you are--and a way to make your presence known." Without connection, there can be no conversation. Without conversation, there can be no handselling.
Sometimes you can discover "new ground" online even when you don't venture all the way out to the edge.--Robert Gray, founder of Fresh Eyes Now.