Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 26, 2009
E-book X-change 2.0
Recent letters about e-books express the usual range of views!
Lisa Baudoin of Books & Company, Oconomowoc, Wis., writes:
The real concern for independent bookstores in regards to the e-book is whether or not we will be able to participate as storefronts on smart phones, iPods, PDA or whatever handheld electronic device is fashionable at the moment. We need a storefront application now while the shopping habits and brand loyalty are forming. We were too slow to develop storefronts on the web and missed the initial development of shopping habits/brand loyalty.
We need to be concerned about the next generation of readers and consumers. We need to look beyond the traditional book format and the traditional way of receiving it to be ready for the kids who are already moving seamlessly between paper and digital. We need to not lose another chunk of our market share!
It should not be an either/or question but rather a question of what are the possibilities I have as a bookstore owner, bookseller, booklover to participate in this change. How can I use this new format to bring readers to my store and my website? And digital is just a new format to sit alongside the already existing ones: hardcover, paperback, mass market, audio. It is a new format with a lot of creative potential. We should be able to choose what we want to participate in, but we can't make a choice if we are not included in any of the options available. You can't say no to a party invitation if you are not invited in the first place. And frankly, I don't want to sit around waiting for that invitation. I think this calls for some serious arm-waving-get-out-of-your-reading-chair action by independent booksellers.
Sales rep Jim Harris writes:
I am a voracious reader. I am always reading two or three books at a time and keep them bedside, in my car (for reading at meals) and/or in my living room. I hate reading anything on an electronic screen. I like to touch and feel a book as do my brother--a former computer programmer--my son and daughter-in-law, who are products of the computer generation, and my nieces and nephews and their kids.
I use Bookmate Bookcovers that allow me to prop up a book without holding it open or for a better reading angle in a restaurant. I don't know if that is possible with an e-book reader.
One of the books I'm reading (Steve Berry's The Venetian Betrayal) contains maps to which I'm constantly referring. I'm not sure how or if that works on an e-book reader.
Amalyah Keshet, head of image resources and copyright management at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem:
Woohoo. Just received our first request for image licensing (from Stanford) "in an e-book edition, which would be locked and encrypted PDFs sold through secure sites, or as files fed to a detached device such as the Kindle."
I feel like the grass-skirted native emerging from the dark jungles of Nokindledom. At last some small, remote, handkerchief-waving-from-the-shore connection to the whole fascinating phenomenon over there across the pond.
Also, it's an indication that e-books will contain illustrations, which is something that is nagging at me. (Isn't the Kindle still black and white? Isn't the real estate on the iPhone screen too precious to take up with illustrations? Don't Google-scanned books drop the illustrations?)
Tom Campbell, owner of the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., writes:
What if digital books are dumber books?
A few years back one of my wife's graduate students did her doctoral dissertation comparing a state-of-the-art interactive website to a printed pamphlet as a means of getting health information to teenage girls. (My wife teaches health education at the UNC School of Public Health). To the student's surprise, the group of girls who got the printed pamphlet had superior results in every parameter measured. They had better recall, spent more time thinking about the information, were more likely to discuss the material with friends and changed their behavior because of what they had read more often than members of the other group.
Another peer-reviewed study from educational psychologist Karen Murphy in 2001 determined that college students reading from a screen found their reading less interesting, took new ideas less seriously and found new ideas less persuasive than students reading the same material on paper.
And in 2004, Andrew Dillon, a researcher in human-computer interaction at the University of Texas, said that "by far the most common experimental finding over the past 20 years is that silent reading from screen is significantly slower than reading from paper . . . the weight of the evidence suggests a performance deficit of between 20% and 30%."
Maybe we need to get some more peer-reviewed, in-depth research into digital readers before we risk dumbing down our children? It is possible that the better screens on devices like the Kindle might lead to better reading comprehension, but it's equally possible that better screens won't make much difference at all. Digital books just might be inherently inferior. Which would indeed represent a tipping point--but quite a different tipping point from the one the digerati are expecting.
Notes: L.A.'s Different Light Closing; Europa on the Hudson
The A Different Light bookstore in West Hollywood, Calif., is closing, Instinct magazine reported. The gay and lesbian store's branch in San Francisco will remain open; a branch in New York City closed in 2001.
Owner Bill Barker said that sales dropped in part because of a huge construction project on Santa Monica Boulevard that began in 2001, lasted for nearly 18 months, and had a permanent negative effect on foot traffic. Then a fire in 2007 resulted in the closing of a bar next door that had drawn people who patronized the store.
800-CEO-READ, the business books division of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, is laying off seven employees, according to the Milwaukee Business Journal, which cited a notice made by parent company Dickens Books to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Schwartz is closing its four stores, but 800-CEO-READ will stay in business.
The job cuts include specialists and customer service representatives, one person in shipping and receiving and one IT manager.
In a sign of the times, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., reports a gain of 15% in the number of people selling used books to the store in the past six months. In addition, the store has seen a 40% jump in its online used book buying program since January, when it began offering cash (via PayPal) instead of just credit.
"Where the people of Portland have been selling us their books to take the edge off their recession (with more books or with cash), now anyone around the country can do the same," Jon Guetschow, director of used books for Powell's, said.
Powell's began buying used books online two years ago (Shelf Awareness, February 5, 2007), but limited reimbursement to credit.
Today's New York Times profiles Europa Editions, the five-year-old New York City publisher founded by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, who started Edizioni E/O. Headed by publisher Kent Carroll, Europa Editions is "enjoying a modest but growing following" and has its first Times bestseller, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Mark LaFramboise, buyer at Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., called the title "one of the hottest books in the store."
Europa publishes trade paperbacks with French flaps and consistent design, including the Europa logo on the cover, and most are translations from, well, Europa. Many indies are fans. As Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Manhattan, said, "We have a lot of faith in their editorial sensibility."
For his part, Farrar, Straus & Giroux publisher Jonathan Galassi told the paper that Kent Carroll "picks things up for a little bit of money and makes a lot out of them. . . . He's sort of preserving the old values of it's-all-about-the-book and connecting the book with readers."
Philip Roth fans note: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is publishing The Humbling this fall, has just bought the author's 31st book, called Nemesis, and will publish it next year. Nemesis is set during a polio epidemic in Newark, N.J., in the summer of 1944. Goodbye, Columbus, Roth's first book, was published 50 years ago this spring.
Besides facelifts and seeking new mixes of retailers, one way that shopping malls "race to stay relevant in a downturn," according to today's Wall Street Journal: having local retailers open branches in the malls.
The sixth annual Making Information Pay conference, sponsored by the
Book Industry Study Group, will take place Thursday, May 7, at the
McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York City and have the theme "shifting
As the organization put it: "The landscape for book publishing is changing rapidly; trading conditions have never been tougher and many traditional sales channels are shrinking or disappearing completely. New sales channels and business models are emerging and many publishers are experimenting and reorganizing to capitalize on them."
In connection with the conference, BISG has set up an online survey for publishers about shifting sales channels and changing markets. For more conference information and to register, click here.
Shah Muhammad Rais, the subject of the popular book The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad, is still deeply unhappy that the Norwegian author depicted him as a liberal intellectual in public and a tyrant at home, the Los Angeles Times reported.
He has told his side of the story in Once Upon a Time There Was a Bookseller in Kabul, which he published two years ago. In the book, "a pair of Norwegian trolls with magical powers appear to him and agree to hear his pleas for redress."
The bookseller's business is apparently doing well. The Times wrote: "Big price tags on high-end books in English, aimed mainly at a foreign audience, help subsidize schoolbooks for hundreds of students, Rais said. He sends a bookmobile to make the rounds of the many Afghan cities and towns that have no bookstore. Customers can order books on the website, which has been up and running for more than a year."
But Rais said he feels that the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated dangerously and that the U.S. and other Western nations squandered the chance to rebuild his country. "It's like when the computer freezes up," he said. "There is nothing to do now but reboot."
The Virginia House of Delegates and Senate has voted to designate June 27 as Will F. Jenkins Day, the Richmond Sunlight reported.
The resolution called Jenkins, who died in 1975, "one of the most prolific fiction writers of the 20th century, who also received notoriety in the science fiction field under the pen name, Murray Leinster," and "one of the founders of American science fiction." The author published 74 novels and collections as well as 1,800 stories and won many awards, including several Hugos and other honors.
To honor late longtime executive director Jan Nathan, the Independent Book Publishers Association (formerly known as PMA) has set up the Jan Nathan Scholarship, which consists of a grant that pays tuition and housing for an IBPA member to attend the Stanford Professional Publishing Course.
IBPA is seeking applications for the first scholarship, which is open to members who meet Stanford's requirements, which include a minimum of four years' publishing experience.
For additional information, go to ibpa-online.org or contact Lisa Krebs Magno at 310-372-2732 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the Stanford Publishing Course, to to publishingcourses.stanford.edu/sppc.
Effective March 2, Dale Wilstermann becomes v-p of marketing of Thomas Nelson's Non-Fiction Trade Group. He has worked at Nelson for three years as v-p of ABA religious sales and v-p of e-tailer sales. He earlier worked more than 15 years at several companies, including Strang Communications and Integrity Publishers.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Getting to 50/50
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Joanna Strober and Sharon Meers, authors of Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All by Sharing It All (Bantam, $24, 9780553806557/0553806556).
Tomorrow on Oprah: Steve Harvey, author of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy, and Commitment (Amistad, $23.99, 9780061728976/0061728977).
Tomorrow night on 20/20: Mark Gonsalves, author of Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Colombian Jungle (Morrow, $26.99, 9780061769528/0061769525).
Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in a repeat: Neil DeGrasse Tyson, author of The Pluto Files (Norton, $23.95, 9780393065206/0393065200).
This Weekend on Book TV: Things I've Been Silent About
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 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, February 28
8 a.m. For an event hosted by Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., Ronald White, Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography (Random House, $35, 9781400064991/1400064996), discusses his research of the recently completed Lincoln Legal Papers. (Re-airs Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8:15 p.m.)
8:45 a.m. Robert Roper, author of Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and his Brothers in the Civil War (Walker & Company, $28, 9780802715531/0802715532), examines the experiences of the Whitman brothers during the Civil War through their correspondence. (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m. and Monday at 4 a.m.)
10 a.m. Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, author of The Trial of Standing Bear (Oklahoma Heritage Association, $16.95, 9781885596734/1885596731), reads to children from his book about the arrest of Chief Standing Bear as he attempted to return his tribe to their lands in Nebraska. (Re-airs Saturday at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 5:30 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, interviews Azar Nafisi, author of Things I've Been Silent About: Memories (Random House, $27, 9781400063611/1400063612). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., Monday at 3 a.m., and Sunday, March 8, at 12 p.m.)
Sunday, March 1
12:30 a.m. Former President Jimmy Carter, author of We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land: A Plan That Will Work (S&S, $27, 9781439140635/1439140634), talks about the current situation in the Middle East. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)
12 p.m. In Depth. Ronald Takaki, professor emeritus of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and author most recently of A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (Back Bay Books, $17.99, 9780316022361/0316022365), joins Book TV for a live interview. Viewers can participate in the discussion by calling in during the program or e-mailing questions to email@example.com. (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m. and Saturday, March 7, at 9 a.m.)
Books & Authors
Awards: PEN/Faulkner Fiction Winner
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill has won the $15,000 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the New York Times said. The four finalists, who each receive $5,000, are: Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, A Person of Interest by Susan Choi, Lush Life by Richard Price and Serena by Ron Rash.
Children's Book Review: The Year the Swallows Came Early
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice (Bowen/HarperCollins, $16.99, 970061624971/0061624977, 288 pp., ages 9-12, February 2009)
One of the greatest reasons for being in the book business is to discover a completely original voice. The other is to put that voice into as many readers' hands as possible. This is one of those voices--that of 11-year-old narrator Eleanor Robinson, named for her great-grandmother, a science-fiction writer, who goes by the nickname Groovy. Everyone should have a Groovy in their circle of friends. As this debut novel begins, Groovy must come to grips with some harsh realities: she may live in "a perfect stucco house, just off the sparkly Pacific," but appearances are deceiving. In fact, her house "was like one of those See's candies with beautiful swirled chocolate on the outside," but "coconut flakes on the inside, all gritty and hard, like undercooked white rice." In the first chapter, Groovy's father gets arrested, right there in front of the Swallow's Shop and Ferry, as the two of them walk into town. Groovy has no idea why he was arrested, though she knows "Daddy seemed to get the kind of bosses who ended up firing him," and she knows her friend Frankie doesn't quite approve of Daddy. But when Groovy tells Mama, and Mama says that she's the one who called the police, Groovy must rethink everything. (That's the second chapter.)
Fitzmaurice perfectly captures a small California town where everyone knows everyone else's business. But this gifted first-time author also uses that setting as a foil for the many discoveries Groovy makes. No one is quite what he or she seems to be. What Groovy learns about her father may be a disappointing surprise, but she also learns some unexpected things about the wisdom and strength of her Mama, who owns a quarter of the town's beauty parlor, about classmate Marisol Cruz, who seemed like she "wasn't the nicest girl" but who comes through for Groovy not once but twice, and about even Mr. Tom the homeless man, who gives Groovy a mysterious message that ultimately helps her make sense of her rapidly unraveling world. Eleanor "Groovy" Robinson's passion for cooking, for nourishing others and for constantly seeking to improve her recipes, her home life and her town results in a bounty of alluring sights, smells and tastes. (Chocolate-covered strawberries serve as a crucial plot element--do make sure you've eaten a good meal before reading, or keep snacks handy.) Fitzmaurice possesses a rare gift for keeping the narrative entirely and credibly in the mind of her sixth-grade heroine ("I remembered when Mama and Daddy and I took a week off to drive to the Grand Canyon, so I could see more of the world, and they could get away from it all") as Groovy gains the maturity that comes from surviving seemingly unsustainable pain.--Jennifer M. Brown