Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, July 21, 2009
B&N's E-book Challenge
Barnes & Noble has launched the Barnes & Noble eBookstore, which it calls "the world's largest eBookstore," a part of its website that will offer more than 700,000 titles that may be read on a range of devices and computers, including iPhones, iPods, Blackberrys, as well as a new Plastic Logic eReader that will be introduced early next year. The new e-reader, an "ultra thin 8.5 x 11 inch wireless" device, is "especially designed for business professionals," B&N said.
New books and bestsellers will be priced at $9.99, the same price as Amazon offers most e-books. The store's offerings include more than 500,000 free public domain books from Google. B&N said it expects to offer more than a million e-books within in the next year. The store will include an upgraded version of the eReader application, part of B&N's purchase of Fictionwise earlier this year.
Also on the eBookstore: B&N's app for iPhone and iPod users, which includes the ability to get information about a book by taking a picture of the book's cover with the iPhone's camera.
In a statement, BN.com president William J. Lynch said: "Today marks the first phase of our digital strategy, which is rooted in the belief that readers should have access to the books in their digital library from any device, from anywhere, at any time. "
According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon has about 300,000 e-books available for the Kindle and Sony sells about 200,000 e-books and offers 500,000 Google books.
Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research, told the Journal: "The biggest news here is the multi-channel integration of [Barnes& Noble's] physical store and e-book store via the iPhone. It makes use of B&N's biggest asset: the brick-and-mortar store."
Notes: Borders Courts Teen Readers; NACS Myth Busting
To capitalize on the popularity of Stephenie Meyer, Sarah Dessen and others, Borders Group is launching teen departments in most of its superstores that will stock graphic novels, fantasy and YA novels, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Called Borders Ink shops, the departments have opened in several Borders stores in Michigan and should open in most Borders stores by the end of August. The space for the departments "has often been carved from areas that previously sold music and DVDs, whose popularity has faded with bookstore shoppers," the Journal said.
Besides books, the departments have related sidelines such as items related to the Twilight series.
The National Association of College Stores has begun a campaign to "bust myths about college stores." The four myths:
- Buying textbooks from an online retailer is always more convenient.
- Buying textbooks online is always safe.
- Most students spend nearly $1,000 each year on textbooks.
- The college store makes a huge profit on textbooks.
NACS is providing stores with marketing kits that include posters and material that can be shared with campus publications and used on store websites and social networking pages. Each week the association is focusing on one myth.
Among NACS's points about "myth #1":
By purchasing books from college stores either in person or through the store's website, students "pay no added shipping costs; receive books on time with no worries about shipping delays or purchases lost in the mail; can be confident that they are purchasing the correct book, by the correct author, and the correct edition, volume, etc. (this can be confusing online); can buy all course materials at one stop, saving time and the stress of trying to find each book, study guide, and other supplies from multiple web sites; can easily tap their financial aid; and can easily return books to their college store if a class is dropped."
Cool website of the day: a new one for Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, The Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small by John Cook, Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance, which will be published by Algonquin September 15. Interspersed scrapbook style with photos, remembrances and basic information are some great videos.
At bigthink.com, Norton editor Alane Salierno Mason, one of the founders of Words Without Borders, "diagnoses literature in translation."
"It's summer, not dumber," observed the Globe & Mail, which presented a beach reads list by noting: "You may hunker down with Dan Brown, lollygag with Ludlum or bring Binchy to the beach, and such pleasures are considerable, but seasonal fare, some of our 21 summer readers find, can be meaty as well."
Obituary note: Author Gordon Burn, "whose work explored the boundaries between fact and fiction," died last Friday, the Guardian reported. He was 61.
"Gordon's subject of choice was often trauma, spectacle and dysfunction," said Lee Brackstone, his editor at Faber. "He was drawn to the dark side of celebrity . . . his literature and impulse always represented to me an attempt to find comfort, meaning and compassion in the most appalling or baffling of events."
The blog Cynical-C featured Vladimir Nabokov answering questions about Lolita on NBC's Close Up in the mid-1950s (via Boing Boing).
Book Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports literacy in Africa, has founded Bibliotarian.org, a comparison shopping website for books whose proceeds are given to charity. Bibliotarian.org displays the lowest new and used prices, including shipping costs, from booksellers such as Amazon, AbeBooks, Alibris and Half.com. Users can designate from nearly a million 501(c)(3) public charities to receive up to half of the bookseller affiliate revenue generated by their purchases through the site. The remainder goes to the Foundation, also a 501(c)(3). Bibliotarian.org also locates books available for swapping from BookMooch and PaperBackSwap, two large book-swapping websites.
Book Wish Foundation president Logan Kleinwaks noted the organization would like to have a link to IndieBound, "but their affiliate program has no way for us to track which charity our user selected." He encouraged interested booksellers to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if they want such a link.
Through August 15, visitors to Bibliotarian.org can enter a sweepstakes to win a Sony Reader.
Natalie White has been promoted to director of advertising at Simon & Schuster. She previously was associate director of advertising and promotion. She has been with the company eight years and will continue to work with the adult, children's and audio divisions.
Megan Halpern is joining Melville House as publicist. She was formerly an associate publicist at Picador.
Melville House co-publisher Dennis Loy Johnson said that the publisher is "particularly excited about [Halpern's] experience with digital publicity and online marketing initiatives. She'll be a key player in the development and launch of our digital imprint."
Murder Takes a Road Trip
When Mardi Link sets out this week to promote her latest true crime book, Isadore's Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town, she won't be going it alone. She'll be joined by mystery writers Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli, the author of Dead Floating Lovers, and Aaron Stander, the author of Deer Season. "We call ourselves the co-conspirators," said Link.
Link, Buzzelli and Stander are members of the group Michigan Writers and live within 30 miles of one another. They plotted their joint tour--dubbed "Murder Takes a Road Trip"--after discovering over drinks one evening that they each have a new book out this summer, all of which are set in their home turf of northern Michigan.
Within an hour of sending out a notice about the tour, Link received numerous replies. Seven in-state events have been set up so far at libraries and bookstores, with plans to add more. The trio's first appearance takes place on Wednesday night at the Bellaire Public Library in Bellaire.
"I think that people who are outside of the Midwest don't realize what a literary mecca northern Michigan is. There's a lot of support for literature here," said Link. "We're thinking that with the three of us we should really get some interesting discussions going." Along with the likelihood of drawing bigger crowds, there is another advantage to a combined tour: sharing the workload. Link did the initial outreach and Buzzelli the follow-up. Stander is the designated driver.
Link is looking forward to sharing the spotlight with her fellow scribes. "What's interesting for me is that because I write true crime, when I appear on panels the other people are usually attorneys, prosecutors or police detectives," she said. "It's going to be fun to be with other writers."--Shannon McKenna Schmidt
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Chris Anderson on the Colbert Report
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Mark Bittman, author of Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781416575665/1416575669).
Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Michael H. Stone, author of The Anatomy of Evil (Prometheus Books, $26.98, 9781591027263/1591027268).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Hyperion, $26.99, 9781401322908/1401322905).
Television: Game of Thrones
Sean Bean will star in HBO's adaptation of the George R.R. Martin fantasy-book series Game of Thrones, with Tom McCarthy directing. The Hollywood Reporter noted that "Mark Addy is in final negotiations to also join the production. Kit Harrington, Jack Gleeson and Harry Lloyd also have come aboard. . . . Bean will play Lord Eddard 'Ned' Stark, known for his sense of honor and justice, who becomes closest adviser to King Robert (Addy). Harrington will play Jon Snow, Bean's bastard son, and Lloyd will play Viserys, a powerless ruler who seeks to marry off his sister to a powerful king. Gleeson will play Joffrey, King Robert's son. Peter Dinklage also is in the cast for the production, which is in the pilot stage and begins shooting in October in Ireland."
Movies: Discipline; Eat, Pray, Love
David Permut and Steve Lee Jones will produce a film version of Paco Ahlgren's first novel, Discipline, Variety reported. The story "centers on a man's psychological battle with an enemy he cannot see. The outcome determines the past, present and future of human existence."
Oscar nominee Viola Davis (Doubt) may join Julia Roberts and Richard Jenkins in the cast of Eat, Pray, Love, adapted from Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Davis "is negotiating to take a role . . . Her scheduling is being worked out."
Books & Authors
Books for Understanding: Updated Space Flight and Exploration
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, the Association of American University Presses has updated its book list on Space Flight and Exploration, which was originally published in 2003. A new subject category is "to the Moon." More than 20 new titles are featured.
- The Moonlandings: An Eyewitness Account by Reginald Turnill, foreword by Buzz Aldrin (Cambridge University Press, 2007)
- Into That Silent Sea: Trailblazers of the Space Era, 1961-1965 by Francis French and Colin Burgess (University of Nebraska Press, 2007)
- Robots in Space: Technology, Evolution, and Interplanetary Travel by Roger D. Launius and Howard E. McCurdy (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, July 28:
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Knopf, $25.95, 9780307269980/0307269981) is a sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Hot Pursuit: A Novel by Suzanne Brockmann (Ballantine, $26, 9780345501578/0345501578) is the latest personal security job for the Navy SEALs of Troubleshooters Inc.
Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America by Kurt Andersen and Tom Brokaw (Random House, $15, 9781400068982/1400068983) views the current economic situation as a way to break free from boom-and-bust cycles, fix broken social systems and make America a genuinely happier place.
Warriors Super Edition: Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter and Wayne McLoughlin (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061582479/0061582476) tells the story of four clans of wild cats competing for territory in a forest.
Eagles and Empire: The United States, Mexico, and the Struggle for a Continent by David A. Clary (Bantam, $30, 9780553806526/0553806521) chronicles the war between Mexico and the United States during the 1840s.
Now in paperback:
Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson (NAL, $15, 9780451226990/0451226992).
Chosen to Die by Lisa Jackson (Zebra, $7.99, 9781420102772/142010277X).
Velva Jean Learns to Drive: A Novel by Jennifer Niven (Plume, $15, 9780452289451/0452289459).
Book Review: The Locust and the Bird
Locust and the Bird: My Mother's Story by Hanan Al-Shaykh (Pantheon Books, $24.95 Hardcover, 9780307378200, August 2009)
Hanan al-Shaykh received very little praise from her mother, Kamila, for all her accomplishments as journalist and novelist (The Story of Zahra, Beirut Blues). Instead, Kamila challenged her to write about Lebanese women like Kamila who had been exploited and oppressed simply because they were born female. Write about me, she argued, my story is better than anything else you've done.
Hanan eventually yielded to her mother's badgering. "I knew perfectly well why she wanted to tell me her story. She wanted forgiveness," she admits as she decides that Kamila should narrate the tale in her own voice with her rich recall of the hand life had dealt her. As irony would have it, Hanan still had to physically write the memoir: Kamila, no matter how lively and articulate, was illiterate.
The memoir starts fast and keeps on building. Kamila grew up penniless in a small village before moving to Beirut. She was sold by her father for 10 gold coins (a/k/a contracted in marriage) to her half-sister's widower when she was 11. She trained as a seamstress to fill the function and role of her dead half-sister in a marriage to her 32 year old brother-in-law when she was 14. She gave birth to her first daughter at age 15.
Despite marriage and childbirth, Kamila remained a romantic teenager dazzled by screen images. "Why couldn't I be like Raja in the film, someone who was loved and spoilt by everyone, instead of just a stone-bearing donkey?" she asks. A fighter and a rebel, she would not let her spirit be crushed by her stern, distant husband. She fell in love with another man and carried on a four-year clandestine affair until a showdown required that she divorce her husband and renounce all claims to her daughters, Fatima and Hanan.
Kamila's relentless battle to be her own person is on every page of this beautiful memoir of 50 years of love, betrayal, regret and guilt in a society that tried with all its might to suppress life forces like her. Near the end of her tale she confesses to Hanan, "You and your sister are two little jewels. And I threw you in the dust," and gains forgiveness. During her lifetime, much had changed in Lebanon--she saw women like her daughter Hanan make independent decisions, attend universities and have satisfying careers rather than be condemned to be stone-bearing donkeys. And on her death bed, the feisty, fun-loving Kamila still could proclaim, "How I regret all the lovely shoes I haven't yet worn."--John McFarland
Shelf Talker: A vivid memoir of the changing status of women in contemporary Lebanon that also tells an affecting story of mother and daughter acceptance and reconciliation.