Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flatiron Books: White Horse by Erika T. Wurth

Holiday House: Owl and Penguin (I Like to Read Comics) by Vikram Madan; Noodleheads Take it Easy by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss

Blackstone Publishing: Ezra Exposed by Amy E. Feldman

Clavis: Fall Preview

Amulet Books: Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party (Marya Khan #1) by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Ani Bushry

Charlesbridge Publishing: Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom; Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Shadow Mountain: To Capture His Heart (Proper Romance Victorian) by Nancy Campbell Allen


Notes: Amazon/Macmillan Aftermath; Books Are Irresistible

The dust is still settling after the quick, fierce Amazon/Macmillan war over the weekend. And technically the conflict hasn't ended: although Amazon said it was "capitulating," as of this morning, the company still hadn't restored the buy button to Macmillan titles we checked.

Yesterday Wall Street took a dim view of Amazon's capitulation: on a day the Dow Jones rose 1.2%, Amazon fell 5.2%, to close at $118.87, on trading volume four times the average.

Most commentary supported Macmillan. For example, on his blog Whatever, writer John Scalzi wrote, "Oh, sweet Jesus, did Amazon ever hump the bunk." He listed in detail "all the many ways Amazon so very failed the weekend," including "the stealth delisting," losing authors' sympathies, losing authors' fans, letting Macmillan define much of the issue, offering a weak and belated response, etc.

Bill Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., wrote in the Huffington Post that "Amazon has made sure that e-books sold on Amazon can only be read on Kindles and that Kindles will not accept downloads from any bookseller other than Amazon. This is all part of a consistent approach by flouting state sales tax laws--to gain market share at any cost."

The Bookseller offered British perspective on the situation, reporting that the Guardian had noted British publishers will closely watch "this local tussle between American firms.... As one editor at a London publishing house put it: 'Whatever happens in the U.S. will dictate what happens elsewhere in the world.' Some publishers sensed Amazon was gearing up for a legal fight with its use of the word 'monopoly' in its response, posted on a Kindle forum."

Some people had fun. On her FakeBookNews on Twitter, for example, Janice Harayda posted this yesterday: "Amazon adopts new payment model after CEO Jeff Bezos reads Writer's Market: Will pay authors in 'free copies' of their own e-books."

On EarlyWord, Nora Rawlinson made a keen observation that shows that Amazon may not have made out so poorly after all: "Amazon has worked to give customers the perception that Kindle titles cost $9.99, but if you are not buying bestsellers, Kindle prices can be quite a bit higher. Of the nine titles with full reviews in the current NYTBR, only one is available in a $9.99 Kindle edition; three are not available at all and the rest were just $1.13 to $2.83 less than the hardcover price. In one case, the hardcover through a third-party retailer was cheaper than the Kindle version."

This reminds us of the phenomenon that has resulted in many consumers believing that all books at chain bookstores are sold at a discount, which has not been the case for many years.


Our sluggish economy may also be a bookish economy, according to a recent online poll that discovered three-quarters of respondents "said they would sacrifice holidays, dining out, going to the movies and even shopping sprees but they could not resist buying books," Reuters reported.

"The recession highlighted the downside of greed, indulgence and giving in to temptation, but we noticed a shift back to life's simplest pleasures," said Michelle Renaud of Harlequin Enterprises Limited, which conducted the poll.


In a piece headlined "Bookstores may have to turn page," Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat spoke with Cindy Russell, owner of City Books, who said, "We're buggy whips in an automobile world," noting that the shop, which was down 60% compared with January 2009,  is "in dire straits.... It's not that people aren't reading--they are. But there are obviously forces out there bigger than I am."


Parnassus Book Service, Yarmouthport, Mass., is "one man's masterpiece," Sarah Romano told the Cape Cod Times. That man is her father, Ben Muse, who opened the bookshop 50 years ago.

"He hand picks every book," Romano. "Each book has his stamp."

When Nancy and Ralph Titcomb opened their bookstore in 1969 (now Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich), "Ben Muse came to the store and introduced himself, Ralph said. Over the years, they referred customers to each other," the Times wrote.

"We were really there helping each other than being competitors," Ralph said.


Booksellers in Islamabad, Pakistan, struggle with numerous challenges, including bomb attacks that "have scared many shoppers away, including foreign diplomats who used to come to unload their libraries as they moved to a new assignment," according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Some bookshops have begun stocking alternative inventory to bolster sales, including "higher-profit material like textbooks, DVDs, and Dan Brown. (Bestsellers take a month to arrive on secondhand shelves, so pirated versions are ordered first and--at one-fifth the authentic version's price--they often sell better anyway.) The next step may be to peddle gel pens and leather planners the way the big chain bookstores do," the Monitor reported.

But Malik Ejaz, owner of the Old Book Collection, holds to a more traditional approach: "I emphasize books. There's not a lot of money. But I am happy."


Exploring how local bookstores adapt and survive, the Fort Smith, Ark., City Wire profiled Coffee & a Good Book and Book Ends.

"I think people should support their local bookstores, because we live here, we work here," said Deborah Busby, owner of Book Ends. "If the big guys get the business, we’re not going to be here anymore."


The Huffington Post continued its seasonal "Reading in Public" series by gathering more observations of what people are reading across the U.S.: "What we noticed this time was more spirituality, more history, and fewer big brand new bestsellers."


Back to the salt mines. In England, a million books from Manchester's Central Library, including some dating back to the 15th century, will be placed in temporary storage  "with many going deep underground in the Cheshire salt mines... hundreds of feet below ground, for the next three years while the landmark city centre site undergoes a massive refurbishment to save it from ruin," the Evening News reported.


The house where Rudyard Kipling was born in India will become a museum, but the Telegraph reported that the "foundation restoring the Mumbai house has shelved plans to use it to house a Kipling museum, fearing that commemorating the author of The White Man’s Burden and chronicler of the British Raj will lead to a political furor. The house, instead, is likely to feature a collection of paintings by local artists."


University of California Press: Dictee (Second Edition, Reissue, Restored);  Exilee and Temps Morts: Selected Works (First Edition, Reissue) by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Fight over B&N Proxy Begins

Yucaipa Funds head Ron Burkle, who owns 18.7% of Barnes & Noble stock, has sent a letter to the board of directors asking that it allow him to buy up to 37% of company stock--the amount controlled by the Riggio family--and to allow him to increase his stake without triggering the poison pill provision that the board adopted late last year, according to the Financial Times.

The B&N board adopted the poison pill provision--which would go into effect when any person or group bought 20% of the company--after Burkle announced he owned 18% of B&N (Shelf Awareness, November 17, 2009). B&N was founded by Len Riggio, who is chairman. His brother, Stephen Riggio, is CEO. Burkle has said he believes the bookseller is undervalued.

In his letter, Burkle wrote that the poison pill "has a coercive effect on the company's other shareholders and gives the Riggio family a preclusive advantage in any proxy contest.

"We also firmly believe that by implementing the poison pill but nonetheless allowing Len Riggio and other insiders to own over 37 per cent of the stock, the Board is sending a message to the other shareholders and the investing community that Barnes & Noble is a company controlled and operated for the benefit of selected insiders.

"Not to grant us such a waiver and interpreting the plan to allow the Riggio family to acquire additional shares would, in effect, create a near insurmountable barrier to us (or any other non-Riggio shareholder) in waging a successful proxy contest."

The Financial Times added that Burkle's "campaign at the bookseller may benefit from the assistance of Aletheia Research and Management, a California-based fund that announced that it now held a 15 per cent stake in the bookseller in January, having built its stake alongside Mr Burkle since last year."


Blair: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays

NAIBA to Publishers: 'Don't Cut Reps'

In an open letter to publishers, the board of directors of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association has written:

We are alarmed with what appears to be a trend in the sales division of publishers--the removal of field sales reps to independent bookstores. This draconian move against our bookselling segment will be responsible for the disappearance of book culture.
Field sales reps are a crucial part of our business. Each regional independent booksellers association and Publishers Weekly honors an outstanding field rep each year. We can't think of another publisher position that gets this recognition. We devote countless hours at conferences refining the sales rep/bookseller relationship. They are that crucial to us.
Restricting field reps to large stores will give publishers a skewed view of what is a very diverse world--independent bookselling. Sales reps take the time to know our stores, what our customers like, and what is on our shelves. They are the industry worker-bees, travelling the region, taking ideas and trends and pollinating other stores. We learn about other stores from them, what others are reading and loving; what is selling; marketing tips; event ideas; what the publisher is doing; and what authors have books coming out in the next season. They make fans for authors out of our frontline booksellers. They cut through the catalogs to make sure we carry what we'll be able to sell, and their endorsements are why we buy what we might have ignored.
These reasons are why cuts in field sales reps devastate us. Have you really thought about what this stricture will mean to you? Fewer book sales. Without a doubt, we are not ordering as much through telemarketing. We are definitely not focusing on your backlist through tele-sales, and we definitely miss titles from the frontlist. We also don't buy as much direct, which makes independent bookselling a less profitable business. The vicious cycle is that we buy less because we don't have sales reps, and then you devalue our business because we aren't buying as much as we used to. 
We understand the corporate need to save money. There are more efficacious and less exclusionary ways to cut your budgets. You know what they are because independent bookstores have been telling you what they are for years. Cut multiple ARC mailings. Do away with promotional gimmicks that go from mailbox to garbage can. Consider publishing fewer titles, fewer hard covers, fewer copies. Take a hard look at celebrity advances. 
We exist to sell your books, those unique and hard to place titles, not just the established authors. Field sales reps are the tools we need to do that for you. As much as you would like to think a tele-salesperson is doing the same job, you are sadly mistaken. A field sales rep is far more than a person filling in an order form.
Don't cut our lifeline to your books.


Graphic Mundi - Psu Press: Hakim's Odyssey by Fabien Toulme and Hanna Chute

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sweet Little Lies

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Charles Sophy and Brown Kogen, authors of Side by Side: The Revolutionary Mother-Daughter Program for Conflict-Free Communication (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780061791574/0061791571).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Lauren Conrad, author of Sweet Little Lies: An L.A. Candy Novel (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061767609/0061767603).


Tomorrow on the View: Andrew Young, author of The Politician: An Insider's Account of John Edwards's Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down (Thomas Dunne, $24.99, 9780312640651/031264065X).


Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Larry Smith, author of It All Changed in an Instant: More Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure (Harper Perennial, $12, 9780061719431/0061719439).


Tomorrow night on Larry King Live: Shoshana Johnson, author of I'm Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen--My Journey Home (Touchstone, $23.99, 9781416567486/1416567488).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Metropolitan Books, $24.50, 9780805091748/0805091742).


Ebony Magazine Publishing: Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments by Carell Augustus

Movies: Something Borrowed

Ginnifer Goodwin (HBO's Big Love) is in talks to star in a film adaptation of Emily Giffin's novel Something Borrowed, which "is being fast-tracked for a shoot in the spring and summer. Luke Greenfield (The Girl Next Door) is directing from a script by Jennie Urman (Lipstick Jungle)," Variety reported.


Books & Authors

Awards: Lost Man Booker Prize Longlist

And the winner is... 40 years later. The 22 authors on the Lost Man Booker Prize longlist have waited a long time to contend for the best novel published in 1970. Included among this distinguished group are Patrick O'Brian, Iris Murdoch, Ruth Rendell and David Lodge.

The Guardian reported that the new award "aims to commemorate the works that 'fell through the net' in 1970 after changes to the Booker rules. In 1971, two years after the prize was first given, it ceased to be awarded retrospectively and became, as it is now, a prize for the best novel in the year of publication. The date on which the award was given was also moved from April to November, creating a gap when a wealth of 1970 fiction could not be eligible." The shortlist will be announced in March and the winner named in May. The longlist:

  • The Hand Reared Boy by Brian Aldiss
  • A Little of What You Fancy? by H.E. Bates
  • The Birds on the Trees by Bawden
  • A Place in England by Melvyn Bragg
  • Down All the Days by Christy Brown
  • Bomber by Len Deighton
  • Troubles by J.G. Farrell
  • The Circle by Elaine Feinstein
  • The Bay of Noon by Shirley Hazzard
  • A Clubbable Woman by Reginald Hill
  • I'm the King of the Castle by Susan Hill
  • A Domestic Animal by Francis King
  • The Fire Dwellers by Margaret Laurence
  • Out of the Shelter by David Lodge
  • A Fairly Honourable Defeat by Iris Murdoch
  • Fireflies by Shiva Naipaul
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian
  • Head to Toe by Joe Orton
  • Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
  • A Guilty Thing Surprised by Ruth Rendell
  • The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark
  • The Vivisector by Patrick White 


Pennie Picks: Cutting for Stone

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Vintage, $15.95, 9780375714368/0375714367) as her pick of the month for February. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I envy anyone who is reading this month's Book Buyer's Pick, Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, for the first time. Verghese's prose is elegant as he tells the story of a nun who dies in childbirth, her twin boys and the father who abandons them.

"The story, while epic in scope--moving from India to Ethiopia to New York City--remains poignant and personal. It eloquently portrays the strong yet ambivalent connections of love and family all set amid backdrops of intense international political and medical situations. It's a beautiful and compelling book with tremendous insight into the heart of the human soul."

Attainment: New Titles Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday and Wednesday, February 9 and 10:

Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend by James S. Hirsch (Scribner, $30, 9781416547907/1416547908) chronicles the life and career of a baseball icon.

Poor Little Bitch Girl by Jackie Collins (St. Martin's, $26.99, 9780312567453/0312567456) follows a bratty New York rich girl who returns to L.A. after her mother is murdered.

Brava, Valentine: A Novel by Adriana Trigiani (Harper, $25.99, 9780061257070/0061257079) is the second novel with Valentine Roncalli, a designer and shoemaker living in New York.

The Bread of Angels: A Journey to Love and Faith by Stephanie Saldana (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385522007/0385522002) is the memoir of a woman who struggled with her spirituality while living in a Syrian monastery.

The Wife's Tale: A Novel
by Lori Lansens (Little, Brown, $24.99, 9780316069311/0316069310) traces the journey of a woman from Toronto to L.A. in search of her missing husband.

Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back by Jonathan Krohn (Vanguard Press, $19.95, 9781593156015/1593156014) outlines some foundations of conservative thought.


Book Review

Book Review: The Watchers

The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State by Shane Harris (Penguin Press, $27.95 Hardcover, 9781594202452, February 2010)

From 1982 (when a truck bomb exploded in the U.S. embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people) to our perpetually anxious post-9/11 period, The Watchers charts the increasing urgency the nation feels to capture and disable terrorists intent on attacking targets here and abroad. In the process, Shane Harris tells three distinct stories: the enormous effort dedicated to gathering intelligence to catch the terrorists; the utter failure to get that intelligence to people who could use it to prevent a disaster; and the impact of all this on privacy protections we previously took for granted.

Billions of dollars are spent each year to gather intelligence, yet the really valuable data often seems stuck on the wrong person's desk. Harris asks us to consider an early example: the National Security Agency had captured information in September 1983 about a planned attack on U.S. Marines in Lebanon. On October 23, the Marines, housed at the Beirut airport, were decimated by the bombing of their barracks. Two days after that bombing, the NSA delivered what they had intercepted in September to senior military officials. Not surprisingly, Harris asks, "What good is information if it isn't understood and provided in time?"

Problems with sharing intelligence among agencies, all supposedly working for the same goal, recur over the decades. In the immortal words of Admiral John Poindexter (this book is, in an odd way, his story), knowledge is power. Harris argues that the agency that keeps knowledge to itself retains its power even though others are put in harm's way. To that bureaucratic/territorial issue, add the challenge of analyzing the overwhelming volume of data gathered and the never-ending desire for bigger and supposedly better data bases.

Harris notes that pressures for greater and greater piles of data (especially for telephone and e-mail records) led the government to ignore any distinctions between foreign entities and U.S. residents: warrantless surveillance of everyone everywhere took hold, and we entered an age in which privacy protections for U.S. residents became largely moot despite existing laws. Although Harris acknowledges that there has been a conflict between security and liberty at the heart of the war on terrorism, his surprisingly balanced analysis reveals that we as a nation remain profoundly ambivalent about the trade-off between the two.

We may go along with universal intelligence gathering in a crisis situation, but our ambivalence boils up as frustration and anger when we wake to find that, no matter how much we have given up and how much personal data has been mined, a man already on a watch list gets on a plane in Amsterdam to threaten us and shows us how little progress we have made since 1983 in connecting our data dots.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A timely, balanced and disquieting analysis of our nation's failure to make real advances in the continuing war on terrorism.

Deeper Understanding

Nitty Gritty 3, Part 1: Made of Fail

In this first part of a two-part column, Jenn Northington, general manager of breathe books, Baltimore, Md., continues to write about her adventures with her new Barnes & Noble nook e-reader. More tomorrow.
Many internet memes and colloquialisms have emerged over the past years. Almost everyone is familiar now with LOL, for example. One of my personal favorites is the "fail" meme (web-antonym of "win") made infamous by the #amazonfail discussion on Twitter when Amazon deranked GLBT titles in its recommendations system. I wish I had better news for you, dear readers, but my nook experience was almost entirely, as they say on the Twitter, Made of Fail, with precious few Wins.
Some of its failures are industry failures, others are device- or design-specific. It's worth noting, however, that while the nook's successes are few, they are also key. For early adopters, they may even outweigh the failures. So, without further preface, I give you: Jenn vs. the nook.
Win #1: The nook has arrived! Two weeks ahead of schedule!
Fail #1: I can't get the nook out of its admittedly beautiful but ridiculously elaborate packaging. It takes Susan and I working in tandem to manage it. Her theory is that I may be young enough to operate it, but she's old enough to know how to open the box.
Fail #2: It's not exactly "plug and play"--you have to charge it first. Of course, they make a point of telling you in the instruction booklet that you can use it while it's charging, but as a cell phone veteran, I never use a device during the first official charge. Mostly because I know nothing about batteries except for how expensive they are and read too many online articles on how to make them last. So instead of giving in to the urge to play, I went grocery shopping. By the time I got back, it was ready to go.
Fail #3 (and this is a big one): While the nook starts you off with a quick tour, the full user guide is in a subfolder, instead of on a main menu. It took me five minutes to find, and I even knew what I was looking for. It says in the "Let's get started" booklet that the user guide is in My Library, one of the first options you're presented with. This is, however, a seriously compromised truth. In point of fact, it's in My Documents, which is a subfolder of My Library, and as the device starts in My B&N Library, another subfolder of My Library, you have to tell it to go to My Documents.… Seriously?
Fail #4: Since I am cheap, the first thing I looked for was free content: enter the Daily, featuring regularly updated content from big writers like… Steve_King? Is that Stephen King, inventor of the bestseller, or Steve King from Saskatchewan whose blog now gets a whole 10 visitors a day? I can't say for sure, since the author has a USER NAME instead of a BYLINE.
Win #2: "Your New Nook," in which Dave Barry (who inexplicably gets a normal byline, by the way) "explains nook. Sort of." courtesy of the Daily, is don't-drink-liquids-while-reading-near-a-nook funny. I am speaking from experience here, in case you're wondering. So far, it's my favorite thing about the nook (a Fail in and of itself, I think).
Fail #4: The next thing I wanted to do, of course, was get an e-book. Because the nook can read free e-books and ePub files, I assumed that there would be a way for me to get them directly through the device. Not true! Once you set up the necessary accounts and do an initial computer sync, you can shop the B&N store from your couch or car (not recommended, by the way), but just the B&N store. Any other book purchasing or downloading has to be done on your computer and then synced to your device. Which is, you know, understandable--I mean, it is their device. Okay, fine. Maybe I will downgrade that to a Flop.
Win #3: Once I resigned myself to getting an e-book from B&N's store, it was easy enough. The wireless connectivity is automatic; if you don't tell it to use a hotspot, it will automatically default to B&N's wireless network. I got reception (the device uses the cell phone bars symbol for B&N's network, and the standard wireless symbol for hotspots) in my apartment, the coffee shop and the bookstore--in other words, the three places I live. Admittedly it's slower than my own wireless network, but this is something that previously only the Kindle could do.
Once connected to the B&N store, you can search for something specific or browse--they give you bestsellers automatically, as well as a category view. The categories are a little weird: why specify "Children's ebooks" and then "Fiction," when in fact both of them consist entirely of e-books? On the upside, you can look at a list of titles on the eInk screen and browse covers on the color touch screen, a nice dual approach. And there are lots of options to put things on an eWish list, which is just plain smart.
Fail #5: The eInk reading screen is harder to read than I'd have thought. In the dim coffee shop, it would have been easier to read an actual book. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't eInk designed to prevent eyestrain? Back to the drawing board on that one....
Fail #6: I will save you a trip--the official online nook FAQ is tired of your stupid questions and not afraid to show it. For example:
Q: Can I access Facebook or other social networking sites from nook?
A: No.
Why even put that up there? You're just being testy here, B&N. If you want people to be happy with their device and not mad that it doesn't connect to Facebook, you need to give them a little more than "no." And it's not just that one--a lot of these answers sound like they were written by an IT rep about to throw her computer through a window. My instinct was to apologize for clicking on questions in the first place; eventually, I left the site and vowed never to bother it again.

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