Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Viking: The Bookshop: A History of the American Bookstore by Evan Friss

Pixel+ink: Missy and Mason 1: Missy Wants a Mammoth

Bramble: The Stars Are Dying: Special Edition (Nytefall Trilogy #1) by Chloe C Peñaranda

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Charlesbridge Publishing: The Perilous Performance at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos, Illustrated by Doug Salati

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves

Editors' Note

Thank You!

We thank so many of you yesterday for your birthday greetings, too many to answer all immediately! Also, inadvertently we omitted someone who very recently began book reviewing for Shelf Awareness. Here's a special shoutout to Ron Hogan!


BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Barnes & Noble's Plans Disappoint Wall Street

Wall Street did not like Barnes & Noble's decision to invest in digital ventures at the expense of current year earnings: yesterday the stock fell 19.2% to $13.27 in nearly five times the usual volume. It was the stock's lowest level since December 2008.

During a conference call yesterday, B&N executives said that capital expenditures are increasing to some $150 million from $128 million as B&N "spends on efforts to boost sales of its Nook e-reader, to add new product categories such as educational toys and games and certain electronic products, and to expand a multi-channel college-textbook rental program to more than 300 colleges by August," the Wall Street Journal wrote.

Other news: the retailer plans to close six to 10 stores a year during the next three years, "but does not plan a widespread downsizing." Digital and college products, which the company is expanding, have lower margins.

B&N continued to stress how bullish it is about the digital business and books in general. According to the AP, chairman Len Riggio said, "The book industry is growing again. We are uniquely positioned to get a big share of it."

B&N said that it has 20% of the e-book market, which it seeks to expand to 25% in two years, and is the second largest e-book seller in the country. The company predicts an e-book market of more than $6 billion in four years.

GLOW: Milkweed Editions: Becoming Little Shell: Returning Home to the Landless Indians of Montana by Chris La Tray

Notes: E-Books Everywhere

What is Jeff Bezos's mission? He told Fortune, "Our strategy with the ebookstore is 'buy once, read everywhere.' If you want to read on your iPhone, if you want to read on your BlackBerry. We want people to be able to read their books anywhere they want to read them. That's the PC, that's the Macintosh. It's the iPad, it's the iPhone. It's the Kindle. So you have this whole multitude of devices and whatever's most convenient for you at the moment.

"We think of it as a mission. I strongly believe that missionaries make better products. They care more. For a missionary, it's not just about the business. There has to be a business, and the business has to make sense, but that's not why you do it. You do it because you have something meaningful that motivates you."


Amazon's website was down for at least five hours yesterday afternoon. So far the company hasn't indicated why it was offline.


In a business section feature, the New York Times highlighted Google Editions, the e-book program that launches later this summer and is "device-agnostic," and its partnership with the American Booksellers Association, which had been announced at BEA.

"Google has shown a real interest in our market," ABA COO Len Vlahos told the Times. "For a lot of reasons, it's a very good fit."

Tom Turvey, Google's director of strategic partnerships and head of Google Editions, said, "I don't think anyone who has bought an e-reader in the last several years has really intended to only buy their digital books from one provider for life."


The Daytona Beach News-Journal celebrated the 30th anniversary of Muse Books, DeLand, Fla., which stocks new and used in equal portions and is housed in "a more than 100-year-old white-brick building on Woodland Boulevard with a high ceiling of ornate pressed tin."

Since founding the store, owner Janet Bollum has been very involved in the community, starting with the downtown organization that was organized in 1985. She also was a city commissioner for two terms and ran for state representative.

"A community without a bookstore is like a community without a heart," she said.


Overheard in Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, Mont.:

"I just love War and Peace . . . not to be mistaken for Warren Beatty."


Congratulations to Judy McCulloh, retired University of Illinois Press executive editor, who has won a 2010 Bess Lomax Hawes Award from the National Endowment of the Arts for her contribution to the preservation and awareness of cultural heritage. She is one of nine honorees in the category of folk and traditional arts.

At the Press, McCulloh launched the Music in American Life series, which has published more than 150 books. She retired in 2007 after 35 years at the Press. For her full biography, go the NEA's site.

Press director Willis Regier said that McCulloh has been "an ideal editor for American music, combining meticulous organizational and editing skills with a lifelong love for music in all its forms, jams, fashions, ensembles, and joys."


Quillblog reported that in response to the padlocking of Toronto's This Ain't the Rosedale Library bookshop (Shelf Awareness, June 24, 2010), an anonymous bookstore fan (or fans) scrawled a passionate response on the building's windows and display chalkboard:

4 Rent by Greedy Landlord
Burn Books 4 Heat & Light
$how Me da Muny
Cumming Soon: Starbux


USA Today's Pop Candy blog featured 10 "summer young-adult books you'll want to read, despite your age."


In the Telegraph, Amanda Ross, creator of the Richard & Judy Book Club and the TV Book Club, offered readers "tips on broadening your literary horizons," including: look beyond the bestseller charts, try something new, solicit a stranger's opinion, don't judge a book and try before you buy.  


Book trailer of the day: ghostgirl: Lovesick by Tonya Hurley (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), a July title, which was featured in Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog.


Effective September 1, Dan Ruffino is becoming Penguin Group digital director, responsible for Penguin's digital strategy around the world. He will be based in New York.

Ruffino is currently Penguin Australia's marketing and publicity director and helped establish the company's online strategy. Before joining Penguin 10 years ago, he spent 10 years at Pan Macmillan, where he worked in sales, publicity and consumer marketing.


National Book Network has created an electronic publishing department will focus on the creation and delivery of e-book products and is accepting publishers for content conversion to e-formats.

Effective immediately, Catherine Forrest Getzie is director of the department. She was formerly services manager for NBN's Fusion Program, which includes e-content, POD/DSR and production services.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Four Weekends and a Funeral by Ellie Palmer

Cool Idea of the Day: Author Event-Arts Festival

Marisha Chamberlain, author of The Rose Variations (Soho Press), wrote: 

Here's a bookstore event that defied common sense. Sister Wolf Bookstore in tiny Dorset, Minn., (pop. 22) invited 28 authors into the bookstore this past Friday to sign books and meet readers, all in one day. (A member of the group: Jess Watemo, author of Girls in White Dresses, who was herself in a white dress. See photo below.) I was one of those authors, and I drove 10 hours roundtrip because I knew the bookstore owner, Sally Wizik Will, and her reputation for connecting with readers. Sister Wolf is open during the summer months, when vacationers at nearby lake cabins and resorts multiply the town population, vacationers with a hankering for something new to read. Even so, 28 authors is a high number to fit into a small bookstore. I wanted to see how Sally would manage the crowd of authors and whether she could draw a large enough number of customers to make the thing go. I needn't have worried.

The entire town mustered to transform what was, in previous years, a bookstore event, into a whole-town arts festival. Cafés offered special meals and visual artists and craftspeople hawked their wares to the sound of live music. Hundreds of visitors streamed through town and through the bookstore in the course of the afternoon and evening. Inside the bookstore, we authors were scheduled, six to a shift, for two-hour shifts from noon to 8 p.m. Traffic was steady and a surprising number of people came, not just to gawk at authors, but to buy books.


Obituary: Richard German


Richard German, who worked at Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, Ore., since its founding in 1978, died last Friday while bicycle camping in the San Juan Islands in Washington. He was 64.

German was a bike advocate, co-owned Multnomah Bike Shop and was "a fixture in Portland's bike scene for several decades," Bike Portland said. On a memorial page, the bookstore called German "our sentimental curmudgeon" as well as "a passionate advocate for cycling and a cycling mentor to many, a master calligrapher, and member of the emergency response team."

A wake is planned for O'Connors Restaurant in Portland at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 5.



The Continued Power of The Secret

On Monday, The Evolution Angel: An Emergency Physician's Lessons with Death and the Divine by Todd Michael, which Tarcher published in 2008, suddenly jumped to #7 from oblivion on Amazon and Ingram, Baker & Taylor and Barnes & Noble all sent large reorders.

What was the secret? Well, in part The Secret. Mike Dooley, author of Notes from the Universe and co-author of The Secret, had endorsed the book in his weekly newsletter that goes out to nearly 300,000 people:

"I just read a book that I am in no way connected with (nor do I know the author), which absolutely tripped me out and got me thinking some wild new thoughts!! It talks about the afterlife, reviews why we're here and how we may choose to pass, dishes cool stuff on 'God,' explains wealth and money, and has amazing insights on soul mates, being alone, other worlds, religion, even a particularly famous prophet (in an unconventional light), and more. I cannot recommend this short paperback highly enough!!!!!"

Tarcher is reprinting the title, which will be available this Friday, July 2. Tarcher associate marketing manager Kevin Howell commented: "I guess the power of The Secret hasn't dimmed over the years... although, it sure pays to have an e-newsletter that reaches 300,000 people."


Barnes & Noble Recommends A Vintage Affair

Barnes & Noble's latest Recommends title is A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff (Bantam Books), which was published yesterday.

Among B&N booksellers who helped choose the book, Amy Abst of Duluth, Minn., said, "I want to share it with my mother, my sisters, and my friends. And don't even get me started on the vintage clothes! Lovely!"

B&N said the book "tells the story of Phoebe Swift, a young Londoner whose decision to quit her job, break her engagement, and open a vintage clothing boutique strikes some as peculiar. 'I felt I needed a change,' Phoebe explains to an attractive journalist just before the opening of her shop in South London. But it's not really that simple. Although Phoebe's store is the culmination of a lifelong passion, her heart is weighed down with grief due to the death of her best friend, for which she feels responsible. To evade her guilt, Phoebe throws herself into her work, filling the shop with Pucci silks, Balenciaga gowns, 'cupcake dresses,' and other couture creations. As Phoebe embarks on an exciting love affair, she also becomes enmeshed in the past of Therese Bell, an elderly French woman who wishes to sell her designer suits and gowns. Coming unexpectedly upon a well-preserved child's coat in her new friend's wardrobe, Phoebe unlocks a secret that Therese has held close since her youth in Nazi-occupied France. A Vintage Affair is vividly colored with endearing characters and lovingly stitched with human sympathy."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Lost Cyclist

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Rita Cosby, author of Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father's Past (Threshold Editions, $26, 9781439165508/1439165505).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Isabel Allende, author of Island Beneath the Sea (Harper, $26.99, 9780061988240/0061988243). As the show put it: "Isabel Allende's historical novel about slavery and the Haitian revolution becomes the springboard for a conversation about global injustice and the re-emergence of slavery in more countries that one would expect, including our own."


Tomorrow on NPR's On Point: David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780547195575/0547195575).


Movies: Restrepo

Restrepo, a film chronicling the experiences of Second Platoon, Battle Company in Afghanistan, opens this coming Friday, July 2. Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger, author of War (Twelve, $26.99, 9780446556248/0446556246), direct.


Television: Marvel's New Small-Screen Division

Marvel Entertainment has created a new division, Marvel Television. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Jeph Loeb, "who most recently worked as a co-exec producer of NBC's Heroes, will oversee the translation of Marvel's popular characters and stories to the television medium, in both live-action and animation formats. Loeb will also oversee the development and distribution of live-action, animated and direct-to-DVD series."

Loeb has written comics for both DC and Marvel, and won Eisner awards for Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman/The Spirit and Superman for All Seasons, which was nominated for two Eisners.


Books & Authors

Awards: Canadian Authors Association Awards

Recipients of this year's Canadian Authors Association Awards were honored last weekend at a banquet in Victoria, B.C., Quillblog reported. The winners are:

Fiction: Galore by Michael Crummey
Canadian History: A History of Canadian Culture by Jonathan F. Vance
Drama: Talk by Michael Nathanson
Poetry: Where Genesis Begins by Tom Dawe
Emerging Writer: The Ship of Lost Souls by Rachelle Delaney


Book Brahmin: Alex McCord

Alex McCord is an original cast member of The Real Housewives of New York City on Bravo. Little Kids, Big City (Sterling & Ross, April 2010), her first book, was co-authored with her husband, Simon van Kempen; they live in Brooklyn, N.Y., with their two sons. She is also featured in Chronicle's The Real Housewives Get Personal (June 16, 2010).

On your nightstand now:

I always have a stack going and went downstairs just now to double check for accuracy: Jack Finney's Three by Finney, The Violins of St. Jacques by Patrick Leigh Fermor, Ayun Halliday's East Village Inky and Machiavelli's The Prince.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and Julie Andrews's Mandy are the first that come to mind, although I could go on forever.

Your top five authors:

Besides Dickens and Shakespeare, of course? Tee hee. I always enjoy Tom Robbins, Caleb Carr, John Irving. Have a love/hate relationship with Bret Easton Ellis's work and I really enjoy Ayn Rand, too, though not as a "how to" manual.

Book you've faked reading:

Never faked reading a book in my life; I wouldn't want to try to get away with that. Now I will admit to faking liking a few, but only because I didn't want to be rude to the author standing in front of me!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Little Kids, Big City of course! Written by my husband, Simon van Kempen, and me.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Gotta love impulse purchases--sometimes they work out well, other times not so much. Gore Vidal's Live from Golgotha (back when it first came out, and I loved it.) The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby was fun at first, but I couldn't get through it.

Usual airport book purchases:

If I'm in the airport and need a paperback, I usually go for Patricia Cornwall or Tom Clancy.

Book that changed your life:

I don't think there's any one book that changed my life; however, I cried with relief after reading Michel Cohen's The New Basics as a first-time mom and realized I wasn't crazy.

Favorite line from a book:

"Amnesia is not knowing who one is and wanting desperately to find out. Euphoria is not knowing who one is and not caring. Ecstasy is knowing exactly who one is--and still not caring."--Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction.

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

I'm actually looking forward to reading all the Chronicles of Narnia to the boys--in fact most of what I read to them has a similarly selfish motivation. For myself, I'd like to dip back into ones I read once ages ago, like Animal Farm or Lord of the Flies.

Book Review

Children's Review: School! Adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School

School!: Adventures at the Harvey N. Trouble Elementary School by Kate McMullan (Feiwel & Friends, $12.99 Hardcover, 9780312375928, July 2010)

Who wouldn't want to attend a school like Harvey N. Trouble Elementary? Okay, maybe you couldn't stomach the cafeteria's daily special: Beanie Weenies on a bun. But as soon as you see New Yorker cover artist George Booth's Who's Who illustrations on the endpapers, you know, as Izzy Normal often puts it, "this is not normal." There's the mathematically compulsive Adam Up, kindergarten teacher Mr. Hugh da Mann and the perpetually-perched-on-the-edge-of-his-seat Sid Down. These snapshots provide a helpful reference, too, as we get a glimpse of a "not normal" week at school and home with Ron Faster, his father, former racecar driver Hugo Faster, and his quick-baking mom, Mrs. Cookie Faster. More recently, speed has held the Fasters back. But now their luck seems to be turning.

Each day, Mr. Stuckinaditch, the bus driver, somehow manages to steer the bus into a ditch, prompting cries of "Zowie!" from Viola Fuss, and "This is not normal" from little Izzy Normal. Thus Mr. Stuckinaditch routinely makes Ron Faster and the other young riders tardy. Luckily, "You're never in trouble at Harvey N. Trouble school," says Ms. Seeyalater, as she writes out late passes and sends the children on their way, "See you later!" she says. All week, Ron's teacher, Mrs. Petzgalore, has been out due to various ailments among her menagerie. The situation provides plenty of opportunities for substitute teacher shenanigans. McMullan (I Stink!) tunes her ear to the elementary student voice and sensibility, and marvelously models family mealtimes and rituals even as she pokes fun at them. When Mr. and Mrs. Faster ask Ron about his schoolday, he replies, "I learned that just because a teacher carries a big brown briefcase, doesn't mean he's going to be boring." To which his father responds, "It's like I always say... you can't judge a teacher by his briefcase." Booth's line drawings serve as miniature character studies, many of them repeated for emphasis (such as the image of principal Miss Ingashoe who's "missing something"). The drawings can dominate a spread or zero in on a postage-stamp image that expresses more in posture and attitude than any description can provide. The turning point comes when Ron Faster's kindergarten buddy needs help, and Ron must use his speed to bring him to safety. His parents, too, find ways to harness their quickness in positive ways. Children will extol the virtues of the punny names (and likely be spurred to come up with a few of their own), while absorbing a few valuable pointers along the way.--Jennifer M. Brown

Deeper Understanding

Namastechnology: Making Money Online, Surprisingly

At BEA, I talked with fellow booksellers a lot about our website: its design, how best to format events calendars and what to do with the store blog. Sooner or later during these conversations, they would lean in close and lower their voices, asking, "But are you actually making any money from it?"

A fair question, given my last column. But the answer is a cautiously optimistic yes. And the main reason is a bit surprising: we stopped trying so hard to sell books.

When we launched the site and for a couple months thereafter, we tried to increase awareness about the site and sell books, primarily by discounting and offering free ground shipping on orders over $50. Free shipping seemed to increase the amount of any given sale, but not necessarily lead to a sale in the first place. Discounting resulted in a few extra sales but not nearly as many as we would have seen if the discounting had been in-store.

So we turned our attention elsewhere. Much as Bananagrams and journals have helped bookstores keep the doors open in tough times, there are a number of nonbook items that can help get a website on its feet and running:

1. Sell branded items. For us, this has primarily meant tote bags. Other stores have done much more. Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., has a page not just of Vroman's-wear, but items related to Pasadena and other custom T-shirts for book lovers. Fire Petal Books, Centerville, Utah, just introduced a line of T-shirts and totes called Team Literary (for those who would rather be Team Darcy than Team Jacob). Idlewild Books in New York City showcases its great globe collection. There are umpteen-places to buy books on the web. There is, as far as I know, only one bookstore that sells a pint glass with its logo.

2. Sell tickets. Many of us ticket events for high-profile authors, usually including the price of the book in the price of the ticket. Selling tickets online has helped us lessen confusion over the phone and in the store. It also reminds regular customers about our website and introduces first-time customers, folks who are fans of an author but who don't know about WORD, to a new side of our bookstore. (One example of how we do this is our page for a July 13 event featuring Chuck Klosterman.) Many people are still shocked to hear that an independent bookstore has a website at all. Can you imagine their pleasant surprise when they realize they can sign up to see their favorite author through said site?

3. Create wedding registries, baby registries and book drives, an idea that came from a customer. There are plenty of couples who would rather have a shelf of cookbooks (or dystopian fantasy) than a matched gravy boat set. You've got the customer service and beautiful gift wrap---put it to use! In our case, I created a separate web page for each registry that we could unpublish after the wedding. Here's a current one that has a nice twist: guests are buying books that will end up being donated. Along the same lines, we've been working with tireless literacy organization ReadThis to help get classroom sets of necessary texts into schools. ReadThis looks for individual donors to help buy books that teachers have requested. We handle all the sales and keep track of what's left, and once the set is purchased in full, ship the books to the teacher. Here's the current drive, again with its own webpage.

4. Selective special offers. I'm not certain we should discount at all online---not when anyone with an Internet connection is one alt+tab from checking out competing prices--and I've found that offering a 20% discount with a coupon code doesn't push sales. But one promotion worked very well. Inspired by a customer's tweet that we should do something for Mother's Day called "WORD to Your Mother," we offered free wrapping, a note and free shipping for all online purchases made in May before Mother's Day. This netted far more sales than we would have gotten in that period and probably made some moms very happy.

By doing things online that we do in the store--sell our tote bags, sell tickets, help the community and have special offers for holidays--we help expand what we love about WORD onto the web, which means that our regular customers have more chances to visit and support us and that we are reaching a larger base of future customers.

A curious thing has happened as we've moved from pushing book sales and towards expanding other parts of the site: book sales have increased. Whether it's the law of bookstore qi transplanted to the web or a matter of increased Google juice, more people are buying books on our website. Most of those orders are for pick up in-store, which is perfect. We keep telling customers that they get the best of both worlds: they can shop online whenever they want and guarantee that the book they want will be waiting for them, but they also still have the serendipity of the browsing experience and help keep their neighborhood bookstore in business. The second most popular book order is from folks out-of-town who are having something shipped nearby. Which tells us that our customers know we have a website and are telling their relatives, even if they're not always using the site themselves.

So, yes, our website is paying for itself. But what else should we all be doing? What is working for your website? And if this isn't enough to convince you---what would? --Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y.

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