Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Bloomsbury YA: This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron

Other Press: Barcelona Dreaming by Rupert Thomson

Magination Press: Jacob's School Play: Starring He, She, and They by Ian Hoffman and Sarah Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case

Simon & Schuster Children's Fall Preview: Join us for a virtual meetup featuring your favorite authors and illustrators!

Tordotcom: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Just Pretend by Tori Sharp

Mandala Publishing: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury and Insight Editions

Tor Books: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Quotation of the Day

Makinson: 'Do Not Write Off Publishers Just Yet'

"What is being missed in the debate about the division of digital spoils is the opportunity offered by e-books to authors and readers, as well as to publishers who have the specialist skills to exploit it. First, we should not forget that the growth of the book market has always been driven not by changes in consumer demand but by the availability of new channels of supply. It was true of supermarkets and book clubs, and it will be true of digital platforms and formats. Second, digital technology allows publishers to develop enticing new products, adding audio, video and gaming dimensions to the traditional book. Third, digital platforms give publishers access to rich consumer data for the first time, allowing them to take more informed decisions about pricing and content. Finally, readers will now engage more directly in the publishing process, via online communities and social networks, contributing content and ideas of their own. All of this will redefine the industry but, so long as we are adept at learning new skills, it will enhance the role of the publisher."

--John Makinson, Penguin Group chairman and CEO, in his Financial Times column,
"Do not write off book publishers just yet."

 


Neal Porter Books: Bright Star by Yuyi Morales


News

'Indie Bookstores Rising' in New York

Noting the city's "independent bookshops were supposed to be long gone by now," New York magazine observed that "we are suddenly, unexpectedly in the midst of an indie-bookstore renaissance. The past year alone has seen the arrival of Fort Greene’s instantly beloved Greenlight Bookstore [photo], Williamsburg’s Book Thug Nation, Dyker Heights’s Boulevard Books, and Mast on the Lower East Side, among others."


The shop local movement has been a prime contributor to the resurgence, according to New York, and "the specter of a world without indie bookshops has inspired a new, perhaps quixotic generation of entrepreneurs to jump in. The new booksellers bring a modern approach to the business: In place of the dusty riots of yore are more curated, well-lit shops that emphasize personal service and community--book clubs, readings, charity projects, and even the occasional lit-geek basketball league."

New York explored the indie revival from several perspectives, including "the new (and renewed) guard of indie bookstores," "Book-o-nomics," indie favorites among New York authors (Jhumpa Lahiri: "I’ve already come to think of Greenlight as an extension of my home. Everyone knew Fort Greene needed a bookstore, but I don’t think anyone dreamed it would be as perfect a place as this."), bookshops for every taste, bookseller recommendations of "their most anticipated titles" and "Seller’s Market: What you'll get for previously loved titles."

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Perry Haberman's Montauk Bookshop and Jack McKeown's Books & Books, Westhampton Beach, were profiled in the Wall Street Journal, which obseerved that as pundits contemplate whether "the rise in e-books means the once-and-for-all demise of the independent book shop, two brick-and-mortar stores that sell actual bound material and yes, many paperback copies of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have quietly opened on the East End."

"I've always been a bit of a contrarian," McKeown said. "With Borders struggling, Barnes & Noble no longer building new stores and Amazon focusing on the Kindle, we saw an opportunity that if you really understood who was buying here, you could reinvent the book store. We saw a stretch from Huntington to Southampton that was under supplied, and the analysis was there was a lot of sales leakage to Amazon.com and bigger bookstores in the city."

 


Harper: The Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl


Notes: Blumenthal Investigates E-Book Pricing; Kindle Sells Out

Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's Attorney General, is conducting "a preliminary review of the pricing agreements between five of the country's largest book publishers and two leading digital retailers: Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.," the Wall Street Journal reported. An initial review by his office discovered identical e-book prices for several bestsellers sold by Amazon, Apple, Borders and Barnes & Noble, and letters have been sent to Apple and Amazon requesting a meeting.

"These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular e-books--potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices," according to Blumenthal, who also said, "My investigation into agreements between e-book publishers and Amazon and Apple has been initiated independent of any other law enforcement agency. We look forward to cooperating with any other federal or state agency that may be interested in working jointly."

CNET observed: "We should point out that Blumenthal is a candidate for Christopher Dodd's open Senate seat and that book prices--at least the paper kind--have been fairly fixed for decades. It's also unclear why Blumenthal didn't mention Barnes & Noble, which is locked into the same e-book agreements as Apple and Amazon.

CNN Money reported that Mike Shatzkin, CEO of Idea Logical, "says the e-book market is extremely 'confused,' thanks largely to Amazon's long-running attempt to dictate terms. Its tight grip on a $9.99 price point--one that buyers like but publishers consider unsustainably low--has kept pricing from hitting an equilibrium that appeases both retailers and suppliers.... Shatzkin thinks it will take a court case or regulatory action to truly level the e-book playing field."

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Amazon has sold out of its third-generation $189 Kindle 3G and $139 wifi versions just days after their unveiling (Shelf Awareness, July 29, 2010). Both are listed on the company's website as "expected to ship on or before September 4th."

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Ian Freed, an Amazon v-p in charge of the Kindle, spoke with CNET about the new Kindle models as well as trends in the e-book industry. When asked "how much of the rate of growth on the e-book side is attributable to the iPad and getting your app on these other devices like the iPhone and iPad," he replied, "Some numbers we haven't released before... 80% of Kindle books we sell are sold to Kindle owners. They may have a Kindle app on a phone or an iPad or Mac or PC, but they at least have a Kindle. So 20% do not."

In speaking about the agency pricing model, Freed contended that "we've definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less." He also questioned claims by Apple and B&N that each now has 20% of the e-book market: "Honestly, something doesn't add up because we're pretty sure we're 70% to 80% of the market."

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Google's plan to "act as a wholesaler of e-books" could help some small e-retailers as the market expands. Citing examples like Better World Books and Powells.com, Internet Retailer reported that Google "plans to sell hundreds of thousands of e-books--including lucrative best sellers--direct to consumers, as well as to act as a wholesaler to other online book retailers like Better World Books. As a wholesaler, Google will buy books from publishers and resell them to bookstores, taking a commission of under 10% on each sale."

"If all we have to do is bring the customers, which would mean tying the e-book selection into our inventory, as well as maybe building a mobile application, our cost of entry into the market probably drops to around $100,000--that’s a far cry from $1 million," said Xavier Helgesen, co-founder of Better World Books.

Darin Sennett, Powells.com's director of strategic projects, envisions the potential opening of a significant new market: "I know more people who read on their iPhones than any other device and we don’t really play in that space. But Google could quickly get us there." Working with Google "would allow us to think about selling books while Google focuses on the technical areas," Sennett added.

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps suggested that Google's service will be advantageous for small online retailers: "Up until now independent bookstores have been the biggest losers in the e-book phenomenon because they don’t have the resources to build their own e-book stores. But they have clientele that would like to remain loyal. This will allow them to serve their customers in a new way."

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Whether digital and print books can live in harmony over the long term may still be an open question, but MetroWest Daily News reported that for the time being local "readers and retailers say there's room for digital and traditional volumes to coexist."

"It is interesting because we're having an incredibly good year," said Deb Sundin, manager of Wellesley Booksmith, Wellesley, Mass.

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Due to their propensity for leaving the shop via five-finger discount, several titles at McNally Jackson Books, New York, N.Y, are kept in "a protected section behind the counter. Books on lockdown!" The Awl showcased "the books all the kids are stealing these days!"

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While it might seem like an "absurd notion to build high-end bookstores selling sleek, large-scale art books with price tags in the thousands during unstable economic conditions," Taschen's venture into the retail market has been successful, the Los Angeles Times reported. Taschen continues to expand its retail space, "including a store near the Grove that opened in 2008 and, most recently, a store in Miami. Financial figures for the privately held company are not public, but the firm's executives are upbeat and Rob Hudson, manager of the Beverly Hills and Grove stores, says sales are up from last year by double digits."

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If you live in New York, you're more likely to own an iPad than if you live in Phoenix. USA Today reported that a "Gadget Census" surveying regional patterns in consumer electronics buying also revealed that "Massachusetts residents are 49% more likely than average to own a dedicated digital reader."

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In the New York Times, Nick Bilton considered some of the last bastions of Internet-free public life, noting that recently he had been confronted at a coffee shop and a café about using his Kindle and iPad.

"I wonder if people went through the same thing in the mid-1400s as they sat in coffee shops with their pesky paper books?" he wrote. "I can imagine a coffee shop owner demanding that a patron remove his book from an establishment that only allowed spoken communication. And how long will it take before e-books are accepted as equals with their paper counterparts?"

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The historical life of books: The Bookshop Blog observed that changes are in the air, "but getting to the book we know today wasn’t exactly a straight path either. There were stops in between the giant stone block and today’s paperback. Some alternate systems still persist even today."

The private life of a book: The Casual Optimist featured a "whimsical short film by Studiocanoe about a disappointing year in the life of a book."

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Book trailer of the day: Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks and Food Activists by Katherine Leiner (Sunrise Lane Productions).

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Blood Moon Productions, which specializes in books about Hollywood celebrity scandals of the past--many of which were hushed up at the time--offered a feature-length video on BookExpo America 2010, which aims to give "nonprofessional book people an insight into book fairs"--while highlighting some Blood Moon titles. The narrator is Blood Moon president Danforth Prince, who interviews, among others, Carole Stuart of Barricade Books, Philip Rafshoon, owner of Outwrite Bookstore and Coffeehouse, Atlanta, Ga., Graeme Aitkin of the Bookshop in Sydney, Australia, Eugene Schwartz of ForeWord Reviews, and a what seems like half of the staff of National Book Network, Blood Moon's distributor.



Bronzeville Books: Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey


Obituary Note: Kevin Morrissey

We were saddened to learn that a friend and former colleague, Kevin Morrissey, the 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, died on Friday, July 30. Kevin, whose previous job was sales and marketing manager at the Minnesota Historical Society, worked with Marilyn Dahl and Jenn Risko at Pacific Pipeline in Seattle, where he was marketing director. He was smart, hardworking and tenacious in his pursuit of excellence. He was also excruciatingly funny, and had a sweet smile that could light up a room. Our sympathy goes out to his friends and family.

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Turnout by Megan Abbott


Image of the day: 'How About Your Dad's Fall List!'

Two weeks ago, Liesl Freudenstein, children's book buyer at Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., brought her son Dane to work. That day, PGW rep Rob Pine called on the store, chaperoned by his son Dobbin. While mom and dad conducted business, Dane (l.) and Dobbin spent the day together reading and having fun.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Nigella Lawson on Today Show

Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Laura Ingraham, author of The Obama Diaries (Threshold Editions, $25, 9781439197516/1439197512).

Also on GMA: Rocco DiSpirito, author of Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories (Ballantine, $22, 9780345520906/0345520904).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Nigella Lawson, author of Nigella Express: Good Food, Fast (Hyperion, $35, 9781401322434/1401322433).

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Tomorrow on Fox & Friends: Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, authors of Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids---and What We Can Do About It (Times Books, $26, 9780805087345/0805087346).

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Tomorrow on a repeat of Oprah: Laura Bush, author of Spoken from the Heart (Scribner, $30, 9781439155202/1439155208).

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Bruce Henderson, author of Hero Found: The Greatest POW Escape of the Vietnam War (Harper, $27.99, 9780061571367/0061571369).

 


Television: I Don’t Care About Your Band

HBO is developing a comedy series based upon Julie Klausner’s memoir I Don’t Care About Your Band. Deadline.com reported that Gary Sanchez Productions--run by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay--is working on the project as a potential star vehicle for actress Lizzy Caplan, "who is coming off Starz’s cult comedy series Party Down."

 


Movies: Skippy Dies

Neil Jordan will direct a film adaptation of Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, which has been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Variety reported that Jordan will write the script, "while Number 9 Films' Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen will produce along with James Flynn of Littlewave Film Productions."

The project is a reunion of sorts for Woolley, Karlsen and Jordan, as the three previously collaborated on the The Crying Game, though Woolley and Jordan have also worked on a number of other films together, including Breakfast on Pluto, The Butcher Boy and Mona Lisa.

 



Books & Authors

Awards: RWA Rita Awards

The following are the winners of the 2010 RITA awards, sponsored by the Romance Writers of America:

Young Adult Romance: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (Walker Books for Young Readers)
Inspirational Romance: The Inheritance by Tamera Alexander (Thomas Nelson, Women of Faith Fiction)
Novel With Strong Romantic Elements: The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O'Neal (Bantam Dell, Discovery)
Romance Novella: "The Christmas Eve Promise" by Molly O'Keefe in The Night Before Christmas (Harlequin Silhouette)
Contemporary Series Romance: A Not-So-Perfect Past by Beth Andrews (Harlequin Superromance)
Contemporary Series Romance Suspense/Adventure: The Soldier's Secret Daughter by Cindy Dees (Harlequin Silhouette)
Historical Romance: Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas (Bantam Dell)
Regency Historical Romance: What Happens In London by Julia Quinn (Avon)
Paranormal Romance: Kiss of a Demon King by Kresley Cole (Pocket)
Romantic Suspense: Whisper of Warning by Laura Griffin (Pocket Star)
First Book: One Scream Away by Kate Brady (Grand Central)
Contemporary Single Title Romance: Too Good To Be True by Kristin Higgins (Harlequin)     

Winners of Golden Heart awards, which recognize outstanding romance manuscripts, can be found here.

 


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, August 10:

Hollywood: A Third Memoir by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781439159958/1439159955) is a new collection of anecdotes from an accomplished author and screenwriter.

Composed: A Memoir by Rosanne Cash (Viking, $26.95, 9780670021963/0670021962) chronicles the life and music career of Johnny Cash's daughter.

Where There Is Love, There Is God: A Path to Closer Union with God and Greater Love for Others by Mother Teresa (Doubleday, $24, 9780385531788/0385531788) offers more wisdom from Mother Teresa culled from private lessons she gave to fellow nuns.

Cure by Robin Cook (Putnam, $26.95, 9780399156625/0399156623) follows a couple, both medical examiners, who are threatened for investigating a mob hit.

Tough Customer: A Novel by Sandra Brown (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781416563105/1416563105) tells the story of a private investigator whose estranged daughter is threatened by a menacing stalker.


Now in paperback:

Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil by Peter Maass (Vintage, $15.95, 9781400075454/1400075459).

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (Vintage, $15.95, 9780307388407/0307388409).

 


Book Review

Book Review: The Fiddler in the Subway

The Fiddler in the Subway: The True Story of What Happened When a World-Class Violinist Played for Handouts... and Other Virtuoso Performances by by Gene Weingarten (Simon & Schuster, $15.99 Paperback, 9781439181591, July 2010)

 

The Roman comic playwright Terence wrote, "I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me." There couldn't be a more apt description of essayist and reporter Gene Weingarten as he's revealed in this collection of 20 of his best Washington Post pieces. Ranging from the riotously humorous to the deeply emotional, Weingarten's work displays deep empathy for his subjects and a passion for penetrating to the sometimes elusive heart of a story.

Reflective of these qualities is Weingarten's fiercely honest account of his midwinter visit to Savoonga, Alaska, "a town so physically inhospitable it practically orders you to leave." Equally powerful are the moving tale of Leslie McFarlane, "a story about the soul of writing," in which a fine writer churns out the execrable prose and hackneyed plots of the Hardy Boys novels to keep his family fed and clothed during the Depression, and the brief stories of Weingarten's father's last years, brimming with humor and pathos.

The comic sensibility that's a feature of many of the pieces shines through in "The Armpit of America," where Weingarten's decision (amply documented) to award that title to the town of Battle Mountain, Nev., has hilarious, unintended consequences. "The Great Zucchini" clinically analyzes the public success and personal turmoil of a wildly popular children's party entertainer, and "Fear Itself," describing Weingarten's bus and train rides in Jerusalem and Madrid, reveals what it really means to live with the threat of terrorism. A 2006 profile of Garry Trudeau (the first of the cartoonist's career) and an investigation of the brief life of Bill Clinton's father, killed in a car accident at age 28, are revealing.

Not all of the pieces hit their target. Weingarten's attempt to plumb the psyche of a typical nonvoter who caused him to "rethink almost every assumption" he had made about those disengaged from public life never really conveys the reasons for that radical reconsideration. But the occasional lapse is more than compensated for by the two Pulitzer Prize–winning features included here. "Fatal Distraction" is an almost too painful to read glimpse into the lives of parents whose children died when left unattended in a vehicle. The book's title piece explores in a lighthearted but astute way violin virtuoso Joshua Bell's humbling 45-minute stint playing Bach and Schumann as an audience of indifferent commuters streamed past him at a Washington Metro stop. It's a gentle prod to all of us to stop and pay attention--a persistent, if unstated, theme of much of this collection.

If you haven't been a regular reader of the Washington Post for the past decade or so, give thanks for your good fortune in having this much accomplished writing, wit and insight into the human condition bound between covers.--Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: Reporter and essayist Gene Weingarten offers a diverse collection from more than a decade of essays and feature writing for the Washington Post.


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