Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 12, 2006


William Morrow & Company: The Midnight Feast by Lucy Foley

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

St. Martin's Press: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne

News

A Million Little Finesses; Oprah Offers Support

Watching James Frey on Larry King Live last night was a little like listening to Judge Samuel Alito before the Senate Judiciary Committee. His general statements sounded reasonable, but he avoided answering questions about particular issues. For example, when King showed a tape with several specific charges and asked him to rebut them, Frey said simply, "I wasn't listening." Frey called the memoir in the tradition of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac and Bukowski, although King pointed out that their works were fiction.

Frey repeated several times that "less than 5% of the book is disputed" and that "it's a selective recollection of my life. It's my story and a truthful retelling of that story. It's the essential truth of my life." He claimed to have previously acknowledged changing certain facts to protect people and simplify events, but said it wasn't "fair to classify it as fiction."

Still, he affirmed that the book was originally shopped as fiction and had no explanation for why it was published as nonfiction. He added that in the future he will not write "about myself."

The show wound down unremarkably until a minute before its scheduled end, when Oprah Winfrey, who until last night had been publicly silent, called in and expressed her support for Frey and particularly for A Million Little Pieces. "We support the book because we recognize hundreds of thousands of people have been saved by this book." She scorned some of the criticism, saying the controversy was "much ado about nothing." In "memoirs, many days and names and times have been compressed," she continued. In the case of A Million Little Pieces, "the underlying message of redemption still resonates with me."

If anything was wrong or anyone at fault, it was the publisher, she seemed to indicate. "I rely on publishers to define the category a book falls in and the authenticity of the work," she said. "For me, the bigger question is what this means for the publishing world and the memoir category."

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In other Frey fray news, a Reuters story yesterday that Random House was offering a special refund on copies of A Million Little Pieces to unhappy readers who bought the book directly from the publisher turned out not to be true--in the sense that this might be a quiet admission of guilt by Random. The company said it has a longstanding policy of offering refunds on any title bought directly.

The Hollywood Reporter (via the Book Standard) reported on the possible repercussions of the controversy on films based on books by Frey and the week's other scandal-plagued "author," J.T. Leroy. The film version of A Million Little Pieces, the journal said, might need "a rehab of its own."


Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland


Buyout Biggies After Borders?

"A number of big buy-out groups" is considering purchasing Borders and taking it private, the Financial Times reported. "Several private equity firms in recent weeks have held discussions with banks willing to assemble a financing package to fund a purchase of Borders, according to people familiar with the matter."

Borders is currently capitalized at $1.5 billion; some insiders said bidding could begin at about $25 a share or $1.8 billion for the company. The Times wasn't sure of the effect of Borders's relatively strong financial report yesterday on a possible buyout. (See item below.) The paper claimed that a decade ago, Barnes & Noble "was close to buying Borders" but backed off because of antitrust issues. It speculated that B&N might take another look now.


Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing


Borders's Holiday: U.S. Book Sales Up; Music a Drag

Although it had warned sales might decline in the holiday season, Borders Group wound up Christmas on a relatively cheery note. Sales in the fourth quarter to date, a period running from October 23 to January 8, rose 1.4% to $1.3 billion.

At U.S. superstores, sales in the same period rose 4.1% to $800.5 million, and sales at those superstores open at least a year rose 2.2%. The company had recently projected that comp-store sales might be flat or down in the low single digits for the full quarter. Borders attributed much of the strength to book sales, which rose 6% at stores open at least a year. Music was again out of tune; reflecting the dismal state of music sales generally, comp-store music sales dropped 12%.

At Waldenbooks, sales in the quarter to date dropped 8.3% to $279.2 million, mainly because of the closing of more Walden stores. Comp-store sales were down 2.6%, on the lower end of the company's recent estimate of a decline in the low to high single digits.

Sales at international operations rose 6.8% to $174.1 million in the quarter so far, toward the low end of the company's projection of a 6%-12% increase. The state of the dollar distorted results negatively: excluding foreign currency translation, international sales would have risen 13.8%.

For the first time, Borders provided comp-store sales results for international stores, which are calculated in local currencies and include sales from licensed departments. For the quarter to date, international comp-store sales were up 0.8%. (The company indicated last year that sales in the U.K. had slumped following the July bombings in London, and heavy discounting by non-bookstores has led to a brutal holiday season, according to general news reports. Note the following item!)

Because of these results, Borders has slightly boosted its earnings estimates for the fourth quarter and full year.

In addition, during the fiscal year to date, the company has repurchased some 11.2 million of its own shares worth $258 million. The board has approved new repurchases of up to $250 million.


GLOW: Tundra Books: We Are Definitely Human by X. Fang


Notes: Giles to Leave HMV; Paz Bookseller Workshop Set

Alan Giles, CEO of the HMV Group since it was formed in 1998, is resigning effective the end of the year, "the first high-profile management victim of deteriorating sales conditions on the U.K. high street," as the Daily Telegraph put it. As reported by Forbes.com, HMV had disappointing results for the holiday season, and at the company's Waterstone's booksellers division, comp-store sales fell 2.4% and overall sales dropped 1.6% in the five weeks ended January 7. The company said that despite the results and Giles's departure, it is continuing its delayed effort to take over Ottakar's. (For its part, Ottakar's reported flat comp-store sales in the four weeks ended January 7, according to Bloomberg.)

In the early 1990s, Giles was head of Waterstone's, then a W.H. Smith subsidiary, when it opened some stores in the U.S.

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In conjunction with the American Booksellers Association, Paz & Associates's Bookstore Training & Consulting Group is offering another full-week workshop for prospective booksellers. Opening a Bookstore: The Business Essentials will be held March 13-17 on Amelia Island, near Jacksonville, Fla. The only other full-week workshop to be offered this year is scheduled for late September just before the Great Lakes Booksellers Association's trade show in Dearborn, Mich.

For the workshop agenda, list of trainers and registration form, visit the "new store" page at www.pazbookbiz.com. Anyone who has placed a spot on hold may now secure a place by submitting the registration form. Attendance is limited to 20 stores. Call 800-260-8605 for further information.

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Elizabeth Bluemle and Josie Leavitt, the owners of the Flying Pig Bookstore in Charlotte, Vt., have been appointed co-chairs of the New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council (NECBA) for two years. New England Booksellers Association president Allan Schmid made the appointment; NECBA is a NEBA committee open to any NEBA member involved in children's bookselling.

NECBA meets three times a year and is responsible for, among other things, major parts of the children's aspects of NEBA's annual trade show. NECBA next meets February 15.


Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman


Nifty Q&A with the Seattle Mystery Bookshop

Seattlest has a delightful Q&A with Bill Farley and J.B. Dickey of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop--one a former owner and now employee, the other a former employee and now owner--that touches on many things Seattle, favorite local crime writers and more. Among clues for the store's success:

  • The store has done well for two reasons, Dickey said: "One, we've always had used books, so we've always had a greater depth of selection than our competitors. Also quite frankly we know a hell of a lot more than they do."
  • Farley set up the store downtown partly because a neighorhood location would have made evening and weekend work "intensive." In addition, downtown draws tourists and is near the courts, and law enforcement people and jurors are great mystery fans.
  • Popular titles include mysteries that are, Farley said, "very strong on resolution at the end, which, you know, life doesn't have any more. I think that's a big part of why people like mysteries now, because the bad guy or bad girl gets comeuppance, which doesn't happen in real life very much."


E-Books on Campus: Will Johnny e-Read?

Several local campus newspapers have followed up on the expansion of MBS Textbook Exchange's Universal Digital Textbooks program, as noted here in Monday's issue.

At Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, which is one of the new participants in the program, many students told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that they are open to trying e-books. One nursing student said she believes e-books prices will continue to drop and called the idea of not carrying heavy textbooks around "kind of cool, kind of nifty."

The University Bookstore at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, one of the 10 college stores that participated in the pilot program last fall, sold just 20 copies of the 19 e-books it offered, according to Bowling Green News. Store director Jeff Nelson commented that while the number sold "sounds like a disappointment . . . it's not. It's a great response," particularly because many e-books arrived late and the store didn't have time to promote the program adequately.

This semester the store will offer at least 30 titles, all at about a 40% discount to the printed editions of the same texts. One student who bought an e-book for a computer science class last semester sounded satisfied, telling the paper, "I prefer it because I can't misplace it. I lose everything, so it's best if it's in digital format. And it's just so much easier to get things at a glance off of the computer screen."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Saying NO; Yosama

This morning Good Morning America has a single whammy: David Edelberg, author of The Triple Whammy Cure: The Breakthrough Women's Health Program for Feeling Good Again in Three Weeks (Free Press, $25, 0743269071).

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Gail Sheehy talks Sex and the Seasoned Woman (Random, $25.95, 1400062632) in the morning on the Early Show and in the afternoon on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show.

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This morning, yes, the Today Show talks with Susan Newman, about her book The Book of NO: 250 Ways to Say It--and Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever (McGraw-Hill, $14.95, 0071460780).

The Today Show also serves up Annabel Karmel, author of Favorite Family Meals (Atria, $22.95, 0743275187).

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Today WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show hears from Leonard Steinhorn, author of The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy (Thomas Dunne, $24.95, 0312326408).

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Today on KCRW's Bookworm: Mary Gaitskill, author of Veronica (Pantheon, $23, 0375421459). As the show describes it: "Michael Silverblatt confesses that he is frightened by Mary Gaitskill's intensely forward work. Gaitskill confides that sometimes she is frightened by the world she writes about. In this exploratory conversation, they attempt to arrive at an understanding of the deceptive role that point-of-view plays in transgressive writing, such as her

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NPR's Talk of the Nation talks with Peter L. Bergen, author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader (Free Press, $26, 0743278917).

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Tonight the Daily Show with Jon Stewart has a guest whose book is of supreme interest at the moment: Edward Lazarus, a former Supreme Court clerk and author of Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court (Penguin, $18, 0143035274).


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