By a vote estimated at 44% to 39%, yesterday Barnes & Noble chairman Len Riggio and two allies won election to the company's board of directors over a slate supported by insurgent shareholder Ron Burkle. In addition, an attempt to change B&N's poison-pill provision, enacted last year by the company in reaction to Burkle's purchases of B&N stock, was voted down.
"For what it's worth, it hasn't been an easy four to five months," said Riggio. In a statement, Burkle's Yucaipa Companies said it would continue to press for changes at B&N.
The New York Times noted that Riggio's re-election "will be seen as an endorsement of his strategy. The bookseller is trying to navigate the digital marketplace while at the same time weighing a sale of the company."
The Wall Street Journal called the vote "a double loss" for Burkle, since shareholders "beat back his proposals to elect him and two other director nominees, and his suggestion to raise the threshold for the company's poison pill that has been the source of tension between Burkle and the bookseller." The Yucaipa statement blamed the loss of the shareholder vote on an "insurmountable insider voting advantage" for Riggio and his allies.
B&N will now proceed with "an auction of the company," the Journal wrote. "To that end, it extended something of an olive branch to Burkle. 'Yucaipa is welcome, as are all interested parties, to make a bid for the Company,' director Patricia Higgins said in a statement. 'All interested bidders should contact our financial advisors at Lazard.' "
Riggio has expressed an interest in buying the company and taking it private, possibly with a partner. Burkle has said that if B&N is sold, it should be sold to the highest bidder.
Beginning early next year, Xerox will market, sell or lease, and service the Espresso Book Machine to retailers. The company said its expanded sales and service model builds on a joint strategy announced earlier this year (Shelf Awareness, January 15, 2010), when Xerox worked with On Demand Books to equip the EBM with the Xerox 4112 Copier/Printer.
"The on-demand book publishing market has expanded, and so has our support of this solution," said Eric Armour, president, graphic communications business group. "Xerox's involvement has moved far beyond the print engine--we are now helping retailers, bookstores, libraries and universities build a profitable on-demand book publishing business."
Dane Neller, CEO, On Demand Books, added, "The full sales and service support of Xerox, as well as a leasing option, will transform this technology and make it readily available worldwide. Consumers will have more choices, booksellers will have more titles with no increase in inventory and publishers will have a new sales channel."
Harvard Book Store owner Jeff Mayersohn said that for independent bookstores, "the Espresso Book Machine is an extraordinary technology--and now the added value Xerox brings in terms of sales, service and marketing will help us secure new business while satisfying book enthusiasts instantly."
Borders will open will open Borders Express pop-up stores during the holiday season in 25 locations nationwide, including Valley Plaza Mall in Bakersfield, Cal.; Perimeter Mall, Atlanta, Ga.; Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg, Ill.; and Fox Run Mall, Newington, N.H. Averaging about 2,500 square feet, the stores are scheduled to be open October 25 through January 31.
"The majority of these stores are located in malls where we had a presence at one time," said Borders CEO Mike Edwards. "Where it didn’t make business sense for us to operate stores on a permanent basis in these areas, we can open a seasonal store and serve the holiday shopping needs of our customers. We’re thrilled to once again be part of these communities."
Last year Borders operated pop-up stores in five locations "and considered the experiment successful enough to merit an expansion this year," the New York Times reported.
Borders has begun selling the new Kobo Wireless eReader,
which has a wireless connection, upgraded hardware and a new processor.
The e-reader sells for $139.99 and can be ordered in advance starting
today; it will be available at the end of October online and in stores.
Borders already sells the wirelessless Kobo eReader for $129.99. Borders
now sells seven e-readers.
Yesterday's launch of K-NFB Reading Technology's Blio e-book platform (Shelf Awareness, September 16, 2010) drew some unenthusiastic responses online and in the media, including criticism of the technology's initial Windows-only capability, downloading complexity, limited and "annoying" voice options and inconsistent e-book pricing.
Singularity Hub summed up many of the criticisms in its review, which noted that "Blio seems woefully behind in a crowded e-reader space and doesn’t seem to 'get' the e-reader market."
In addition to noting the lack of Facebook and Twitter integration, Singularity Hub questioned Blio’s "misguided attempt to push e-books to the PC platform as its opening act. PCs and laptops are not ideal platforms for e-books."
Despite the weaknesses, however, "Blio still might see marginal success. After all, there are hundreds of millions of PCs and laptops out there for Blio to tap into. Furthermore, not everyone can afford or event wants to own a Kindle, iPad, or similar device. In other words, although the Blio doesn’t seem to mesh well with the future, it might be just what is needed for the majority of people that live in the present," Singularity Hub wrote.
This past Sunday, Powell's Technical Books, Portland, Ore., closed
its location at 33 Northwest Park Avenue and is in the process of moving
to a new spot at NW 10th Avenue and Couch Street--Powell's Books
Building 2--across from the City of Books, Powell's main location.
new Powell's Technical Books store opens this Friday, October 1, and
will include the science section from the City of Books. That space in
the City of Books will allow the children's section to expand and create
larger YA and graphic novel sections.
Powell's president Emily
Powell said in a statement: "Our goal was to bring Technical Books
closer to the millions of visitors at the City of Books and to connect
that inventory to our main store location. We hope this offers a better
shopping experience for our customers."
Reaction to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article, "Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books," was swift and pointed.
"I'm still drying my eyes over the plight of literary fiction writers," wrote Slate's James Ledbetter, adding, "I feel genuinely sorry for literary writers who are upset by that fact and who have to find other ways to pay for their health care, etc. But the truth is that no more than a few dozen literary writers in any generation have ever been able to support a family based solely on their writing. E-books did not create that problem."
On the Three Percent blog, Chad Post observed that "rather than focus on e-book pricing and the struggling publishing industry, we should instead focus on audience development. We simply do not live in a culture that can support 50,000 works of fiction a year on sales alone. Period.... I don't mean to sound like an elitist, but seriously, of the 50,000 works of fiction published in 2008, how many deserved to be? 20,000? 100? Somewhere in between, surely, but the point is, some books are simply printed, others are works of art that won't appeal to everyone, and a select few are picked up by the mainstream culture and make tons of money."
Post admitted to being "a little touchy" about the Journal article's treatment of indie presses, and suggested that "everyone should check out OR Books. Incredibly innovative, great authors, zero advances, quick turn around time for books, and only selling through their website. This is a different option. It runs counter to everything talked about above, and, if successful, could provide some ideas that other publishers could learn from. Learn and adapt. The answer isn't always to freak out; sometimes topics deserve reflection and thought, and sometimes there's a third way to do business."
Obituary note: Ralph Vicinanza, an agent whose clients included Stephen King, Augusten Burroughs and the Dalai Lama, died Sunday, the Associated Press reported. He was 60.
"As a writer, one of the best people you can have on your side is an agent who knows the market and knows where your work will fit and will sell. He knew that as well or better than anyone in the business," said John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
On Tor's blog, Beth Meacham wrote: "Ralph really loved books; he loved his clients' novels. When we got together over breakfast at conventions, or in his irregular after-hours phone calls, we'd talk about books--what we loved, where we thought a writer was going. He made a lot of money with his bestseller clients, but he also adored his smaller books, his less successful writers."
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the e-book revolution is affecting area used book dealers "on two fronts--fewer buyers and less stock to acquire."
"We lost 20% of our business," said Kisha Rose, owner of Book Rack, Palm Coast. "With coupons, you can get (e-book readers) for $65. I read a lot, and I can understand that if you have a chance to carry around a lot of books for $65, you're going to take it. Even owning my own business, it hurts, but I can understand."
Chuck Monk, owner of Orange City's Half Off Books said, "I don't think it's affecting my sales. For a bad economy, my sales are up. I see it staying that way. There's pros and cons with e-readers. I don't think it'll ever replace printed material, at least for a long time."
"It's a little early to tell yet," said Jim Brown, owner of Brown's Bookstore, Edgewater. "People are becoming more aware of reading, because of Kindle. I think it'll bring about more people reading. I believe e-books will bring a resurgence of business for me."
Amazon has introduced a beta version of Kindle for the Web and is inviting bloggers and website owners who are participants in the Amazon Associates Program to be part of Kindle for the Web by embedding samples of Kindle books on their websites. These website owners will earn referral fees from Amazon when customers complete book purchases using the links on their websites.
Fast Company noted that "Kindle for the Web may be the most potent tweak to the Amazon ecosystem yet. In one swoop, it brings e-book reading (backed by Amazon's own archive of texts) to any pretty much every screen that sports Web access. That means set-top boxes, games consoles, and every other device that connects to the Web using a browser. Amazon intends to get on your TV--and whatever device you use as your main screen in the future, Kindle has you covered."
There's some action in the Amazon tablet rumor mill as well. In the wake of the company's recent announcement that it will launch an Android-based app store, TechCrunch reported that "last week, before we knew that, we got an interesting tip that such a move was coming soon--this week, actually. And that tip came with a bonus attached--the tipster also heard that Amazon was going to be releasing an iPad competitor alongside the store."
Ford Madox Ford's 99-page test website mentioned in yesterday's edition of Shelf Awareness has at least one online predecessor in the Page 99 Test blog, which has been running since 2007.
Book trailer of the day: Into the Storm: Violent Tornadoes, Killer Hurricanes, and Death-defying Adventures in Extreme Weather by Reed Timmer with Andrew Tilin (Dutton), which bursts onto the market October 14.
Effective October 1, Lindy Humphreys is joining Abrams in the new
position of director, digital assets and publishing technology. She
formerly worked at Wiley and at Chronicle Books and has almost 20 years
Also at Abrams, Chris Blank has been promoted to senior manager, digital assets and web development, from web marketing manager.