Speculation has heated up regarding who might purchase Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C. Last week, the New York Times suggested that Franklin Foer, who stepped down recently as editor of the New Republic, had emerged as a possibility: "Foer will remain at the magazine as a writer at large at the same time he is putting together a group of investors to bid on a prominent Washington bookstore, Politics and Prose. Those investors include Hugh Panero, a founder and the former chief executive of XM Satellite radio; Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for the Atlantic magazine; and Rafe Sagalyn, a literary agent."
"I love the place so much," said Foer, who went to Politics and Prose as a child.
Yesterday, the New York Observer endorsed the idea: "We share his affection, and we'll keep pulling for the writer-editor to seize control of Politics and Prose, thus ensuring that its doors stay open. The editor-to-bookstore-owner move is not the most common, but perhaps Washington needs Frank Foer running one of its bookstores more than it needs him to run one of its magazines."
But the Washington Post cautioned that while owner Barbara Meade has narrowed the field to six serious bidders, she "is being very selective about who takes control. Before even considering a monetary offer, she is conducting interviews with all of the candidates to get a feel for their vision for her beloved store."
"We're looking for someone who is committed to the mission of the store as it has existed," said Meade. "We certainly have a great interest in selling to someone who has a passion for the written word." She added that she has "committed to our customers that somebody that doesn't know Carla or me could walk into the store and not know that the ownership has changed."
On NPR's Morning Edition today, Lynn Neary explored the current state of indie bookstores in a technological, big box store era and discovered that owners like Rebecca Fitting and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y. "argue that the struggling local bookstore is a thing of the past."
"That was the only story people--especially in media--could wrap their heads around," Bagnulo said. " 'Oh isn't it sad that all the independent bookstores are dying and they are being destroyed by chains!' "
Fitting added that it may be the big box stores that are in trouble these days: "I kind of feel like we're coming to end of the age of dinosaurs and there's all these warmblooded animals running around instead."
Bagnulo sees the potential for two trends to develop from the current situation in the industry: "Digital content--which is ubiquitous and everywhere--and the local, boutique, curated side. And the chain stores unfortunately don't have the advantage in either of those areas. I mean, they can't carry every book in the world in their store, and they don't have the same emotional connection to their neighborhood that a local store does."
Elaine Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif., said, "It's really hard for me to be sympathetic to the chains." She views e-books as more of a marketing challenge, especially now that Google eBooks are an option: "I think it gives us a chance. I don't think it's a panacea, but I think it gives us a chance.... I think that it's possible that the Kindle could turn into the Betamax. That's my nasty wish, because they won't share with other people."
B&N's CEO Len Riggio sees common ground: "I think the biggest threat to Barnes & Noble is the same threat that exists to independent book sellers and to anyone engaged in the sale of printed books. It's all about the Internet itself.... We really don't care if someone has an iPhone, because you can read Barnes & Noble e-books on your iPhone. You can read Barnes & Noble books on your iPad or your BlackBerry. So we don't consider the other devices to be competitive, and we may very well sell some of those devices in our stores."
But the future is cloudy for everyone in the business, and Riggio observed, "It's pretty heady times, and we don't know how it's going to turn out. But if you want to count up the people who will have a say in how it will turn out, put us in as one of them."
"I don't think we're going to become precious," Petrocelli concluded. "I think we're going to be a vital part of the future, but we're going to have keep growing and changing."
Going OP in style. Author Laurel Snyder recently discovered "the very best way to go out of print." When she received word that the hardcover edition of her first novel, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, was headed for the remainder bins, she mourned just a bit, then took action. After discovering that 800 copies were available, she "did something INSANE! I pulled out my credit card and bought every last book. EVERY SINGLE COPY!"
Better yet, Snyder "took them to some friends of mine. First, and most importantly, I took a lot of books to Joe Davich, at the incredible Georgia Center for the Book, at the Decatur Library. He offered to help the books find homes in libraries across the state, so that I wouldn’t have to pay shipping costs to get my books into the hands of readers."
Next, "we headed over to the best bookstore in the universe, Little Shop of Stories, where Diane Capriola (because devoted indie bookstore owners don’t have enough to do) had generously offered to store and deliver another few hundred copies for me, to a wonderful fourth grade class, so that the kids could all have a book to take home for the holidays.... Finally, I was down to a few boxes, so I ran by the elementary schools in my own neighborhood, and dropped off copies with some awesome media specialists. They were all about as friendly and nice as they could possibly be."
Now, Snyder wrote, "the books are where I wanted them to be all along. From the moment I began writing. The books are with kids.... This spring I’m going to sit down and try to think of a way to help other authors do what I’ve done. I have in mind a matching program, to pair donors and authors up, to buy books at hugely reduced rates, and then coordinate the gift through a library system or school that would handle distribution."
Amazon finally released Kindle sales numbers... generally speaking. In a thank you note to the Kindle Community, Amazon wrote: "Thanks to you, in just the first 73 days of this holiday quarter, we've already sold millions of our all-new Kindles with the latest E Ink Pearl display. In fact, in the last 73 days, readers have purchased more Kindles than we sold during all of 2009."
CNET noted that "for number watchers, the good news is we should know soon enough when Apple hits 10 million iPads sold. As for Amazon reporting more precise figures, we'll probably only know the Kindle's hit the 10 million mark when Amazon says it's sold tens of millions of Kindles."
Graywolf Press has purchased world rights to June Fourth Elegies, the first English-language collection of poetry by Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo. The
reported that "the book, which has never been published in China, will
be translated by poet Jeffrey Yang, who has already translated some of
Xiaobo's poems at the request of international writers' organisation PEN
International." A book containing Liu's political writings, compiled by
his wife Liu Xia, will be published by Harvard University Press in
Huffington Post readers chose their 12 favorite bookstores.
"Can digital readers and books coexist?" The Las Vegas Review-Journal posed the question to several book people, including Pamela Mains, "avid reader, book lover and owner of the late, lamented Cheesecake and Crime bookstore," who has a Sony Reader. "My husband got it for my birthday about a year-and-a-half ago," she said. "I still haven't been able to get myself to open it.... I love books. I love the feel of the paper. And I do believe that's on the way out, unfortunately. I think the reason I haven't opened it yet is because, once I do, that will be the shift for me. I will go to an e-reader at that point."
Myrna Donato, co-owner of Amber Unicorn Books, neither has nor wants an e-book reader. She said that one advantage of owning a used bookshop is that even young readers still come to the store because many titles aren't available in e-book format. "We have a large group of younger (buyers) now. They have Kindles, and they still come in and look for older books and buy older books."
"Sometimes, I think I was born to go on book tours," David Sedaris, author most recently of Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary, told the National Post. "One of the reasons that I do so enjoy my book tours is that I’m constantly making it fun for myself.... I never look beyond the person that I’m speaking to. I always like having gifts for teenagers; I’m just so grateful that young people come. A couple of books ago, I put a tip jar on my signing table and I made over $4,000 on my tour. The problem was then I started hating people who didn’t tip me. I didn’t say anything to them, but I would just sit there thinking, 'You cheap son of a bitch. I just signed four books and you can’t even give me a dollar?' And why should they? But I just got so involved in it. I had to stop doing it."
Author Warren Adler (War of the Roses, Random Hearts) has made five of his books, none of which had been previously published, available through Amazon's Kindle Store, as well as in print editions through CreateSpace. The series includes The David Embrace, Flanagan's Dolls, The Womanizer, Residue and Empty Treasures, with the e-books being exclusive to the Kindle Store for two years.
"Warren Adler has long been involved in digital publishing ventures, and we're thrilled he's decided to publish his new series in e-book form exclusively in the Kindle Store," said Russ Grandinetti, v-p, Kindle Content.
Bloomberg Business Week featured the "Best Books for Kids Into Lego Robots, Arty Lizards, Human Pets."
Snooki's book deal was inevitably one of the "13 Most Obnoxious Publishing Stories of 2010" featured in a Huffington Post slide show.
Book cafes "appeared rather late in Viet Nam," but they have "been a bright point among foreign imports," Viet Nam News reported. "Today, most large cities in Viet Nam have book cafes that embrace the reading culture in a modern society."
Book trailer of the day: House of the Star
by Caitlin Brennan (Starscape, $17.99, 9780765320377/0765320371), which
features Lipizzan horses that the author raises in Arizona and inspired
this middle-grade fantasy.