Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima

Take a Storytime Adventure into the World of Jessie Sima

Quotation of the Day

'An Exciting Time in the Book Business'

"There's a lot of talk in the media about books being a dying format and bookstores being a dying business. If the people who said that saw the energy, inventiveness, and determination of the 500 booksellers from around the country at Winter Institute, they wouldn't be so quick to dismiss either books or the people who bring them into their communities. It's an exciting time in the book business and things are certainly in flux, but your independently owned bookstores, far from being relics of the past, are ready to meet the challenges of the future and continue to provide a service that is unique and valuable."

--Mary Williams, events manager, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., in the store's February e-newsletter.



Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima


Image of the Day: Charis Books, 'More than a Bookstore'

Last month the Feminist Women's Health Center's Creative Leadership award was presented to Charis Books & More, Atlanta, Ga., the South's oldest and largest feminist bookstore. Here Charis Circle executive director Angela Brown speaks. Listening from l.: Charis founder and former owner, Linda Bryant; current Charis co-owner Sara Look; Charis co-owner Angela Gabriel; and state senator Nan Orrock. In comments presenting the award, author Pearl Cleage ended by saying:

"Charis was the place that let us practice being freewomen until we got good at it.
"And would we ever have survived without them?
"And why would we ever want to try?
"It was always more than a bookstore.…"

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

Notes: Apple Tightens App Reins; Tennessee's Sales Tax Feud

In a move that could have a significant impact on e-book delivery systems, Apple has tightened control of its App Store, notifying some application developers that they will not be permitted to "sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store," the New York Times reported.

Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store. Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division, said his company was told that all in-app purchases will now have to go through Apple. 

This shift in Apple's strategy may also affect other companies--notably Amazon--that currently sell e-readers and offer free mobile apps so customers can read e-book purchases on other devices. Until now, for example, an iPad owner could buy and read Kindle books without owning a Kindle.

"It’s the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market," Haber said. "We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store."

Forrester Research's James L. McQuivey observed, "This sudden shift perhaps tells you something about Apple’s understanding of the value of its platform. Apple started making money with devices. Maybe the new thing that everyone recognizes is the unit of economic value is the platform, not the device.”


Should Amazon pay sales tax in Tennessee after it builds two new distribution centers there? Amazon executives argue the facilities will be for shipping rather than retail, exempting the company from tax collection requirements; and "state leaders might give the Internet Goliath just that as a 'thank you' of sorts for the jobs the company will create at the distribution complex," the Tennessean reported. But other retailers, ranging from independent bookstores to big box chains, disagree.

"I think that's unfair," said Laura Hill, co-owner of Reading Rock Books, Dickson. "We also sell books online, and we have to charge sales tax. So why shouldn't they? Our state needs that money."

Jason Brewer, a spokesman for Retailer Industry Leaders Association, added: "A company the size of Amazon with $14 billion in sales should not be given a government-sponsored advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers."

"If you buy a book from them, and they don't have to charge (nearly a) 10% sales tax, that amounts to a government subsidy of our competitors," said Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. "I understand the economic development argument, and certainly Tennessee ought to do what it can to get jobs, but what about the retailers in Tennessee and all the folks they employ?"

State Representative Steve McManus, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, predicted that Amazon will ultimately win the battle: "I find it difficult to believe they'd move to Tennessee without it."


This week's scheduled Cairo Book Fair, "the largest and oldest in the Arab world, usually attracting two million visitors and a host of authors," has been abandoned because of widespread protests and curfews imposed across the city, "with many foreign exhibitors left stranded after failing to secure flights to take them out of the country," the Guardian reported.

"There was no official announcement by fair organizers that the event had been cancelled, but [President Hosni] Mubarak did not come," said Salwa Gaspard, director of independent publisher Saqi Books, which has offices in London and Beirut. "Our representative from Beirut was lucky enough to find a plane home, but people are still there."

Other international visitors, including representatives from the U.K.'s Publishers Association and the Frankfurt Book Fair, cancelled their flights or left ahead of time last week, the Guardian wrote


New Hampshire indie booksellers exploring the Google eBookstore option were the subject of a feature by the Manchester Union Leader, which reported that a "committed following and timeless love of literature help keep these stores in business, and many bookstore owners recognize that as the times change, they, too, must change to keep their customers entertained."

Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, suggested that the emergence of e-books has been overestimated: "Think about all of those books you've enjoyed, or maybe not enjoyed so much. Looking at your bookshelf and seeing all those books evokes all of these memories. How can you do that with e-books? There is no soul to it. That is my view."

Whatever the format, the priority for Dan Chartrand, owner of Water Street Bookstore, Exeter, is "to make buying and sharing books enjoyable." He believes a local bookstore "provides many services and features: a congenial place to meet and discuss books, a knowledgeable staff of voracious readers ready with recommendations, events that allow local residents to interact with authors and discover new titles, and the ability to browse thousands of books in a short span of time. He also recognizes that many people are exploring e-book options," the Union Leader wrote.

While Water Street is already taking advantage of the new relationship between the ABA and Google eBooks, RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, is considering the possibility. Owner Tom Holbrook "has been using a local company to run the store's website, but may switch over to the ABA-supported website to offer e-books."

Toadstool Bookshops--in Keene, Peterborough and Milford--went online with the Google program in December and co-owner Willard Williams noted that the agency model for pricing is what makes the Google eBook/ABA partnership work: "That helps the independent bookstores considerably, because if we can encourage people to support us and our website, and order books through us that way, they are getting exactly the same product, and we can hope to gain a little bit of that market.

"The problem with those who are not is that the pricing on those books is often very, very low when they are being sold by someone like Amazon, or even Google itself. As far as e-books go, unless more publishers go to an agency model, you can write off independent bookstores from being any part of that."

RiverRun's Holbrook observed that "it is important to draw that distinction between e-books and e-commerce, which seems to be all about capturing eyeballs and people rather than making money selling books, or doing it through sheer volume. I am not a business person who just wants to figure out what I can buy and sell to make money off of. I am someone who particularly wants to sell and share books."


Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in New York City "is one of the country's coolest bookstores," Gadling observed in its profile of a bookshop whose owner "thinks cookbooks shouldn't just be for, you know, cooking."

"When I look at an old cookbook, it takes me away, to another place," said Slotnick. "My customers tell me they read them like novels, detective stories, and even like porn."


Consider this under the category of sidelines with potential... for word lovers. The REUSE blog at featured "Ten Creative Ways to Recycle Scrabble Tiles." The repurposed computer keyboards could become standard equipment for all Shelf Awareness editors.


Sign of the times: a publication adding book reviews has become a newsworthy development. TechCrunch's Paul Carr is exploring the possibility of "writing a semi-regular book review column... I don't mean the pure 'tech' books of the O'Reilly oeuvre, but rather works concerning digital culture and how technology is affecting politics, journalism, art and society as a whole. It would probably include the occasional novel too. And might--might--take the form of a very informal book club."


And now for something completely different: storigami. Flavorwire showcased featherproof books, a publisher that has "pioneered a whole new way to read short stories: in origami form. Hence, though we're sure you've already gotten there, storigami.... If you think you're up to the challenge, just print out the images, follow the instructions, and then read and let the stories--wait for it--unfold."


You've read Beowulf, now you can wear it. Boing Boing showcased a "wicked knitting pattern to make a pair of socks bearing a reproduction of the introductory text in the oldest surviving manuscript of Beowulf. The design is by Gryphon Perkins, and costs $5."


Book trailer of the day: Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston (HarperTeen).


Effective February 14, Gonzalo Ferreyra will be director of marketing, print and digital, at Weldon Owen Publishing in San Francisco, Calif. He was most recently v-p of sales at Viz Media and before that was director of sales and marketing at Ten Speed Press.


Digital Book World: Apps, What's 'Behind the Curtain'

"The tools behind the curtain" have become the most attractive aspect of apps and the digital world at large, according to Oceanhouse Media's Michel Kripalani, who spoke last week at the Digital Book World session called "A New Kind of Publisher for a New Kind of Product." "You know who's using your app, how often, where they are in the world when they launch it," Kripalani said. "It's all built in, if you're willing to build in that technology." And marketing to customers with related new products becomes much easier.

Technology is essential on the front side, too, as Nicholas Callaway of Callaway Digital Arts pointed out. "Nothing about content can be divorced from what the technology in a given moment is able to do, and you must also see ahead to where it's going," Callaway said. "It's hairy, and absolutely fascinating. Everything I knew last week, I have to unlearn or relearn this week." Another great advantage for app publishers is their ability to update the apps and maintain a relationship with their buyers.

Callaway referred to CDA as a "work for hire" mobile and tablet publisher. For more than 30 years, he was a traditional print publisher of high-end books such as Georgia O'Keeffe's One Hundred Flowers and David Kirk's Miss Spider books. In his new role, Callaway has experimented with pricing. An early app based on Miss Spider's Tea was priced at $9.99, while a recent Sesame Street app was priced at 99 cents, and to which the company "applied a number of ways to spin it up in the charts." He commented, "We also got the version out very fast and it was very buggy, which we knew. But it ended up working. It was wild for the first two weeks, but then it all came together and climbed to the top of all paid apps. There are as many answers as there are apps."

While Kripalani has also based his apps on book content and adapts them for a mobile space, his business model uses "one guiding principle," he said. "Because we started with Dr. Seuss [Theodor Geisel], and because he was about teaching kids to read, we imagine, 'What would Ted do with an iPad? What is the core goal?' We're trying to teach a child to read." The company published 35 children's book apps last year and will publish 80-90 titles this year, all developed in-house.

Marc Jaffe of Cross-Platform Publishers Advisory, speaking on behalf of his client Trilogy Studios, said that the studio model determines how they entered the business, with properties such as EA Kids, Sesame Street and Madeline. More recently they've moved into MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games. The model for those projects are either revenue-sharing or royalty arrangements. Trilogy will launch its apps in the second quarter this year, and publish approximately 12 titles. "We call it a lean-forward experience rather than lean-back. We want children to drive an experience that's both educational and entertainment." All four of the panelists have a goal of building long-term relationships with their brands and their customers.

Ruckus Media's Rick Richter, formerly head of S&S Children's Publishing, said his company is "focused on originating new work designed specifically for Android and the digital world from authors and artists. It's not a book, it's not a CD-ROM, God help us." He continued, "Our goal is, to borrow a phrase from my friend Eric Carle, 'to create books you can play with and games you can read.' " Ruckus launched in last June. (Richter pointed out that all of the panelists had entered the app world within the last two years.) For him, the story has to drive the app. "It can't be just about showcasing a device. What makes sense within the context of the story?" he said. "You have to know who the audience is and the app must be developmentally appropriate." Right now Ruckus uses an array of developers, depending on whether the project is cartoonish or more high end. "What I hope you walk away with is that we respect kids and that anything that happens in the app propels the story."

Richter said that while booksellers serve as curators for children's books, "We do not have that curator. We need one. At the end of the day, that's our biggest problem. The tablet business is expected to grow eight times next year. Take all your numbers and multiply them by eight. Let's talk about what makes a great app, what constitutes an excellent experience for kids. People need to start taking the space seriously."--Jennifer M. Brown


WI6 Spotlight on Indie Presses

In response to bookseller feedback at previous Winter Institutes, the ABA increased the representation of independent presses at this year's event in Arlington, Va. Representatives from indie presses bookended Friday's schedule with time to pitch titles at the morning session and an author signing in evening.

Michael Reynolds from Europa Editions thanked the independent booksellers for helping make the publishing company's books-in-translation model a success, particularly with their handselling of The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry. "When we began Europa Editions, they told us we were crazy," said Reynolds. "Now we have close to one million copies [of The Elegance of the Hedgehog] in print. "

After five years, Europa will publish its 100th title, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine by Alina Bronsky, in May. It is a story of three generations of Russian Tartar women. "We've had pretty good luck with quirky titles," said Reynolds. In September Europa will launch Tonga, an imprint that will feature American authors selected by acquiring editor Alice Sebold. Alexander Maksik was at the reception signing copies of an excerpt from You Deserve Nothing, Tonga's first release.

Dan Simon, publisher of Seven Stories, presented the novel Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad, which is coming in June. It's about a "boy who is inspired not to fame and fortune but to anonymity," said Simon. And after selling more than 30,000 copies of the utopian novel Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! by Ralph Nader in hardcover, Simon said the press is re-releasing the book as nonfiction in paperback. Nader had one of the longest lines at the reception.

Small Press Distribution's Megan Taylor continued Simon's self-proclaimed "love letter to booksellers," saying, "We are your natural partners." One-third of SPD's sales go through indie bookstores, she said, and less than 5% sells through chains. Adam Golaski signed copies of Color Plates, a collection of vignettes inspired by French Impressionist painters, published by Metal Press in September 2010.

Robert McDonald from the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., said he was excited to see Golaski and Metal Press, a Chicago publisher, at WI6. "As booksellers we can't lose sight of these kinds of authors," he said.

Soho publisher Bronwen Hruska presented Love Shrinks: The Memoir of a Marriage Counselor's Divorce by bestselling self-help and marriage expert Sharyn Wolf, to be published in May. "I read the manuscript a year and half ago, and I couldn't put it down," said Hruska. "I thought of five different friends who need to read this book--and not just divorced people."

As Wolf signed galleys at the reception, Hruska observed: "It's wonderful to be in this room with all these booksellers. As independent presses we don't always get the big exposure moments."

Josayln Moran of Albert Whitman & Co. used her big moment to highlight What Do You See? and Look Who's There, two new board books by Martine Perrine. Moran said she stumbled on Perrine's board books at the Bologna Book Fair years ago and that she had enjoyed reading them to her daughter.  "Now my daughter is reading them to her daughters," she said.

Europa's Reynolds called WI6 "the best thing since sliced bread." He first heard about it from Sarah McNally of McNally Jackson in New York City. "For a small publisher to travel the country and meet every bookseller is not very practical," he said. "Independent booksellers are our first and best friends. They always are and always will be. To be able to fine-tune that is the best way to support the independent bookseller."

Betsy Burton of the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah, summed it up, saying that indie presses and indie bookstores are a "perfect fit."--Bridget Kinsella


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Weird Al on the Today Show

This morning on the Today Show: Al Yankovic, author of When I Grow Up (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061926914).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face: Younger, Smoother Skin and a Beautiful Body in 28 Delicious Days (St. Martin's, $26.99, 9780312630775).


Tomorrow morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Committed: A Love Story (Penguin, $16, 9780143118701).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Lisa Genova, author of Left Neglected (Gallery, $25, 9781439164631).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Atul Gawande, author of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (Picador, $15, 9780312430009).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Sean Dorrance Kelly, co-author of All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (Free Press, $26, 9781416596158).


Digital Media: CliffsNotes Videos

AOL, Mark Burnett, John Wiley & Sons and Coalition Films "have entered a digital production agreement to co-develop a series of comedic video shorts based on CliffsNotes Literature Guides." reported that the works of Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and others will be showcased on this year "in humorous, irreverent, animated shorts that still present the plots, characters, and themes."


Television: Book'em, Grimm

NBC has picked up the pilot for Grimm, "described as a dark but fantastical cop drama about a world in which characters inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales exist," reported. The project is by Angel co-creator David Greenwalt and that show's writer Jim Kouf. 


Books & Authors

Awards: CMI Management Book of the Year

Managing by Henry Mintzberg was named CMI Management Book of the Year at a ceremony hosted by the British Library recently. The award honors the U.K.'s best books on management and leadership. Bill Lucas, author of rEvolution: How to Thrive in Crazy Times, and Richard Donkin, author of The Future of Work, won in the Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Digital Management Book categories respectively.


Attainment: New Titles Appearing Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 8:

Known and Unknown: A Memoir by Donald Rumsfeld (Sentinel, $36, 9781595230676) chronicles the career of the Secretary of Defense during 9/11 and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Heartwood: A Novel by Belva Plain (Delacorte, $26, 9780385344128) explores the inevitable endings of romantic relationships through the experiences of a mother and daughter.

I Think I Love You by Allison Peason (Knopf, $24.95, 9781400042357) follows two Welsh teenagers obsessed with David Cassidy.

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko (Dial, $16.99, 9780803735347) is a children's book about three siblings whose plane lands in a mysterious fantasy world.

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel by Deborah E. Harkness (Viking, $28.95, 9780670022410) is a blend of the supernatural, historical and romantic in which a witch and a vampire develop a relationship in the face of adversarial evil forces.


Book Review

Book Review: The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini

The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini by Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Orbit, $14.99 Paperback, 9780316074391, January 2011)

Jon Courtenay Grimwood has spent just over a decade writing science fiction, but his debut fantasy novel, The Fallen Blade, has several elements in common with his previous work: it's the first in a series, it's an alternate history, and it's filled with intrigue and action from one end to the other.

The story opens in early 15th-century Venice, with a naked teenager shackled in irons in a darkened room. He does not remember who he is or what has brought him to this place, and then, suddenly, the wall breaks and he is freed. But Grimwood immediately circles back and retraces the path to this moment from the perspective of the characters who broke into this prison. We find ourselves in a version of Venice presided over by the descendants of Marco Polo; his great-grandson is the city-state's ostensible ruler, but because of his mental illness the real power is held by his (Chinese) mother, Alexa, and his uncle, Alonzo--many of Venice's other elite citizens do their best to avoid committing to one side or the other of the implicit power struggle. Their niece, Giulietta, however, is caught in the middle, about to be forced into a marriage to the king of Cyprus, until she is abducted from the royal chapel.

What do we learn about the boy when he returns to the story? Water and sunlight make him ill, ordinary food and water do nothing to quell his hunger, and his reflexes are stunningly fast. (There are also recurring flashes of a brutal former life in a Viking settlement called Bjornvin.) Alexa recognizes Tycho (as she names him) for what he is, and the head of Venice's covert death squads, the Assassini, is charged with training him to become a professional killer. Meanwhile, there's also a werewolf who's also the illegitimate son of the German emperor, and he has his own designs on Giulietta....

At times, the interlocking power plays can be hard to keep track of, and the story's magical elements are often treated obliquely--reflecting their mysteriousness to the characters who witness it. Because this is only the first volume in a trilogy, moreover, there are lots of strings left dangling, particularly with respect to Tycho's background and the origins of his vampiric curse. When everything does click into place, though, the rich potential of Grimwood's moody, atmospheric setting may convince many readers to hold out for further answers.--Ron Hogan

Shelf Talker: Though not as complexly layered or masterfully written as George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, Grimwood's latest could hold similar appeal for readers who like political intrigues in archaic settings with more than a hint of supernatural elements.



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