The Girlfriend with the Unfinished Manuscript
Last weekend author Beth Groundwater was the honored guest at the FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas) whitewater festival in Salida, Colo., "America's oldest and boldest whitewater festival." Groundwater's latest mystery, Deadly Currents (Midnight Ink), stars whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner and features Salida and the FIBArk event. Here she waves to parade onlookers before signing books at the Book Haven bookstore booth.
Photo: Neil Groundwater
Sales at Barnes & Noble in the fourth quarter ended April 30 rose 4%, to $1.4 billion, and the net loss rose to $59.4 million from a net loss of $32 million in the same period last year. For the full year, sales rose 20%, to $7 billion (or, to be precise, $6,998,565,000), and the net loss was $73.9 million compared to a net gain of $36.7 million in the previous year. The company has increased spending on digital initiatives, particularly Nook e-readers and e-book sales.
Because the net loss was higher than expected, on a day the Dow Jones rose 0.9%, B&N stock fell 6%, to $18.94 a share, but is still above the $17 offered earlier this year by Liberty Media.
The sales gains came in part because this was the first full year that B&N College results were included and because of a 50% increase in sales at B&N.com. B&N.com sales in the quarter were $217 million and during the year amounted to $858 million.
Sales at B&N stores were $943 million in the quarter and $4.4 billion for the year. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 2.9% in the quarter, in part because of liquidation sales at more than 200 Borders stores. But, B&N said, "as those stores have closed, the company is realizing incremental sales in those markets." For the year, sales at stores open at least a year rose 0.7%, as the decline in trade book sales was offset by the sale of digital products.
College sales rose 3.5% in the quarter, to $211 million, and were $1.8 billion for the year. Sales at college stores open at least a year rose 2.8% in the quarter and fell 0.8% for the year.
In a conference call with analysts, CEO William Lynch said that B&N now has 26%-27% of the e-book market and that e-books outsell traditional books three to one on B&N.com.
The company continues to be wary about the long-term viability of some of its stores. According to the Wall Street Journal, CFO Joseph Lombardi said that B&N is signing leases shorter than the previous 10-year leases so that it will have more flexibility closing stores if the digital business grows even faster than its fast rate.
Lombardi also said that B&N had considered buying Borders "many times" during the past five years but remains uninterested.
The New York Times examines the tendency of bookstores to charge one way or another for author events, something that some stores have done gracefully and effectively for years. For example, Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan., which is renowned for its events programs, often requires attendees to buy a copy of the author's book, for which they are given two admission tickets. And many stores charge for appearances that include meals.
These days some stores have begun charging a flat admission fee and others are requiring a book or gift card purchase. For a time, the impetus for such approaches was the tendency of some event attendees to buy the highlighted books elsewhere. The growth of e-books has accelerated the problem.
Anne Holman, general manager of the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah, told the Times: "We don't like to have events where people can't come for free, but we also can't host big free events that cost us a lot money and everyone is buying books everywhere else."
And Heather Gain, marketing manager of the Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., said, "We're a business. We're not just an Amazon showroom."
Several authors and at least one anonymous publisher expressed understanding for the policies but also are concerned that some readers will lose access to authors.
In Other Words, the Portland, Ore., feminist bookstore, has had more success as the setting for Women & Women First, the bookstore parody on IFC TV's Portlandia, than it has as a bookstore in real life, Willamette Week wrote.
Sales at the store have fallen 73% in the past four years, in part because In Other Words is no longer the exclusive supplier of textbooks on women's studies to Portland State University students; last year the store lost $18,743. In recent months, two staff members were laid off and replaced with an interim executive director, and at least one of the many volunteers in the store has said that staff were neglected by the board in the decision-making process. Last year, the store's board announced it would remake In Other Words into a feminist community center.
The store faces the pressures that all bricks-and-mortar bookstores do, as well as a new attitude toward feminism. "People don't see [feminist bookstores] as urgent anymore, because feminist issues have been mainlined into many different areas," Bren Murphy, associate professor of communications and gender studies at Loyola University Chicago, told Willamette Week.
An integrated e-book app is on the drawing board at Powell's Books, Portland, Ore. Darin Sennett (l.), director of strategic planning for Powells.com, told the Puget Sound Business Journal that later this summer Powell's hopes to release a "reader app integrated with mobile and online sites that will move the e-book shopping experience from 'browsing a soulless Coke machine' to something like having the Oregon-based booksellers' entire staff at your fingertips."
Sennett acknowledges that getting the "hand-sold book experience from a website is a bit of challenge"; he wants the Powell's app "to be able to handle a reader's deep dive, searching for a sci-fi subcategory such as 'time travel' or 'space opera' and popping up the next 12 to 15 books a reader should consider," the Business Journal wrote. The app "will draw on the knowledge of the sellers hand-curating their respective parts of the store in a way 'that just doesn't scale when you want to rely on algorithms,' because it would require too much 'human labor.' "
Ghoul idea of the day: Proposed budget cuts in Oakland, Calif., which would have a drastic impact on the city's public libraries, sparked a "zombie crawl" to dramatize the effects of shutting down 14 libraries, leaving just four branches for the nearly 400,000 Oakland residents.
"Librarians and megaphones might not seem like the most natural combination. Add a bloody face, ripped T-shirt, and a groan from beyond the grave, and you get something one might call supernatural: zombie librarians with megaphones," KALW's Nicole Jones reported.
As the Oakland City Council considers killing three-quarters of the library budget, librarian Amy Martin said, "It would pretty much decimate the library system, and we think that would be the end of the world so we're coming out to say zombies support the Oakland Public Library."
On Monday, 14 authors raised their voices for 14 straight hours to raise awareness that 14 of the 18 branches of are under threat of closing. Annie Barrowes, Gennifer Choldenko, Jennifer Holm, Frank Portman, Kathryn Otoshi and Mac Barnett were among the authors in the star-studded line-up that assembled in front of Oakland’s City Hall.
It's summer. Go outside and read an e-book. Noting that two neuroscientists recently advised books should be read outdoors in order to protect against nearsightedness, the New Yorker's Book Bench blog reported that the "need for tablets that can be read in direct sunlight becomes more pressing. If you are an iPad devotee, a solution might be near: last month, Apple applied for a patent on a 'Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,' which would make the iPad more viewable in direct sunlight to viewers wearing polarized sunglasses."
In addition to celebrating indie bookstores during Independent Booksellers' Week, the Guardian's David Barnett suggested "we should unfurl a banner or two for their close cousins the independent presses, who toil to bring to light literature that will never trouble those bestseller lists but is worthy of our attention all the same."
Where's Waldo? Last week his location was obvious, as "3,657 people showed up at Merrion Square, Dublin... wearing striped white and red bobble hat with matching shirts and dark-rimmed glasses" of the famous children's book character (known as Wally in the U.K., where Martin Handford originally named him), the Daily Mail reported.
Arranged by the organizers the Street Performance World Championship, the mass gathering of Waldos were attempting to break a Guinness World Record and have a great deal of fun in the process. Check out a video of the event here.
How do authors know if they have a good title for a book? The Awl noted that coming up with just the right title is "the sort of thing, like naming a band, that can cause everyone involved a lot of agony, particularly when an author has settled on something very early in the process and someone else (usually involved in selling it) however many months or years later decides that the book might be better served with something different." To explore the title quest further, the Awl posed a few questions to writers Laurie Frankel, Suzanne Morrison, Richard Rushfield and Urban Waite.
Happy summer solstice! Beacon Press celebrated with a video of Mary Oliver reading her amazing poem "The Summer Day," aka "The Grasshopper."
Book trailer of the day: Nora T. Gedgaudas, author of Primal Body, Primal Mind: Beyond the Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life (Healing Arts Press).
Effective next month, Chris Fischbach becomes publisher of Coffee House Press. He is currently associate publisher and started at the press as an intern. He succeeds founder and publisher Allan Kornblum (r.), who will become senior editor.
Fischbach commented: "To have been chosen as caretaker of Allan's publishing legacy is a great honor, and I look forward to working with our incredibly talented staff and dedicated board of directors to build on his legacy and to lead us into an even greater future."
Kornblum said, "The entire history of literature has been a series of handoffs from one generation to the next, starting with clay tablets. During my 27 years as publisher at Coffee House, I have had the honor of working with incredibly gifted authors, who trusted me to present their work to the world. I have also treasured the working relationship I have had with Chris."
Paul Crichton has been promoted to v-p, director of publicity, for the Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division. He joined the company in 2006 as director of publicity.
Laina Adler has been promoted to senior director of marketing at HarperOne. She was formerly director of marketing and also has been a senior publicist at Chronicle Books.
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of I'm Kind of a Big Deal: And Other Delusions of Adequacy (Gallery, $15, 9781439176573).
Tomorrow on Access Hollywood Live: Katie Lee, author of Groundswell (Gallery, $25, 9781439183595).
Tomorrow KCRW's Bookworm: Louis B. Jones, author of Radiance (Counterpoint, $24, 9781582437361). As the show put it: "Mark Perdue, a physics professor who we first met in Jones' Particles of Luck, is at the farther fringe of a complete nervous breakdown. Louis Jones discusses how total despair can become funny--at least in his novels."
Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Maziar Bahari, author of Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival (Random House, $27, 9781400069460).
Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life (Grand Central, $12, 9780446584845).
In anticipation of the July 15 release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, AMC Theatres has "scheduled a special four-day experience to commemorate the occasion nationwide," the Hollywood Reporter wrote.
AMC will run Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & Part 2 back-to-back on July 14, with the first chapter showing at 9 p.m. and the second, in 3D, at 12:01 a.m. In addition, 35 AMC locations "have slated a marathon leading up to the closing film. Beginning Monday, July 11, select theaters across the country will have chronological showings of each of the iconic films." A complete list of participating theaters is available here.
Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood and Christopher Eccleston will star in a new BBC adaptation of The Borrowers, based on the classic series of novels by Mary Norton. Filming on the 90-minute production will begin soon and the show is due to air on BBC One this Christmas season, BBC News reported.
Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC drama commissioning, called the project "a brilliant and bold contemporary version of this classic tale with all the charm of the original but with a thrilling, moving and modern sensibility."
John le Carré famously chooses not to compete for literary awards, but he has accepted the honor of being one of this year's recipients of Germany's Goethe Medal, given to individuals who "have performed outstanding service for the German language and international cultural dialogue," the Guardian reported. The Goethe Institut praised him as "Great Britain's most famous German speaker," who "has always been convinced that language learning is the key to understanding foreign cultures."
The Goethe Institut also noted that le Carré, a "master of the political and psychological crime novel, condensed Germany's difficult role during the era of the cold war" in his books, and "vividly brings to life the global fields of conflict.... Viewing language and knowledge of a country as a prerequisite for penetrating world history and understanding ideologies, religions and peoples--these are the aspects that characterize the life's work of John le Carré."
Carlo D'Este has won the 2011 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing. The award, carrying a $100,000 honorarium and sponsored by the Tawani Foundation, recognizes a living author for "a body of work that has profoundly enriched the public understanding of American military history."
Members of the award committee said that D'Este, whose titles on World War II include Decision in Normandy, Bitter Victory, Fatal Decision and biographies of Patton, Eisenhower and Churchill, has created books of "permanent value. His work is definitive in the field, rich, and thorough."
The award will be presented on October 22 at the Pritzker Library's Liberty Gala in Chicago.
John Milliken Thompson's short stories have been published in Louisiana Literature, South Dakota Review and many other literary journals. His nonfiction has appeared in Smithsonian, the Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler and others. The Reservoir (Other Press, June 21, 2011) is his first novel.
On your nightstand now:
E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime--have just started it after a friend I trust told me it was Doctorow's greatest; also, I'm currently writing about that period. Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth--only book of his I've read was The Eye of the Needle, a great thriller, and I wanted to see how he handles historical fiction.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I didn't read much literature until I was a teenager, but when I was little I memorized and pretended to read aloud Dr. Seuss's What Was I Scared Of?, a wonderfully Gothic chiller.
Your top five authors:
Let's just go with living writers. Cormac McCarthy for the Border Trilogy; J.M. Coetzee for Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace; William Trevor for any number of books, mostly of stories that are profound while appearing effortless; Paul Theroux for his caustic travel writing; and Jennifer Egan because she understands what's going on now, which I don't.
Book you've faked reading:
What Was I Scared Of? (see above); also Bleak House in college--did a lot of serious skimming, though.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Stoner by John Williams--one of the least-known American classics and probably the best novel of academic life ever; a literary "thriller" in the broadest sense of that word.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Goodnight Moon--as great a soporific for children as the cover suggests.
Book that changed your life:
Moby-Dick, which I read on my own in high school, around the time I began to realize that writers are both magicians and real people; it's a hell of a great tale.
Favorite line from a book:
"For some time now the impression has been growing upon me that everyone is dead." -- from The Moviegoer by Walker Percy.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Airships by Barry Hannah, for that breathless laughter in discovering unexpected language and characters so perfectly suited to each other. I read it as a grad student, so reading it again for the first time would take me back to that period of falling in love with writing.
King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bently, illus. by Helen Oxenbury (Dial/Penguin, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 3-5, 9780803736986, August 18, 2011)
This adventure by dusk-light will quickly become a bedtime favorite. The rhythmic, rhyming language flows as a read-aloud, and the story builds suspense with each turn of the page. Jack, a confident fellow sporting a yellow paper crown, a wooden sword and a blanket that doubles as a royal robe, leads a procession of three. King Jack, along with Sir Zack and preschooler Caspar, set out to make a "mighty great fort." The enticing book pays tribute to imagination in all its forms. The great fort rises from rudimentary materials: a giant box, sheets, sticks and "a few broken bricks" (to hold down the fort's corners). An accordion pleat in the giant box serves as the drawbridge. Oxenbury's (There's Going to Be a Baby) step-by-step charcoal renderings prove that nothing goes to waste in Jack, Zack and Caspar's project. Once it's complete, Oxenbury reveals the battlement in its full-color glory. "Protect your king's castle from dragon attack!" King Jack shouts from his brick pulpit.
With a turn of the page, the boys' fantasy blooms into a battlefield of fire-breathers. As Jack and Zack do battle with wooden sword and javelin, Caspar dangles a stick toward a benign-looking dragon's tail. Oxenbury gives a nod to Sendak with her beast-filled forest, Jack's crown and the cloth-draped castle akin to Max's throne among the Wild Things. In Bently's (A Lark in the Ark) smooth merging of the boys' real and fantasy worlds, "a giant came by and went home with Sir Zack," as Oxenbury portrays the knighted one putting up a strong resistance, and another giant carries Caspar away. King Jack puts up a brave solo struggle against the night, despite terrific goose-pimply sound effects that trip off the tongue--the "skitter-scurry" of a mouse, an owl's "too-whoo!" A comforting conclusion depicts the young monarch safely tucked into familiar surroundings. Bently and Oxenbury prove that the imagination makes riches of the simplest ingredients.--Jennifer M. Brown