Len Riggio Recommends
"If you met her and she said, 'I need some money to help me get my message out,' I guarantee you would write her a check."
"If you met her and she said, 'I need some money to help me get my message out,' I guarantee you would write her a check."
Last Wednesday James Lee Burke visited Fact & Fiction, Missoula, Mont., where he signed nearly 2,000 copies of the forthcoming Feast Day of Fools, his 30th novel, that will go to 33 independent stores around the country. Because Burke no longer tours, Barbara Theroux at Fact & Fiction, which is Burke's local bookstore, let publisher Simon & Schuster send the books to the store for Burke to sign, then sent them out to the 33 stores in time to be on shelves on pub date, a week from tomorrow.
Congratulations to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., which is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a birthday party on Friday, October 27, followed by a series of author and book-related events that will continue into the spring, culminating in the opening celebrations for the store's new location at McGiffert House (r.), 5751 South Woodlawn Avenue, a move it announced last year (Shelf Awareness, October 18, 2010).
Seminary Co-op was founded by a handful of students and book lovers and now has 55,000 stockholders, three locations and more than 200,000 titles.
The Open Book bookstore, Westhampton Beach, N.Y., will close by the end of the year. Owner Terry Lucas told the Southampton Press that "the difficult economy, the rise of the popularity of e-books and the arrival of another bookstore down the block" combined to influence her decision. "We have tried everything to stay open, but it is not financially feasible to keep going.... I'm trying to focus on the good. I met so many amazing people and had so much fun."
The bookstore down the block is a branch of Books & Books that opened in July 2010 in Open Book's old site.
"So who didn't see this coming?" asked Forbes in noting that with "the ink barely dry on California's Internet sales tax deal with Amazon, other states are chatting up a similar idea. Even states that were willing to sit this one out--like Florida--are beginning to talk."
Forbes was referring to a recent Lakeland Ledger Op-Ed column by Lloyd Dunkelberger, who observed that "Florida business groups are hoping a sales tax deal between Amazon, the Internet retail giant, and the state of California will add more momentum to their effort to convince state lawmakers to take similar steps."
Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Florida Alliance for Main Street Fairness, said, "If Amazon can collect and remit sales taxes in California, it can do it Florida. Recently, both Texas and California passed E-fairness legislation to level the playing field for small businesses. Now, Amazon's agreement to collect sales tax in California--just like Main Street retailers--proves that they don't need a special tax deal at the expense of Florida-based small businesses either."
Wilson also noted that Florida lawmakers have "a unique opportunity to put small business job-creation ahead of Amazon's tax subsidies."
With help from several analysts, PracticalCommerce.com dissects Amazon.com's Prime program, which for $79 a year allows members a range of deals on shipping--but is "really about bolstering customer loyalty and encouraging consumers to buy more products than they might otherwise purchase."
Begun in 2005, the program now has five million members out of a total of 121 Amazon customers and is growing 20% year by year. New members' gross merchandise volume grows to $900 a year from $400 in their first year of membership. For each million Prime members, Amazon's revenues increase by 1.5%. The program broke even after three months.
Prime members spend 130% more than other Amazon customers, and more than 90% plan to renew their memberships. The e-tailer offers special deals on Prime memberships to students and parents of babies.
Amazon is expanding the Prime program by offering items that can be delivered over the Internet and don't require shipping, which has affected the company's margins. Prime members now can stream movies and TV shows at no charge. And, of course, the company is talking with publishers about a Prime subscription service for e-books. PracticalCommerce commented: "As with streaming videos, the goal is not to have the largest or best selection; it is to entice more customers to sign up for Prime."
By the way, Prime's $79 annual fee was chosen not after detailed profit-and-loss calculations but because it is a prime number.
What is it like to work in one of Amazon's fulfillment centers? During the past month, the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call interviewed 20 current and former warehouse workers "who showed pay stubs, tax forms or other proof of employment. They offered a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what it's like to work in the Amazon warehouse, where temperatures soar on hot summer days, production rates are difficult to achieve and the permanent jobs sought by many temporary workers hired by an outside agency are tough to get. Only one of the employees interviewed described it as a good place to work."
In a story that could be expanded into short e-book length, the New York Times traced the growth of news organizations publishing e-books and thereby "elbowing into" book publishers' traditional territory. Among examples: e-books published by the Huffington Post, the New Yorker, ABC News, the Boston Globe and Politico.
Some of these e-books consist of material previously published by the companies. Others are original material. Many of the titles are, as agent Eric Simonoff put it, "uniquely suited for mid-length content that runs too long for shrinking magazines and are too pamphletlike to credibly be called a book."
Random House executive editor Jon Meacham acknowledged that "the line between articles and books is getting ever fuzzier."
New Yorker deputy editor Pamela McCarthy noted that marketing and selling such e-books is challenging. "The e-book stores are tremendously deep, and what's there is not at all apparent on the surface," she told the Times. "It's not like walking into a bookstore and seeing what's on the front table."
A week ago Sunday, Books & Books in Bal Harbour, Fla., hosted an event for Loren Long and his new Otis book, Otis and the Tornado (Philomel). While there, Long drew a picture of Otis on the arm of Books & Books' children's book buyer Becky Quiroga. Once the drawing was done, she had the drawing tattooed. Otis has joined Quiroga's other literary tattoos--the Very Hungry Caterpillar drawn by Eric Carle, the Pigeon drawn by Mo Willems and the Monkey from It's a Book drawn by Lane Smith.
Michel Houellebecq has not disappeared after all. Last week, the French author failed to show up for his reading tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, triggering concern for his safety (Shelf Awareness, September 15, 2011). But the New York Observer reported that Houellebecq's publisher "has found him, and it appears that he simply forgot about it, as one does, and also didn't have access to e-mail or telephone. The life of a famous author!"
This morning on the Today Show: Kendra Wilkinson, author of Being Kendra: Cribs, Cocktails, and Getting My Sexy Back (It Books, $24.99, 9780062091185).
Also on Today: Joe McGinniss, author of The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin (Crown, $25, 9780307718921). He will also be on MSNBC's Morning Joe tomorrow.
This morning on Imus in the Morning: Aaron Katz, author of The Definitive Guide to Prostate Cancer: Everything You Need to Know about Conventional and Integrative Therapies (Rodale, $16.99, 9781609613105).
This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Common, co-author of One Day It'll All Make Sense (Atria, $25, 9781451625875).
Also on Morning Joe: Touré, author of Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now (Free Press, $25, 9781439177556).
Today on the View: Jermaine Jackson, author of You Are Not Alone: Michael, Through a Brother's Eyes (Touchstone, $26, 9781451651560). He will also appear on the Joy Behar Show and Extra.
Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Candice Millard, author of Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385526265).
Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Hal Holbrook, author of Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, 9780374281014).
Today on Tavis Smiley: Michael Moore, author of Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life (Grand Central, $26.99, 9780446532242).
Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Stéphane Hessel, author of Time for Outrage: Indignez-vous! (Twelve, $10, 9781455509720).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Dave Ramsey, author of EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches (Howard, $26, 9781451617856). He will also appear on Fox's Your World with Neil Cavuto.
Tomorrow on the View: Florence Henderson, author of Life Is Not a Stage: From Broadway Baby to a Lovely Lady and Beyond (Center Street, $25.99, 9781599953885). She will also be on the Today Show.
Tomorrow on CNN's John King USA: Dick Cheney, author of In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir (Threshold Editions, $35, 9781439176191).
Tomorrow on Dr. Phil: Levi Johnston, author of Deer in the Headlights: My Life in Sarah Palin's Crosshairs (Touchstone, $25, 9781451651652). He will also appear on CBS's Entertainment Tonight.
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (Harper, $29.99, 9780061429255).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us (Riverhead, $26.95, 9781594488313).
The U.S. trailer for the movie version of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which comes out December 9, is now out. Penguin Books is publishing the official movie tie-in and has just released the cover.
Many of the Emmy winners awarded last night had book connections. Among them:
Game of Thrones, based on A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, won best supporting actor in a drama series.
Mildred Pierce, based on the book by James M. Cain and the movie based on the book, won two awards: Kate Winslet, who plays Mildred Pierce, won for best actress in a mini-series or movie, and Guy Pearce, who plays Monty Beragon, won for best supporting actor in a mini-series or movie.
Friday Night Lights, based on the book by Buzz Bissinger and the movie based on the book, scored two awards: Kyle Chandler, who plays Eric Taylor, won for best actor in a drama series, and Jason Katims won for best writing in a drama series.
Boardwalk Empire, the series based on the book by Nelson Johnson, was a winner in the best directing for a drama series category: Martin Scorcese won for the series pilot.
Justified, based on a character in several Elmore Leonard novels and a short story, claimed one award: Margo Martindale, who plays Mags Bennett, won best supporting actress in a drama series.
Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 9780307594099, September 20, 2011)
Amid the slums of Mumbai, the two towers of the Vishram Society are the last bastions of middle-class respectability. The residential highrise isn't perfect: it doesn't have 24-hour running water; proximity to the airport means low-flying jets and constant noise; building repairs are desperately needed. But the tenants have gotten to know each other. It's like a big extended family.
Sixty-one-year-old Masterji is a retired high school teacher, and while living at Vishram he's lost the two people he loved most, his college-age daughter and, just last year, his wife. Vishram is all he has left, and now Dharmen Shah, the oversize managing director of the Confidence Group, is offering all the tenants a fortune in square footage if they'll vacate their homes and let him demolish the Vishram towers to create his dream, a builder's masterpiece, the Shanghai. All the tenants of Tower B decide to sell and move. But in Tower A, not everyone wants to go, and it has to be unanimous. Which means spies are everywhere trying to sniff out the tenants who are holding the others back from the fulfillment of their dreams. Rubbish bins are examined. Bribes are offered. Deals are sweetened. The temptations become irresistible.
Author Aravind Adiga champions the wretched of the earth and presents a five-story tower jam-packed with complex and vivid characters, along with the tenants' grown children, the construction team, lawyers, police, henchmen, vendors and laborers, the teeming masses of the streets, all treated with compassion. Just as he did in his Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger, Adiga presents no easy line between good and evil. Every tenant in Tower A has a point of view and is sympathetic in some way. And the builder has his own griefs, a wayward son and his own health secret, as he strives for a last achievement in his threatened life. At the eye of the hurricane is money, unleashing desperation and greed. The reader watches in helpless fascination as the characters clash and misunderstand each other.
As the deadline creeps closer, allegiances shift, with threatening posters and anonymous phone calls. Formerly good-hearted neighbor comes up against neighbor, loyalties are strained and moral codes abandoned as one frustrated tenant after another decides to compromise and do "just a little thing" before time runs out, each plan more sinister than the last. The suspense becomes almost unbearable. Desperate measures are adopted. Things don't go as planned. Characters change and surprise you. The horror of the haunting resolution is not so much what happens as how it happens.
Adiga isn't entirely neutral in the moral melee that grips the Vishram Society. In spite of the old teacher's stubbornness and single-mindedness, Adiga clearly favors his defiant old Masterji, enough to have the jolly god Ganesha whisper in the old man's ear, "I've been on your side the whole time, you old atheist." --Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: The tenants of a highrise in Mumbai are all offered a fortune if they can convince everyone to sell in this gripping tale by a Booker Prize-wining author.
The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around St. Louis, Mo. During the week ended Sunday, September 11:
1. Time to Plant: Southern-Style Garden Living by James T. Farmer
2. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3. Bossypants by Tina Fey
4. The Heart and the Fist by Eric Greitens
5. Noir at the Bar edited by Scott Phillips and Jedediah Ayers
6. Unlikely Friendships by Jennifer Holland
7. The Leftovers by Tom Perotta
8. The Magician King by Lev Grossman
9. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
10. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
1. Skippyjon Jones, Class Action by Judy Schachner
2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
3. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
4. Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret
5. Feed by M.T. Anderson
6. Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
7. Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles Book One by Colin Meloy
8. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
9. The Bridge to Never Land by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
10. The Wizard of Oz Scanimation by Rufus Butler Seder
Reporting bookstores, all of which are members of the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance: Left Bank Books, Main Street Books, Pudd'nhead Books, Subterranean Books, Sue's News.
[Many thanks to the booksellers!]