Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 13, 2011

IDW Publishing: Arca by Van Jensen, illustrated by Jesse Lonergan

First Second: Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Harvest Publications: The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide to Food with Friends by Natasha Feldman

Wednesday Books: Guardians of Dawn: Zhara (Guardians of Dawn #1) by S. Jae-Jones

Soho Crime: A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Shadow Mountain: Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard (Graysen Foxx, School Treasure Hunter) by J. Scott Savage

Quotation of the Day

Michael Palin on Indies: 'Life Blood of the Trade'

"There's nothing that lifts the spirits of this author like a good local, independent bookshop. Through all the recent ups and downs of bookselling, the best of the independents have shown the way forward, championing that personal connection between shops, readers and authors that is the life blood of the trade."

--Michal Palin, author and Monty Python legend, speaking to the Daily Mail in support of the Hive Network of indie retailers in the U.K.


Blackstone Publishing: The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard


Downer Take on U.K. Book Trade Trends

If current book and e-book retailing trends in the U.K. continue, Amazon could account for half of all book sales in the country or more in the near future, said Philip Downer, the former head of Borders U.K. and now head of consultants Front of Store, speaking at the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair on Tuesday.

Already Amazon sells an estimated 30% of print books and 80% of e-book sales in the U.K., and as a result wields "enormous power," Downer said. He noted that in the space of a few years, the U.K. had gone from having several bookstore chains to one, and independent bookshops are closing at an accelerating rate (Shelf Awareness, October 5, 2011).

The lack of fixed prices on books has made the books "a commodity and loss leader," he continued. And "the higher profile the book, the more absurd the discounting," which in some cases is as high as 70% or 80%. (Discounting has made online book buying more  popular in the U.K. and U.S. than in Europe, where many countries have fixed pricing, he noted.)

Downer called the recession and the digital revolution "two different things" that combined have had a dramatic effect on the book business. "The digital revolution is taking place on a week-by-week basis," he said, while historically the book trade has taken "years and decades to transform." Previous recessions simply meant lower sales in stores for a time, he continued, but this recession combined with the "shift to sales online" has had a "huge impact."

In the e-book realm, he said, "My concern is that the device manufacturers have become the retailers," with Amazon the biggest example. At the same time, though, the Nook and Kobo show that some retailers "still have skin in the game." He urged publishers not to cede control in the digital realm--as Borders did in 2000 when it outsourced its website to Amazon. "Publishers need to set the agenda with Amazon, Apple and Google," he said.

Downer pictured a nightmare scenario for the U.K. book trade in which the supply chain changed from the traditional one of authors dealing with publishers who deal with wholesalers and retailers to one in which wholesalers and most booksellers disappear, Amazon is the dominant retailer and many authors deal directly Amazon. Such a situation would be disastrous for the book business in the U.K., Downer said.

"New technology can do great things, but it can destroy channels and consumer choice," he concluded. "I believe that perhaps the free market has gone a little too far." --John Mutter

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: Little Monsters by Adrienne Brodeur

BAM Draws DC Comics Battle Line Against Kindle Fire

Books-A-Million has ordered the removal of 100 DC graphic novels from its 200-plus bookstores just days after Barnes & Noble did the same in response to DC Comics's plan to release e-versions of those publications exclusively on Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet (Shelf Awareness, October 7, 2011).

BAM president Terry Finley said supporting any publisher that "selectively limits distribution of their content" is not in the interest of the company's customers, Publishers Weekly reported. Finley added: "We will not promote titles in our stores showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace."

Comics Alliance noted that while BAM sells B&N's Nook reader, there is "no direct indication from BAM as to whether or not that deal is a factor in the retailer's boycott of printed material over a decidedly digital matter, however."

Comic Book Resources pointed out that DC’s deal with Amazon "apparently only lasts for four months, beginning November 15, so it remains to be seen whether Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million will return the graphic novels to their shelves when the exclusive arrangement lapses in mid-March."


Abrams Buying SelfMadeHero

Abrams is buying SelfMadeHero, the U.K. graphic novel publisher that publishes 20 titles a year and was founded in 2007. North American sales and distribution will be handled by Abrams. The company's titles will be distributed in the U.K. and abroad by Abrams&Chronicle Books, effective in April 2012.

At the same time, SelfMadeHero is launching a North American list next spring with Abrams that will be sold here and in the U.K. That list will include Chico & Rita by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, Kiki de Montparnasse by Catel & Bocquet, The Lovecraft Anthology: Volume I, edited by Dan Lockwood, But I Really Wanted to Be an Anthropologist by Margaux Motin and Best of Enemies: A History of U.S. and Middle East Relations by David B. and Jean-Pierre Filiu.

Abrams president and CEO Michael Jacobs called SelfMadeHero's publishing program "a perfect complement to our existing Abrams ComicArts publishing program."

Emma Hayley, who continues as managing director of SelfMadeHero, noted that the company has worked with Abrams in the past and looked forward to "developing SelfMadeHero into a global name."

Library E-Book Checkouts Soar

E-book checkouts from libraries through September 30 were nearly triple the total for all of 2010, and overall visitor traffic approached an annual run rate of one billion impressions, according to a third quarter 2011 report from digital distributor OverDrive, whose platform is used by more than 15,000 public and school libraries.

There have been over 12 million e-book checkouts thus far this year, which is on pace to exceed 16 million. Almost two million new users signed up with libraries in the OverDrive network (on pace to nearly double in 2011 vs. 2010), and mobile checkouts for readers browsing on smartphones and tablets increased to 21% of overall checkouts.

W.H. Smith & Kobo in E-Reader Partnership

U.K. bookstore chain W.H. Smith and Kobo will join forces to launch a wi-fi touch-screen e-reader later this month, the Bookseller reported, noting that Kobo announced a similar partnership with the French retailer Fnac earlier this week.

"We have continued to develop our presence in the growing e-books market and have today announced a new partnership with Kobo, building on the success of our e-books development to date," W.H. Smith stated. "From the middle of October, we will launch a range of wi-fi e-reading devices, including the first wi-fi touch screen e-reader widely available in the U.K. All of the devices will have access to over 2.2 million titles."

The bookseller is already using Kobo's platform. According to a notice on its website, starting yesterday "all the e-books you buy through will be provided by our partner, Kobo. These e-books will all work with your e-reader just like those you've previously bought from us."

Borders 'Refugees' Revive Capitola Mall Location

Seven former employees of a now-closed Borders Express bookstore in Capitola, Calif., "are in the process of putting together a brand new store at the same location in the mall," the Capitola-Soquel Patch reported. Inklings Books & Things is scheduled to open November 1.

"When Borders announced that we were going to have to shut down, it was this soul-crushing thing, since we loved what we were doing so much," said store manager Dorothy Monroe.

Although they explored the possibility of buying the store, they ultimately chose another direction. One of the booksellers had a connection with the co-owner of Thinker Toys. "She went and talked to him about it and he said they wanted to open a bookstore," Monroe noted. "So he contacted me and they feel the same way about small businesses that we do. We really want to make a place for the people that come here regularly and just keep doing what we love doing.... They saw how we ran this store, how passionate we were about what we were doing and how much we wanted to keep doing it. They weren't really buying the store. They were buying us."

photo: Jacob Bourne/Capitola Patch  


Flooded Bookstore Reopens on Higher Ground

Shelburne Falls Booksellers, Shelburne Falls, Mass., which had been destroyed by floods associated with Tropical Storm Irene in September (photo, r.), reopened for Columbus Day weekend "on higher ground across the street," WWLP-22 reported, noting that booksellers "were able to salvage about 30% of their books."

"We're delighted to be open," said Kathleen Pew. "Delighted to see so many tourists out and about, and especially delighted that the weather is cooperating and it's just a beautiful day."


Image of the Day: Window Display Gone to the Dogs

Lorna Ruby, buyer at Wellesley Books, Wellesley, Mass., recently created a window display to showcase Chewed, which features photographs by Arne Svenson & Ron Warren of chewed-up dog toys, accompanied by text from a number of writers, including Augusten Burroughs, William Wegman, Roz Chast and Isaac Mizrahi. 

"I love the book and immediately thought of the toys I try to fix for my Dad's Scottie dog Maggie and my brother's chocolate lab Skippy since they had plenty of chewed toys between them it was an easy display," Ruby told D.A.P., which distributes the title for publisher Ideal World Books. "I love a good book window prop and we are a dog store (we allow dogs inside and have biscuits at the counters)."

Sarah McNally: 'Fervent Bookseller'

During an interview with the New York Times, Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson Books, conducted a tour of her shop on Prince Street in NoLIta, where "customers can lie on a chaise longue, reading potential purchases from a selection of 55,000 volumes. The store is known for its 8,300-title literature collection, organized by geography.... The store tour, past the cafe with books dangling from mobiles (book mobiles?), through sections labeled gender, ideas, drugs, graphic novels and pets, arrives at Ms. McNally's grand gambit against the e-book pestilence: a print-right-now bookmaker called the Espresso Book Machine, the only one in New York City (worldwide, there are about 80)."

"Look," she said as the EBM printed Veiled Women by Marmaduke Pickthall (1913) for a customer. "It's still warm, like cookies fresh out of the oven."

The Times noted that McNally's "whirlwind life suits her: single parent, store owner contemplating a venture on the Upper West Side, leader of one of the store's book clubs (international fiction), member of a Proust reading group, hiker...."

And fervent bookseller McNally believes "that within every great reader there are multitudes of people. And you have to open yourself to all of them. I love British chick lit and I love Proust. Don't judge yourself! There are so many kinds of writing that are great but bear no relation to each other. A Book of Memories by Peter Nadas is like climbing a mountain. Cutting for Stone is like going down a waterslide."

Bookshop at the End of the World

Arizona Public Media profiled Winifred Bundy's Singing Wind Bookshop, a 37-year-old, windswept "book lover's haven [that] sits on a ranch with no paved road or parking lot, no website, no advertisements--and no shortage of customers," largely because of its "expansive and eclectic collection, much of which is about the Southwest." 

"It's mostly subjective--whatever I like," Bundy said. "Over the door is finance, and I truly believe all of that is fiction... and here's women's experiences in the West, which aren't fiction, I promise. Here's Hillerman hardcover, Hillerman softcover. Indians in the Southwest, Indians outside the Southwest... the Jewish Western experience--that's extremely important... short Californians--that's the size of the books, not the people--and tall Californians... bad men and bad ladies, shoot-'em-ups... and the Mormons are up over the window."

Bundy, now 81, observed that the "people I meet are more important than anything else. They could be your neighbor, or a Japanese tourist. Honestly, I think I get more out of this than anyone else."

Hey, Kids: Watch Me Read a Book

"In the name of encouraging my kids to read, I've dumped my iPad's Kindle app," wrote K.J. Dell'Antonia at her New York Times Motherlode blog, where she examined the realization that "when I sat down in the evening during what I'd dubbed 'quiet reading time' with the iPad, my kids didn't believe I was reading. And they were often right."

Dell'Antonia's solution: "So I went to the bookstore, and came back with a stack of actual books. (It wasn't a hardship.) And in the evening, if I could get dinner cooking and homework happening and enough quiet, I determinedly sat down, right in front of them, with a book. It was the opposite of idyllic. They still gathered. Anyone not doing homework still slid in or sat on me or leaned on my legs. But eventually, once they realized that I was not going to get up to make them snacks or serve dinner or play Candy Land, they moved on, often, though not always, to some form of written material of their own."

The experience has helped her to consider what a book really is: "A book--a real book--is one choice, taken from a pile, opened and entered as its own singular, separate world. Once chosen, you are not holding the constant opportunity to alter or improve your choice, or simply change it just for the sake of restless change. You are there, now, without the relentless pressure of the fact that you could always be, and maybe you should be, maybe you’d be happier or more productive or different, doing something else. It's a choice I hope my kids will decide to make, often."

Levinson Joins Princeton Architectual Press and Chronicle

Diane Levinson has joined Princeton Architectural Press and Chronicle Books as a publicist. She is based in New York and will handle art and design titles from the two publishers, both of which are part of the McEvoy Group. Levinson was most recently at Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, where she worked on a variety of books on music, film and theater.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: My Long Trip Home

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Virginia Breen, co-author of I Am in Here: The Journey of a Child with Autism Who Cannot Speak but Finds Her Voice (Revell, $16.99, 9780800720711).


Tomorrow on CNN's American Morning: Mark Whitaker, author of My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781451627541).

Television: Scent of the Missing

Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) will star in TNT’s drama pilot Scent of the Missing, based on the book Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson. Gerald McRaney co-stars as the father of Susannah (Helfer), "a tenacious, strong-willed K-9 Search and Rescue volunteer who works with an equally determined partner--her mischievous golden retriever, Puzzle. McRaney will play her father, Jerry. The dog has not been cast yet," reported.

This Weekend on Book TV: Leymah Gbowee

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, October 15

8 a.m. Jay Feldman, author of Manufacturing Hysteria: A History of Scapegoating, Surveilance, and Secrecy in Modern America (Pantheon, $28.95, 9780375425349), reports on the curtailment of civil liberties for minorities during times of war and strife in the U.S. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.)

11:45 a.m. For an event hosted by Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., Michael Hiltzik, author of The New Deal: A Modern History (Free Press, $30, 9781439154489), examines the origins of Franklin D. Roosevelt's plans and his relationships with an inner-circle of advisors. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m. and Monday at 5:30 a.m.)

2 p.m. David Margolick, author of Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock (Yale University Press, $26, 9780300141931), recounts the lives of two young women who were in a famous 1957 photograph taken outside Little Rock Central High School on the first day of its desegregation. (Re-airs Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8:15 a.m. and 7 p.m.)

5 p.m. Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, co-authors of Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda (Times Books, $27, 9780805091038), look at how the U.S. government has been fighting Al Qaeda since 2005. (Re-airs Sunday at 1 a.m., 4 a.m. and 11 a.m.)

7 p.m. Michael Beschloss, Richard Donahue, Caroline Kennedy and Ted Widmer discuss the book Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, a series of seven interviews the First Lady conducted with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in 1964. Caroline Kennedy presents her mother's recordings, followed by a panel discussion. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 6:40 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Associated Press energy writer Dina Cappiello interviews Daniel Yergin, author of The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World (Penguin, $37.95, 9781594202834), the follow-up to his Pulitzer-winning book The Prize. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m., and Sunday, October 23, at 10 a.m.)

11 p.m. This year's Nobel Peace Prize co-winner Leymah Gbowee, author of Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War (Beast Books, $25.99, 9780984295159), discusses her memoir and establishment of the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 a.m.)

Books & Authors

Awards: National Book Award Finalists

Finalists for the 2011 National Book Awards were named yesterday by the National Book Foundation, which had to make a quick recovery from an "oops" moment. During the live broadcast, the NBF mistakenly said that Lauren Myracle's Shine was a nominee in the Young People's Literature category rather than the actual finalist, Franny Billingsley's Chime. A decision was later made to include both titles and expand the shortlist to six.

"We made a mistake, there was a miscommunication," NBF executive director Harold Augebraum told Jacket Copy. "We could have taken one of the books away to keep it five, but we decided that it was better to add a sixth one as an exception, because they're all good books."

Winners will be announced November 16 in New York City. This year's shortlisted titles are:

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obrecht (Random House)
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (Knopf)
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury USA)
The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (Bellevue Literary Press)
Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (Lookout Books)

The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism by Deborah Baker (Graywolf)
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown)
The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton)
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (Viking)
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss (It Books)

Head Off & Split by Nikky Finney (TriQuarterly)
The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa (FSG)
Double Shadow by Carl Phillips (FSG)
Tonight No Poetry Will Serve: Poems 2007-2010 by Adrienne Rich (Norton)
Devotions by Bruce Smith (University of Chicago Press)

Young People's Literature:
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson (Marshall Cavendish)
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (HarperCollins)
Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Chime by Franny Billingsley (Dial Books)
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books)
Shine by Lauren Myracle (Amulet Books)
For trivia fans, the Huffington Post offered some tidbits about the prestigious award, including: "Out of 20 nominated books, 12 were written by female authors--one short of last year's 13.... The Convert, in the nonfiction category, is based on a cache of letters, which the author has rewritten and greatly condensed.' "

Book Review

Review: Shards

Shards by Ismet Prcic (Black Cat/Grove Press, $14.95 trade paper, 9780802170811, October 2011)

Ismet Prcic's frequently brilliant novel in fragments, Shards, opens with a plane full of Bosnian refugees arriving at JFK airport. The 18-year-old narrator has escaped from Bosnia as a member of the Torso Theater, junior division, where he undergoes fanatically intense, quasi-religious rehearsals to the sounds of Vangelis, until his troupe is invited to perform in an Edinburgh arts festival. He escapes to New York and from there goes to Los Angeles, where he changes his name to Izzy, braced to encounter all the violent stereotypes of American movies.

Interspersed throughout Ismet's narrative are chapters from an alternate story about Mustafa Nalic, a 17 year old who does not escape to America, who disrupts his military physical exam with a comedy of farting, who becomes a soldier as Yugoslavia rips apart, whose family is tortured by invading Chetniks, and who may be in a mental hospital at the novel's end.

With verbal glee, Prcic serves up a darkly comic vision of the terrors and misunderstandings of immigration. Tight, glorious little tales-within-tales abound, rattled off with a quick, artless naturalism: the feisty, spitting bee-girl; the neighbor who gets Mustafa's grandfather a job as a security guard only to be himself caught stealing; the theater performance for General Lendo to persuade him to let the actors go to Scotland; the terrors of a police interrogation.

The writing is packed with one original metaphor after another, language that's almost drunk with colorful, startling images. His lyrical descriptions are frequently interrupted by swift, graphic sketches of monstrous violence--like the pig glimpsed munching on a Reebok sneaker with the foot still in it--but they're quick and mercifully brief. Ismet's hilarious celebration with passing Hare Krishna chanters is followed abruptly by the six-story suicidal plunge of a troubled friend.

Prcic warns, "There is no one solution. Everything's up for interpretation." Part One, which is most of the book, resolves on a thoughtful and haunting note, but Parts Two and Three, much briefer, are not so satisfying, and a four-page story in Part One is inexplicably repeated verbatim in Part Two. The last 80 pages crumble into delirious fragments and hallucinatory confusion, culminating in a nightmarish hospital scene where there's no telling the living from the dead.

Brimming with scraps of memory, regrets and rationalizations, Shards leaves an indelible scar on the reader's imagination. Prcic has pieced together a young man's story from the torn and exploded remains of his former life, and the sheer power of his language leaves the reader shaken. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: Fragments piece together two Bosnian lives: a young man who manages to escape from his war-torn homeland in a theater troupe and another who fights in the war and ends up in a mental institution.


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