Also published on this date: Wednesday, October 9, 2013: Maximum Shelf: The Valley of Amazement

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Random House Graphic: Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha

Wednesday Books: The Mall by Megan McCafferty

Houghton Mifflin: The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

Quotation of the Day

Andrew Wylie on Bezos, Penguin/RH Merger

"I am not one of those who thinks that Amazon's publishing business is an effort marked by sincerity. If you are as clever as Jeff Bezos, you don't do it the way he's doing it.... I believe that Amazon has its print publishing business so that their behavior as a distributor of digital content can be misperceived by the Department of Justice and the publishing industry in a way that is convenient for Amazon's bottom line. That is exactly what I think....

"I am optimistic about Penguin Random. It will need a lot of product to feed its size. I think it will help sustain the industry--not only itself, but others. If you eat all the grass on the hill, eventually you don't have any topsoil, Mr. Bezos. I think the balance sheet of publishers will strengthen, and then, through negotiation, the balance sheet of writers will strengthen."

--Literary agent Andrew Wylie in an interview with the New Republic

GLOW: Other Press: Serenade for Nadia by Zülfü Livaneli, translated by Brendan Freely


News

Amazon, Goodreads on International Expansion

Bookselling worldwide is "fundamentally changing," said Russ Grandinetti, v-p of Kindle content at Amazon, at yesterday's Publishers Launch conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

In 2012 in the U.S., 42% of all consumer purchases of print and digital books were made online; a year from now, more than half of all purchases of all types of books will be made online, Grandinetti said. He predicted that in two years, the U.K., which has closely followed the U.S. in digital trends, will also reach that level, and in three years "the rest of Europe" will follow.

Grandinetti urged publishers to rethink how they approach marketing, saying, "The time is not far off where a publisher doing an author business plan who doesn't think of online first is doing a disservice to the author." Traditionally, he continued, publishers have kept in mind "physical" bookselling and how to get customers in bookstores to take a book to the checkout counter. Now, the challenge is much different, he said, and conjured up an image of someone at home at 8:30 on a Tuesday night with two hours before going to bed. How does that person find your book, he asked. "The set of skills for that are obviously quite different."

Without divulging unit or dollar sales figures, Grandinetti showed charts of the gradual growth of sales of print books by Amazon in the U.S. and U.K. with abrupt jumps in e-books after they were introduced--and in a matter of several years, surpassing print book sales. While it's still early in other markets, he emphasized repeatedly that the trends lines in other countries where Amazon operates, including Germany, France and Japan, resemble those in the U.S. and U.K., and "there is little that makes us think things will be different." The key elements of book digitization, customer service, customer receptiveness and people online are all in place in those markets.

He also emphasized that Amazon's growth in Germany, which has fixed book prices, has taken place without the widespread discounting that helped Amazon establish itself as a formidable book retailer in the U.S. and U.K.

Grandinetti said, too, that the growth of e-books around the world has resulted in non-English-speaking markets being the "single-largest" area for expansion for English-language publishers. So far this year, sales of English-language titles in non-English-speaking markets have surpassed last year's levels. Conversely, sales of foreign-language titles in English-speaking countries are growing and represent an opportunity for foreign publishers.

He suggested that publishers should be less concerned about piracy and more concerned about "missed opportunities" resulting from not having their titles digitized and not settling rights ownership around the world. He noted that of the top 1,000 authors in some European counties, a strikingly few have even one book digitized. These include 53% of the top 1,000 authors in Italy and 46% in Spain.

Grandinetti stressed that the book world needs to make books attractive "relative to other entertainment choices," but his example--counter to his mention of growing in Germany without the ability to discount--implied that pricing was the key way to expand. Again he mentioned a reader at 8:30 on a Tuesday evening--in this case having the choice of playing Angry Birds, watching a movie or reading. He then showed a slide of the French title Un Avion Sans Elle by Michel Bussi, whose digital version is priced at 15.99 euros (about US$21.75), much higher than printed copies (a paperback edition goes for 9.90 euros), and suggested that such a price would lead the reader to "probably pick Angry Birds." His conclusion: "Books need to be an attractive alternative or we'll miss out."

Getting people's attention is key, he continued. Citing Kindle's Daily Deal, he said, it's important "to get customers to think about us every day."

Grandinetti also said it was "shocking and sad how poor quality control is from so many publishers." If many digital books went out as printed books, publishers would "call the trucks back" because of the many mistakes involving spelling, formatting, tables of content and indexes as well as navigation. "And if you don't know that the last is," he said, "you should."

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Otis Chandler, CEO and co-founder of Goodreads, didn't directly address the company's purchase in March by Amazon, although he said that the Goodreads' plans to expand internationally will be helped by Amazon's "deep databases." As of now, Goodreads is an all-English language site, but its goal is to have a catalogue that includes every book in every language ever published. As it is, Goodreads has been doubling in size in many English-language countries outside the U.S.

This fall, Chandler said, Goodreads will be built into Kindle Paperwhite reading devices and Fire tablets. He called this "a dream" he'd long had: integration with "the world's largest platform" in a way that allows readers to interact with friends and other about books they're reading without having to put down their books.

He predicted that Goodreads "will invent some cool new things in the next few years." If done right, he continued, "we will match and surpass the experience of going into a well-curated bookstore and walking out with three or four books." --John Mutter


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger


The Curious Reader Children's Bookstore Opens

The Curious Reader, Glen Rock, N.J., opened last Sunday. The new children's bookshop is owned by Jim Morgan, who "is building on his experience as a member of the Ridgewood Board of Education, and his decade before that with the Ridgewood Education Association," the Ridgewood-Glen Rock Patch reported.  

"Working on the board of education gives me an appreciation for childhood literacy," Morgan said. "Once you start reading, if you do it right, the world's your oyster."

Owner Jim Morgan during construction of The Curious Reader

A substantial area of the store will be organized by reading level, which Morgan said makes it easier for teachers and parents to find books appropriate to the reading level their children have attained in school, the Patch wrote. "It's the basic, introductory way to teach literacy to children," he noted. "What's difficult for parents is to find it."

Morgan is joined in the business by his daughter, Sally, who helped manage the former Books, Bytes and Beyond in town for eight years. "With kids books, it's really important to look at them before you buy it, and test drive it a bit," she said. "I think Glen Rock really liked having a children's book store, and this space is key."

The Curious Reader is located at 229 Rock Road Glen Rock, N.J. 07452; 201-444-1918; info@thecuriousreaderbooks.com.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Deep by Alma Katsu


Survey: U.S. Adult Readers Lag Behind International Peers

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and several other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in math, reading and "problem-solving using technology--all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength," according to a new study released yesterday, the Associated Press reported. The average scores in literacy ranged from 250 (Italy) to 296 (Japan), with the U.S. at 270 (500 was the highest). Average scores in 12 countries were higher than the average U.S. score.

The survey, which was developed and released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation's high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven't," the AP wrote, noting that the "median hourly wage of workers scoring on the highest level in literacy on the test is more than 60% higher than for workers scoring at the lowest level, and those with low literacy skills were more than twice as likely to be unemployed."

"It's not just the kids who require more and more preparation to get access to the economy, it's more and more the adults don't have the skills to stay in it," said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Dolores Perin, professor of psychology and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said the report provides a "good basis for an argument there should be more resources to support adults with low literacy."


Amazon Warehouses: Building in Wis., Talking Again in Conn.

On Monday, the Kenosha, Wis., City Council approved an incentive package for Amazon (whose estimated revenues this year are at least $70 billion), which plans to build a new one-million-square-foot distribution center, employing at least 1,100 workers, near I-94. The Business Journal reported the city "will provide $17 million for construction of the building through a tax incremental financing district Kenosha's Common Council unanimously approved Monday night. Property taxes generated by the building would pay off the money Kenosha will borrow to provide the funds. Under the agreement, Amazon must pay the city extra to fill in any gap if the building's annual property taxes are not enough to cover the debt payments."

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"After a month of public silence" since announcing that a proposal to build a distribution center in Windsor, Conn., had been withdrawn, Amazon officials "have put the plan back on the table" and are seeking to have their request for a tax abatement and reduced building permit fees brought back to the town council's finance committee for consideration, the Hartford Courant reported.

"I'm thrilled that we're back talking and I'm absolutely confident that we can strike a deal that is mutually beneficial," said Mayor Donald Trinks. Amazon was seeking an 80% property tax abatement over five years and a 50% reduction in building permit fees, but Windsor's economic development commission recommended the council approve a 70% abatement to go with the 50% reduction.


Obituary Note: Lawrence Goodwyn

Historian Lawrence Goodwyn, "whose experience building cross-racial political coalitions in the 1960s" led him to write Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America (a National Book Award nominee in 1977), died September 29, the New York Times reported. He was 85.


Notes

Image of the Day: Brazil in Frankfurt

Michel Temer (center), the vice president of Brazil, took a tour of his country's Guest of Honor pavilion with Dr. Guido Westerwelle (right), Germany's foreign minister, during the opening reception at the 65th annual Frankfurt Book Fair last night. Speakers, including Peter Feldmann, the mayor of Frankfurt, Volker Bouffier, prime minister of the German state of Hesse, and Brazilian authors Luiz Ruffato and Ana Maria Machado, discussed the importance of books to the trajectory of nations as well as the lives of individuals, and the burgeoning cultural and economic ties between Germany and Brazil.

With negotiations on a free trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union looming, Feldmann, Bouffier, Juergen Boos, the president of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and Dr. Gottfried Honnefelder, president of the German Publishers & Booksellers Association, all called for the preservation of Germany's book price-fixing laws, lest German literary culture be swallowed up by "American monopolies" and the "anonymous, manipulative power of money." Said Feldmann: "I don't want a free market for books, but free art in a protected market."

Ruffato, whose speech drew the most enthusiastic applause of the night, spoke of Brazil's legacy of negating the existence of cultural "others" (in this case, descendants of Brazil's indigenous populations as well as descendants of African slaves brought to Brazil) by either violence or indifference and of the huge strides Brazil has made since it ratified its Constitution in 1988 after years of military dictatorship. "Literature can change societies," asserted Ruffato, who described his own life as one that was radically changed by just "coincidental contact with books." --Alex Mutter


Melville House Launches the Jakob Arjouni Fund

Yesterday, Melville House launched the Arjouni Fund to Fight Pancreatic Cancer in honor of author Jakob Arjouni, who died earlier this year from the disease. Melville House publishers Dennis Johnson and Valerie Merians have partnered with Lustgarten Foundation, "the world's largest private foundation dedicated to pancreatic cancer research, which will administer the fund and see that 100% of the money raised in Jakob's name will go directly to research." They also plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of Arjouni's final novel, Brother Kemal, to the fund.


Michael Jacobs New Chair of Academy of American Poets

Congratulations to Michael Jacobs, president and CEO of Abrams Books, who has been elected chairman of the board of the Academy of American Poets. He is also chairman of the National Coalition Against Censorship and is a member of the Board of Governors of Yale University Press.


'Librarian Shaming' Tumblr: Confessions in the Stacks

The Librarian Shaming Tumblr, which bills itself as "a place for those of us in Libraryland to come clean," originated with a confessional post on the Dracut, Mass., Library blog: "We all have our dirty, embarrassing secrets. Dracut Librarians are no exception. Here are a few of our dirty librarian secrets. The faces have been hidden to protect their professional reputations."

Created to give "library folks a place to get things off their chest anonymously, and enjoy some commiseration from their peers," Librarian Shaming reveals such dark secrets as: "I don’t care about teaching library research skills because I GOOGLED my way through grad school and did just fine!!" Also: "I've been shushed... by a patron."



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alexander Maksik on KCRW's Bookworm

Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (Harper, $28.99, 9780062114860).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Alexander Maksik, author of A Marker to Measure Drift (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307962577). As the show put it: "Alexander Maksik's second novel, A Marker to Measure Drift, began as an experiment in voice. The book's central character--an aristocratic Liberian woman, left bereft and exiled on a remote Aegean island during her country's second civil war--is as different from the author as any character possibly could be. Maksik talks about how he gradually learned to 'reveal' Jacqueline, the trance-like quality of his prose, the novel's nuanced sensuality."

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Tomorrow night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon: Jessica Seinfeld, author of The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified! (Atria, $27.99, 9781451662252).

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Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Chris Matthews, author of Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked (Simon & Schuster, $29.95, 9781451695991). He will also appear on Access Hollywood.

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Brian Jay Jones, author of Jim Henson: The Biography (Ballantine, $35, 9780345526113).

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Reed Albergotti and Vanessa O'Connell, authors of Wheelmen: Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France, and the Greatest Sports Conspiracy Ever (Gotham, $27.50, 9781592408481).


TV: BBC's War & Peace

The Weinstein Co. has joined Look Out Point and BBC Worldwide as production partner on the upcoming six-part adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War And Peace. Deadline.com reported the project, "described as 'one of the most ambitious' ever produced for the BBC," will be made by BBC Cymru Wales and written by Andrew Davies (House Of Cards, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Brideshead Revisited, Bridget Jones). War and Peace is scheduled to air in the U.K. in 2015.


Movies: More Fifty Shades of Grey Casting

Universal Pictures and Focus Features "are negotiating" with Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty) to play Carla, the mother of Anastasia Steele, in the movie version of E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey, Deadline.com reported. She joins Dakota Johnson (Anastasia) and Charlie Hunnam (Christian Grey) in the adaptation directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.

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If you've been wondering what auditions for the Fifty Shades of Grey cast were like, last weekend Saturday Night Live offered a peek at the screen tests.


Books & Authors

Awards: Steves Named 'Outstanding Friend of Europe'

Rick Steves, travel expert, TV/radio host and author of more than 50 travel guidebooks has won the European Union's Outstanding Friend of Europe Award "for positively contributing to deeper transatlantic ties by encouraging Americans to travel to Europe." João Vale de Almeida, the EU's Ambassador to the U.S., presented the award Monday night the University of Washington in Seattle.


Book Brahmin: David Biespiel

photo: Don Unrau

David Biespiel is the recipient of a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University, a Lannan Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature, and has contributed to the American Poetry Review, Parnassus, Poetry, the New York Times Book Review, the New Republic and Politico. He is the founder of Attic Writers' Workshop in Portland, Ore. His works include four books of poetry--Shattering Air, Pilgrims & Beggars, Wild Civility and The Book of Men and Women, which was named one of the Best Books of the Year in 2009 by the Poetry Foundation--and a book on creativity, Every Writer Has a Thousand Faces. His new book of poetry, Charming Gardeners, is published by the University of Washington Press (October 1, 2013). He lives in Portland with his family.

On your nightstand now:

A Concise History of the Caribbean by B.W. Higman, a 7,000-year history of the Caribbean islands beginning with human settlement through the 21st century, including social and environmental devastation by European colonization and a violent slave trade, as well the story of Caribbean political independence during the past 50 years. Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. If there's a writer who can match Orwell's clarity and verve--and nerve--it's the "Hitch," who believes that Orwell's moral outlook is indispensable.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It made the idea of lighting out for the territories, as Huck does at the end of the novel, something that was necessary for someone like me who was born too late for the psychedelic '60s and was repulsed by the Reagan '80s (I mean, I worked for Ted Kennedy's insurgency in Texas in the spring of 1980).

Your top five authors:

Czesław Miłosz, Yehuda Amichai, Tomas Tranströmer, Adrienne Rich and Seamus Heaney--all poets who blend the civic within frame of the lyric.

Book you've faked reading:

The novels of Wallace Stegner. We share a birthday even, but I can't get through a single one of his books. Or essays.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Robert Caro's multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Many! Mostly for kids.

Book that changed your life:

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It's the poem that invented American poetry.

Favorite line from a book:

"I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota." --from "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River" by Robert Bly.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

John Keats's Collected Poems. I know his poems so well by now, perhaps even better than Keats himself--I mean, I've read them more times than he did--but I'd like to start from scratch in order to rediscover the perfections as magic.


Book Review

Review: Picture Me Gone

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff (Putnam, $17.99 hardcover, 250p., ages 12-up, 9780399257650, October 3, 2013)

 In the unerring voice of 12-year-old Mila, Meg Rosoff (There Is No Dog) unlocks a mystery that takes her heroine from precocious child to young woman over the span of her Easter holiday. Mila's first-person narrative reflects the nuance of her violinist mother and the linguistic precision of her translator father.

Just before Mila and her father, Gil, prepare to leave London on Easter holiday to visit Gil's oldest and best friend, Matthew, in New York, Gil receives a call from Matthew's wife, Suzanne. Matthew has disappeared. Mila has always wanted to thank Matthew for saving her father's life at age 22 during an avalanche while the pair was mountain climbing. Mila wonders "if we've been summoned for some sort of cosmic leveling, to help Matthew this time, the one who has never before required saving." Also prior to their departure, Catlin, Mila's estranged best friend, attempts a rapprochement. Mila thinks, "I didn't exactly miss her because she seemed like someone I no longer knew." Flashbacks of what passed between them become a lens for Mila as she tries to make sense of her father's friendship with Matthew.

Mila is good at solving puzzles. She knows that if her mother's flat shoes and the baroque violin are gone, she's practicing quartets in a rehearsal room five flights up. Gil calls Mila his perguntador; it's Portuguese for "someone who asks too many questions." Gil is the opposite: "He uses words sparingly, as if they're rationed. It's what comes, I think, of knowing so many words in so many languages. Too much choice." Mila's first impression of Suzanne and Matthew's home is: "This is not a happy house." As she begins to fill in the details, Mila also questions the things she took for granted, chief among them is, "My father's faults involve excessive honesty." With her discoveries about Matthew's messy life, Mila also learns that Gil has kept secrets from her, too. "If a person can lie to you about one thing," Mila thinks, "he can lie about something else." At one point, she believes she's protecting her father, then wonders if anyone can truly protect anyone else.

Mila's sense of humor, intelligence and innate sense of justice will win readers over so that they feel the full impact of her sense of betrayal. She becomes a brilliant vehicle for Rosoff's meditations on word choice, unspoken cues and the power of silence. What matters most is that Mila emerges whole--sadder but wiser. A person, no longer a child. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: Printz Award winner Meg Rosoff creates another riveting character in precocious 12-year-old Mila, who travels from London to New York to help her father find his missing friend.


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