Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 15, 2006


Simon & Schuster: Launch a Reading Star With Ready to Read Campaign

Bramble: Pen Pal Special Edition by J.T. Geissinger

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

Soho Crime: Broiler by Eli Cranor

Berkley Books: We Love the Nightlife by Rachel Koller Croft

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Waiting in the Wings by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Illustrated by Eg Keller

Webtoon Unscrolled: Boyfriends. Volume Two: A Webtoon Unscrolled Graphic Novel by Refrainbow

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Editors' Note

Welcome, Robert Gray!

Robert Gray has joined Shelf Awareness to write regularly about notable developments on the indie front, and his first series of columns, beginning with this issue, will be about bookstore Web sites. Gray is the owner of Fresh Eyes Now, a company that works with publishers, agents and authors to get good books into the hands of gifted booksellers. Prior to this incarnation, he was a bookseller and buyer for the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., for 13 years. As a writer, Bob's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Publishers Weekly, Bookselling This Week, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Words Without Borders, Eclectica Magazine and Cimarron Review.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Assassins Anonymous by Rob Hart


News

Notes: Selling Online, Offline; Missing Borders; Bard.com

The Internet has been blamed for many bookstore closings. But an instant connection with the wider world has made Sheri's Book Treasures in Soldier, Iowa, pop. 207, an example of what the Des Moines Register calls "an emerging rural Iowa phenomenon--unexpected storefront businesses open for trade in sparsely populated areas because they sell online."

The store has 20,000 titles and nearly 95% of book sales are online, owners Wayne and Sheri Joyner told the paper.

The couple started by selling books from their home on six used-book sites, including amazon.com and half.com, via sherisbooktreasures.com. When supply overwhelmed the house, they took one of many available empty downtown storefronts. (The paper commented: "Rural Iowa has long suffered decline and this town is no exception.")

Here's another eye-opener from this story. Because of the ever-increasing pressure on used book prices, the Joyners sell many of their books online for a cent and make money on postage costs.

Wayne Joyner explained: "Amazon.com charges $3.49 for postage. We get $2.26 of it, or $1.59 if it's a paperback. So after our supply and shipping costs, we make 50 cents."

Oh, and one Soldier resident said he appreciated having a store nearby so he didn't have to drive an hour to go to the Barnes & Noble in Sioux City.

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Today's Boston Globe surveys how several independent booksellers in New England are faring in an increasingly competitive environment.

Janice Severance, owner of the Bookstore of Gloucester, Gloucester, Mass., told the paper: "The Internet is a big issue, but you can't replace coming into a bookstore and having the books displayed and hand-picked." But since many readers enjoy browsing the Internet, "I like to tell my customers, 'Go on the Internet all you like, but just copy down the number and call us up, leave a message--even if it's in the middle of the night--and we'll get the book, and if you don't want to come in, I'll send it to you.' "

Allan Schmid, president of the New England Booksellers Association and owner of Books, Etc., Portland, Maine, "spiffed my store up" when a chain store arrived in his area, he told the Globe. "I sort of went against what some people may be inclined to do with the threat of declining sales, but because you know that consumers are going to come back, and when they did, I wanted the store to look nice.

"You can't just be asleep at the switch and think that the old model will work," he continued. "You have to be creative, inventive, and on your toes, and I think people who are in tune with that can have a better chance for success."

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In tones often used for late independent stores, Greg Stepanich in the Palm Beach Post eulogizes his favorite local store, Borders in Boynton, Fla., which closed last weekend.

"I know it's not politically correct to applaud the superstores; it's hard for independent booksellers to compete against companies such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, whose size gives them a real advantage," he wrote. "But customers like me patronize all kinds of bookstores, and we love them all."

He concluded, "For me, it's the loss of a place where I could feel like myself, frankly: A geeky man, obsessed with books and music, the kind of person who rather pursue those two interests almost above anything else. I'll miss the Boynton Borders, and the people who worked there, and especially miss the extra outpost of culture it brought to the place I call home."

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In a move made in conjunction with Google's sponsorship of Shakespeare in the Park in New York City, the company has launched a site devoted entirely to the works of William Shakespeare, allowing users to browse through the full texts of his 37 plays, Reuters reported.

Many editions of the plays are available for sale via links to the Amazon.com, B&N.com, Booksense.com, Froogle and the publisher.

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The local development agency in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has applied for a $1.2 million loan from the county office of community development to open an 18,000-sq.-ft. store downtown, the Wilkes-Barre Citizen's Voice reported. The county commissioners are expected to vote on the application June 21.

The store will be managed by an unnamed college store company. In April, Barnes & Noble College and Follett were reportedly in the running. According to the loan application, a management lease is still being negotiated.

The store will include an 89-seat café and is intended to serve as a "portal" to the King's College and Wilkes University campuses, selling both books for a general audience as well as textbooks. The colleges and the college store company are putting up about $900,000.

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Following the death last month of Dan Lundy, v-p and director of academic and library marketing at Penguin Group and head of that department for 16 years, the company has promoted Alan Walker, who worked closely with Lundy for most of that time, to senior director of academic marketing and sales. Walker was most recently director of academic marketing and sales.

In a statement, Susan Petersen Kennedy, president of Penguin Group, said of Walker, "In his new position, he will run the largest combined academic marketing and sales department at a major consumer book publishing company. His long-term relationships in the academic and library communities will help us to further strengthen this important aspect of our business."

Walker reports to John Fagan, v-p, director of marketing, Penguin Books, who adds the title of executive director, academic marketing and sales.

In a related note, a memorial service will be held for Lundy during ALA in New Orleans, at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 25, in Jackson Square. For more information, contact Charleen Davis at charleen.davis@us.penguingroup.com.

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Advanced Marketing Services, the major book supplier to warehouse clubs and owner of PGW that has been dealing with an accounting scandal for several years, has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to deregister its stock. The company will no longer have to meet SEC reporting obligations; the company's stock will continue to trade through the Pink Sheets.

AMS said it "concluded that the increasing financial costs and commitment of management's time to addressing increasing regulatory requirements cannot be justified at this time." Few securities analysts are covering AMS, the stock is thinly traded and "the public market does not provide a realistic opportunity to raise additional capital," the company continued. Thus, "the elimination of the legal, accounting and administrative costs associated with being a publicly-traded SEC reporting company" will allow management "to devote more time and attention to the Company's business and operations" and save a bundle of money.



Florida Bookstore for Sale: Email bookstore4sale2023@gmail.com


Bookstore Sales: April Dampening

Bookstore sales in April were $937 million, down 4.3% from $979 billion in April 2005, according to preliminary estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. By contrast, total retail sales in April were $321.7 billion, up 5.4% from $304.2 billion in April 2005.

The Census Bureau revised March sales up slightly, to $1.041 billion, from $1.040 billion.

For the year to date, bookstore sales were $5.173 billion, down 0.2% from $5.184 billion in the same period a year ago. Through March, this year's bookstore sales had been up versus the previous year to date.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Summer Romance by Annabel Monaghan


Media and Movies

This Weekend on Book TV: Defining Moments

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 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 Web site.

Saturday, June 17

6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. In a segment that first aired in 1992, political science professors Paul Brace and Barbara Hinckley talked about their book, Follow the Leader: Opinion Polls and the Modern Presidents, a chronicle of the influence of polling on presidential administrations from Harry Truman to George H.W. Bush.
 
9 p.m. After Words. Brooks Jackson, former investigative reporter for the Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and CNN and now director of Annenberg Political Fact Check, interviews Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, about Kohut's new book, America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked (Times, $25, 0805077219), which has found an increase in anti-Americanism around the globe in recent years. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.)

10 p.m. History on Book TV. From the Printers Row Book Fair in Chicago, Jonathan Alter, writer and senior editor at Newsweek, talks about his new book, The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (S&S, $29.95, 0743246004), in which he explored how Franklin Roosevelt laid the foundation for recovery from the Great Depression immediately upon taking office.

Sunday, June 18

2:15 p.m. Public Lives. At another Printers Row event, two biographers of Jane Addams discuss the founder of Hull-House: Louise Knight, author of Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy (University of Chicago Press, $35, 0226446999), and Katherine Joslin, author of Jane Addams, a Writer's Life (University of Illinois Press, $35, 0252029232).


Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland


Media Heat: Larry King Live This Morning

This morning on the Early Show: Eric Burns, author of Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism (PublicAffairs, $27.50, 158648334X).

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This morning the Today Show exchanges places with Larry King, who offers portions from his book My Dad and Me: Life Lessons Learned from My Father (Crown, $19.95, 0307236536).

Also on the Today Show: Christopher Russo, author of The Mad Dog Hall of Fame: The Ultimate Top-Ten Rankings of the Best in Sports (Doubleday, $23.95, 0385517467).

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In a repeat from November 17, Oprah today is featuring Robert Trachtenberg, an editor of When I Knew (HarperCollins, $22.95, 0060571462).

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Today on the Bookworm: Yannick Murphy, author of Here They Come (McSweeney's, $22, 1932416501). As the show describes it: "Memory, instinct and aesthetics combine to recreate childhood in Yannick Murphy's new novel. Here, she tells about her process, how she learned about writing--what she calls 'leaving your stink on the page.' "

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Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Ivan Doig, author of The Whistling Season (Harcourt, $25, 0151012377).

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Today the View hosts Tim Russert, author of Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters From Daughters and Sons (Random House, $22.95, 1400064805). Russert is also scheduled to be on the Charlie Rose Show tonight.

Also on the View: Mark Hyman, author of Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan For Automatic Weight Loss (Scribner, $25, 0743272552).



Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Bookshop 'Siteseeing' on the Information Highway

Most independent bookstore Web sites are a waste of time and money, and about as useful as a weathered motel on an abandoned highway.

I don't really believe the previous statement, at least not categorically, but I think it's a good way to shake things up and get this trip started. In recent months, I've become a bookstore Web site tourist, visiting them the way other travelers might "collect" the cathedrals of Europe. I'll be sharing some of my travel experiences with you in this space.

"I write in my notebook with the intention of stimulating good conversation, hoping that it will also be of use to some fellow traveler," wrote my unofficial mentor, the 17th century Japanese poet and travel diarist Bashö.  

Our trip begins with a simple question: Why do independent bookstores have Web sites?

I spend more hours than any rational human being probably should exploring the Web sites of bookshops coast to coast. My travels take me to ambitious destinations like Powell's Bookstore as well as more modest, yet appealing sites like McLean & Eakin Booksellers and Urban Think! Bookstore. I visit the technologically gifted as well as the technologically challenged. As Johnny Cash sings on a current motel advertisement, "I've been everywhere, man."

Although I'm traveling (virtually) for business as I search for gifted handsellers, that primary question has haunted me again and again, and it's worth repeating: Why do bookstores have Web sites?

The logical answer seems to be because, in an increasingly online world, bookstores simply must have a Web presence. Most book buyers are now Internet savvy and have a comfort level with shopping online that has cost traditional bookstores a substantial portion of their customer base

If, then, a Web site is a necessity, who are bookshops trying to reach? Presumably, the sites weren't built for current patrons, nor are they there to lure readers into the bricks-and-mortar store. The logical goal must be to extend a bookstore's reach beyond the limitations of geography; to bring the best of what a particular indie has to offer into the homes of Web-oriented customers nationwide.

Oddly, however, whether you visit a dozen independent bookstore Web sites or a hundred, you will see variations on a singular theme: "We are a marvelous, full service bookstore with a staff of knowledgeable readers who will be happy to help you find great books. Please visit us." And while the majority do have intriguing Staff Picks sections, the sites are primarily digital billboards.

Consider, for example, the fact that even though most Web sites offer recommendations by their best handsellers, few include individual e-mail addresses for those staff members, so a customer might be able to make a direct, personal connection with someone who shares their reading taste. This is the essence of service inside a bookstore, but Web sites tend to favor the info@. . .  approach, discouraging interactivity and person-to-person handselling.

Imagine hundreds of bookshop owners greeting everyone who came through their doors by telling them what great service was available, then running away like Alice's White Rabbit and no one taking their place to actually deliver on that promise.  

As a longtime bookseller, I tend to romanticize this profession. I can't help myself. I think that customers who patronize indies love an atmosphere that is at once indefinable and absolutely recognizable. Online, I'd call it the "84 Charing Cross Road Effect," that unique ability to attract and retain customers who might never actually visit your store, but who want to become part of the family nonetheless. A good Web site should mirror, not contradict, the store's atmosphere and potential for good, productive (both warm and profitable) conversation.

I want to find out how bookstores are addressing this challenge. I'll be your tour guide as we take this siteseeing trip, but I encourage you to talk back. Tell me what you've seen, too. I'm on the hunt for creativity and innovation online. I'll be talking with booksellers as well as webmasters about creating and maintaining a strong Web presence.

What does it take to build a great bookstore Web site? Let's hit the road and find out.--Robert Gray


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