Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Dutton Books: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

Amulet Books: Village of Scoundrels by Margi Preus

Flatiron Books: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Canongate Books: The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry and The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry

Scribner Book Company: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford

Sfi Readerlink Dist: Sesame Street: The Monster at the End of This Book: An Interactive Adventure by Jon Stone, adapted by Autumn B Heath

News

E-Book Subscription Service Oyster Closing

Oyster, the Netflix-style book subscription service launched two years ago, is folding and several of its top executives are being hired by Google for Google Play Books, its e-book service, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to re/code, the group going to Google includes CEO Eric Stromberg and co-founders Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker. Google reportedly is paying investors for the right to hire staff.

For $9.95 a month, members had access to more than a million e-books. Earlier this year, Oyster opened an e-bookstore. Its main competitors have been Scribd and Amazon.

Lorraine Shanley, president of Market Partners International, told the Journal that Oyster "didn't have the budget to make the book subscription business ubiquitous and they didn't have all publishers and agents convinced it was an advantage for their authors. It was relatively expensive for an incomplete offering of new titles."


Amulet Books: Blood Countess (a Lady Slayers Novel) by Lana Popovic


Amazon, Audible Accused of Monopoly Practices in Germany

Amazon and its subsidiary Audible are building a monopoly in the German audiobook business and using their market position to force "unreasonable conditions" on publishers for the marketing of audiobooks, the Boersenverein--the German publishers, wholesalers and booksellers association--has alleged in complaints filed with the European Commission and the German competition authority, Reuters reported.

The association said that 90% of audiobook downloads in Germany are made via Amazon, Audible or iTunes (which is supplied exclusively by Audible). The association also said that with the complaints, it is now formally part of ongoing European antitrust proceedings against Amazon, which include investigations of its highly beneficial tax arrangements with Luxembourg and whether Amazon's e-book contracts with publishers prevent publishers from offering better deals to other retailers.


Scribner Book Company: Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford


Read Between the Lynes Looks to Crowdfund Move

Earlier this month, Read Between the Lynes in Woodstock, Ill., launched an Indiegogo campaign to help finance its move to a new, larger location. The 10-year-old indie, which has moved out of its previous location and is taking a brief hiatus, is asking for $65,000. With 21 days to go, owner Arlene Lynes and her staff have raised more than $14,000. Lynes takes possession of the new space on October 1, with a soft opening tentatively planned for October 17 and a grand opening October 24.

Read Between the Lynes will be moving "87 steps down the street" into a historic Woodstock storefront with 2,500 square feet. The additional space--the previous location was 1,800 square feet--will allow Read Between the Lynes to expand not only its book inventory but also its cafe and food offerings, as well as sidelines and gifts. In particular, the store has "major expansions" planned for both the children's and young adult departments.

Campaign backers can choose from a variety of reward offerings, including tote bags, mugs and T-shirts with the store's "Step into a Book Movement" logo. Backers who donate larger sums can receive a lifetime membership to the store's 10%-off rewards club, free drip coffee for a year and a personalized "book club in a box."


Berkley Books: Master Class by Christina Dalcher


Paul Slavin Named President of Open Road

Paul Slavin

Paul Slavin has been appointed president of Open Road Integrated Media. He has been executive v-p and COO of Everyday Health.

Before joining Everyday Health, Slavin spent 33 years at ABC News, where, at various times, he was responsible for all of ABC News's digital content, including ABCNews.com, mobile and broadband communications; served as senior v-p, worldwide newsgathering; and was executive producer of World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

Open Road co-founder and CEO Jane Friedman said of Slavin: "I am certain that his deep and diverse background in audience building and his strategic skills to drive revenue will expand our reach and complement, amplify, and further define Open Road's mission. His experience will no doubt enrich our company."


G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks


ABA's Oren Teicher: 'Continuing Positive News for Indies'

The news for independent booksellers is overwhelming good, said American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher in a wide-ranging interview recently. Among the high points: indie sales continue to be strong; stores are opening at a healthy rate, bringing new, younger booksellers into the business; many established stores are opening branches; stores for sale find new owners; and ABA membership continues to grow.

"This has been probably the longest protracted period of positive news that I can recall in the 25 years-plus that I've been at it," Teicher commented.

Continuing the trend of the last several years, book unit sales by member stores reporting to the weekly Indie Bestseller Lists (on average 560 locations around the country every week) has been strong. "In the 12 weeks since BEA, sales have been up every week," Teicher said. And for the year to date (through the end of August), sales have been up double digits. He acknowledged that many stores sell merchandise besides books, but book sales are a reliable indicator of stores' health and these numbers are consistent. He noted, too, that "not every store in the country has enjoyed this resurgence," but overall the trend is "unmistakable and verifiable."

As for the opening of new stores and purchases of established stores, new owners bring a lot of "enthusiasm and energy," Teicher said. "There's no data to back this up, but their presence has inadvertently served to give confidence to everybody else.... For a long time, for most booksellers, there was no logical succession plan remotely in the ballpark."

In part, he said, the ABA's decision nearly a decade ago to focus on education has helped booksellers to fight some tough competitors and during difficult economic times. He said that while advocacy by the association was and continues to be important, "you can only worry about the competition so much." The emphasis on booksellers "doing what they do better" has paid off, he said. "Booksellers are better trained, better educated and more able to deal with the enormous challenges of indie business."

A key part of the education component is the wildly popular Winter Institute, which will hold its 11th iteration in January in Denver. "It's become as important to us as anything else," Teicher said. The education program also includes the Children's Institute; the education programs at the regional booksellers association fall shows; and the 10 education workshops every spring. He lauded the effect of "putting all those booksellers together under one roof," where besides benefiting from formal education, they can talk and consult with one another and trade tips and more. And now most of the education curriculum is available online to members. "It has changed the stores' ability to compete when the competition is as fierce as ever."

Each year, the ABA tries to do something different at Winter Institute. ("It has to keep adapting, like bookstores adapt.") This year, WI will emphasize backlist. Attendees will be asked to bring their favorite under-read backlist titles, and after the WI opening reception, there will be a book swap. Speakers will include Martin Lindstrom, whose Small Data will be published by St. Martin's in February and whom Teicher described as a "combination of Dan Heath and Dan Pink"; Amy Cuddy, whose Presence will be published by Little, Brown in December; and the poet Kwame Alexander. In addition, Doug Preston, Roxana Robinson and Gail Hochman will talk about what the Department of Justice might do following Authors United's call for it to investigate Amazon's monopoly power in the book world. "I'm hopeful that the antitrust authorities will catch up with the rest of the world and, at a minimum, think there's something worth looking into here," Teicher commented.

The localism movement continues to explode, with "tens of millions of American consumers deciding to shop in a locally owned business because it is one." Teicher noted that many indie bookstores "fostered" the movement, which has "barely scratched the surface of what it can do." And, appropriately, there are "many different models" for how they work, whether in big cities, suburbs or even entire states, like Utah. Teicher called this "another example of how indies share."

The Indies Introduce program is another example of emphasizing what indies do best: "putting the right books in customers' hands." The program is beginning to gain traction, and some of the books have broken out, Teicher said.

Publishers have helped indies by "helping reinvent the business model," he said. Each house does it differently, experimenting with rapid replenishment programs, changes in co-op rules and extended dating, for example. These efforts have "absolutely helped"--one indication is the effect on members' bottom lines. Preliminary ABACUS numbers show that for the second year in a row, cost of goods has gone down. "When you can move those numbers by a tenth of a point, that's a pretty dramatic turnaround," he said.

Referring to open letters last month from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and the New England Independent Booksellers Association expressing member dissatisfaction with IndieCommerce platform, Teicher emphasized that the 14-month upgrading of IndieCommerce "was not a sexy thing to do but if it hadn't been done, it would have collapsed." Because of the upgrade, which was very labor intensive, IndieCommerce froze all other enhancements and development, he said.

Now that the upgrade is finished, "we're working our way through the list of enhancements recommended by the digital task force and ABA members. Some are easy, some are very complicated." He noted "issues with search" are being addressed and said, "I'm confident stores will begin to see an improved product."

He noted that the ABA has "probably failed to communicate as effectively as it could have" about the upgrade; the organization has begun an IndieCommerce newsletter for stores, "communicating more regularly about product," and this fall is instituting a series of webinars on how members can use the new platform effectively.

He noted, too, that the ABA is the "only nonprofit association that does an e-commerce program for members" and has to compete with companies that "can invest tens of millions of dollars in e-commerce platforms." But e-commerce is essential for indies today, and the board is committed to e-commerce. "In our world, if a retailer doesn't have a state-of-the-art, viable website, they aren't in business," Teicher said. "Consumers don't distinguish between the online and physical presence of a business. If you have a robust presence online, they think you a robust physical one, and vice versa."

In a related matter, he noted that there has been some confusion among members about the association's $27.5 million endowment and its purpose (which he outlined earlier this month in a letter to members). The idea was that by selling the old ABA trade show to Reed in the 1990s, the income from the endowment and royalties from Reed would replace the income the association earned from running the show. Teicher called the show sale "one of the smartest decisions the ABA ever made" because it "allows us to concentrate and focus on what we do best. Our wheelhouse wasn't negotiating contracts with hotels and laying out trade show floors." And with Reed's business expertise, "if anyone can run a profitable show, it's them."

He said that the ABA board has been "very good at figuring the appropriate level of investment in programs to maintain the endowment." He pointed to the benefits of "taking the long view": in 2009, as the economy "went to hell," the ABA was able to help members by halving dues and retaining every program. "We froze staff hiring and salaries, but not one bookseller program was cut," Teicher said. --John Mutter


Obituary Notes: Frank Urbanowski; Dorothy Butler

Frank Urbanowski, who served as director of the MIT Press for 27 years, "building it into one of the largest and most successful scholarly publishers in the world," died September 19, MIT News reported. He was 79. Urbanowski served as director of the press from 1975 to 2003. Under his guidance, the MIT Press grew from $3 million to $22 million in annual revenue, and from publishing an annual list of 135 books and four journals to 220 books and more than 30 journals.

Current director Amy Brand, who served as the acquisitions editor reporting to Urbanowski during the 1990s, said she and the staff "are deeply saddened by the news of Frank's passing. Not only was he a remarkable leader and mentor to many of us, but he was an extremely decent and warm human being. Frank's legacy endures as a source of inspiration for me and others at the press and in the broader academic publishing community."

---

New Zealand author and bookseller Dorothy Butler, "a passionate advocate for children's literacy and the importance of books in young people's lives," died Sunday, AucklandNow reported. Although her bookstore was bought by new owners in 1999, it continues to bear her name. She was also the author of dozens of children's books, several nonfiction titles and her autobiography. In 1992 she was given the Margaret Mahy Award and in 1993 made an OBE.

Mary Sangster, chair of Booksellers NZ, noted: "Most will know of Dorothy because of the shop which she established in Ponsonby and which still bears her name. Many of us forget though, that she was also an author and an amazing ambassador for New Zealand children's literature. She was well respected and traveled widely teaching and promoting writing for children."


Notes

Image of the Day: Fantastic City in San Francisco

The famous "Painted Ladies" Victorian houses of San Francisco had some competition on Saturday, as visitors to the Ferry Building Book Passage took advantage of the glorious day and a 4'x4' enlargement of the San Francisco page from Fantastic Cities: A Coloring Book of Amazing Places Real and Imagined by Steve McDonald (Chronicle). The publisher provided the blowup and baskets of crayons, and bookstore staff encouraged artists of all ages to add their creative impressions of their city.


Oblong's New Author Series with Salisbury's White Hart Inn

Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y., has launched the White Hart Speakers Series, a new author event series at the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, Conn., in collaboration with the Scoville Memorial Library. The series began on September 10 with historian Annie Cohen-Solal discussing her book Mark Rothko: Toward the Light in the Chapel (Yale University Press) and continued on September 17 with an appearance by Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey (Simon & Schuster).

The White Hart Inn, just a few miles from Oblong's Millerton store, dates back to the 1800s and has seen many owners and transformations over the years. Its current incarnation opened in 2014; among its owners are author Malcolm Gladwell and Meredith Rollins, the editor in chief of Redbook magazine.

"Co-owner Conley Rollins approached us about curating an author event series in their gorgeous space, and we jumped at the chance," recalled Oblong's co-owner Suzanna Hermans. "I am over the moon to be partnering with them on this series, and bringing exceptional authors to the Salisbury-Millerton area."

Upcoming events include author Hanya Yanagihara (A Little Life) in conversation with Jonathan Burnham on October 3; a Q&A and presentation with James West Davidson, author of A Little History of the United States on October 8, and Malcolm Gladwell in conversation with Joe Donahue on October 29.


'Watch the Intensive Process of Book Printing'

On his show Raw Craft, Anthony Bourdain visited Arion Press in San Francisco and "followed its artisans through the process, revealing just how much work goes into making a book almost entirely by hand. From proofreading the copy aloud to hand-sewing the binding, each tome assembled at Arion gets an enormous amount of attention and care. The result is a volume that's also a work of art," Mental Floss reported.

"It's an adventure making something of a book that is a tribute to the work of literature and to do something we hope will astonish people," said Andrew Hoyem, director of the press.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dr. Elisa Port on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Dr. Elisa Port, author of The New Generation Breast Cancer Book: How to Navigate Your Diagnosis and Treatment Options-and Remain Optimistic-in an Age of Information Overload (Ballantine Books, $20, 9781101883150).

---

Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: readers review The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (HarperOne, $16.99, 9780062315007).

---

Tomorrow on CNBC's Power Lunch: Gerald Posner, author of God's Bankers: A History of Money and Power at the Vatican (Simon & Schuster, $20, 9781416576594). He will also appear on SiriusXM's Stand Up! with Pete Dominick and Michael Smerconish.

---

Tomorrow on the Talk: Lea Michele, author of You First: Journal Your Way to Your Best Life (Crown Archetype, $17.99, 9780553447316).

---

Tomorrow night on the Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore: Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 9781451697391).

---

Tomorrow night on the Late Late Show with James Corden: Kunal Nayyar, author of Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You (Atria, $26, 9781476761824).


TV: Moreau

CBS is developing a series based on the classic H.G. Wells novel The Island of Dr. Moreau. Variety reported that the project, titled Moreau, "will follow the 'fiercely intelligent and fearless' Dr. Katherine Moreau, who expands the boundaries of medicine through revolutionary scientific experimentation and treatments in her privately funded island hospital." Sleepy Hollow co-creator Phillip Iscove who will write and executive produce.



Books & Authors

Awards: Richell for Emerging Writers

Guardian Australia has announced a shortlist for the inaugural A$10,000 (about US$7,135) Richell Prize for Emerging Writers, which was jointly established in May by Hachette Australia, Guardian Australia and the Emerging Writers' festival in memory of Matt Richell, the Hachette Australia CEO who died in a surfing accident in 2014. In addition to the cash award, the winner will receive a year's mentoring with Hachette Australia, which will have first option to publish the book. The winner will be named in Sydney October 29. The shortlisted titles are:

& by Jonathan O'Brien
No Way, Okay Fine by Brodie Lancaster
Closing Down by Sally Abbott
Gun Club by Lyndel Caffrey
But With Blood by Ellena Savage


Michael Laser Talks My Impending Death

Over the course of his writing career, Michael Laser has written books for children, teens and adults. His past work includes Hidden Away (2013), The Watermelon (2012) and 6-321 (2001), and his essays have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and on Salon.com. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and lives now in New Jersey. His newest novel, a darkly funny satire entitled My Impending Death, was recently published by Permanent Press.

Could you give a brief synopsis of My Impending Death?

It's about a guy named Angus Truax, who's obese, unhappy, and rude, with no friends--so one day he says to himself, "You know what? Why keep living?" And he plans to kill himself--but he gives himself a month to tie up loose ends. He doesn't want to leave a mess behind. And in that month, certain things happen, and it becomes harder and harder for him to go through with his plan.

He also happens to be a funny guy, who says a lot of outrageous things. You could say he's joking his way to the grave.

You've written books for adults as well as YA and children's books. You've also edited books and worked as a ghostwriter. How does that range of experience, both writing and editing, affect your writing process?

For so many years--about 40, now--I've been editing my own work mercilessly, hunting for weaknesses (I'm sure there are smart readers out there who can find ones I didn't notice. I hope they all buy the book and search hard!). After doing this for so long, editing other people's work feels comfortable, even pleasant. I can't say it's changed anything about the way I write, though.

Do you have a favorite type of book to write?

I realized late in life that I really should write things that are funny. I admire graceful, poetic, melancholy books so much, I've always wanted to write that way, but my talents seem to lie in a different place, where broad comedy meets a poignant story. That said, I still hope to write at least one short story that's so beautiful, people will feel an ache in their hearts whenever they think of it.

How does My Impending Death differ from your previous books? How did it begin?

Every time I write a book, my goal is to write something very different from the ones I've written before. This time, I wanted it to be really funny, and rude. It began with nothing more than a profession: after years of reading those "Neediest Cases" articles in the New York Times, I thought it might be fun to write about someone who writes those articles and nothing else--someone who acquires the nickname "Mr. Misery." I wanted him to be as different from myself as possible, so I made him misanthropic, overweight and suicidal. Nevertheless, there's still a lot of me in him. I guess that's unavoidable.

So, I had a character, but I still needed a plot. Somehow, the Charlie Chaplin movie City Lights floated into my memory: that hapless character who'll do anything to help the lovely blind girl get her sight back. It seemed like a good idea to pair an extremely cynical, rude character with an archetypal sentimental story-line. And he's aware of it himself, and disgusted with himself for falling into the trap. There isn't a blind shop-girl in my book--but there is a home health aide from the Republic of Georgia who may be dying of mercury poisoning.

Which writers or particular books have influenced you?

There are many books that I love, that have exerted an influence, but I don't think you can see much of a similarity between my work and my idols'. I wish I could come close to their level, but what can I say? You do your best, and then feel sad about falling short. Here are some of my favorites: The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. His style is my ideal: it's clean, it's graceful, it's beautiful, it's got a sense of humor, but his insights cut deep. Others: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. Richard Ford's short stories, especially the collection Rock Springs. Also, stories by Grace Paley, and Chekhov, and Heinrich von Kleist. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee. Murphy by Samuel Beckett (there's a hidden thread connecting that novel to My Impending Death, if anyone in the world cares to look for it). I can sit in awe reading any page of Tolstoy, Kafka or Joyce (okay, almost any page). There are so many other books and authors I love--but those have been the most influential.

For how long have you been writing? Was it something you wanted to do all your life, or did your interest in writing come later?

One morning, when I was 18, I woke up and said to myself, "I'm going to be a writer." That sounds like a joke, but it's literally true. It didn't come from nowhere, though. This was my mother's ambition for me: she never finished high school, but she revered great authors, she thought that was the best thing you could do in the world. I didn't shape my life to make Mom happy, but when you grow up surrounded by this attitude, it has an effect. Then there was an encouraging sixth grade teacher, Mr. Catania (who's thinly disguised as Mr. Vigoritti in my middle-grade novel, 6-321), and some intervening years when none of my teachers were particularly impressed…and then college, a great freshman English professor named Michael Conlon, and boom, that epiphany.

And if it's not too early to ask, what are you working on now?

I'm two-thirds of the way through the first draft of a novel about two women who were best friends as kids, who reconnect in their 30s. I don't want to say more than that, but things happen! Lots of things! --Alex Mutter


Book Review

Review: Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age

Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age by Sven Birkerts (Graywolf Press, $16 trade paper, 9781555977214, October 6, 2015)

When it comes to the debate over the digital world's effect on our habits of thought and our engagement with the written word, AGNI editor Sven Birkerts is no newcomer to the conversation. In 1994's The Gutenberg Elegies, he identified a cluster of unsettling trends that have only intensified since that time. Changing the Subject: Art and Attention in the Internet Age can be viewed as a companion work, one that's no more sanguine than its predecessor about the survival of traditional reading culture.

Though he acknowledges the argument of writers like Nicholas Carr, in The Shallows, that electronic media literally are rewiring the neural pathways of our brains, Birkerts is more concerned with broader social trends, ones that he returns to repeatedly, but not repetitiously, in this collection. Citing the "preference algorithms and instant data search" of sites like Wikipedia and Pandora, he laments the "movement away from the notion of the individuated 'I' and toward a more networked, which is to say collectivized, existence." The ever-present distraction offered by our devices, in his view, competes with the "summoning of attention" that is the essence of art, and more specifically, deep reading.

Whether or not one inclines toward Birkerts's worldview, he shares with the best essayists a talent for leading readers on an intellectual journey, teasing out his thoughts before our eyes. His prose is elegant and almost infinitely quotable, as when, for example, he describes the "sterilized vacuousness we are wrapping around ourselves" in an essay on the Jeopardy competition that pitted Ken Jennings and another all-time champion against IBM's Watson computer program. And his passion for serious reading, manifest in essays on Seamus Heaney and Roberto Bolaño, among others, creates an almost irresistible urge to reach for their work.

The 17 essays that compose this book aren't as personal in tone as those in his outstanding 2011 collection, The Other Walk, but glimpses of Birkerts's personality emerge nonetheless. Though he clearly inhabits the online world, he's proud of the fact that he's never owned a cellphone, while frankly acknowledging the problems that's created for his relationships with family and friends. He gets along less well with GPS devices than his 88-year-old father, who's had a cozy relationship with Siri for some time. But Sven Birkerts is no "cranky Luddite," in the words of one essay's title. Rather, he's a wise and humane guide, offering a gentle restraining hand as we hurtle into the electronic future. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: In 17 essays, Sven Birkerts's thoughtfully explores the tension between the distraction of our omnipresent electronic media and the attention that allows deep engagement with art.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:

1. Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre
2. Protecting Melody (SEAL of Protection Book 7) by Susan Stoker
3. Paula Deen Cuts the Fat by Paula Deen
4. The End Game by Kate McCarthy
5. First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
6. Gypsy Brothers by Lili St Germain
7. Paper Hearts by Claire Contreras
8. Grayson's Vow by Mia Sheridan
9. Hot SEAL (Hostile Operations Team, Book 9) by Lynn Raye Harris
10. Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas Series Book 4) by Kelly Elliott

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


Powered by: Xtenit