Also published on this date: Monday, April 25, 2016: Dedicated Issue: Hachette Book Group 10th Anniversary

Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 25, 2016

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady


Chester County Book Company Closing in July

Sad news: Chester County Book Company, West Chester, Pa., which closed for half a year in 2013 and reopened in a smaller space in its longtime shopping center after customers' encouragement, is closing July 31.

In an e-mail to publishers, owner Kathy Simoneaux Fortney said that the store's lease is up for renewal. "After crunching the numbers, the best option is for me to retire & close the store." She called it "a difficult decision" and wrote, "We had a good 34-year run!"

For two months, "it will be business as usual, then we will start our liquidation sale," she continued. "All forthcoming appointments are cancelled. We will let you know when we need you to cancel orders. Publishers will be paid as usual; after all returns are made we will ask for credit balances to be refunded."

The Chester County Book and Music Company was founded in 1982, and from 1987 to 2013, the store occupied a 28,000-square-foot space in the West Goshen Center, where it stocked some 125,000 book titles, more than 1,500 magazines and periodicals, and some 25,000 music titles. It also had a restaurant/café, the Magnolia Grill. When the store closed, it spun off the music business, which opened under the name Electric Avenue in another West Chester shopping center. The bookstore reopened in September 2013 as Chester County Book Company in a 6,000-square-foot space "two doors down" from its old location.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Houston's Murder by the Book Seeks Sales Support

Murder by the Book, whose carpeting was ruined during the flooding in Houston, Tex., last week and whose sales and traffic have been hurt, is asking for "an influx of sales" to help it through the difficult time, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"While we certainly appreciate the sympathy (and snacks) that have been given over the past few days, we need support," owner McKenna Jordan wrote online. "And by that, I mean financial support." She suggested supporters buy books or gift cards in store or online. "I have no intention of doing any type of crowdfunding campaign, as I strongly believe that bookstores are both cornerstones of their communities and businesses that should be self-sufficient. I don't expect charity in this situation."

Because Murder by the Book is in a strip center that needs other major repairs, the store's flooring won't be fixed for at least three months, according to the newspaper.

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

UNC Chapel Hill Picks B&N to Run Student Stores

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which put out an offer for bids on its UNC Student Stores early this year, has selected Barnes & Noble Education to operate the stores, whose centerpiece is the Bull's Head Bookshop, founded in 1925.

This is the second recent outsourcing of a highly regarded, long-established college store in the last month, following the University of Connecticut's decision to have Follett or Barnes & Noble manage the UConn Co-op.

Under the 10-year, $30 million agreement, which is effective July 1, all operations except the print shop and pharmacy will be managed by B&N, and all 48 employees will continue at current pay scales with B&N or the university for three years.

B&N forecasts annual payments of more than $3 million, an amount that's guaranteed the first two years. After that, after the university covers operating expenses, existing debt service of $800,000 annually and other support costs, the stores are expected to have net gains of between $1.75 and $2 million, which will be contributed to scholarships--an amount the university said is quadruple recent scholarship contributions.

The university's argument for outsourcing focused on the stores' flat sales and less-than-desired amounts for student scholarships. The university said that since 2007, the stores' revenues had declined more than 15% and been flat the past five years, leading to "inconsistent" scholarship amounts each year at a time of growing need for scholarships.

Also under the new arrangement, the Bull's Head Bookshop will move to larger space in its building, the Josephus Daniels Building, and will stock 70,000 titles, more than double its current offerings, as well as add a space for book talks and signings.

Shirley A. Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, said, "For decades, Student Stores has been a great partner in that effort by providing a vital source of scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students, getting us to where we are today. For that we are enormously grateful, and to the staff who have also hired our students. But this plan for Student Stores will create millions of additional dollars in need-based scholarship funds for talented and deserving students--supplemental sources that we greatly need."

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Books-A-Million Openings and Closing

Books-A-Million has closed its store at 2006 58th Ave. in the Ryanwood Square shopping center, Vero Beach, Fla., after 16 years in business, TC Palm reported. A sign posted in the front window redirects customers to another BAM location at the nearby Indian River Mall.


BAM plans to open its second 2nd & Charles store in the Richmond, Va., area, in the Tuckernuck Square shopping center in a 36,125-square-foot space formerly occupied by Babies R Us, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Earlier this year, BAM opened a 2nd & Charles store in nearby Midlothian. The company has another 2nd & Charles store in Virginia, in Woodbridge, near Washington, D.C.

Wide World Books & Maps Reaches Fundraising Goals

Congratulations to Wide World Books & Maps, Seattle, Wash.: the store's GoFundMe campaign has met its $30,000 fundraising goal. "This means we'll be staying open and will be restocking the store with the latest travel books, maps, and gear over the next few weeks," the store said in its newsletter. "Thank you so much for all the support over the past two months--the store will survive because of our loyal customers, and we really appreciate all you've done!"

The store has sold most of the 10 Rick Steves tours that were available. Only two of the seven-day tours of Istanbul, London, Paris or Rome, not including airfare, are still available, for a donation of $2,000. Including the tours, the store has raised almost $50,000.

Wide World Books & Maps had planned to close earlier this year, but owner Julie Hunt said that she changed her mind after "hundreds of customers and travel professionals came forward to share their love for the store and many asked if there was anything they could do to help keep it open." She was also swayed in part by Seattle Mystery Bookshop's successful crowdfunding campaign that saved the store.

Amazon: Same-Day Redlining; Bookstore Breakthrough?

As Amazon expands its Prime Free Same-Day Service--offering Prime members same-day delivery of more than a million products for free on orders above $35--the company is avoiding some urban neighborhoods with predominantly black and poor populations, according to a Bloomberg study.

Bloomberg wrote: "In Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, cities still struggling to overcome generations of racial segregation and economic inequality, black citizens are about half as likely to live in neighborhoods with access to Amazon same-day delivery as white residents.

"The disparity in two other big cities is significant, too. In New York City, same-day delivery is available throughout Manhattan, Staten Island, and Brooklyn, but not in the Bronx and some majority-black neighborhoods in Queens. In some cities, Amazon same-day delivery extends many miles into the surrounding suburbs but isn't available in some ZIP codes within the city limits."

So far, in less than a year, the service has been introduced in some 27 metropolitan areas.

Craig Berman, Amazon's v-p for global communications, told Bloomberg, "When it comes to same-day delivery, our goal is to serve as many people as we can, which we've proven in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, and Philadelphia." He added that the company has a "radical sensitivity" to the suggestion that it is choosing areas by race. "Demographics play no role in it. Zero." The company also has said that it intends to expand the service and "fill in gaps over time."

Bloomberg observed that unrolling new products in areas with the highest number of customers is "a logical approach from a cost and efficiency perspective… Yet in cities where most of those paying members are concentrated in predominantly white parts of town, a solely data-driven calculation that looks at numbers instead of people can reinforce long-entrenched inequality in access to retail services. For people who live in black neighborhoods not served by Amazon, the fact that it's not deliberate doesn't make much practical difference."


In a look at why Amazon has decided to open at least several bricks-and-mortar bookstores, Business Insider recalls a 2007 shareholder letter, in which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos answered questions about why, at that point, the company didn't plan to open any bookstores.

In the letter, Bezos said a new business idea had to pass four "tests" before being implemented:

  1. We must convince ourselves that the new opportunity can generate the returns on capital our investors expected when they invested in Amazon.
  2. And we must convince ourselves that the new business can grow to a scale where it can be significant in the context of our overall company.
  3. Furthermore, we must believe that the opportunity is currently underserved.
  4. And that we have the capabilities needed to bring strong customer-facing differentiation to the marketplace.

Concerning operating bookstores, he said at the time, "We don't know how to do it with low capital and high returns; physical-world retailing is a cagey and ancient business that's already well served; and we don't have any ideas for how to build a physical world store experience that's meaningfully differentiated for customers."

Business Insider commented: "Amazon's first physical bookstore [in Seattle] is already proving to offer a completely differentiated shopping experience," including prices that aren't marked on the books, prices that fluctuate in tandem with online prices, reviews and ratings from Amazon's website and more. "Amazon's bookstore shows the traditional retail experience can be changed. If Amazon has also figured out a way to generate returns from physical stores, it won't be long before we see more stores open under Amazon's name."


Image of the Day: Shakespeare in the Parks

To honor the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, the Strand Book Store, New York City, partnered with the Public Theater in a fun promotion: last Friday, in the lobby of the Public Theater and in nearby Union Square Park, the store left more than 150 copies of different works by Shakespeare, each with a ticket tucked inside to see the first week of this summer's Free Shakespeare in the Park.

On the Dot Books: 'Neighborhood's Living Room'

In a feature headlined "A bookstore in Dorchester aims to be the neighborhood's living room," the Boston Globe spoke with Yooree Losordo, who "started tiny On the Dot Books in a local cafe, and she has big dreams for its future."

"The younger me would be surprised I went into business," Losordo said. "After I had my second daughter, I wanted to do something to get out of the house. I saw a flier for a business-planning class and thought I had nothing to lose. I really enjoyed it, and the further we went along, the more it felt right. I had long thought that Dorchester could use a bookstore--I spent a lot of time in bookstores as a poor twentysomething in New York, browsing [as] cheap entertainment, and I missed having that experience. Being able to give a book you really love to a friend is special, and that's something an e-book just can't compete with....

"I launched at a farmers' market. [Now I'm] at Dot 2 Dot Cafe. No matter where in Dorchester I end up, I'm going to have a cafe, and it's my goal to have the cafe also be a wine bar. It would be great to host meeting groups, maybe moms' coffee hours, things like that, and become a real living room for the neighborhood."

Cool Idea of the Day: Directions to The Mirror Thief

In a clever graphic, publisher Melville House has collected booksellers' praise for The Mirror Thief by Martin Seay, an Indie Next and Indies Introduce Debut Voices pick, that will appear next month. On the book's website, rave quotes are displayed over a map of the U.S., and readers who click on a blurb are brought to the store's buy page. As Melville pointed out, "That way, anyone who visits the site can order their copy from the people who championed it first."

Closing on World Book Day to Raise Awareness

On World Book Day Saturday, the Songshe bookstore in Zhengzhou, China, "eschewed the fanfare and heavy promotions of high-street and online rivals" and closed for the day "in a stunt its owner said was intended to encourage people to think of reading as a lifelong habit, rather than a fad for a day," Xinhua reported. Liu Lei, Songhe's owner, said the store's closure "would send out a powerful message."

Media and Movies

Movies: Welcome to the Last Bookstore

Welcome to the Last Bookstore, a short documentary that tells the story of Josh Spencer's "personal journey towards creating a place that has become almost a home to many of its patrons in Downtown Los Angeles," will screen this afternoon at the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Independent reported.

Directed by Chad Howitt, the project chronicles the challenging path--after suffering life-altering injuries in an accident--that led Spencer to open the Last Bookstore, "a risky endeavor in an era when well-established book-sellers were going under, and e-readers were threatening to make physical books obsolete," the Independent wrote. 

"After my injury, my life perspective definitely changed, in terms of being able to look at everything as a challenge and not be afraid of failure," he said. "I've lost things in my life much more traumatic than losing a business... if I can deal with that, I can certainly deal with a business failing."

Spencer's store, however, is "thriving," the Independent noted. "He said he wanted to create a place that he would want to hang out in, and it seems his ever-growing clientele wants to hang out there as well."

Media Heat: Michael Kinsley on Old Age

Fox & Friends: A.J. Tata, author of Three Minutes to Midnight: A Jake Mahegan Novel (Kensington, $25, 9781496706256).

Fresh Air: Mark Landler, author of Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power (Random House, $28, 9780812998856).

Diane Rehm: Pamela Haag, author of The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture (Basic Books, $29.99, 9780465048953).

NPR's the Takeaway: Joshua Hammer, author of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476777405). He will also appear on BBC's World News America.

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Eddie Huang, author of Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China (Spiegel & Grau, $27, 9780812995466).

Also on the Late Show: Bill Walton, author of Back from the Dead (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476716862).

Conan: Jen Kirkman, author of I Know What I'm Doing--and Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches from a Life Under Construction (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781476770277).

Nightly Show: Grace Helbig, author of Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It (Touchstone, $19.99, 9781501120589).

Good Morning America: Phil Knight, author of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Scribner, $29, 9781501135910). He will also appear on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, CNBC's Squawk on the Street and Marketplace.

Today Show: Marilu Henner, author of Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer (Gallery, $26, 9781476793948).

Sirius XM's Wharton Sports Business Show: Matthew Futterman, author of Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution (Simon & Schuster, $26.95, 9781476716954).

Diane Rehm: Michael Kinsley, author of Old Age: A Beginner's Guide (Tim Duggan, $18, 9781101903766).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Tony Tulathimutte, author of Private Citizens: A Novel (Morrow, $14.99, 9780062399106).

Jimmy Kimmel Live: Kate Hudson, author of Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body (Dey Street, $26.99, 9780062434234).

Books & Authors

Awards: Nautilus Winners; Shaughnessy Cohen; Doug Wright

The two grand prize winners of the 2015 Nautilus Book Awards, honoring "better books for a better world," are:

The Sacred Ego: Making Peace with Ourselves and Our World by Jalaja Bonheim (North Atlantic Books)

Of Bonobos and Men: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo by Deni Ellis Béchard (Milkweed Editions)

To see the 162 gold and silver winners, click here.


John Ibbitson's biography Stephen Harper won the $25,000 (about US$19,745) Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing, which recognizes "a book of literary nonfiction that captures a political subject of relevance to Canadian readers and has the potential to shape or influence thinking on Canadian political life."


Finalists have been named for the Doug Wright Awards, which honor "the best in English-language comics (or translations of French) by Canadian cartoonists." Winners will be announced May 14 during the Toronto Comics Arts Festival.

Book Review

Review: You May Also Like

You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt (Knopf, $26.95 hardcover, 9780307958242, May 10, 2016)

In an Internet world of seemingly infinite options, everyone is a critic. We are bombarded with opportunities to pick our likes, our favorites, our stars, our thumbs-up, our tomatoes or our smiley emojis. But what does it mean to "like" something? Where do our tastes come from? Can we trust anyone's judgment at all? Tom Vanderbilt attempts to address these questions and, in the process, raises and answers dozens more. In 2008's Traffic, Vanderbilt entertainingly dissected the idiosyncrasies of how people drive highways and how highways drive us. With curiosity, folklore and equally rich research, You May Also Like tackles the science and serendipity behind the many choices we make every day.

Vanderbilt kicks off by analyzing food preferences, because "we decide what to eat more than we decide what to wear or what to read or where to go on vacation--and what is a holiday but a whole new set of eating choices?" He even spends time at the army's Warfighter Café, where MREs are evaluated for taste and texture. From our myriad restaurant menu and grocery aisle options, he moves on to consider how we choose our music playlists, what art we like and how long we look at it (at the Met "the median viewing time for a painting was seventeen seconds"), and even how judges decide the winner at the Paris Cat Show ("and cat shows, it must be said, are, like their owners, more low-key than dog shows") or at the annual intercollegiate soil competition ("Virginia Tech and Kansas State University are the perennial powerhouses. A touch regretfully, to my mind, the contest is not known as the Dirt Bowl").

With a solid collection of end notes, many data points and frequent interviews, You May Also Like risks getting bogged down in algorithms and acronyms, but Vanderbilt always brings matters back to the real world--frequently his personal real world. In one instance, he sat for a "Twitter Predictor" analysis based on those he followed and those who followed him, and notes that it "had me figured out quite well. I felt as if I were on OkCupid and had found myself." In the end, likes and dislikes develop out of a pile of variables like memory, familiarity, conformity or repetition, and they are constantly changing. Vanderbilt recalls his likes as a 10-year-old and expectations for his mature future ("a Trans Am... a mammoth collection of pinball machines... Baileys Irish Cream... Robert Ludlum novels... Van Halen"), and realizes that once he reached adulthood, "they hold zero interest (well, the pinball machines in a weak moment)." Once finished with this intriguing study of taste, readers will never again consider clicking a "like" icon quite the same way. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: With significant research and a lot of curiosity and amusement, Tom Vanderbilt engagingly dissects the origin and evolution of our personal tastes.

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