Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 15, 2005


Penguin Books: Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey by Kathleen Rooney

Sterling Children's Books: Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion, Volume 1 by James Pray

Andrews McMeel Publishing: Cat Ninja, Volume 1 by Matthew Cody, illustrated by Yehudi Mercado

Berkley Books: In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

News

Two Wholesaler Closings: Koen and Alamo Square

We have very sad news about two wholesalers today.

Koen Book Distributors, Moorestown N.J., one of the last major regional wholesalers in the country, and Alamo Square Distributors, the Sacramento, Calif., wholesaler specializing in gay and lesbian titles, are folding.

Koen, which has operated under Chapter 11 for the past month, closed its doors on Thursday. The turning point came when several of the top creditors decided not to ship to Koen even on a COD basis. All but about 20 employees were let go, leaving a skeleton crew to handle liquidation. Apparently this will consist of sales to existing customers at heavy discounts.

One source close to Koen said that since filing for bankruptcy, Koen sold the books that were supplied "as fast as they came in," but the quantities were not high enough to reassure creditors. The source thanked "all of our loyal customers. They stuck with us and kept our spirits high through the really crazy past few weeks. Independent booksellers are still the backbone of this business. Of course, the chain business was keeping us going as well."

One observer thought that Koen might have survived had it tried to remain a regional wholesaler serving indies, B&N and Amazon.

Wanda Jewell, executive director of the Southeast Booksellers Association, called it "sad to see Koen go away. They have always been customer driven and a great friend to the regional associations. The outlook for regional wholesalers is not good and the passing of Koen will be a great loss to independent booksellers in the South."
 
Rusty Drugan, executive director of the New England Booksellers Association, commented that "New England booksellers are deeply saddened by the news of Koen's demise. Many have told me that the news is 'devastating' to them. It also casts a pall over the upcoming fall retail season. There is anxiety about shipments and supply without Koen in the wholesale-ordering queue.

"Koen was always a strong supporter of NEBA and, more important, Koen was passionately committed to independent bookstores in New England. It is more than just a financial loss to NEBA and the loss to bookstores of a nimble, customer-centered and service-oriented wholesaler."

Drugan noted, too, that Koen employees "are our friends. Booksellers were on a first-name basis and in frequent contact, professionally and personally, with Koen staffers in all departments. We fervently hope that they will be successful in finding new positions in the industry that will allow them to continue to contribute their energy and intelligence and passion to the book business."

Koen's financial woes came to light in late June, when it was unable to fulfill orders for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Many independent booksellers on the East Coast rallied behind Koen, putting it first on their cascade lists and paying promptly, but unfortunately the effort was not enough to save the company.

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Alamo Square Distributors, the Sacramento, Calif., wholesaler of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and sexual alternative books, has shut down.

The company said that the closing came "after several attempts to restructure the business model to adapt to the changing wholesale distribution market. . . . This has been a difficult and painful decision to make."

Alamo Square Distributors is being evicted from its warehouse, which it opened just two years ago. The company wants to return all stock but cannot afford to pay for shipping and will have to discard stock not claimed before August 25. For more information, contact the company at info@alamosquaredist.com or alamosquare@alamosquaredist.com or fax 916-455-8851.

Alamo Square Distributors was founded in 1993 by Bert Herrman, the author and head of Alamo Square Press. He had sold the company but continued to help its buying.

University of California Press: The United States of War, Volume 48: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State by David Vine


Bookselling Notes: Malkin Dies; Graphic Novels

Mary Ann Malkin, who with her husband, Sol, ran AB Bookman's Weekly for nearly 20 years, died July 31. She was 92. Friends and yesterday's New York Times noted her death.

What was originally called Antiquarian Bookman began as a column in Publishers Weekly, then was spun off as a magazine in 1948. Sol Malkin, who edited the magazine for PW and Bowker, bought the venture in 1953. For many years, it was the main source for information about rare, collectible and used books. Malkin, who died in 1986, sold the magazine in 1972. Battered by the Internet, the magazine ceased publication in 1999 but lives on on the Web.

Not surprisingly, Mary Ann Malkin was a major book collector, particularly of books on dance.

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A front-page feature in today's Wall Street Journal contrasts two "closely watched U.S. fiction releases this year," The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks.

Among the historic reasons for the wild success of The Historian vs. the more modest fate of The Traveler: Kostova's excellence at public speaking (by contrast Twelve Hawks refused to be interviewed or tour); her January prepub tour; her publication tour; her ability to connect with booksellers, particularly independents; and the fact that a tale about vampires was apparently more appealing to general audiences than the science fiction novel.

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The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on one of its own, reporter Ryan Clark, whose short story "Like Kudzu" was included in a collection called Stories from the Blue Moon Café IV edited by Sonny Brewer (MacAdam/Cage, $25, 1596921420), published yesterday. Brewer is owner of the appropriately named Over the Transom Bookstore in Fairhope, Ala., board chairman of the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts and author of The Poet of Tolstoy Park (Ballantine, $21.95, 034547631X), published in March.

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Noting that Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis is required reading at West Point--the author has visited the school, which she has chronicled in graphic novel form--Newsweek sketched the widespread appeal of graphic novels and their growth in sales worldwide. In the U.S., sales have grown to $207 million in 2004 from $75 million in 2001. At Borders, "graphic-novel sales have risen more than 100% a year for the past three years."

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The Buffalo News checked out how some communities that are part of the Buffalo & Erie County Library System are responding to the closing of as many as 20 libraries systemwide next year. One town wants to consolidate its branches in one new facility; several towns are considering using tax money to keep the libraries open and independent.

"We don't have a Borders bookstore, or malls, or movie theaters," Susan C. Minekime, Eden's library director, told the paper. "In the small towns, libraries are the center of the community."

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Two very different assessments of Amazon were published over the weekend. An Associated Press view emphasized how the online retailer in general and its Advantage program in particular have helped smaller publishers and their authors increase sales. Among the advantages of working with Amazon: "global reach," low returns and timely bill paying.

On the other hand, an AlterNet report knocked the company's "speculation-fueled" growth, which it said has "contributed to the net loss of more than 2,000 independent book and music sellers during its first decade."

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On Friday, Google said it would suspend at least until November its often-criticized program of scanning copyrighted books from libraries. It will continue to scan books that aren't copyrighted as well as copyrighted ones that publishers have approved for scanning. Even though Google said it would show only a few sentences of the works in response to searches, publishers have objected on a number of grounds, not the least because scanning copyrighted material with permission sets a bad precedent. For one of many thorough reports, check out the Los Angeles Times.

GLOW: Erewhon: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk


Airport Bookstores Fly Highbrow

The News of the Week section of yesterday's New York Times flew down out of the clouds and "discovered" that airport bookstores no longer stock just mass market bestsellers. (Ironically, as noted in the July 26 Shelf Awareness, Paradies will open its first licensed New York Times airport store in October.) Still, the piece included interesting flight data from some booksellers:

  • "A lot of business travelers go for the hardcovers. It keeps their mind off the stress of travel."--Mustafa Jackson, assistant manger of Barbara's Bestsellers, LaGuardia Airport, N.Y.
  • "When we look through our bestseller list at the end of the year, there are always a few nonfiction titles that outsold everything. What might be also affecting this is the fact that there are a lot of these quality narrative nonfiction books out there. . . . [Our typical airport customer is] very highly educated, high-income, male, techno-savvy."--Sarah Hinckley, v-p, book purchasing, Hudson Group.
  • "People aren't going just to John Grisham for entertainment anymore. People are looking for substance now."--Terry Kraml, Trofie Productions, an airport bookstore marketing consultant.
  • "[Fiction] remains the largest percentage of our business."--Terry Bell, regional director, Borders specialty division.

Berkley Books: Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst


NEBA Looks Forward to Providence

The New England Booksellers Association meets Fri.-Sun., Sept. 16-18, in Providence, R.I. Besides the trade show on Saturday and Sunday, the event includes NEBA's annual meeting on Saturday and two major educational sessions on Friday on payroll issues and increasing margin led by the ABA's Avin Domnitz. Weekend sessions focus on bargain book merchandising, e-mail newsletters, the buyer/rep relationship and children's bookselling (in association with NECBA).

From 3:15 to 4:30 on Saturday, NEBA is encouraging all members to take part in the last public opportunity to speak with the association's planning committee and planning consultant about how NEBA can best help members in the current economy. The committee has been meeting with members in the NEBA region for six months; after the show it will formulate missions and goals for the association. Executive director Rusty Drugan called this a "very important" opportunity for members.

Winners of NEBA's New England Book Awards, who used to speak at the Sunday breakfast, will be honored at a Friday awards luncheon. At that event, the association will also honor Tracy Kidder, who has won the President's Award for lifetime achievement in art and letters, and Bill Palizzolo of BillBooks and Associates, winner of the Saul Gilman Award for outstanding rep.

Also at the luncheon, the first award recognizing an independent bookstore in New England will be presented. Sponsored by Book Publishers Representatives of New England, the award is called the Independent Spirit Book Award.

Other author events include the Friday evening Children's Books Author/Illustrator Dinner, the Saturday breakfast with authors, the Saturday dinner with authors (a moveable feast featuring 13 authors) and Sunday's breakfast with authors.

For more information, go to NEBA's Web site.

University of California Press:  Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels by Tony Keddie


Media and Movies

Media Heat: "Bret Easton Ellis," Seymour Hersch

Today on The Today Show, Michelle Singletary discusses cheapskate etiquette and the art of saving money. She is the author of Spend Well, Live Rich: How to Get What You Want with the Money You Have (Ballantine, $13.95, 0375759042). A new title, Your Money and Your Man: How You and Prince Charming Can Spend Well and Live Rich, is expected in January.

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Emily Yoffee
appears today on the Diane Rehm Show to bark about her new book, What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner (Bloomsbury USA, $23.95, 1582345643). Yoffee, a life-long cat lover, discusses how she came to cherish dogs through her experiences with a neurotic rescued beagle.

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Tomorrow on The Today Show, Bret Easton Ellis discusses Lunar Park (Knopf, $24.95, 0375412913). Beginning as a loose autobiography, Ellis' latest "novel," whose pub date is tomorrow, quickly descends into the realm of horror, suspense and reflection on the author's life.

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Psychologist Steve Ablow appears tomorrow on the Early Show to promote his new book, Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson (St. Martin's, $23.95, 0312352050).

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Born into Brothels, the Academy Award-wining documentary about the children of Calcutta's red-light district, will air tomorrow on HBO. The companion book (Umbrage Editions, $35, 1884167454), which was released in April, documents the collaboration between photographer Zana Briski and the children. The book includes photographs of the children and by the children, with stills from the documentary intermingled.

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Tomorrow on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Seymour M. Hersch discusses his book Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (HarperPerennial, $14.95, 0060955376), now out in paperback. He also appears on the O'Reilly Factor on August 18.

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