Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Scholastic Press: Beastly Beauty by Jennifer Donnelly

St. Martin's Essentials: Build Like a Woman: The Blueprint for Creating a Business and Life You Love by Kathleen Griffith

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

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


Washington Storm: Store Flooded; Tea by Candlelight

Via the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, we learned of more sad news from the area, which was hit by a powerful storm last Thursday.

Just weeks after Parkplace Books, Kirkland, Wash., celebrated its 20th anniversary, water from the storm overflowed storm drains and flooded the store and a dozen other businesses. The water rushed through doors and walls; more than four inches filled the store. Because of the high winds and power outages--downtown Kirkland was without electricity for several days--it was impossible to use pumps or dryers to save merchandise.

Owners Mary Harris and Rebecca Willow are assessing damage. Carpets have been pulled up but the walls must still be dried before fixtures can be replaced. Despite "the damaged floors and watery smell," the store opened for business today, hoping to salvage some holiday sales.

Harris said, "We even had some sales on Saturday, with customers sloshing around in the dark."

Sales reps wishing to donate books to help replace lost inventory can bring or ship directly to the bookstore. Traffic to the area should be back to normal today. The store may be reached at or 425-828-6546.


Another bookstore in Washington fared better. Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, Wash., lost power on Thursday at 5 p.m. and didn't have it back until 7:30 a.m. Saturday. On Friday, the store had scheduled a Christmas Tea starring local author Debbie Macomber, author of Christmas Letters, Glad Tidings: Here Comes Trouble/There's Something About Christmas and the Cedar Cove series. Some 60 people were signed up for the event, which was to be held at the local library.

Owner Suzanne Droppert suggested Macomber come despite the blackout, and she did even though she, too, had lost power and had to put on makeup on by candlelight. Droppert moved the event to the store and obtained candles, a Bunsen burner and cookies. Fifteen "brave people," as Droppert put it, showed up and "many made the comment that it was fun and very intimate. Debbie put on a great event under not-so-great circumstances."

With booksellers writing all sales information on paper, the store had sales of $775 on Friday. The effort was more than worth it, Droppert said. "People seemed to appreciate that we were open."

University of California Press: May Contain Lies: How Stories, Statistics, and Studies Exploit Our Biases--And What We Can Do about It by Alex Edmans

January 22: Memorial Service for Rusty Drugan


The New England Independent Booksellers Association will hold a memorial service for Rusty Drugan, its longtime executive director who died earlier this month, on Monday, January 22, at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center, 219 Littleton Rd., Westford, Mass. The service takes place 4-5 p.m. and will be followed by a reception.

A few rooms will be available at the hotel for $79. Call 978-692-8200 for reservations. Attendees are asked to e-mail Nan Sorensen at NEIBA so the organization can get a sense of how many people are coming. Anyone who decides to attend at the last minute will be welcomed, too!



GLOW: becker&mayer! kids: The Juneteenth Cookbook: Recipes and Activities for Kids and Families to Celebrate by Alliah L. Agostini and Taffy Elrod, illus. by Sawyer Cloud

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Sabuda and Reinhart Pop Up on Today

Today on America This Morning and Fox & Friends, Daniel R. Solin tries to get viewers to invest in his new book, The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read: The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals (Perigee, $19.95, 0399532838).


This morning on the Today Show: Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, creators of the Encyclopedia pop up series, among other works. The segment includes a piece taped in their studio followed by the pair live in the Today studio.


Today on the Megan Mullally Show: Danny Seo, environmental lifestyle expert and the author of Simply Green Giving: Create Beautiful and Organic Wrappings, Tags, and Gifts from Everyday Materials (Collins, $19.95, 0061122777).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner, authors of The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew--Three Women Search for Understanding (Free Press, $25, 074329047X).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Deepak Chopra, whose most recent book is Life After Death: The Burden of Proof (Harmony, $24, 0307345785).


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

Deeper Understanding

George Jones, New Head of Borders: Back to the Future

George Jones, president, CEO and a director of Borders Group since July and a former executive at Saks, Target and Warner Bros., among other companies, has had "some interesting jobs in my past and I've enjoyed just about everything I've done," he told Shelf Awareness. He enjoys his new job at Borders, too--for the most part.

At Borders, he deals with "the brightest group of people I've ever worked with" and likes the many creative people both at the company and in the business, including authors and publishers, and loves books. But there is much to work on at the company. "As soon as we get the business cranking the way I want it, I will enjoy it even more," he said.

Not that he minds the challenge. "The worst thing," he commented, "is if a new CEO comes into a company and can't see anything to change."

In a wide-ranging interview, Jones identified many areas that Borders needs to improve and has begun addressing--from systems to buyers' responsibilities to in-store merchandising to branding to signage to electronic strategy. Overall, he said, "There are a lot of things we do well, and a lot of things we can do better. We have a solid foundation in people and programs." With an extensive background in retail, he draws on basic sales principles to address many of these issues. "I want us to be much more product and merchandising focused than we have been previously," he noted.

He has also drawn on suppliers for help. During his first few months at Borders, Jones met with the heads of the major publishers. Because "you get to be the new guy only once," as he put it, he asked the publishers for feedback and criticism about Borders. "I had heard that as a merchandising organization, we might not be as effective as our competitors," he said. "So I asked what do our competitors do better? What can we do better? I asked for a candid conversation and promised anonymity." The publishers responded, he said, and he praised them for "really doing their homework" and getting back to him with a range of information.

One of the many items to come up was something that Jones called "a revelation": Borders's buyers don't travel to New York City, which all but one publisher said was a disadvantage since the buyers can't develop the same kind of relationships they might otherwise. "Publishers travel to Ann Arbor," he said, "but still something is lost." Jones, who had assumed buyers went regularly to the center of U.S. publishing, noted that "our buyers are willing" to travel regularly to New York, but because of how their jobs are structured--they are responsible for buying and allocating books, and must do so on separate systems for Borders and Waldenbooks--finding time is difficult. As a result, the responsibilities of the buyers will likely be realigned "so buyers focus on what they do best"--buying books, music, etc.--and travel to the Big Apple.

Already some evidence of Jones's influence is visible in stores. "There is a focus in terms of merchandise presentation and signage," he said. "We've added more clarity and are getting credit with our customers for what we have." The company is also attempting to "properly merchandise" more impulse-buy items. Jones said he wants especially to boost the nearly $25 average ticket amount of Borders customers, whose purchases are low "based on the time they spend in the stores."

In a related vein, many in the industry will be glad to hear that category management is being deemphasized. "It's from another era," Jones said, "and whatever we do, we won't call it category management because that left a bad taste. It was too singularly focused and publishers financed a lot of this. Several were frustrated." Still, he said that the program was based on "good, solid merchandising principles." He continued, "I've worked in mass market, specialty and department store retailing. I've touched all the bases. Some things are consistent and work anywhere. For one, you have to differentiate. The customer has to be able to see that you do something better than your competitors. You have to take a stand. They have other things they do better; you clearly have to be the best in some things."

Based on his years at Warner Brothers and in the entertainment industry, "I learned the power of brands, building brands and consistently offering brands," Jones continued. "Harry Potter, Batman and Superman were so much more than just movies. We can apply elements of that here." Of course, customers won't buy books by publisher, but "authors are a brand," he said, citing John Grisham, Carl Hiaasen and James Patterson.

Borders is working on a strategic plan that it will present in the first quarter next year. A key part of that will address technology. As Jones put it, "Our mission is to be the headquarters for knowledge and entertainment. How do we do that without embracing the Internet and digital technology?" He said that, which has been Borders's online fulfillment company for the past five years, has been "an excellent partner, but we have to look forward to see what's right for our business."

What's right is "being able to blend more connectivity between what happens in the stores and on the Net," Jones explained. "We want more control over the Net and to build relationships with customers." Whether the company continues to work with Amazon or not, "some things will have to change."

He also praised the Borders Rewards program, which was begun early this year, and has connected with more than 13 million customers already. He noted that the free program has both advantages and disadvantages compared to Barnes & Noble's loyalty program, for which customers must pay to join. On the one hand, B&N's straightforward discount to members is easy to understand, but Borders has signed up many more members, leading the company to gain valuable data and a regular way to communicate with customers.

A longtime reader who spent many hours as a customer in Borders before joining the company, Jones now has much less time to read than he would like. "I read a lot, but it's mostly reports, periodicals and analyses." Still, he just started Nature Girl by Carl Hiaasen and recently read former Citigroup and Travelers head Sandy Weill's The Real Deal: My Life in Business and Philanthropy. "He came to Ann Arbor, and I spent some time with him and wife, Joan," Jones said. "I admire his success and philanthropy." Jones also admires Weill's management approach, one that is seemingly old-fashioned but as basic and solid as some of the general retail principles that Jones learned working at a variety of companies. "Weill never used a calculator, a BlackBerry or a computer," Jones continued. "Dealing with people directly was most important to him."--John Mutter

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

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