Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 19, 2005

Ballantine Books: Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

John Scognamiglio Book: In the Time of Our History by Susanne Pari

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Omega Morales and the Legend of La Lechuza by Laekan Zea Kemp

Charlesbridge Publishing: Forever Cousins by Laurel Goodluck, illustrated by Jonathan Nelson

Aladdin Paperbacks: Return of the Dragon Slayers: A Fablehaven Adventure (Dragonwatch #5) by Brandon Mull

Norton Young Readers: Children of Stardust by Edudzi Adodo

Union Square & Co.: Wait for Me by Sara Shepard


Powell's to Teach Used Book Skills

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., and the University Book Store, Seattle, Wash., are working together in an unusual venture that Powell's hopes to extend to other independent bookstores around the country. Under the program, Powell's will train the University Book Store in buying and selling used books, a Powell's forte.

For nine days, beginning September 10, Powell's will operate a temporary used-book buying kiosk at the University Book Store in Seattle's University district. (Sellers will be offered cash or University Book Store credit.) At the kiosk, University Book Store employees will train with Powell's used book buyers. A group of University Book Store staff will also visit Powell's in Portland for training. On September 22, University Book Store will begin buying and selling used books on a permanent basis.

In an announcement yesterday, Mark Mouser, general book manager of University Book Store, commented, "It's a learning process for us, and their expertise is much appreciated. In the end, it's about working together and offering the best book selection we possibly can for our customers."

Miriam Sontz, Powell's CEO, called the program "a win-win situation. Independent bookstores cooperating for the sake of book lovers in general is at the core of our business philosophy and success." Noting the "abundance of used books in this country," Sontz added, "Any effort to tap that resource benefits the book community as a whole."

More next week.

Broadleaf Books: Between the Listening and the Telling: How Stories Can Save Us by Mark Yaconelli

Bookselling Notes: Kinokuniya Tests New Water

Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore that in the U.S. has six stores on the West Coast and one in New York City, has "many, many American customers," Ichi Hashi, a company v-p, told the Rockland County Journal News. "They are very interested in Japanese culture, the comics, design, architecture."

As a result, for the first time, Kinokuniya has opened a store in an area without a sizable Japanese population in the immediate vicinity: in the Palisades Center, West Nyack, N.Y. The Journal News talked with several American customers and employees who love a range of things Japanese, from manga and anime to cuisine and the language.


The Arizona Republic (one of our favorite names for a newspaper) marks the year since Mark-My-Time bookmarks began shipping. The brightly colored bookmarks have a digital timer that keeps track of how long the owner has been reading. According to founders Joe and Maureen Farinella, who live in Gilbert, Ariz., the $8.95 bookmarks are available in "more than 5,500 stores in 38 states, including Walgreens, Barnes & Noble, Costco, Borders and small bookstores."


Books-A-Million has appointed Albert C. Johnson, a financial consultant who was v-p and CFO of Dunn Investment and at Arthur Andersen for nearly 25 years, to the board of directors. Johnson will serve on the audit committee.

Soho Crime: Blown by the Same Wind (Cold Storage Novel) by John Straley

B&N Earnings, Sales Rise; Investors Still Unhappy

Barnes & Noble sales in the second quarter ended July 30 rose 6% to $1.17 billion and net earnings rose 55.2% to $13.5 million. Because the sales figure was slightly below analysts' estimates, the stock suffered on Wall Street yesterday, closing at $37.40 a share, down 5.2%, on more than double usual volume.

The effect of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was mostly positive. The book "boosted our traffic both in stores and online," CEO Steve Riggio said. Some 30%-40% of people who bought Harry Potter bought something else, and the book added three percentage points to the comp-store sales gain. But B&N sold most Harry Potter titles at a 40% discount.

Sales at B&N superstores rose 7% to $1.03 million, and sales at superstores open a year rose 4.3%. Sales at B& rose 14% to $96.3 million. At B. Dalton Bookseller, sales fell 21% to $31.6 million, mainly because of store closings. Comp-store sales at Dalton rose 0.2%.

During the quarter, the company opened five superstores and closed three. It also closed four Dalton stores. It now has 673 B&N stores and 146 Dalton outlets.

Net income was hurt by "pretax charges of approximately $6.9 million for legal costs and increased accruals for anticipated settlements of a previously reported class action suit on employee wages and other litigation." B&N said it believes the amount will "satisfy outcomes of pending litigation."

For the third quarter, the company expects comp-store sales at superstores to be in the low-single digits. For the full year, the company continues to expect comp-store sales to increase about 3%.

The company also forecast a slight net loss in the third quarter, in part because of the costs of its new distribution center in New Jersey.

Like Borders and Books-A-Million, B&N continues to buy its own shares. In the first six months of the year, the company spent $164 million on itself, about $90 million of which occurred in the second quarter.

Also, like its chain bookstore competitors, B&N has begun paying a dividend. The 15-cent-a-share dividend will be paid in September.

AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.08.22

Media and Movies

Constant Gardener Blossoms on Screens

The Constant Gardener, directed by Fernando Meirelles and starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, opens in theaters next Friday, August 26. Based on the novel by John Le Carré, it is a suspenseful mystery of international conspiracy. Justin Quayle, played by Fiennes, embarks on an odyssey of danger and discovery after learning of his wife's murder in a remote area of Kenya, possibly at the hands of her companion, a doctor. Quayle bypasses local authorities and undertakes the investigation on his own. The Constant Gardener (Pocket Star, 1416503900, $7.99) is now available in a paperback movie tie-in edition.

Berkley Books: City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

Media Heat: The Rabbi's Cat

Monday's Today Show takes notes from Donna Goldberg, author of The Organized Student: Teaching Children the Skills for Success in School and Beyond (Fireside, $14, 0743270207).

Yesterday All Things Considered purred over The Rabbi's Cat (Pantheon, $21.95, 0375422811), the new graphic novel by Joann Sfar, set in Algiers in the early 20th Century.

Books & Authors

Lott's Story: Senator Scratches Back

After an early read of Herding Cats: A Life in Politics by Senator Trent Lott (Regan Books, $27.50, 0060599316), whose pub date is next Tuesday, the Associated Press notes that Lott accuses Senator Bill Frist, his successor as Majority Leader, of "personal betrayal." Among other items on the book's agenda: Lott had an unusual alliance with President Clinton; Gerald Ford cautioned him not to "go so far out on a limb" defending President Nixon; and Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the Republican who became an independent, giving control of the Senate to the Democrats in 2001, was "a loose cannon."

Deeper Understanding

Osnos's Next Project: Distribution Solution

Now that Peter Osnos is stepping down as publisher of PublicAffairs (but not as an editor), he plans to use some of his spare time in an endeavor that could be more challenging than founding a house specializing in thoughtful nonfiction. He intends to study and come up with a plan to tackle one of the book world's big problems: distribution.

"Books may be the only serious form of information in limited distribution," he said recently in an interview on the subject with Shelf Awareness. "I want to help solve the problem of getting more books to people in ways that satisfy the urge to read without saddling us with heavy costs of distribution and returns."

The traditionally wasteful book distribution system is getting worse and particularly hurts publishers like PublicAffairs, Osnos said. "On average, returns of hardcover nonfiction are twice what they were when I came into the industry 20 years ago."

The root of the problem, by Osnos's reckoning, is that book distribution has changed little in centuries. "Most books are still sold the way they were 300 years ago: from kiosks," he said. "If you exclude Amazon, which is still just 10%-12% of the market, about 85% of books are sold to people who get up out of a chair and make a trip to a kiosk to buy a book, whether the kiosk is a superstore or Wal-Mart or other retail outlet. This works well for a mass market title that is widely available like Harry Potter or Grisham or Dan Brown. But it's less well designed for a smaller but extensive audience interested in other types of books."

Too often, Osnos argued, supply and demand are out of whack. "Our books are more visible than available," he lamented, mentioning a recent PublicAffairs title that was reviewed and written about "effusively" in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker. The author received national radio attention, too, but the book was not readily available.

In another case, the New York Times Book Review had a "beautiful" review for one PublicAffairs book, but "to find the book in a bookstore after the review would have taken an act of immense will," Osnos said grimly.

Sometimes a bookseller can sell the customer another book, but because there are "so many other options in life" these days, "people don't have patience" and give up the hunt, Osnos said. "How frustrating is it to go to a store and hear that a book you want is not in stock?

"For books like the ones we publish at PublicAffairs, I know the genuine audience is 25%-35% bigger than sales," he continued. "There's an audience still out there. Our books are to books as NPR is to radio. NPR serves 25 million. Our books have the same template. We should reach more people."

Osnos doesn't blame booksellers for distribution problem. In fact, he praises many booksellers, saying, "They have multiple role. They are an important community asset. They provide books, reading groups, signings. They offer the community a gathering place. They can be to books what Starbucks has turned out to be to coffee. The relationship can be 'the place I like to go.' "

Mentioning that he has talked with many booksellers over the years about distribution issues, Osnos said that their most pressing concerns lie elsewhere. "They're so busy keeping their stores alive. They don't worry about the book the way we publishers do because all new books can be returned. They're not paying for royalties and paper. Their biggest risk is the store and staff, not the book."

So in that immortal phrase, what is to be done?

"I want to look at ways books can be made more available using existing technology that is now underutilized," Osnos said. "I'm not interested in the hardware, but the process. There are at least four and possibly five ways that good books can be distributed either in partnership with retailers or direct from the publisher involving digital, audio, searchable and POD."

Osnos wants to "create a demonstration model, working with people who share the objective." He doesn't want to start a new business; it would be a nonprofit venture.

There is "a lot of stuff in the air," he went on, but for a variety of reasons, "they haven't been aggregated into a plan that university presses and other publishers like us might pursue. Each has some plan, but no one has time to think it through. Everyone is so busy, and in publishing there is little research and development capital."

The potential solution is close. He noted that publishers' files are digitized already. And, of course, much of the population is wired. Using himself as an example, he said, "I could print something that would look like a book on my computer at home," Osnos said. "I'd have to cut it but it could have a four-color jacket maybe." In a similar way, the many people with Blackberrys and Treos could have books sent to their devices, download them at home and print out 20 pages at a time to take with them to read anywhere they wanted.

He imagined a bookstore of the future with multiple "delivery systems," as it were. "What if every time a customer came in asking for a particular book, the bookseller could answer not 'no' or 'soon' but 'yes, now?' " he asked. Using POD or digital delivery, the customer "could take home a hardcover" or in several ways be able to read the book right away and "not leave dissatisfied," Osnos continued. "And the bookseller would get a commission on the sale price."

Osnos would like to "expand the platform as much as possible and not exclude anyone. If a retailer can make the sale, they should participate, but publishers should not be shy to do so either. The publishers should be the failsafe for a reader to get a book." In some cases, he added, it would make sense for publishers to use alternative channels. For example, he said, "the digitally transmitted book would be of great use for special interest Web sites.

"There is no single formula," he continued. But "whether we're publishing the most high-toned serious nonfiction or pop fluff, we all have the common urge to connect people with what you're doing. And publishing would be a much better business if we sold 25% more and had 25% fewer returns."

AuthorBuzz: St. Martin's Press: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
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