Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Workman Publishing: How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception, and Why Magic Matters by Joshua Jay

Atheneum Books: Out of My Heart by Sharon M Draper

Bloomsbury Publishing: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blackstone Publishing: I Am Not Who You Think I Am by Eric Rickstad

Scholastic Press: Room to Dream (a Front Desk Novel) by Kelly Yang

Andrews McMeel Publishing: A Tale as Tall as Jacob: Misadventures with My Brother by Samantha Edwards

David Zwirner Books: Making a Great Exhibition by Doro Globus, illustrated by Rose Blake

Tor Books: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini


Borders: Face Out Focus; Aussie Suitor Steps Back

The Wall Street Journal offers a long feature--face out in its own way--about Borders's decision to display "as many as three times the titles as in the past" face out. As reported here last week (Shelf Awareness, March 5, 2008), the new approach has led to sales increases "in the double digits" and has led to the removal of 5%-10% of the average store's titles--many of which sell only one copy a year in each store.

Among new information: the change will be apparent in most Borders stores within six weeks and be most noticeable in categories like children's, food, cooking, travel, art and photography but less so in fiction. Still, at its "new concept" store in Ann Arbor, Mich., Borders is "testing a special display that highlights covers of classics from Charles Dickens and Jack Kerouac, as well as movie tie-in titles such as Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men."

At a typical Borders superstore, the reduction of inventory will be between 4,675 and 9,350 titles out of about 93,500. Borders said customers at its new concept store had the impression that more books were available. The Journal speculated that the change could "make Borders vulnerable to a marketing campaign from Barnes & Noble that promotes its own vast selection. The average 25,000 square-foot Barnes & Noble superstore stocks approximately 125,000 to 150,000 book titles, and the chain says it has no intention of cutting back."


In other Borders news, Pacific Equity Partners, which owns A&R Whitcoulls and since September seemed poised to buy the 27 Borders stores in Australia and New Zealand, has apparently backed out of the auction process, according to the Business Spectator.

After passing protracted regulatory hurdles, the private equity firm did not want to give Borders a significant stake in the company--something Borders retained when it sold its stores in the U.K. and Ireland last year.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Still Life by Sarah Winman

Notes: Vroman's Bookseller of the Year; Bagnulo's Bookstore

Congratulations to owner Joel Sheldon, president and COO Allison Hill and the staff of Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., which has been named Publishers Weekly's Bookseller of the Year. Founded by Adam Clark Vroman, the 114-year-old store is an institution in the Los Angeles suburb and has, among other accomplishments, expanded into a variety of sidelines that have enhanced its deep book selection. It has two bookstores and one fine writing, gifts and stationery store, all in Pasadena.

Vroman's will be honored during BookExpo America in Los Angeles.


We're surprised she was able to juggle this much so long!

Effective March 28, Jessica Stockton Bagnulo is resigning from wholesaler BookStream to turn her attention to opening a bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., a dream that has been given a major push by the $15,000 business plan competition prize she won earlier this year (Shelf Awareness, January 26, 2008).

She will continue to work as full-time events coordinator for McNally Robinson Booksellers in New York City as well as serve on the board of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association and as chair of the Emerging Leaders Council. Not to mention that she was married last year, keeps up a great blog, the Written Nerd, and writes an occasional column on graphic lit for Shelf Awareness.

While at BookStream, which she joined last fall, Bagnulo led the development of a new website, which launches this month, and organized the wholesaler's inaugural TitleWave, the book and author event held last month in East Hartford, Conn.


Parallax Press: How to Live When a Loved One Dies: Healing Meditations for Grief and Loss by Thich Nhat Hanh

Digital Change: A College Survey Course

For Mark Nelson, digital content strategist for the National Association of College Stores, who spoke at the CAMEX show and NACS meeting last week in San Antonio, Tex., digital change could come as quickly as the iPod became a staple of college students: in four years, iPod adoption by college freshman went from 0% to 85%. The signs of an iPod moment for digital material are strong, he continued. E-readers are becoming more sophisticated, the volume of inventory is increasing, standards are emerging, and digital rights management (DRM) is becoming less cumbersome. In addition, "We're seeing more consistency and direction from publishers and interest from others outside the industry," he said.

Technologies that are about to take off in popularity show a kind of "knee-in-the-curve" jag on adoption graphs, he continued, and something like that may be occurring with e-books. According to NACS's own Student Watch survey and other sources, some stores are reporting digital adoption rates that average 10% of the enrollment for some courses and, for a few courses, as much as 35%-44% of sales. In the last year, there was a 2%-3% shift to digital from print. Some 18.5% of students strongly prefer e-texts over the print version of the same books, and 18% have purchased or accessed digital material. More students want a digital option, and 17% of them have said they would pay more for a print book if a digital version is included. Book industry e-book sales grew 37% in 2007 (to $31.5 million), and audiobooks in digital format are particularly popular among people aged 18 to 24

Among other indicators of change: there are now 1.2 billion Internet users compared to 48 million in 1996. Computing power will get cheaper, faster and better, and there will be more applications. In 2006, the content created and copied online equaled three million times all the books ever written. "There is more and more connection between technology and the pace of knowledge increasing," Nelson observed.

Most people believe college stores are in the business of selling textbooks. But "we are probably not in the business of selling textbooks," Nelson said. He noted several telling examples of the contrast between an industry's perceived business and "real" business--or at least a way of looking at it that offers a path to the future. These included camera stores and film developers, considered to be in the business of photos but actually catering to "shareable memories." Likewise, people think telecom companies are in the phone business, but they're in communications. And cemeteries are thought to be in the business of burial plots when they are actually in death care and memory preservation.

Nelson suggested that booksellers need to listen to and meet the needs of their customers. "Customers typically get what they want, especially in the participatory computer age," he observed. And these days, college bookstore customers "want lower prices. They don't want to buy a whole book if the professor doesn't want them to read it all. And they want shareable content that they can interact with." He cautioned, "If we don't find a solution to these questions, someone else will."

In addition to the bookstore, students are already getting digital material through the library via an e-reserve system or an e-book collection; a course management system or professor's site; off campus; or direct from the publisher. "In most cases," Nelson said, "we don't know where we're losing digital sales to."

Emerging models in the textbook industry include direct to consumer; institutional; and the traditional bookstore. Among the programs and companies working in the area:

California State University's Digital Marketplace, which emphasizes affordability, accessibility and choice for students. The OhioLINK eText Project is similar to Cal State's and likewise focuses on large introductory courses.

CourseSmart is "a very interesting experiment" founded by six major text publishers. It sells to students but has opportunities for affiliate programs. The pilot has had positive results with sales "roughly 10% of enrollment." is beginning to sell textbooks over the Kindle and has approached five institutions to sell textbooks through their IT departments. Amazon, Nelson said, is an example of "a big player who could enter the industry and offer a different model."

VitalSource, the Ingram Digital unit whose VitalBook offers "a growing inventory of content," is piloting with institutions.

CafeScribe wants to partner with stores through an affiliate program. Tools include online readers with annotation and social networking elements.

For its part, NACS is "doing a little bit of everything" and "trying to provide a wide range of tools because it has a wide range of stores as members," Nelson said. The association has created a digital content strategic planning task force that includes people from outside the industry and has met with associations representing college libraries and college IT departments.

NACS is also working with the Caravan Project and looking for about 10 stores to participate. The NACS Foundation has given a grant to help develop education and marketing materials for stores.

At the show, the NACS board approved a three-part strategy to increase partnerships, especially with publishers, CourseSmart and other campus groups and institutions; enhance trade infrastructures; and increase education and awareness.--John Mutter


American Booksellers Association: ABA Children's Institute, August 30 - September 1! Register today!

Media and Movies

Inauguration: John Adams Begins This Sunday on HBO

Beginning at 8 p.m. this coming Sunday, March 16, HBO airs the two-part premiere of John Adams, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by David McCullough. The seven-part series stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney and will run on Sundays at 9 p.m. A tie-in edition is available from S&S ($20, 9781416575887/141657588X).


Rebel Girls: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, 4 edited by Lilly Workneh

Media Heat: Cancer on $5 a Day

Today on Fresh Air: comedian Robert Schimmel, author of Cancer on $5 a Day* *Chemo Not Included: How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life (Da Capo Lifelong Books, $22, 9780738211589/0738211583).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Geraldine Brooks, author of People of the Book (Viking, $25.95, 9780670018215/067001821X). As the show put it: "The art of detection unravels the secrets of the Sarajevo Haggadah. What does the miraculous survival of this medieval codex tell us about the survival of both culture and history?"


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Scott Simon, author of Windy City: A Novel of Politics (Random House, $25, 9781400065578/1400065577).


Unbound: This Party's Dead: Grief, Joy and Spilled Rum at the World's Death Festivals by Erica Buist

Books & Authors

Awards: Golden Kite Winners and Honor Recipients

The winners of the Golden Kite Awards, presented to children's book authors and artists by their peers and sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, are:

  • Fiction: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel and Friends)
  • Nonfiction: Muckrakers by Ann Bausum (National Geographic Society)
  • Picture Book Text: Pierre in Love by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Petra Mathers (Orchard Books)
  • Picture Book Illustration: Little Night illustrated and written by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook Press)

Golden Kite Honor Recipients:

  • Fiction: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis (Dial Books for Young Readers)
  • Nonfiction: 1607: A New Look at Jamestown by Karen Lange (National Geographic Society)
  • Picture Book Text: The End by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Richard Egielski (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
  • Picture Book Illustration: Who Put the B in Ballyhoo? illustrated and written by Carlyn Beccia (Houghton Mifflin)

The Golden Kite Awards will be presented at the Golden Kite Luncheon during the SCBWI’s 37th Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children, which takes place in Los Angeles August 1-4. For more information and lists of previous winners and honor books, go to


Attainment: More New Books Next Week

In paperback next Tuesday, March 18:

The Entitled by Frank Deford (Sourcebooks Landmark, $14.95, 9781402212550/1402212550).


Book Review

Mandahla: A Curious Earth

A Curious Earth by Gerard Woodward (W. W. Norton & Company, $14.95 Paperback, 9780393330977, March 2008)

Aldous Jones is not only aging rapidly, he's in serious mental decline. Mourning the death of his wife, Colette, over a year earlier, he sits in his kitchen, warmed by the cooker's gas jets, staring at a cupboard that has potatoes growing out of it, and wearing her watch on his left arm, "a gentle grip on his wrist, a counterbalance to the weight of his loneliness." And he drinks. His daughter, Juliette, encourages him to paint; a retired art teacher, he's always painted, but now with time and talent in abundance, he's unmotivated. However, one day he visits the National Gallery, becomes entranced by Rembrandt's portrait of Hendrickje Stoffels and decides to start painting again. In the process, he experiences odd time distortions, eventually collapses in his kitchen and winds up in a hospital, victim of blood loss from a bleeding ulcer. Thus begins Aldous' odyssey into art and aging; like all voyagers, he meets some pretty wacky characters on his journey.

His son, Julian, lives in the Belgian town of Ostend, and is writing a novel about the end of the world and lots of poems about sand. Julian's houseguest, author and sexologist Hermann Lorre, claims to have had sex with Hitler. Black and beautiful erotic artist Agnès Florizoone seduces Aldous. Back in London, the secretive and ingenuous Maria asks Aldous to teach her about art. Julian's other son, James, an anthropologist, brings his Amazonian wife and son home to live with Aldous, where misunderstandings ensue when she and her son tie up a neighbor's cat for bow-and-arrow practice. His life fills with people and he falls in love, but while often hilarious, A Curious Earth has an underlying sadness at the deterioration that aging and the drinking life bring. But Aldous now pursues life and a new-found goal suggested by Maria with brio and determination.

This is a book that one reads for the pleasure of the story and for the pleasure of perfect sentences, of spot-on descriptions. On Aldous cleaning his place for Maria's first visit: "he rode the wild beast of the Electrolux all around the house as it gave its one long shocked intake of breath." On Aldous' grief as openings he had crafted seem to slowly close: "A door slamming shut deep in his heart would sometimes wake him in the middle of the night, choking him with sadness . . . sometimes he woke from a pillow so tear-sodden it was as though he'd fallen asleep while the tide was coming in. Or the angel of dejection had visited, scattering her sad pearls." Of a buxom dentist: "She was a seaside postcard in want of a caption." Funny and poignant, A Curious Earth leaves you wanting more, and you can get it, since this is the last part of a trilogy. The first volume, August, will be published this summer, and the middle volume, I'll Go to Bed at Noon, is already out.--Marilyn Dahl


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