Not Just the Heat . . .
Because of a problem with our e-maiiing service, Shelf Awareness was late today. Our apologies for any inconvenience!
Because of a problem with our e-maiiing service, Shelf Awareness was late today. Our apologies for any inconvenience!
"I believe that culture making is not a luxury; it is a fundamental, sustaining function of society. And we must fall back onto remaking it ourselves. As long as there is a social need for independent minds, I believe that there will be a call for independent bookstores."--Kristen Eide-Tollefson, owner of the Book House in Dinkytown, Minneapolis, Minn., in a Bookslut.com interview.
Today's New York Times business section surveys real estate books and finds that new titles reflect tough times. The story features, for example, Wiley titles by Ralph Roberts: his Foreclosure Myths: 77 Secrets to Saving You Thousands on Distressed Properties, appears in August, and Foreclosure Self-Defense for Dummies, was published earlier this year. Other books on avoiding foreclosure and selling, buying and managing foreclosed properties are coming from Adams Media and Penguin's Alpha imprint.
In a Q&A with the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg, Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos still won't tell how many Kindle units have sold. Concerning the future of the book and e-book, he stated:
"Over some time horizon, books will be read on electronic devices. Physical books won't completely go away, just as horses haven't completely gone away. But there is no sinecure for any technology. If you think about books, it's astonishing. It's very hard to find a technology that has remained in mostly the same form for 500 years. And anything that has stubbornly resisted improvement for 500 years is going to be hard to improve.
"That is what we're trying to do with Kindle. We see this as an effort to improve upon the book, even though it's resisted change for 500 years.
"To do that, you have to capture the essential element of a book, which is that it disappears when you get into the flow of the story. None of us when we're reading a book think about the ink and the glue and the stitching. All that fades away, and you get into the author's universe."
Bookstores in Newark, N.J., are hard to find. According to the New York Times,"America's Most Literate Cities," a study Jack Miller, president ofCentral Connecticut State University, revealed that Newark "ranked lastamong the nation's 69 largest cities in the number of bookstores percapita, with 15 stores for 281,000 people, or 0.53 stores per 10,000residents."
"Newark needs bookstores," said Mayor Cory A.Booker, who has tried unsuccessfully to lure a Barnes & Noble tothe city. "It's a gathering place. They're community-fixers."
Onthe other hand, the study found that Newark ranked 49th overall whenfactors like "education, Internet use and local publications" as wellas "the library's popularity and the circulation of the city's dailynewspaper, the Star-Ledger," were considered.
"We'rejust a community that's used to malls," said Frank Murphy, who, withhis wife, ran independent bookstores for years, including one inNewark's Pennsylvania Station. "Downtown is not where it's at."
Thecancellation of an author event at Politics & Prose Bookstore,Washington, D.C., generated controversy recently, and both sidesoffered their thoughts on the situation in Op-Ed pieces for Sunday's Washington Post.
Saree Makdisi, author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, was scheduled for an author reading last month. He wrotethat his event "was canceled when the bookstore owners realized that mybook concludes by questioning the viability of a two-state solution tothe Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead it proposes a singledemocratic, secular and multicultural state in which Israelis andPalestinians live peacefully as citizens with equal rights." He alsonoted his invitation to read at Politics & Prose has since beenreissued.
In her response, bookstore co-owner Carla Cohen wrote,"Since its opening nearly 24 years ago, Politics and Prose Bookstorehas been characterized by its program of presenting authors. One of ourprimary objectives is to connect authors and readers. As we have grownin size, sales and reputation, our author events schedule has grown. Wenow regularly feature 40 talks in our adult section each month.
"Howdo we make the choice among the scores of authors we are asked to host?The highest priorities go to Washington area authors and nationallyknown authors on tour. We also will schedule authors on topics that areof interest to our customers. Obviously, our goal is to sell books. Weare not simply a forum for ideas. We schedule authors with new booksfrom established publishers so that there is media attention behind thebooks."
Cohen wrote that authors chosen for events do notnecessarily have their books vetted before being scheduled, and"Makdisi's book arrived after the event was booked. When I finally gota chance to read his book, especially its conclusion, I was verydisturbed."
After explaining her objections, she added,"Nevertheless, I now believe that I was mistaken to cancel SareeMakdisi's presentation at Politics and Prose. We will extend aninvitation for him to talk at the bookstore at a time that works forhim and for us. He can present the ideas that form the basis of hisbook. Our customers can make their own decisions on whether theysupport Makdisi--or disagree with him."
Spending that stimulus check yet? The San Francisco Chronicle contacted Bay Area business owners, including a couple of booksellers, to find out whether the money is trickling down.
PeteMulvihill, co-owner of Green Apple Books and Music, San Francisco, waspleased that the bookshop "just had our best May ever in the midst ofan otherwise stubborn long-term pattern of flat sales. We can't seem toexplain it--it could be a fluke or rebounding tourism or such, butwe're so puzzled that we think it might be the economic stimuluspackage."
At Laurel Book Store, Oakland, Luan Stauss said, "Ihave had a few customers tell me that they are spending some of theirstimulus check here at the bookstore. I can recall three so far."
Could the bad economy be good for used book sales? Several used book dealers told the Virginian-Pilot they thought this might be so.
BenWysor, co-owner of the Recycled Reader, Elizabeth City, N.C., said hissales for the first quarter of this year were up 18% from last year."Maybe this bad economy is helping," he added. "So many people do saywhen they get a stack of books from us and it costs them $20--thatwould be one book at Barnes & Noble. They're pleased at how muchthey can get for their buck."
Ethel Barritt, owner of threestores in Virginia Beach, Va., said two of her stores were up over2007's numbers: "More and more people are thinking about gas and foodand everything else. But people who love to read aren't going to giveup books."
The Virginian-Pilot also noted that "themarket has been less generous to traditional booksellers," though SarahPishko, owner of Prince Books, Norfolk, said her business had bouncedback from an earlier dip: "Generally, my customers are not going tostop buying a book."
Responding to the question, "Where have all the book stores gone?" the Vacaville, Calif. Reporter lamented the disappearance of indies in general and Bookends Bookstore, Napa, in particular.
"Howcan I describe Bookends?" wrote Brian Hamlin. "It was just one of thoseplaces that welcomed any and all who happened to stroll by, a placethat was convenient if you were trying to get out of the rain or tryingto find the latest Carl Hiaasen novel. . . . Bookends was a great placeand, like all those old book stores from my hometown so long ago, I'mgoing to miss it."
If you've ever wondered what aslow day in a bookstore is like, Thomas and Cheryl Upchurch, owners ofCapitol Book & News, Montgomery, Ala., described one of theirs inthe Montgomery Advertiser.
Amongthe exciting events was "a long-range dispute over grammar with FrazerDobson, a former employee of ours, and his wife, Sally Brewster, ownerof one of America's great bookstores, Park Road Books in Charlotte,N.C."
Unless you're a June bride this year, in which case it won't help much, Newsday offered suggestions for bridal books that "cover from a proposal to planning." And in an apparently unrelated reading list, Newsday's sports section featured "a look at two books and one DVD set I checked out for those shopping for Dad."
For literary-minded riders of New York's subway system, an era has ended. The New York Timesreported that the "Poetry in Motion" campaign, a "public project thatprovided lyric respite from ads for bunion cures, acne doctors andpersonal-injury lawyers, came to a quiet end last month, more than 15years after its first placards appeared in the subways." Replacing thepoetry will be a series of prose pieces under the name "Train ofThought."
In the books they trade, used booksellers have found a range of treasures, some marketable and some not, ranging from cash, a diamond ring and a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card to a marriage certificate from 1879, a baby's tooth, dried flowers and World War II discharge papers. A survey by AbeBooks.com of its member stores established also that one customer discovered $40,000 in a cookbook she had just bought. For a full list, click here.
Truman Metzel, longtime owner of Great Expectations Bookstore, Evanston, Ill., died on Friday. He was 82.
Metzel was remembered last year by Robert Sandberg as "curmudgeon, friend, store guide, and host to hundreds of Northwestern faculty and students."
He added: "I will certainly never forget my first visit to the store one fall afternoon in 1968. I was a freshman at Northwestern. After a half hour or so of browsing, I walked over to Truman and asked where I might find Hume's Treatise of Human Nature. Sitting at a desk messy with invoices, packing slips, book orders, he looked up at me over his half-rims and responded, simply, with his deep voice, unblinking eye-contact, and slow delivery, 'Which edition, what publisher?' "
Holding court last week at R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn.: historical novelist Sandra Gulland, who in period costume read from her Mistress of the Sun (Touchstone), about Louise de la Vallière, a woman of humble background who became King Louis XIV's favorite mistress--with attending R.J. Julia bookseller Hatsie Mahoney.
When ABA education coordinator and panel moderator Lisa Winn asked a crowded room on Thursday morning during BEA's Day of Education, "How many of you have graphic novel sections in your stores?" the majority of hands flew up. The level of sophistication of the questions that came after a highly informative panel likewise conveyed the commitment that booksellers have made to this growing category.
The panel for "Buying, Merchandising, and Selling Graphic Novels, 101" consisted of John Shableski of Diamond Book Distributors, comics creator Scott McCloud and Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of New York's McNally Robinson Booksellers (and a Shelf Awareness contributor). The trio agreed that the definition of graphic novel was "up for grabs," ranging anywhere from "sequential art" to "big expensive comic book" to Art Spiegelman's description: "A comic book that needs a bookmark."
In answer to Winn's question: "Why graphic novels, why now?" Shableski said, "To be brutally honest, the money." He estimated that comic books grossed $375 million in sales last year, and with Canada included, closer to $410 million. McCloud added, "There's a reason they're buying them. There's genuine excitement for the characters and story lines." McCloud said that the strongest-growing category is for girls aged 12-15, for whom there was not even a market 10 years ago. With the level of diversity and sophistication now, according to Bagnulo, comics have "come of age." Shableski reeled off some of his favorites from last year as a way of demonstrating their breadth and range: Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, National Book Award-nominee American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and Caldecott Medal-winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. "You can't pull the text out, you have to have the visuals," Shableski said by way of explaining its graphic novel classification.
McCloud underscored Shableski's point by suggesting that graphic novels are "all part of the same art form, but not necessarily for the same audience." Graphic novels can include comics from Japan, Europe and even Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen, according to McCloud: "If it tells its story by putting one picture after another, and the pictures are carrying the weight of the story, it's a comic book," he said.
For booksellers just getting started, Winn suggested the resources that are available online at bookweb.org/events/bea/program/graphic.html. Of those same resources, Bagnulo recommended the list Mark Siegel has made available at firstsecondbooks.com/pdf/onesheets.pdf, and Shableski recommended ICv2.com and noflyingnotights.com.
Booksellers wondered about the best way to convey that they sell comics. The panel suggested everything from working with librarians to get the word out to high school students, to using graphic novel characters in ads, to placing a sign in the bookstore window that reads, "Naruto sold here." Winn suggested a graphic novel section party à la the traditional book release party, and Bagnulo has hosted events with graphic novel artists who demonstrate how they create their work and has also marketed to comics-related blogs.
Booksellers also asked about how best to display the graphic novels. Does Bagnulo, for instance, still stock Doonesbury and Calvin and Hobbes in the comics section? "That's an ongoing argument in our store," Bagnulo answered. "Do we put Calvin and Hobbes next to Alison Bechdel? Or do we shelve it in the humor section?" McCloud suggested that it would make sense to shelve Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes "near the graphic novels in the same way that you'd place rock 'n' roll near classical. Shelving by content--Middle East graphic novels near Middle East studies is a noble impulse," McCloud continued, but he believes graphic novels belong near other comics.
"What do you say to parents who sneer at comics?" asked one bookseller. Shableski said that "the challenge is to educate them in 30 seconds." His suggestion: hand them Mom's Cancer by Brian Fies and say, "Just take a couple of moments and look through this," and also to tell parents to "give [your children] something they want to read rather than what you want them to read." Bagnulo also suggested pointing out reviews of graphic novels in periodicals such as the New York Times Book Review and in the New Yorker.
Another bookseller was concerned about how to keep manga books with sexual themes apart from the Tintin, Bone and Asterix titles. Shableski said that many publishers are now labeling comics with appropriate age ranges. Samantha Wynns of Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, Calif., speaking from the audience, said, "America has had a hard time embracing manga and anime. There's adult anime in Japan, and just because it's in that form, does not mean it's for children." She said Viz and Tokyopop provided age ranges.
"You must have a passion for it to sell it," Bagnulo said, in answer to the question about how to draw patrons into the graphic novel format and also how to handsell it. She urged booksellers to enlist young people who may already have an inherent interest in graphic novels. Shableski gave his top three titles: With the Light by Keiko Tobe (a story about a child with autism and a mother dealing with that); the graphic novel version of The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon; and the aforementioned Mom's Cancer. Bagnulo added Peter Cooper's adaptation of Metamorphosis by Kafka and a pop-up version of Melville's Moby Dick by Sam Ita.
"What about shelving graphic novels next to the novels from which they've been adapted?" asked an audience member. Does one put the Remembrance of Things Past graphic novel next to Proust's tomes? McCloud said no: "Think of the audiobook distinction." On the other hand, Bagnulo responded, if you have enough copies, you can put one Proustian graphic novel near its literary inspiration and the other copies with the graphic novels.
Asked about trends, McCloud mentioned what he calls the "metabolization" of manga, a "demarcation between Japanese works and American-originated manga." He explained, "The generation that grew up on manga is now creating their own form." He cited the Scott Pilgrim series by Brian Lee O'Malley and the recent Flight anthologies as reflecting the creators' influences from manga, anime and the Web. "Manga, for all its power, does not speak to everyday life in North America today," McCloud said. He believes that these new creators are "bringing the revolution home."
Bagnulo mentioned Toon Books (a new line from Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman) as another example of a new frontier, using comics as reading and teaching tools. She also predicted that indie comics would continue gaining steam. "Indie comics are where some of the biggest comics started; if you have self-published comics, let them do it in your store," she suggested. "Vanity press is another term for self-published books," McCloud said. "If we use the term vanity press, then all others must be referred to as 'greed press,' " he added with a wink. McCloud pointed out that "genres grow on the bookshelf slowly. On the Web, we're seeing an emergence of readership of hundreds of thousands of genres that didn't exist before." And in cyberspace, shelf space is limitless.--Jennifer M. Brown
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:
The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer (FSG, $22, 9780374108663/0374108668) "This sensitive novel about a love triangle in 1950s San Francisco is a wonderful stew of race, sexual identity, family, and war. Greer's lush prose is full of gems, and the plot's twists and turns fairly take your breath away."--Matthew Lage, Iowa Book LLC, Iowa City, Iowa
The Billionaire's Vinegar by Benjamin Wallace (Crown, $24.95, 9780307338778/0307338770). "Benjamin Wallace has uncorked an absolutely fascinating account of the world's most expensive bottle of wine, an intoxicating read with the complexity and nuances of a great vintage. As your book 'sommelier,' I recommend that you drink deep of this heady narrative concerning world-class connoisseurs, deep-pocketed collectors, and--quite possibly--a diabolically clever con man."--Joe Drabyak, Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, Pa.
The Marriage of True Minds by Stephen Evans (Unbridled, $14.95, 9781932961461/1932961461). "As husband and wife, Nick Ward and Lena Grant have been running a successful environmental law practice for many years. When the story opens, we find the marriage unraveling and Nick, always passionate, now certifiably insane. But we end up wondering: Like all the best madmen of fiction, is he crazy or is he just right? This is my summer book pick. I love it!"--Kelly Justice, The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.
For Ages 4 to 8
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (Harcourt, $16, 9780152060206/0152060200). "This sly, witty, and charming book captures kids so spot-on, it's crazy, telling the story of two boys going to nature camp but having the time of their lives away from camp. The middle gatefold, with the boys spread out on their sleeping bags with stuffed animals surrounding them, is a wonderful example of Frazee's magnificent, detailed style."--Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, Calif.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]