Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Inkyard Press: Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros

Chronicle Prism: Men in Blazers Present Gods of Soccer: The Pantheon of the 100 Greatest Soccer Players (According to Us) by Roger Bennett, Michael Davies, and Miranda Davis; illustrated by Nate Kitch

Neal Porter Books: I Don't Care by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal

Tor Nightfire: The Spite House by Johnny Compton

Candlewick Press (MA): Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai

Popular Book Company (Usa): Complete Curriculum Success Series, Math Success Series, English Success Series, 365 Fun Days

Yen on: Fox Tales by Tomihiko Morimi, translated by Winifred Bird


Notes: Financial Crisis Books; Human Library 'Books'

Books explaining financial issues are becoming more popular during the current economic crisis--along with thrillers and cookbooks, Reuters reported.

Kathryn Popoff, Borders v-p for adult trade books, told Reuters: "People are really thirsting for knowledge and trying to understand what's happening out there and how we could have gotten to this point in the economy."

Book buyers are also nabbing thrillers for escapes and cookbooks because more people are eating at home to save money, Reuters said.


Cool library idea of the day: human "books" on a variety of subjects. According to the Associated Press (via MSNBC), patrons of the Santa Monica, Calif., Public Library were encouraged last weekend to borrow one of 14 experts on hand for a 30-minute conversation. The library's hope was that participants would "learn something about the culture and beliefs of other people, erasing stereotypes in the process."

"A personal conversation breaks down barriers and connects two strangers who might not otherwise have the opportunity to speak to each other," said Rachel Foyt, an administrative analyst at the library.

Of course, there were some rules to follow when checking out the human tomes: "The reader must return the book in the same mental and physical condition as borrowed. It is forbidden to cause damage to the book, tear out or bend pages, get food or drink spilled over the book or hurt her or his dignity in any other way."


A little clarification on Harper's call for booksellers to contribute to a bookseller version of State by State: there is no need to include drawings--they're an option.

Also Carl Lennertz notes that for larger states, he'll consider essays about parts of states, such as northern and southern California, "or, well, any state that has distinct geographical or cultural parts. I'll match them up with another essay about the state, but still provide context for 'your' region with the rest of the state. Thanks, and have fun with this!"


Galleycat reported that organizers for the Story Prize, an annual award for short story collections published in the U.S., have named the judges for its 2008 competition: former Random House editor Daniel Menaker, bookseller Rick Simonson of Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., and Hannah Tinti, editor of the literary journal One Story and author of The Good Thief.


The Book Examiner featured its "ultimate guide to pairing alcohol and literature."


"Turn up the volume: Little bookshop trades in homespun air with secondhand flair" was the headline for an article in the Memphis, Tenn., Commercial Appeal on the recent opening of The English Major bookstore. Owner Karin Morley said she offers "a very diverse selection with new titles arriving every day. That's one of the most exciting things about dealing in used books. You never know when something great is going to come through the door."

She admitted that opening a new business in a down economy will be a challenge, but could also have its advantages. "We've got new and rare books, but the majority of our inventory is used and that means a big savings for book lovers," Morley said. "I'm never going to compete with an Amazon, but I don't want to. I want to be the friendly little neighborhood bookstore where people browse and interact. That's my dream."


Tiny Reparations Books: Gone Like Yesterday by Janelle M. Williams

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Paul Theroux's Ghost Train

Today on the Tavis Smiley Show: Paul Theroux, whose new book is Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar (Houghton Mifflin, $28, 9780618418879/0618418873).


Tomorrow on the Today Show: Dr. Bernadine Cruz, author of The Secret Sex Life of Dogs and Cats (Angel City Press, $16.95, 9781883318529/1883318521).


Tomorrow on the Martha Stewart Show: Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, authors of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95, 9781584797210/1584797215).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Alaa Al Aswany, author of Chicago (Harper, $25.95, 9780061452567/0061452564).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Tom Brokaw, author of Boom!: Talking About the Sixties: What Happened, How It Shaped Today, Lessons for Tomorrow (Random House, $18, 9780812975116/0812975111).


Tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman, in a repeat: Sarah Vowell, author of The Wordy Shipmates (Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594489990/1594489998).


GLOW: Disney-Hyperion: Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow

Movies: The Soloist Won't Play Until Spring

A much-anticipated film adaptation of The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez has been bumped from its original release date next month to March 2009.

According to Variety "When Paramount made the decision last week to push The Soloist to March, DreamWorks, Working Title and CAA, which reps director Joe Wright, Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, were not pleased. Under pressure from parent company Viacom to cut fourth-quarter costs, Par[amount] decided just a month ahead of the release to pull the awards-season plug on The Soloist."

"We were blindsided," said one CAA agent.

Variety added that "Hollywood insiders are speculating that The Soloist--a drama about an L.A. Times columnist and a homeless violinist--was being punished for being a DreamWorks movie in the wake of the company’s unpleasant divorce with Paramount."


Harper: Stone Blind by Natalie Haynes

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles out next Monday and Tuesday, October 27 and 28:

Burn Out by Marcia Muller (Grand Central, $24.99, 9780446581073/0446581070) is the 26th novel featuring San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone.

Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello and Cynthia Sass (Rodale, $25.95, 9781594868511/1594868514) outlines a weight-loss plan designed to decrease belly fat.

The Memoirist
by M.J. Rose (Mira, $24.95, 9780778325840/0778325849) focuses on a woman who receives a letter that may lead her to understand haunting, elusive memories she had as a child.

Now in paperback:

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan (Penguin, $13, 9780143114420/0143114425).


BINC: Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship

Book Review: The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing

The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing edited by Mark Smirnoff (University of Arkansas Press, $34.95, 978155728887/1557288879, October 8, 2008)

Although widely attributed to Elvis Costello, the quotation "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" has been adopted by many others, expressing a common sentiment that music writing is oxymoronic. Of course, this hasn't stopped writers from trying to capture the essence of popular music with words and, in the case of this book, succeeding quite well. This 10th anniversary issue of The Oxford American's music essays contains almost five dozen "soulful contributions" from a wide variety of authors. The essays are loosely broken into categories that reflect the musical genre each is addressing. There is a bit of lighthearted play at work here that reflects the tone of the collection in general. For example, rockabilly, jazz and blues have their own categories, but so do "Family," "R&B: Dept. of Al Green" and "Dept. of Elvis." Aside from the consistently high quality of the writing, the essays in this collection all manage the nifty trick of seamlessly incorporating the intensely personal experience of listening to music into a larger social and cultural context, which should strike a chord (pun intended) with a broad swath of readers. Moreover, the collection is loosely structured so that readers lose nothing by grazing out of order.

Although it is impossible to do justice to the entire collection in such a short space, there are some notable highlights. In his essay about Ray Charles, Roy Blount Jr. manages a fresh, gently humorous perspective on the "Genius of Soul" about whom so much has already been written. In a pithy essay, legendary music producer Jerry Wexler (who died earlier this year) offers intriguing insight into the often underrated but immensely talented Dusty Springfield. One of the most fascinating--and oddly creepy--profiles comes from John Lewis, who presents a day in the life of an aging and supposedly drug-free Ike Turner. Quirkier but no less compelling offerings include Ron Carlson's search for meaning in Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe" and Robert Palmer's exploration of "mojo" as it relates to blues great R.L. Burnside. And there is so much more; a triptych of outstanding essays on Southern Rock, Bessie Smith's life re-imagined by Carol Ann Fitzgerald and a deeply soulful meditation on the music of Al Green by Susan Straight, to name a few. Appealing on as many levels as there are essays, this collection is a necessary addition for anyone who has felt--even remotely--the transformative power of a song. And if nothing else, it proves that there is plenty of architecture to dance about.--Debra Ginsberg
Shelf Talker: This outstanding collection of truly great music writing culled from the last 10 years of The Oxford American is a must-have for any music loving reader.

Deeper Understanding

Notes from Frankfurt, Part One

What us worry?

Americans we spoke with in Frankfurt seemed remarkably cheerful despite the dismal economic and credit news. Maybe the unexpected rise in the U.S. dollar versus the euro in the last week helped--by making a trip to Europe less expensive. In any case, most attendees in our unscientific sample were buying and selling rights, doing deals and promoting upcoming titles last week as though nothing had changed outside the huge halls.

Even a few people who had difficult results so far this year were positive overall. One publisher who greeted us with, "I can't wait to get the hell out of this year," said later in the conversation, "This should be a solid Christmas."


Several publishers and distributors remain concerned about Borders, and one noted that the retailer sometimes takes up to two weeks to get books from loading docks onto bookshelves although it pays bills on time. Several said they were concerned about both chains because mall traffic in general is weaker. Otherwise, independents, libraries and other accounts are doing well. One publisher said that Amazon seems to have benefited from tougher economic times and has improved market share even as sales have dropped slightly.

Many in the industry look forward to the period after the election, when the country should be less distracted by politics. One publisher noted that books have had especially tough competition for publicity and consumer attention in the past few months: besides an intense political season in general, there have been the fascination with Governor Sarah Palin, the jump in energy prices, hurricanes and the financial meltdown.

Thanksgiving is celebrated late this year, and one wholesaler predicted that holiday sales will "come hard and come late."


As ever, there was a debate about whether books are recssion-proof. The best answer we heard was a Yogi Berra-like "maybe, depending on the book, publisher and category."


Lightning Source has more than 650,000 titles in its digital library, a number it expects to double in the next 18 months. In a little over 10 years, the company has printed more than 60 million books with an average run of 1.8 copies.

David Taylor, head of the Ingram POD service, gave these and other statistics at the 30th annual meeting of the International Supply Chain Specialists at the 60th annual Frankfurt Book Fair. Although the presentations at this day-long meeting before the show starts can be full of acronyms and a bit dry, it's where some technical innovations that change the industry are first discussed in front of a global audience.

Taylor said the new version of the Espresso Machine is "80% of where it needs to be" in terms of quality. This POD machine "surely has a place in bookshops or libraries, although how big a place remains to be seen." He predicted that the service would continue to change globally distributed print models so that eventually books would be printed only when they've been sold.


Speaking later at the show at his booth, John Ingram noted that Lightning Source had helped print huge runs of books with sudden overnight demand--recent examples include Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down by Kaylene Johnson and What Happened by Scott McClellan. Ingram said he was looking forward to the day when publishers as a matter of course send e-files for new books to Lightning Source so that Lightning Source will be ready to handle unexpected requests with the press of a button.


Also at the Supply Chain Specialists meeting, hosted by Editeur and the Boersenverein (the German publishers, wholesalers and booksellers association), Fernando Fontes discussed Byblos Livrarias, a bookstore in Lisbon, Portugal, that opened in December last year and uses RFID tags on all its books and other products. Only two years ago, one of the major presentations at this meeting concerned Selexyz Almere in the Netherlands, the first bookstore we know of to use RFID (Shelf Awareness, October 3, 2006).

Byblos, which has 35,000 square feet of space and sells 150,000 titles and 350,000 items overall, including music and games, was developed by a former publishing company, Fontes said, and calls itself "the first intelligent bookshop." Most of the books are in Portuguese but there also many in English, French, German and Spanish. The store has a conference room and cafe and 44 information kiosks, 14 RFID-enabled teller machines and 10 handheld terminals that communicate via wi-fi and RFID.

Byblos puts RFID tags on books at three tagging stations in its small warehouse. Tags cost 13 euro cents each (about 17 U.S. cents). Fontes estimated that it costs about the same to put an RFID tag on each book as it would to put a price tag on--and because the store uses the RFID tag for its security system, it saves on a special tag for that.

The company has one terminal that "reads" books going back to publishers (tags are taken off before the books are shipped).

Fontes praised the RFID system for helping with "fast payment," identifying books quickly and accurately and helping the store in its effort to create a modern environment and provide excellent customer service.

Not surprisingly, Fontes suggested that life would be easier were tags to be added to books when they are printed and he argued that the world needed tag standards.


In another presentation, Julie Meynink and Peter Mathews of Nielsen Book analyzed book sales between 2004 and 2007 in the U.S., U.K. and Australia to see whether Chris Anderson's Long Tail theory applied.

Among the conclusions: the tail has grown longer in all three markets (meaning many more titles are being sold), the tail is fatter in the U.K. (more copies of the less popular titles are being sold) and the head is shorter in the U.S. (the most popular titles are selling fewer copies).

The reduction in U.S. sales of the head (the blockbusters) may in part be because books by Dan Brown accounted for so many sales in the early part of the sample period and because Nielsen does not count sales by Wal-Mart, which stocks a limited, very popular selection of book titles.

In the U.K. between 2004 and 2007, blockbusters continued to get bigger, but the market share in nonfiction of the top 10 publishers decreased to 49% from 52%, and the top four's market share fell to 35% from 40%.


Incidentally it seemed that in conversations with foreigners, sooner or later the presidential election came up, usually with some version of this question, always put diplomatically, "Who do you think will win?"

A publisher from Australia noted that voting is compulsory Down Under (miscreants are fined) and expressed frustration that so many Americans don't vote even though our government's actions affect so many things worldwide. She suggested that she and others be given the votes of those here who don't cast ballots.

Who are they all rooting for? His name begins and ends with a vowel.--John Mutter

[More reporting from Frankfurt tomorrow.]


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