Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 6, 2009

Workman Publishing: Paint by Sticker: Plants and Flowers: Create 12 Stunning Images One Sticker at a Time! by Workman Publishing

Sourcebooks Landmark: The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris

Simon & Schuster: Recording for the Simon & Schuster and Simon Kids Fall Preview 2022

Soho Crime: Lady Joker, Volume 2 by Kaoru Takamura, translated by Allison Markin Powell and Marie Iida

Berkley Books: Once Upon a December by Amy E. Reichert; Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea; Where We End & Begin by Jane Igharo

Kensington Publishing Corporation: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

St. Martin's Press: Wild: The Life of Peter Beard: Photographer, Adventurer, Lover by Graham Boynton


Electronica vs. Print: Which Is More Environmentally Friendly?

Yesterday's letter challenging the idea that electronic catalogues are more environmentally friendly than printed catalogues prompted two strong responses.

David Wilk, owner of Booktrix, writes:

Some paper is made from renewable resources, but the energy cost, pollution cost and carbon impact of printed catalogues is very high. It's not just paper. There's also ink to be concerned with, and recycling has an energy and carbon cost. If you don't recycle, the paper and ink goes into landfills and causes pollution. Office papers are often coated stock and not biodegradable at all.

Using electronic documents will reduce paper use but will not by itself contribute to an increase in electronic device cost. Businesses already own computers for other business applications; therefore using the computer to read catalogues instead of paper does on its face reduce the pollution, energy and carbon contribution of catalogues.

Elizabeth Burton, executive editor of Zumaya Publications, writes:

Yes, paper is a renewable resource and biodegrades. Yes, electronics contain hazardous chemicals and metals, and far too many end up not in landfills but overseas where what amounts to slave labor, including children, are exposed to those chemicals and metals as they scavenge them.

But . . .

Each time a paper catalogue is printed, it uses those renewable resources again and again. And they don't biodegrade overnight, especially in modern landfills where, in fact, the breakdown of biodegradable materials can actually take longer than normal. Then you have to include the environmental impact of the printing process, the shipping process, the disposal process.

Each e-catalogue, on the other hand, goes to the same reading device each time it's published, so the resources used and abused by that device are spread over the life of the device.

The appropriate comparison, with regard to the environment, is printed catalogues as opposed to electronic catalogues, not the devices on which the e-catalogues are read. A study available at the Read an eBook Week site makes that comparison with essentially favorable results of print versus electronic.


Vintage: Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin


Notes: Store Closing; Scandalous Book Club; Wedding Reception

Another bookshop has fallen victim to the economic downturn. The Las Vegas Sun reported that Cheesecake and Crime, Henderson, Nev., will close February 28 because "owners Pam and Lendall Mains are no longer in a position of keeping the business afloat after depleting their personal savings and 401(k) accounts."

"We're not a big business," Pam said. "We had no big perks. No redecorating my office for a million dollars. None of that fun stuff."

In the spirit of the times, the Mains sent out a "bail-out" e-mail, asking for $100 donations to help save the store. They received $1,700 and some extra, supportive purchases, but not enough to turn things around.


Cool idea of the day: Bound to Be Read Books, Atlanta, Ga., hosts a Scandalous Book Club that meets quarterly "to discuss the most controversial books in publishing history, contrasting their relevance at the time they were published with social values of today."

On Sunday, February 15, the group discusses Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852. (When Abraham Lincoln met Stowe after the Civil War began, he is supposed to have remarked, "So this is the little lady who made this big war.")


Concerning our recent items about marriage proposals and engagement pictures in bookstores, Dawn Rennert, who has a weekly series called Spotlight on Bookstores on her blog, She Is Too Fond of Books, notes that the current post is very apropros. (The series is written by guest bloggers and highlights a store that he or she considers special. Shelf Awareness readers are invited to contribute.)

This week Caitlin Hamilton Summie, marketing director at Unbridled Books, recounts her wedding reception at the Tattered Cover LoDo store in Denver, Colo. Summie wrote in part: "Everybody was charmed. It was different, there was plenty of space, the building is old, and people from out of town got a real taste of the city. Book fans browsed the shelves. We never bothered the staff or customers. I'm not certain, unless you saw my husband and I squeak through the main doors, or heard the faint sound of jazz, that anyone would have ever known we were all there."


Who says there's no money in books these days? When Paul Schnitman moved last summer, he donated several books to the Friends of the Library Bookstore, Rockville, Md. Unfortunately, among them was a faux book with a hollowed-out center, in which his late brother had stored "more than $1,000," according to the Gazette.

"So I realized probably six weeks later that the book was missing and I went to the bookstore and magically someone had found it and turned it in," said Schnitman. "It was a relief and it's nice to know there's a Good Samaritan out there. I thank that person for being honest and turning the money in because they could have very easily kept it."


In an article headlined "The Little Red Bookshop," the Economist profiled Beijing's Utopia bookshop, "a refuge for China's leftists" where "the staff wear Mao badges." The store's manager "says the global economic crisis is proving good for business. More in China are beginning to question 'mainstream' economic thinking that favours open markets and private enterprise." A customer added, "Liberalism is bankrupt. Lots of mainstream economists have nothing to say now."


Michael Kazan, executive v-p and managing director of Verso Advertising, noted that the new Ingram Marketing Group, mentioned here yesterday, is not the only advertising and marketing agency devoted just to books and authors. "Verso Advertising has been devoted exclusively to the advertising and marketing needs of publishers for the past 20 years," he wrote. "And among our 30 or so publishing clients, there's never been a car dealership. Has always been and will always be so."


The Publishers Association of the West is seeking entries for its 25th annual PubWest Book Design Awards, which recognize "superior design and outstanding production quality of books" from publishers throughout North America.

For more information and an entry form, go to Winners will be honored at PubWest's national publishing conference, November 11-14, in Tucson, Ariz.


Beaming Books: Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman, illustrated by Deann Wiley

Sales: Excluding Wal-Mart, January General Retail Off 5.6%

In the no-surprise category, general retail sales in January fell between 1.6% and 1.8%, according to several indices. If sales at Wal-Mart, which rose 2.1%, are excluded, sales at general stores were down about 5.6%.

Describing the change in customer dynamics, Mike Moriarty of A.T. Kearney told the New York Times: "For the last 10 years, people bought cars and refrigerators and TVs like they were going grocery shopping. Now people are grocery shopping like they're buying a car."

The Times said that the most successful stores have been "the ones selling quality and name-brand essentials at low prices." Department stores and luxury chains have been hardest hit.

Other than Wal-Mart, sales at selected general retail stores open at least a year all fell: Costco was down 2%; Target fell 3.3%; Nordstrom was off 11.4%; Kohl's fell 13.4%; Penney dropped 16.4%; Sakes fell 23.7%.


Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job>

Image of the Day: Recipe for a Healthy Event

Last month at the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., Deborah Szekely (second from r.), who founded destination fitness resort and spa Rancho La Puerta in 1940, and chef Deborah Schneider (center) introduced their latest cookbook, Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta. Here they pose with Book Works staff after an afternoon of speaking and tastings.


Winter Institute, Part 5: Notes from the Conference

Our favorite line from a panelist:

"I'm Scottish, so I'm frugal. I'm really good with a penny."--Alison Reid, co-owner of DIESEL: A Bookstore, with three stores in California, speaking at the Surviving Tough Times session.


In the first week after going on last month, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association had 175% more hits to SoCalBookScene, according to SCIBA's Jennifer Bigelow. And another benefit: the move led one store publicist to convince her store to join SCIBA.


The first of what will likely be many public testimonials and farewells to American Booksellers Association CEO Avin Domnitz was made at lunch on Saturday by Gayle Shanks, president of the ABA. She said that after the announcement that Domnitz would be leaving the association in July, "people asked, 'Is he sick?' 'Did something happen?' 'Was he fired?' "

"No" to all of the above, Shanks answered emphatically. It's a matter of "change, which sometimes has to happen even when we don't want it to." She praised Domnitz for molding a staff and organization that provides "amazing services and does amazing work."

She said the ABA was "so lucky" to have Domnitz, "this man who was a lawyer who became a bookseller--down to his toenails."

For his part, Domnitz told the group that "some days I wish [this position] was over today. Most days, I think what the heck am I doing?

"I get to work with the greatest people in the world toward the end of keeping the written word alive. At the end of the day, I get to look in the mirror and hope we kept products of the human mind alive one more day to be transferred to another person or young human being--so a civilization and culture and people maybe get to survive another day."

Domnitz said that while practicing law in Wisconsin, "I had a dream of owning a little bookstore in Sausalito. But the commute would have been ridiculous." Eventually he became a bookseller and "had the privilege of working with the best bookseller in America, my partner, David Schwartz." As hard as leaving the ABA is, he said, "leaving Schwartz was harder."

In closing, he called booksellers "the greatest people in the world" and said, "You should not be thanking me. I should be thanking you for the privilege of doing what we do."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Kansas on Wall Street

Today on the Early Show: Steve Martin, author of Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life (Scribner, $15, 9781416553656/1416553657).


Tomorrow on the Today Show: Adriana Trigiani, author of Very Valentine (Harper, $25.99, 9780061257056/0061257052).


Tomorrow on NPR's A Chef's Table: Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781416575641/1416575642).


On CBS Sunday Morning: Reva Seth, author of First Comes Marriage: Modern Relationship Advice from the Wisdom of Arranged Marriages (Fireside, $14, 9781416561729/1416561722).


On Sunday on Weekend Edition: Dave Kansas, author of The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street as We Know It (Collins, $15.99, 9780061788406/0061788406).


Books & Authors

Awards: PROSE Winners

More than 35 winners of the 2008 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (the PROSE Awards) were celebrated yesterday at the annual conference of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, which are sponsored by the PSP Division. The top prize, the R.R. Hawkins Award, went to Harvard University Press for The Race Between Education & Technology by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz. The Hawkins Award recognizes "exceptional scholarly works in all disciplines of the arts and sciences, and is given for the most outstanding professional, reference, or scholarly work among the year's award winners."

For more information, go to


Book Brahmin: Dana Stabenow

Dana Stabenow was born in Anchorage and raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. She knew there was a warmer, drier job out there somewhere and found it in writing. Her first science fiction novel, Second Star, sank without a trace; her first crime fiction novel, A Cold Day for Murder, won an Edgar award; her first thriller, Blindfold Game, hit the New York Times bestseller list; and her 25th novel and 16th Kate Shugak novel, Whisper to the Blood, comes out this month from St. Martin's Minotaur.

On your nightstand now:

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson. I was raised in Alaska in a coastal village you could get to only by boat or plane, and we didn't have television, so I lose a lot when playing the Baby Boomer edition of Trivial Pursuit. This book is going to change all that. For example, I now know who Sky and his niece Penny are from Jimmy Buffet's "Pencil Thin Mustache." It's like Bryson is holding up a fun house mirror in front of the entire Me Generation. Very funny and at times just a little edgy, too.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Lion's Paw by Robb White. In World War II Florida, Ben, Penny and Nick run away on a sloop named the Hard-A-Lee, and they're not returning until they find a rare shell called a lion's paw and until Ben's father comes back from the South Pacific. After living five years off and on a fish tender, I was always looking for stories about kids on boats, but this would have been worth reading if I'd been raised in the 13th Arrondissement in Paris, France.

Your top five authors:

Nevil Shute, one of the best storytellers ever. He is best remembered for On the Beach and A Town Like Alice, but you have not experienced storytelling the way it's meant to be until you've read Trustee from the Toolroom or Round the Bend.

Betty MacDonald. Known for the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children's books, she also wrote The Egg and I, a hilarious account of a city girl marrying a chicken farmer in the Pacific Northwest in the years between world wars. She wrote three other books about her life, as well as a wonderful little juvenile gem called Nancy and Plum.

Georgette Heyer, mistakenly labeled a romance author. Her books are individual time travel machines straight back to Regency England, and no one has ever written better dialogue.

Robert Heinlein. He invented nuts-and-bolts science fiction, and his work has yet to be bettered. His young adult novels are his best work; they're dated, of course, by science as well as society, but they are still the best in the sf genre.

I'm having trouble with the fifth, mostly because I'm worried you won't believe me when I say Barbara Tuchman. Probably you'd rather hear me say Jane Austen. Well, I love Jane, too, but. A Distant Mirror was my first Tuchman, in which she writes about the 14th century in Europe using a minor French nobleman's life as her lens. It was a revelation. I didn't know learning about history could be this interesting, this riveting, this enjoyable! Why, these are people just like us, although with technology 700 years out of date, and they're facing a lot of the same kinds of problems we do. Who knew? Her prose is witty, acerbic, at times even downright exasperated ("Lord, what fools these mortals be!"), and always a delight to read.

Book you've faked reading:

This is going to sound oh so precious and I apologize, but I've never faked it. I generally do say right out loud in front of God and everybody if I can't get into a book.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri Tepper. A post-apocalyptic society reinvents itself so as to study war no more. I'm being as obscure as I possibly can because I don't want to ruin the "gotcha!" moment for you. I have made book clubs I don't even belong to read this book, and my science fiction-hating friend Janice now teaches it in her college-level English lit classes. The reactions this story provokes in group settings will surprise you.

Book you've bought for the cover:

In my life I have never bought a book for its cover.

Book that changed your life:

The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman.  She posits the existence of folly, defined as the pursuit of public policy contrary to self-interest. Freely translated, she explains how and why nations keep shooting themselves in the foot. She takes the Trojans bringing the horse inside the walls of Troy as her template, and goes on to talk about the Renaissance popes causing the Reformation, England losing the American colonies and the U.S. losing in Vietnam. When I looked up from the end of this book, I never saw the world, read the news, listened to the radio in the same way again. To this day, I can successfully apply her definition of "folly" to current events.

Favorite line from a book:

"What did I want? I wanted a Roc's egg . . .

"I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid.  I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be--instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is."

--Robert Heinlein, Glory Road

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. My freshman English teacher gave me these books in high school and I was up until 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. every night, under the proverbial blankets with the proverbial flashlight, until I'd finished them. I reread it every couple of years just so I can read parts of it out loud. God, what fabulous stuff! The work of epic fantasy to which all other fantasy novelists can only dream to aspire.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The Delicate Art of Reading in Public

The only straight line in Nature that I remember is the spider swinging down from a twig.

Emerson again. Our recent conversation here about e-books seems to prove his point, since responses to last week's column wandered nicely off topic in an intriguing way that proved irresistible. We'll get back to e-books, but this time we'll happily veer from the spider's straight line.

I had confessed that by reading Emerson in a supermarket checkout line on my iPod, I felt much less conspicuous and/or pretentious than I might have with a hardbound copy of the essays perched on the shopping cart handle.

Nicki Leone of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance raised a valid point: "I can't help but think that if more people read in public, it would stop being 'conspicuous.' And why 'pretentious?' What is it about our current culture that reading books in public feels pretentious, even to a book person?"

Great question. I've read a lot of articles about public readings, but fewer about reading in public. Without venturing too deeply into psychoanalysis, why do I feel self-conscious?

Here's my take on the issue: I was raised in an essentially non-reading, working-class home with a sports-obsessed father and four competitive brothers. We were groomed to be athletes, not academics. The fact that I was essentially the only obsessed reader in the family was never an issue, but even as a kid I saw reading as a deliciously private act of rebellion.

Some of this lives on, I'm sure, in my occasional self-consciousness about reading in public ("public" being a tricky word, since airplanes or subways, for example, seem less problematic because other people are reading, too). Part of this may just be vestiges of my hard-won battle for a reading life--nature over nurture.

Linda Barrett Knopp of Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, N.C., rationally suggested that "to be seen reading a book in public is neither pretentious nor conspicuous." Such an act is "a clear signal to this biased bookseller that a mind may be focused on something higher, educational, funny, who knows, but at least on something besides the tabloids near the register."

"I appreciate that within a non-reading family you would feel self-conscious," she added. "My mom read all the time and took me to the bookmobile (I still remember having my hands inspected by the librarian to see if they were clean enough to handle books) to borrow books every week. Reading was a great way to avoid family interaction, too, and tolerated by my parents, but watching too much TV, well that was more rude to them, and I still find it very odd when you go visit people and they keep their TV on while you talk. Like this intruder in the room just yakking at you. I was fortunate to have such encouragement in my early years and books still remain the most significant part of my life besides family."

Knopp also had some thoughts on the e-book/indie booksellers issue, which I'll share with you soon.

Novelist and memoirist Lev Raphael noted that he "always felt naked in public if I didn't have something to read with me--magazine, newspaper or most often, a book. Though we were poor when I grew up, there were always books in our house, and I rarely left home without one. Perhaps because I got used to being stared at in the 1960s for my longish hair, tie-dyed jeans, and peace regalia, I don't blanch today when I'm stared at in a doctor's office or airport lounge for my choice of reading material.  

"Back before it became acceptable to openly criticize George Bush, I was on a book tour and my choice that trip was admittedly provocative: The Lies of George W. Bush by David Corn. The book and I got lots of hostile stares, but I kept reading. Surprisingly, nobody said anything. When I was on the way to speak at Yale years before that, I was reading Kitty Kelley's Nancy Reagan biography and people actually said, 'How can you read that trash?' I replied that it was simply an update of Edith Wharton's The Custom of the Country."

How do you feel about reading in public?

Emerson again:

The art of writing consists in putting two things together that are unlike and that belong together like a horse & cart.

Me . . . reading Essays: First Series, even in a supermarket, even on an iPod.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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