Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Nightfire: At Nightfire, Halloween is 24/7! A new imprint dedicated to horror!

Duke University Press: Point of Reckoning: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University by Theodore D Segal

Scribner Book Company: Red Island House by Andrea Lee

Shadow Mountain: The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M Eden

News

NelsonFree: Buy the Book, Get the Audio and E-Book for Free

On selected titles, Thomas Nelson is taking up the idea discussed lately of linking the purchase of a traditional book and the audiobook and e-book versions of that book. Under the NelsonFree program, anyone who buys the traditional book will have free access online to a downloadable audio version of the book and downloadable e-book files of the book, including EPub, MobiPocket and PDF.

The first two NelsonFree titles appear later this month: Scott McKain's Collapse of Distinction and Michael Franzese's I'll Make You an Offer You Can't Refuse. Ten more titles will appear during the rest of the year.

In a statement, Joel Miller, publisher of Nelson's business and culture division, said, "The book is, in a sense, trapped by its format, and so is the consumer--locked into choosing one format over another or shelling out scarce funds for the same book in different wrappers. By freeing the book we free the reader to get greater use and enjoyment of our titles."

And Nelson president and CEO Michael S. Hyatt commented: "I believe that the industry is shifting and we, as publishers, need to explore new methods of getting our content into the hands of customers. NelsonFree will give readers a new level of value and flexibility. It will enhance their literary experience and allow greater employment of the content without breaking the bank."

Recently Bob Miller, founder of HarperStudio, has promoted the idea of making the audio and e-book versions of a traditional book available to buyers for an additional $2 or so.

 


Pamela Dorman Books: The Push by Ashley Audrain


Notes: Kindle Calls iPhone; Book Buzz

The Kindle on iPhone and iPod turns out not to be a vapor app.

Effective today, Amazon is offering a free app on Apple's store allowing the Kindle to be used on iPhones and iPods. The service will allow use only of Amazon e-books, which can be bought whether or not the reader has a Kindle.

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Speaking of books on the iPhone, in the past three months, books have grown the fastest of all iPhone applications measured by "number of unique applications," O'Reilly Radar reported. Some 60% of books on the app store sell for 99 cents or less, and 5% are free. The number of higher-priced books (defined as $10 or more) has grown from 2% of books available to 10%. (These statistics don't include the Kindle.)

Games do remain the most popular iPhone app, measured by number of apps and sales.

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Bookstore bliss online.

Replacing Costco, Barnes & Noble was No. 1 on Forrester Research's 2008 online customer experience rankings, Seeking Alpha reported. B&N was followed by Borders.com and Amazon.com.

The rankings were based on a survey of 4,600 customers and included 113 companies in 12 industries.

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On her Bookavore blog, Stephanie Anderson, manager of Word bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a new columnist at Shelf Awareness, observed that "very few indies (although there are notable exceptions) have done a solid job of harnessing their websites to really increase sales." This is a problem that will continue to grow, she went on, because "people who love to read tend to spend more time online--and most of online is littered with Amazon links. . . . Too many customers don't know that they can have essentially the same experience on your website, if you have one. They can have the instant gratification of BUY IT NOW and also support their favorite indie bookstore--why don't they know that? They can order a book online for in-store pickup, so they never have to worry if the book they want is in stock. They can have all the convenience of shopping online AND all the things they are telling you they love about our stores. Why aren't we telling them?"

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Four large publishers who say Anderson News owes them a combined $37.5 million have sued in federal court in New York City seeking to force the book and magazine wholesaler into bankruptcy, according to Reuters. The plaintiffs are Hachette, HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster.

Last month Anderson laid off at least 110 employees and effectively shut down (Shelf Awareness, February 18, 2009). At the beginning of February, Anderson and Source Interlink had raised prices to publishers by seven cents a magazine; in response, most publishers stopped shipping to them.

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A million little strikeouts.

Another memoir, Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy, about the author's summer "as an obscure minor league pitcher," appears to be more a work of the imagination than reality: the New York Times has effectively thrown Odd Man Out out of the game, writing that "statistics from that season, transaction listings and interviews with his former teammates indicate that many portions of the book are incorrect, embellished or impossible."

McCarthy, who is an intern at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital in New York City, has defended his story, which he said is based on detailed journals he kept while playing.

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More baseball fiction! Spring training is in full swing and the World Baseball Classic begins this week, so ESPN decided this was the perfect time to get in the satirical spirit of the season by showcasing an inspired, if fictional, collection of Yankee and Red Sox books for 2009.

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Vbuzz for Little Bee.

Chris Cleave, just beginning a two-week tour for Little Bee (Simon & Schuster), a bookseller favorite published here last month, has begun posting videos he's made at each stop. As he put it on his website, "Ever wondered what a book tour looks like from a writer's point of view? I'm filming my U.S. tour as I go along. I'm enjoying it and I hope you will too!" Check out his interviews with people in Milwaukee here.

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Today's New York Times surveyed the prospects for The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, the 983-page fictionalized memoir of an SS officer first published in France and released here just this week. The book is receiving strong reactions, some negative, others kindly.

Bookseller reactions vary. Barnes & Noble has ordered The Kindly Ones in "bestseller quantities." The book is a March Indie Next pick. Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., bought a "stackable" number of copies. (Buyer Stan Hynds said, "It's a controversial book, and we're going to offer it to our customers who are interested in it.")

On the other hand, Gerry Donaghy of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., told the Times that he had "made a very tempered, cautious buy. . . . It sounds like something where the curiosity factor might be really high. But on the other hand, it's: 'Do I have the time and emotional resources to invest in a 1,000-page book on the Holocaust that sounds like a transcription of Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom?' "

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For a twist on Twitter, check out a segment called Old Man Stewart Shakes his Fist at Twitter on the Daily Show Monday night. Shake this non-TinyURL.

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Finalists have been chosen for the first Indies Choice Book Awards, successors to the Book Sense Awards. Through the end of the month, owners and staff at all ABA member stores may vote for their favorites in the seven categories. Winners will be announced in April and be honored at the Celebration of Bookselling luncheon at BEA. See the finalists here.

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Cool Idea of the Day. Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz., is turning 35 in April, so it's throwing a party. But, the store noted in its newsletter to customers, the party is "not for ourselves. We're throwing a party for you, the same passionately dedicated community of readers that has supported us for all these years."

The party platform for Saturday, April 4:

  • 1-3 p.m. Martha Beck signs Steering by Starlight.
  • 2 p.m. Newbery-winner Susan Patron promotes her YA novel Lucky Breaks.
  • 6:30-8:30 p.m. Community Music Night, co-sponsored by Hoodlums Music & Movies. (Some 12 customers may make seven-minute musical presentations if their demos pass an audition.)

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With a headline we don't see much these days--"Business is brisk for indie booksellers as chains struggle"--the Chi-Town Daily News profiled two Chicago area bookstores in the wake of the announcement that Borders would close its South Michigan Avenue flagship store (Shelf Awareness, February 27, 2009).

"This Christmas, I enjoyed a stronger sales season than in years past," said Jim Mall, owner of Ravenswood Used Books. "This month has been kind of up and down, but overall, I think it's been above average."

Joe Judd, owner of Myopic Books, "reported steady sales from 2007 to 2008 . . . [and] was generally confident the bad economy wouldn't decrease his sales," the Daily News added.

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Spinning off a marketing strategy used by the band Radiohead two years ago to promote In Rainbows, Faber & Faber is "launching its own digital experiment, giving readers the chance to pay what they deem appropriate for historian Ben Wilson's latest book, fittingly titled What Price Liberty?" according to the Guardian, which noted that the book will be available for download April 27, six weeks before the publication date.

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Apparently taking the classic advice that one should "write what you know," former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich "plans to write a book 'exposing the dark side of politics,'" the Associated Press reported, adding that the book "will be published by Phoenix Books and released in October." Michael Viner strikes again.

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The Del Mar Times (and four other local papers) asked 10 questions of Lisa Stefanacci of the Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., who just marked her third year as owner. She noted that the store was founded "33 years ago by Milane Christiansen (so the store is 3 and 33). We're having a small staff party, and later in the month we're having a 3-33 celebration with the community--music, food, and a special: buy 3 books and get the third book at 33% off."

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Quayside Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minn., has launched a new imprint, MVP Books, which will publish books for sports enthusiasts. MVP's first titles going to bat this spring are: The New York Yankees and the Meaning of Life, The Boston Red Sox and the Meaning of Life, Dodgers Past & Present and St. Louis Cardinals Past & Present. The imprint will also expand into fitness and health how-to subjects.

Josh Leventhal, publisher of MVP Books, said the imprint aims "to create books that offer something beyond what is available through other media." The titles may be "a lavishly illustrated coffee-table-style book celebrating the history of a favorite team or sport, an in-depth account of a pivotal athlete or event, or an essential reference guide to keep handy while watching your favorite sport on TV or at the stadium."

Quayside's Voyageur Press imprint has published several popular regional sports books, including Green Bay Packers, Rebound!, Herb Brooks, Sid Hartman's Great Minnesota Sports Moments, Chicago Cubs Yesterday & Today and The Surfboard.

 


GLOW: Hanover Square Press: The Jigsaw Man (Inspector Anjelica Henley Thriller) by Nadine Matheson


Creative Customer Programs at Reader's Cove

If you write down your New Year's resolution and share it with others, are you more likely to accomplish it? Reader's Cove in Fort Collins, Colo., believes so and is encouraging customers to share their resolutions and post them on a bulletin board. On April 21, participants are invited to the store to report on their progress. If they achieved their goal (or at least acknowledge that they worked on it), they will be entered into a drawing to win prizes for themselves and also have books donated to local charities in their name.

The idea for encouraging customers to keep their New Year's resolutions was inspired by a requirement that Reader's Cove owner Charles Kaine has for employees, each of whom is asked to share with their colleagues a personal goal they're working on. One staffer is quilting a blanket for her son's birthday, and another is saving money for a trip to Ireland. "We hold each other accountable the same way as if it were a job assignment," Kaine said. (The other job requirements are performing at least two hours of volunteer service per month at a nonprofit of the employee's choosing and--to aid in handselling--reading a monthly book selection and giving an account of it at a staff meeting.)

Inspiring self-improvement isn't the only clever endeavor at Reader's Cove. One of Kaine's favorites is a program dubbed Gift Card Amnesty. The store will exchange a gift card from any other store for one of its own. Customer trade-ins have ranged from Barnes & Noble, Borders, Target and Wal-Mart cards to golf and spa gift certificates. Kaine uses some of them to purchase necessities like office and cleaning supplies, display items for the store and even tropical-print shirts, which are worn by the staff to complement the store's Caribbean theme. Other gift cards are used as employee incentives or given away to nonprofits for silent auctions and other purposes.

Kaine doesn't mind that he takes a loss on the exchanges. "It's a great marketing tool," he said. "I get customers who are loyal to us and who are likely to come back because they've seen that people who really care can make a difference in the shopping experience."

Young customers are not left out at Reader's Cove, either. Along with a 25-foot pirate ship to man in the children's section, they'll soon have a time machine, the centerpiece of the store's second annual Great Summer Reading Race. Kids who read five books during the course of the summer receive a $5 gift card to purchase a page-turner of their choice. "They have to prove they've actually read each book and participated with it," Kaine said. Depending on age, they can do a written summary or draw a picture of a favorite character or scene. Some of last year's 450 participants even made models and wrote short stories in response to the books they read. In all more than 1,700 book reports were turned in. A weekly event ties in with the reading extravaganza, which "turned out to be a wonderful experience," said Kaine. "It was something that parents could count on for their kids to do on a Tuesday afternoon."

For each book report turned in, kids accrue points for their school. The school that has the most points at the end of the summer receives $1,000 worth of books for its media center. Despite the substantial number of participants last year, only a handful of schools had coordinated efforts. "Delivering the books to the winner made the other schools sit up and take notice," said Kaine, and this year he expects them to actively promote the program to kids and parents.

Kaine sees the creative customer- and community-oriented programs as integral to the store's continued success. "The unfortunate reality is that there are too many reasons for people not to come back and shop with us. We need to make it so they want to come back." Kaine was recently on the receiving end of another business's marketing outreach. A company looking to make commercials offered to create one for the store at no charge--and send potential clients to the store's website to view their handiwork.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

 


University of California Press: Beethoven, a Life (1st ed.) by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jesus, Interrupted

Today on Fresh Air: Bart Ehrman, author of Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them) (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780061173936/0061173932).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Dave Zinczenko, author of Eat This Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution (Rodale, $19.95, 9781605298382/1605298387).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: John Haskell, author of Out of My Skin (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $14, 9780374299095/0374299099). As the show put it: "An existential novel (think Camus' The Stranger) L.A.-style. When a celebrity impersonator trains the hero (named Jack Haskell, strangely enough) in the art of impersonation, identity confusion ensues. The real John Haskell on the subject of finding the true self."

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Tomorrow on Oprah: Kent Whitaker, author of Murder by Family: The Incredible True Story of a Son's Treachery and a Father's Forgiveness (Howard Books, $22.99, 9781416578130/1416578137).

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Tomorrow on All Things Considered: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, author of Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption (St. Martin's, $25.95, 9780312376536/0312376537).

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air (Riverhead, $25.95, 9781594488528/1594488525).

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No book involved here, but for fans: tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Jon Stewart.

 


Berkley Books: Dangerous Women by Hope Adams


Movies: Bad End for My Sister's Keeper?

The shocking conclusion of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper has been a hot topic among her fans since the novel was first published. But USA Today reported that some of those same fans are organizing a protest against the film adaptation of the book that reportedly features a different ending.

The movie, which stars Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin and will be released June 26, inspired Lauren Kobren, 16, of Jericho, N.Y., to start "a Facebook group called 'Save My Sister's Keeper!!' with more than 1,600 members. She started the group after attending a reading last year during which Picoult said the ending had been changed."

Although Picoult hasn't seen the movie yet, she did read the script and commented, "Having the ending changed would certainly not have been my choice. I wrote the ending very intentionally because I wanted to leave the reader with a certain message. And changing that ending changes that message. However, I am excited to see the movie and to judge it on its strengths."

 


Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, March 10:

Hunted by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (St. Martin's Griffin, $17.95, 9780312379827/031237982X) is part five of the young adult supernatural series House of Night.

The Book of Love by Kathleen McGowan (Touchstone, $25.99, 9780743299978/0743299973) follows a woman who discovers a lost gospel claiming Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.

Life Sentences: A Novel by Laura Lippman (Morrow, $24.99, 9780061128899/0061128899) explores the past of a successful memoirist whose childhood friends reject her published version of events.

A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond between Two Friends and a Lion
by Anthony Bourke, John Rendall and George Adamson (Broadway, $21.95, 9780767932301/0767932307) chronicles the emotional reunion of a lion in Africa with the two men who raised it in London.

A Saint on Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green
by Thomas Cahill (Nan A. Talese, $18.95, 9780385520195/0385520190) explores racism in the U.S. justice system and the inherent flaws of capital punishment through the sentencing of a young man to death row after a fatal shooting in Texas.


Now in paperback:

Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life
by Neil Strauss (Harper, $16.99, 9780060898779/0060898771).

 



Book Review

Book Review: Gimme Shelter

Gimme Shelter by Mary Elizabeth Williams (Simon & Schuster, $26.00 Hardcover, 9781416557081, March 2009)


 
At the leading edge of what is sure to be a tidal wave of books examining every aspect of the mortgage meltdown, freelance journalist Mary Elizabeth Williams offers a highly entertaining account of her own family's quest to become homeowners at the height of the real estate bubble madness. In 2003, at the beginning of what would become an exhausting three-year process, Williams was gripped by the same desire shared by so many other middle-class families looking to turn their dreams of ownership into reality. "Of course I want a home," she writes. "I'm American; it's encoded in my DNA." Although their incomes were modest, Williams and her husband had excellent credit and savings to draw from. They gave themselves a $400,000 budget, which seems like a reasonable amount until one considers that they were looking for a home in New York City.

Although it afforded zero privacy (there was only one door--in the bathroom) and a kitchen so small she had to turn sideways to open the oven, Williams loved the Brooklyn apartment she shared with her husband and their two small daughters and wanted to stay in the neighborhood. So she traversed the borough, looking at apartments that were unpainted, filthy, miniscule, roofless, unheated and downright dangerous; all of which were well north of her price range. 'It's not the apartment for us," she writes of one hovel. "This is the skank pit you retreat to after the divorce, the apartment where you have a leftover sub for breakfast and Klonopin for dinner, with an inappropriate hookup for a chaser." Williams realized that buying anything bigger than a shoebox in Brooklyn was going to be impossible and so broadened her search to Nyack and then to the outer reaches of Manhattan. When they finally found an apartment in Inwood that they could afford, Williams and her husband had to go through a series of Kafkaesque financial and social machinations to buy it, leaving them wiped out in every way.
 
Although Williams writes with some hindsight, it was impossible for her not to see--even at the time--that the housing bubble was bound to burst. The inflated prices, unchecked greed and shady mortgage deals that Williams encountered were huge red flags warning of what was to come, and she describes it all with wit, intelligence and a great deal of insight. Most poignantly, Williams illustrates how deep is the need to have a place of one's own--and how far we will go to get it.--Debra Ginsberg
 
Shelf Talker:  An insightful and often laugh-out-loud funny account of the author's quest to buy a home in New York City just as the real estate bubble was about to burst.
 
 

The Bestsellers

Chicagoland's Favorite Books Last Week

The following were the bestselling titles at independent bookstores in the Chicago area during the week ended Sunday, March 1:

Hardcover Fiction
 
1. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
3. The Associate by John Grisham
4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. The Women by T.C. Boyle
 
Hardcover Nonfiction
 
1. Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey
2. Yes We Can by Scout Tufankjian
3. Born to Be Hurt by Sam Staggs
4. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
5. Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafsis
 
Paperback Fiction
 
1. The Elegance of the Hedghog by Muriel Barbery
2. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
4. The Reader by Bernard Schlink
5. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
 
Paperback Nonfiction
 
1. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
2. Nudge by Richard Thaler
3. Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
4. The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin
5. Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
 
Children's
 
1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Do It Yourself by Jeff Kinney
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
4. Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems
5. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer 

 

Reporting stores: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Unabridged Books; Women and Children First, Chicago

[Thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]

 


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