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George Packer on Amazon's Secrecy and Isolation
In a post on the New Yorker's website, George Packer discusses the perils of Amazon's penchant for secrecy, a company-wide approach he encountered when working on "Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?" his 12,000-word story in the current issue. (See our synopsis here.)
"I was naïve about tech companies until I started reporting on them," Packer writes. "They turn out to be at least as closed as companies in other industries. This seems backwards--aren't they filled with hardcore libertarians who want an end to privacy as we've known it, a more open and connected world? Apparently for everyone except themselves. And perhaps a sector that monetizes information is more likely to become obsessed with protecting it than if the product were oil or cars. But even in this atmosphere, Amazon is reflexively, absurdly secretive--only giving the absolute minimum information required by law or P.R. In response to a host of fact-checking questions, many of the company's answers were along the lines of 'We don't break out that number externally,' 'We do not share Kindle sales figures,' and 'As a general practice, we don't discuss our business practices with publishers or other suppliers.' "
Packer argues that "a culture of secrecy is bound to end up harming the institution itself, especially when it's firmly under the control of one leader, as Amazon is under Jeff Bezos. Without some permeability to the outside world, groupthink takes over, bad habits become entrenched, and a company, like a government, is slow to recognize problems that are apparent to everyone else. I saw this happening with American officials in Iraq, holed up in the Embassy in the middle of the Green Zone and beguiled by their own data points while the country outside spiraled down in flames."
Furthermore, "Amazon is up to its neck in the world of culture, where nothing good can be done without a little light and air. The fact that Bezos visited his newspaper [the Washington Post] last month with more stealth than George W. Bush flying into Baghdad--a visit that was so well hidden even from people at the famously wide-open Post that I managed to break the story in these pages--struck me as particularly bizarre. Why not just show up? Because secrecy is in Amazon's marrow. I'm certain that, sooner or later, this is going to create problems for Bezos's newspaper, and I'm fairly sure that one reason for the failure of Amazon's trade-publishing arm has to do with its isolation from the larger publishing world. If editors can't gossip, speak to reporters, and pick up intel, they're less likely to spot new talent and incubate ideas. They're also less likely to be trusted by writers. Book culture and non-disclosure agreements are inimical."
(thanks to Shelf Awareness)
THE FOLIO PRIZE - Final Eight
The eight books in contention for this year’s (the fist year) prize are:
A Mixed Bag of Results for the Holidays for B&N
Barnes & Noble sales for the holiday period (nine weeks ended December 28) were quite mixed, as Nook division revenues continued to fall substantially, dropping 60.5%, while bricks-and-mortar stores appeared to stem their sales declines of the past few years, with sales down 6.6%,and down just 0.2% when Nook products are excluded. Digital content sales were down 27.3%, because of "lower device unit sales and lower average selling prices."
The Nook has been hit by several difficult trends: lower e-book prices, in part because of the Justice Department suit; the dominance of tablets over dedicated e-reading devices, where B&N can barely compete; and a slowdown in the growth in popularity of e-books. B&N said that its share of the e-book market is about 20%, down from previous years' estimates of about 25%.
NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE ANNOUNCES ITS FINALISTS FOR 2013
The awards will be presented on March 13.
Sonali Deraniyagala, WAVE
Aleksandar Hemon, THE BOOK OF MY LIVES
Rebecca Solnit, THE FARAWAY NEARBY
Jesmyn Ward, MEN WE REAPED
Amy Wilentz, FAREWELL, FRED VOODOO: A LETTER FROM HAITI
Scott Anderson, LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST
Leo Damrosch, JONATHAN SWIFT: HIS LIFE AND HIS WORLD
John Eliot Gardiner, BACH: MUSIC IN THE CASTLE OF HEAVEN
Linda Leavell, HOLDING ON UPSIDE DOWN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF MARIANNE MOORE
Mark Thompson, BIRTH CERTIFICATE: THE STORY OF DANILO KIS
Hilton Als, WHITE GIRLS
Mary Beard, CONFRONTING THE CLASSICS: TRADITIONS, ADVENTURES AND INNOVATIONS
Jonathan Franzen, THE KRAUS PROJECT: Essays by Karl Kraus, translated and annotated by
Jonathan Franzen with Paul Reiter and Daniel Kehlmann
Janet Malcolm, FORTY-ONE FALSE STARTS: ESSAYS ON ARTISTS AND WRITERS
Franco Moretti, DISTANT READING
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, AMERICANAH
Alice McDermott, SOMEONE
Javier Marias, THE INFATUATIONS
Ruth Ozeki, A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING
Donna Tartt, THE GOLDFINCH
Kevin Cullen and Shelley Murphy, WHITEY BULGER: AMERICA’S MOST WANTED GANGSTER AND THE MANHUNT THAT BROUGHT HIM TO JUSTICE
Sherri Fink, FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: LIFE AND DEATH IN A STORM-RAVAGED HOSPITAL
David Finkel, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE
George Packer, THE UNWINDING: AN INNER HISTORY OF THE NEW AMERICA
Lawrence Wright, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY, HOLLYWOOD AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF
Frank Bidart, METAPHYSICAL DOG
Lucie Brock-Broido, STAY, ILLUSION
Denise Duhamel, BLOWOUT
Bob Hicok, ELEGY OWED
Carmen Gimenez Smith, MILK AND FILTH
Finalists Announced for the Story Prize
The Story Prize, which recognizes books of short fiction, has named Andrea Barrett (Archangel), Rebecca Lee (Bobcat), and George Saunders (Tenth of December) as the three finalists for the 2013 prize.
The winner will be named at the Story Prize's annual event, taking place at The New School in New York City on March 5. He or she will receive $20,000, and the two runners-up will take home $5,000.
E-Books Sales Down 3.4% Through October
In October, total net book sales rose 3.8%, to $902.7 million, compared to October 2012, representing sales of 1,205 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers.
For the year to date, total net book sales have risen 0.9%, to $12.4 billion.
The most striking figures have to do with tepid e-book sales. For the month, e-book sales rose 4.5%, to $127 million, while for the year to date, e-book sales are down 3.4%, to $1.287.3 billion.
Children's/YA e-book sales, which fell 34.9%, to $136.3 million, for the year to date, accounted for the drop.
Other e-book categories rose slightly in the first 10 months of 2013: adult e-books, up 2.2%, to $1.0889 billion; religious e-books, up 2.5%, to $52.4 million.
Funny how everyone seemed "sure" that e-books would bury real books and nobody would be publishing those "paper relics" after 2012 or 2013. I love this. - John
John's Favorite Books Read and Movies Seen in 2013
1 A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
2 Beautiful Ruins - Jess Walter
3 Bellman & Black - Diane Setterfield
4 TransAtlantic - Colum McCann
5 Goat Mountain - David Vann
6 Wish You Were Here - Graham Swift
7 Time After Time - Kate Atkinson
8 The Burgess Boys - Elizabeth Strout
9 One Last Thing Before I Go - Jonathan Tropper
10 Dirty Love - Andre Dubus III
1 Hothouse - Boris Kachka
2 Levels of Life - Julian Barnes
3 The Dude and the Zen Master - Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman
4 How Literature Saved My Life - David Shields
5 Remarkable Reads - edited by J. Peder Zane
6 Good Prose - Tracy Kidder & Richard Todd
7 Both Flesh and Not - David Foster Wallace
8 Merchants of Culture - John Thompson
1 Blue Jasmine
2 The Prisoners
3 Side Effects
4 American Hustle
The Best of the Best Books List: 2013 Critics’ Top Picks (from Daily Beast)
What do critics think are the year’s top books? No need to take our word for what to read or give—we’ve aggregated everyone’s lists (40 of them) to give you a ranked ultimate guide. Every December, the Internet is flooded with year-end best of lists. As we do every year, we tabulated the critics’s lists—40 of them, including Book Beast’s own—tallying up how many times each book was cited as one of the year’s best.
1. Tenth of December: Stories by George Saunders
2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
3. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
4. The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
5. (tie) The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
5. (tie) The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
7. (tie) The Circle by Dave Eggers
7. (tie) The Son by Philip Meyer
7. (tie) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
10. (tie) Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon
10. (tie) The Signature of All Things by Elisabeth Gilbert
10. (tie) The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
1. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
2. (tie) Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
2. (tie) Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward
4. (tie) Gabriele d’Annunzio: Poet, Seducer, and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallet
4. (tie) Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee
6. (tie) Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of
Safety by Eric Schlosser
6. (tie) Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
6. (tie) The Unwinding by George Packer
6. (tie) Thank You for Your Service by David Finkel
6. (tie) Margaret Thatcher: From Grantham to the Falklands by Charles Moore
6. (tie) Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air by Richard Holmes
10. (tie) Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
10. (tie) The Book of My Lives by Aleksandar Hemon
10. (tie) The Bully Pulpit: : Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of
Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Lists we looked at: The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Entertainment Weekly (Fiction), Entertainment Weekly (Fiction), Publishers Weekly, Newsday, Esquire, The Observer’s Books of the Year, The Observer’s Books of the Year, The Guardian (Politics), The Guardian (Music), The Guardian (Food), The Guardian (Crime and Thrillers), The Guardian (Fiction), The Observer’s Books of the Year, The Guardian (Writers and Critics), Time (Fiction), Time (Non-Fiction), The Telegraph (Fiction), The Telegraph (History), The Telegraph (Biography), The Telegraph (Politics), Jonathan Yardley, Maureen Corrigan (NPR), Kathryn Schultz (New York Magazine), The Economist, Barnes and Noble (Non-Fiction), Barnes and Noble (Fiction), Slate, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, The New Republic, The Kansas City Star, The Washington Post, Forbes, The Christian-Science Monitor, Vogue, Flavorwire and Lucas Wittmann (The Daily Beast)
NEW YORK TIMES - The 10 Best Books of 2013
AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
THE FLAMETHROWERS by Rachel Kushner.
THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt.
LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson.
TENTH OF DECEMBER Stories by George Saunders.
AFTER THE MUSIC STOPPED The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead
by Alan S. Blinder.
DAYS OF FIRE Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker.
FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink.
THE SLEEPWALKERS How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark.
WAVE by Sonali Deraniyagala.
Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPrint Books Still Preferred by Readers
A new study from Ricoh Americas Corporation shows that readers continue to prefer printed books over e-books. Consumers cited lack of eye strain, the look and feel of paper, and the opportunity to physically shelve printed books as the reasons they are preferred.
... 60% of e-books downloaded in the United States are not read
... Printed textbooks are preferred by college students over e-books because they lead to stronger concentration and offer fewer distractions
... Publishers derive just 20-30 percent of revenues from e-books
“I never thought anything so powerful could come out of that little toad,” Joan Baez once said after hearing Dylan play her “With God on Our Side,” according to Positively 4th Street by David Hajdu.
I will just remind you about this from time to time.
The details are still being pulled together, but it could be exciting.
TIME Magazine Top 10
1. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
2. Tenth of December - George Saunders
3. The Flamethrowers - Rachel Kushner
4. The Lowland - Jhumpa Lahiri
5. The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert
6. NOS4A2 - Joe Hill
7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
8. The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
9. Lexicon - Max Barry
10. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth - Isabel Greenberg
1. Book of Ages - Jill Lepore
2. Command and Control - Erik Schlosser
3. The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin
4. Forty-One False Starts - Janet Malcolm
5. The Book of My Lives - Aleksandar Hemon
6. Five Days at Memorial - Sheri Fink
7. Going Clear - Lawrence Wright
8. Men We Reaped - Jesmyn Ward
9. Falling Upwards - Richard Holmes
10. The Selected Letters of Willa Cather - edited by Andrew Jewell and Janis Stout
Publishers Weekly - Top 10 Books of 2013
Sea of Hooks - Lindsay Hill
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief - Lawrence Wright
Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield - Jeremy Scahill
Men We Reaped: A Memoir - Jesmyn Ward
The People in the Trees - Hanya Yanagihara
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery - Robert Kolker
Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance - Carla Kaplan
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Anthony Marra
The Silence and the Roar - Nihad Sirees, trans. by Max Weiss
The Good Lord Bird - James McBride
Author Sherman Alexie celebrating "Indies First" at Secret Garden Bookshop in Seattle, Wash. on November 30, "Small Business Saturday." Alexie inspired the initiative by challenging writers across the country to act as booksellers on the day designated for shopping small businesses.
Last report I saw said that there were going to be more than 1,000 authors working in more than 400 bookstores across the country, all because of Alexie. — John
Are Book Machines the Right Fit for Indies?
Since On Demand Books’s introduction of an Espresso Book Machine at BookExpo America in 2007, general independent booksellers have been mesmerized by the possibilities of what was promoted as “an ATM for books,” a machine that would allow them to keep every book available in stock. But the reality of the book machine, which at one time cost as much as $185,000 and now retails for less than half that, or $85,000, continues to be less certain. Since January 2008, when Northshire Books in Manchester Center, Vt., became the first U.S. bookstore to get an EBM, nicknamed "Lurch," only a baker’s dozen of U.S. independent booksellers have bought, leased, or brought in a book machine through a concession arrangement.
Over the past six months, four independents have quietly returned their machines. Lurch is no longer at Northshire, neither is “the Beast” at Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., or concession machines at Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif., or R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn.
Altogether, there are just over 80 EBMs at locations worldwide, and that figure includes independent and university bookstores, libraries, and chains.
- from Publishers Weekly
Amazon and the "Absence of Serendipity'
"Which brings me to Amazon. I do indeed like it if I know what it is that I want to buy. Various bits and pieces of electronics have been purchased over the years. But I find it an intensely irritating way to buy a book. Cheap, yes, convenient, most assuredly, but intensely irritating. For I'm almost never going out to buy a book that I know that I want to read. I am, rather, browsing to try and find one that I do want to read.... And try as I might I cannot gain that same experience from Amazon, the recommendation engine (at least the level of my knowledge about the actual use of computers) doesn't manage to replicate that experience."
--from Tim Worstall in his Forbes magazine column headlined "The Absence of Serendipity, or, Why I Hate Shopping at Amazon."
A Few Catch-Up Items (from Shelf Awareness)
James Patterson Plans to Give Indies $1 Million
Author James Patterson plans to give a total of $1 million to independent bookstores in the next year. His main criteria are the stores be "viable" and have a children's section.
Here he answers questions about the program that we put to him this week.
Why are you giving $1 million to independent bookstores?
I've become very concerned about the reading habit in America. I think e-books are a terrific development, but I don't think we as a society are really thinking through the implications of our changing retail landscape. I fundamentally believe our way of life is at risk if bookstores disappear. This effort to help independents will hopefully be something of a shot in the arm for the book business. We need to do more than talk about this juncture. We need to do something about it.
You've said these grants could be of many sizes. Do you imagine that you will be helping many stores with smaller gifts rather than helping a few stores with larger gifts?
We're going to help as many stores as possible, and to do so as fairly as possible. I'd also like to prioritize stores that sell--or mean to sell--children's books. Because, of course, that's so often where the reading habit is forged, and where lives can really be saved.
Will you seek the help of any organizations (like the American Booksellers Association) or people to help make decisions and to help in the process?
I'm a huge fan of the ABA. I do hope they help with the effort, and I'm sure more connections will help on a store-by-store basis. With this program, I'm looking to create something that I could possibly repeat in future years if it moves the needle, changes our habits.
Could you comment on the excited reception many booksellers have already given to your plan?
It's very heartening. The more attention to the issue, the better. I feel it's a very reasonable goal to reinvigorate books and reading in our lives. It just needs to be treated as the critical issue it is, or it will continue to be ignored.
What else besides this program--in a more general way--do you think would help independent bookstores?
This is a must: parents have to take responsibility for their whole family's reading. They can't rely on teachers to instill the habit in kids. Parents have to make an activity out of visiting the bookstore, introducing everyone to how powerful it is to be in that environment. We have to teach our children that reading is the key to a successful life, but we also have to teach them that supporting the local booksellers, bolstering the kinds of businesses we want to see in our own communities, is everyone's responsibility. If we don't teach our children to be good citizens, good neighbors, good readers and thinkers, then I fear for the future of our country, and our children.
Bay Books in San Ramon, California is for Sale
Bay Books, which sells new, used and rare books, is for sale. Owner Diane Van Tassell described the store, which was founded in 1988 and is located in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco, this way: "The store is located in Diablo Plaza, a major shopping center of the city, at the corner of two major surface streets, which is just a block from the freeway. The 4,380-square-foot store is bordered by a UPS store and Weight Watchers. There are acres of off-street parking immediately in front of our door.
"Many of our customers are families that bring their young children to our large children's section that is stocked with educational children's toys in addition to the books. We have regular author events and host an in-house book club that meets monthly in the store. The owners are looking to retire."
Affluent San Ramon has a population of "about 75,000, and it is growing at the rate of 6% per year. A business park that is less than a mile from the store is home to major corporations, including the world headquarters of the world's third largest oil company, Chevron."
Google Book-Scanning Lawsuit Dismissed
Google won dismissal of a long-running lawsuit by the Authors Guild, which had accused the company of digitally copying millions of books for an online library without permission.
U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan "accepted Google's argument that its scanning of more than 20 million books, and making 'snippets' of text available online, constituted 'fair use' under U.S. copyright law." If it survives an appeal, the decision would let Google continue to expand its digital library. "In my view, Google Books provide significant public benefits," Chin wrote in his decision. "Indeed, all society benefits."
Paul Aiken, Authors Guild executive director, said, "We disagree with and are disappointed by the court’s decision today. This case presents a fundamental challenge to copyright that merits review by a higher court. Google made unauthorized digital editions of nearly all of the world’s valuable copyright-protected literature and profits from displaying those works. In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of fair use defense. We plan to appeal the decision."
This is fair use? Copy all these books, without publisher or author approval, then put some of the content up on your website and charge advertisers BIG MONEY to place ads beside them. The digital free-for-all continues, all with the argument that if we can do it — we must do it — until the authors can't make a living. Bullshit. — John
More Than 700 Authors to Take Part in Indies First (November 30)
With the celebration of Indies First on November 30 just two weeks away, authors are continuing to sign up to work at independent bookstores across the country. To date, more than 700 authors will be handselling their favorite titles at over 400 bookstores as part of the grassroots movement launched by author Sherman Alexie on September 1.
Last week, the American Booksellers Association launched an interactive map of participating Indies and their visiting authors.
This sounds like a fascinating addition to Indies First. — John
Fifty Shades’ Book Has Herpes
Two professors in Belgium performed toxicology and bacterial screenings on the ten most popular books at the Antwerp library. The infamous erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey tested positive for the herpes virus. The professors say the concentrations of the virus weren't high enough to create a public health risk or to contract it by touching the book. In addition, all ten books contained traces of cocaine. Not enough that people would get high, but enough that they might test positive for the drug.
This sounded like a most interesting library. — John
Amazon and USPS Strike Deal for Sunday Delivery (from the ABA's Bookselling This Week)
On Monday, November 11, Amazon.com announced that it had struck a deal with the United States Postal Service that will enable the online retailers to offer Amazon Prime customers Sunday delivery. The Sunday service is already open to Prime customers in New York City and Los Angeles. Ironically, Amazon made the announcement on a day that USPS was closed.
USPS noted that under the program it will for the first time deliver packages at regular rates on a Sunday, whereas previously, consumers had to pay an extra fee for delivery on that day. Sunday delivery is expected to branch out to the rest of the country next year. Much of the media coverage of the new agreement focused on whether the partnership with Amazon would help the cash-strapped agency with its turnaround efforts.
While many business pundits hailed the move as a win-win for both parties, ABA CEO Oren Teicher took issue with the USPS playing favorites with one retailer.
“We find it disconcerting that a quasi-government agency would enter into a special business arrangement with one private corporation in a field with many competitors,” said Teicher. “The postal service’s role is not to pick favorites among competitors but to provide equal access for all retailers looking to take advantage of its delivery infrastructure. Considering that state governments already subsidize online retailers like Amazon.com by allowing them to sell into the state without collecting and remitting sales tax — thereby placing Main Street retailers at an unfair disadvantage — news of an arrangement like this, at the start of the holiday season no less, simply adds insult to injury. Moreover, allowing a private corporation to purchase the services of a government agency without a thoroughly transparent and open process sets a very dangerous precedent. We hope Congress will take a good hard look at this.”
The Evil Empire moves on to governmental control. — John
I'm just Amazed at the Size of these Numbers
An arbitrator has concluded that Starbucks must pay $2.76 billion to settle a dispute with Kraft over coffee distribution. The two companies had been locked in a fight for three years after Starbucks fired Kraft as its distributor of packaged coffee to grocery chains. The arbitrator determined that Starbucks must pay $2.23 billion in damages and $527 million in attorney fees.
It's only money ... just don't be too surprised when Starbucks coffee prices rise. — John
The following is such an Evil Use of Language
- Everything will be Better with Fewer People Helping Customers — John
Follett Lays Off 10% of College Store Staff (from Publishers Weekly)
Follett Higher Education Group, which operates more than 800 college stores across the country, laid off approximately 600 employees, or about 10% of its store staff.
In a company-wide memo reproduced on thelayoff.com, Bob Scholl, senior v-p, retail operations, of the Follett Higher Education Group, said that the "important Follett initiative" was taken in part to "improve the experience of our customers" and "deliver the hassle-free shopping experience that our customers expect." With the firings, he explained, "we are adjusting our store staffing model to put more hours on the sales floor whenever students are shopping most. This involves shifting our ratio of full-time hourly and part-time store positions, and following scheduling practices to ensure our stores are always staffed at the busiest times. This shift gives us more scheduling flexibility each day, week and year. The result will be more customer-facing labor hours in our campus stores, generating more selling opportunities with increased customer satisfaction."
He acknowledged that being let go "will impact the associates in positions we are converting." The company is encouraging those former full-time employees to apply for part-time work and is offering cash severance and outplacement assistance and counseling.
Scholl called the layoffs "part of Follett's much broader and comprehensive transformation, which is reflected in the fact that we've invested more than $200 million in technology, distribution, digital content and ecommerce over the last three years alone. These investments are creating more efficiency at the store level, allowing us to deliver even more hours of store service and support when students and faculty expect it."
On thelayoff.com, current and former Follett employees said that the severance agreements include a clause prohibiting them from making negative comments about Follett on social media and, in some cases, required employees to attest that their firing was voluntary--meaning that they would be unable to obtain unemployment benefits.
Neil Gaiman: 8 Good Writing Practices (from an interesting article in the Guardian)
2. Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.
3. Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.
4. Put it aside. Read it pretending you've never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.
5. Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right.
When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.
6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.
7. Laugh at your own jokes.
8. The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But its definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
It was so great to see Maurice Sendak as a guest on The Colbert Report months ago. Not surprising, when Sendak got the call about appearing on the show, he'd never heard of Colbert. But then he enjoyed being on the show so much that he asked to be a regular guest. He wanted to be Colbert's movie critic, with one stipulation: He would only review movies he hadn't seen. Colbert loved the idea. (Unfortunately Sendak's health declined before they could make it so.)
Indies: 'Final Plank in the Bridge' Between Writer & Reader
"Every decade, it seems, has featured a major challenge to the independent bookseller. We manage by being very selective. The craft of bookselling lies, not so much in reacting to the marketplace as in developing it by representing, on our shelves, a point of view that sets us apart. As independent booksellers, we build the final plank in the bridge that connects the writer to the reader....
"There has been a resurgence of the independent bookstore in diverse communities throughout the United States. A new generation of booksellers is establishing new bookstores or is taking over currently existing stores. The independent bookstore has become important not just for the curatorial practices described previously but also for the central role it plays as a communal gathering spot."
- Paul Yamazaki, principal book buyer at City Lights, San Francisco, in an interview with the Hindu.
Griffin & Sabine to Become a Movie
Renegade Films has acquired the rights to the bestselling epistolary novels, Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence, written and illustrated by Nick Bantock. This is the first time the series, the first book of which was originally published by Chronicle in 1991, has been optioned for a film project. The series will be adapted into a film that travels through the three novels: Griffin & Sabine, Sabine's Notebook and The Golden Mean. Renegade Films is in the process of confirming a screenwriter, director and cast, with production slated to begin in 2014.
"This the first time I've felt comfortable that the essence of the story is understood," Bantock said. "Transitioning this tale from a novel to a movie will test the bounds of dreams and creativity, providing an opportunity to create something intelligent, entertaining and visually extraordinary."
Chronicle publisher Christine Carswell noted: "With over 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and published in 10 languages, the Griffin & Sabine series is one of our most popular ever. Not only popular, but also beloved, for the mystery of its storytelling and for characters who live long in the imaginations of the millions of readers who've enjoyed these utterly distinctive novels."
Nobel Winner Alice Munro, Former Bookseller
In parts of western Canada, Nobel laureate Alice Munro is also known as a former bookseller: in 1963, she and her ex-husband, Jim Munro, founded Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C., which last month celebrated its 50th birthday.
Last Thursday, the day Alice Munro won the Nobel, was Jim Munro's 84th birthday. Speaking about his ex-wife with the Vancouver Sun, he said, "One time, working in the store, she said, 'I can write better than these people,' so from then on she quit the store and stayed home and wrote."
He added that Munro was "pretty well bowled over by" the Nobel announcement. "But I'm not surprised because I've seen other people who have won the award and her writing is certainly on the quality."
Tattered Cover's Downtown Store to Consolidate to One Floor
The Tattered Cover Book Store location in Lower Downtown Denver, Colo., is consolidating into the first floor and will no longer use the second floor, the Denver Business Journal reported. The first floor has 12,666 square feet of space; the second floor has 15,109.
"Our present two-floor retail configuration will stay intact through the holiday season," owner Joyce Meskis told the Journal. "In January, we will start the demolition of the [store's] grand staircase with the goal of being resettled in our reconfigured first-floor space by mid-March." The reconfigured store will have "approximately the same number of books," with shelves "much more tightly packed."
Meskis added that first-floor space now used for back-office and marketing will be converted to retail, and some back-office space will be moved to Tattered Cover's flagship store on East Colfax Avenue.
The store has been in the location, in the Morey Mercantile Building, since 1994.
MacArthur Genius Awards include two authors
Congratulations to authors Karen Russell and Donald Antrim, who were among the 24 recipients of this year's MacArthur Fellow grants. They will each receive $625,000 over five years to use however the geniuses want.
Karen Russell has published two story collections, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, as well as the novel Swamplandia!.
Donald Antrim has written several novels, including The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers. His first work of nonfiction was The Afterlife: A Memoir.
Survey: Travelers Prefer to Fly with Print Books
E-reading devices are touted for their convenience when on the road, but a recent survey by London's Heathrow Airport found that airline travelers still prefer to have a print book in their hands, Good E-Reader reported.
Of the 2,000 people surveyed, 71% "would rather pack their suitcases full of books than opt for a lightweight e-reader" and 67% said they "prefer to stick with print because they enjoy the feel of a real book in their hands," Good E-Reader wrote, adding that 67% said they turn to friends and family for their reading recommendations, followed by librarians and booksellers.
"There's no doubt that the popularity of e-books has boomed in recent years, but when it comes to relaxing on holiday it seems you just can't beat a good book," said Heathrow retail director Muriel Zingraff-Shariff.
Forbes's Top-Earning Authors: 50 Shades of Greenbacks
Forbes magazine's annual "World's Top-Earning Authors" list includes many writers who have been card-carrying members of the exclusive club for a long time This year's list, however, is topped by E.L. James, who "didn't follow any of the rules for getting to the top, but she's there all the same." The top-earning authors, as ranked by earnings between June 2012 and June 2013, are:
E.L. James ($95 million)
James Patterson ($91 million)
Suzanne Collins ($55 million)
Bill O'Reilly ($28 million)
Danielle Steel ($26 million)
Jeff Kinney ($24 million)
Janet Evanovich ($24 million)
Nora Roberts ($23 million)
Dan Brown ($22 million)
Stephen King ($20 million)
Dean Koontz ($20 million)
John Grisham ($18 million)
David Baldacci ($15 million)
Rick Riordan ($14 million)
J.K. Rowling ($13 million)
George R.R. Martin ($12 million)
An Old Favorite Bookstore of Mine in Vermont
Happy 40th Birthday, Bear Pond Books!
Congratulations to Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., which is celebrating its 40th anniversary on Saturday, August 3, with "plenty of prizes, discounts and, of course, cake." During the four decades, Bear Pond Books has experienced "a flood, a move, a change of ownership," all while continuing to provide Montpelier "with a great book experience." The store was bought by Robert Kasow and Claire Benedict in 2006. They also own nearby Rivendell Books, which has a branch in Montpelier that opened in 2011.
Bowker Releases Statistics on Consumer Book Buying
Bowker Market Research has released the most recent data from its consumer panel of 70,000 Americans, compiled in the 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review. With the closure of Borders and the rising profile of online retailers, 2012 book buying statistics show that online retailers took 44 percent of Americans’ book purchases (up from 39 percent in 2011) and that Barnes & Noble remained the second largest bookselling outlet. Additional details from the report include:
Women increased their lead over men in book buying, accounting for 58 percent of overall book spending in 2012, up from 55 percent in 2011, though men purchase more hardcover titles.
E-books continue their steady upward trend, with an 11 percent share of spending in 2012, compared to seven percent in 2011.
Traditional print book output grew three percent in 2012, from 292,037 titles in 2011 to 301,642 in 2012.
Washington Post Bought by Bezos — (Why not just own everything?! - John)
In a deal announced yesterday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has signed a contract with the Washington Post Company to purchase its newspaper publishing business and other publishing assets for $250 million. The purchaser is not Amazon.com, but an entity that belongs to Bezos personally.
The Washington Post Company, which will change its name, retains several entities, including Slate magazine, TheRoot.com, Foreign Policy and Kaplan, as well as the headquarters building in downtown Washington, D.C.
(Thanks Shelf Awareness)
Is He Looking to BUY Something? (see above)
Jeff Bezos has sold 307,469 shares of Amazon.com at $302 per share for a total value of $93,119,798.
NCIBA & ABA Responds to President's Amazon Appearance
(This open letter was sent to local media on Monday.)
July 29, 2013
Dear President Obama,
I'm writing you on behalf of the members of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association to express our dismay at your decision to deliver an address on jobs at an Amazon warehouse.
Amazon is a company that for more than decade fought tooth-and-nail to protect a business model based on sales tax avoidance, in the process fueling other online companies to copy to its actions and costing states cumulatively billions of dollars.
Worse yet, in our state, Amazon's CEO purposely misled the media and public officials by stating that his company shouldn't have to pay sales tax in California because Amazon didn't have a presence here and therefore wasn't using services that sales tax covers. The fact is, of course, sales tax is collected by retailers on behalf of purchasers who are liable for it - Amazon wasn't being asked to pay sales tax, only to do what other retailers are required to do legally in the states.
Amazon now has largely abandoned its sales tax avoidance strategy because it believes it needs to compete on delivery time. So warehouses have been opening across the country, including in Tennessee. Amazon has created jobs, to be sure, but they are often part-time (making those nasty health benefits a non-factor) and barely minimum wage. The company has made news with their warehouses, but it hasn't always been about job creation. In Pennsylvania, employees were forced to work in extreme summer heat without any air conditioning, and you have no doubt been following Amazon's labor troubles in Germany.
On top of all this, your Justice Department handed Amazon a monopoly on e-books with it's recent ruling, assuring that independent bookstores will be unable to compete with e-books being sold as a loss leader to attract new Amazon customers. Ironically, while consumers will see lower prices, they will also see many fewer e-books published in the future. When Amazon decides not to lose money on the products, it will force e-book publishers to offer better terms. Given the already low margins, the response will be to simply not publish nearly as many titles. You'll be able to buy the newest book by Dan Brown, just not anything by the next Dan Brown.
Your appearance at the Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga sends a clear signal to small independent businesses that our value as job creators and community linchpins is not as important as an arrogant chain behemoth's contributions to states' monetary shortfalls and creation of thousands more minimum wage, benefit-poor jobs.
We will continue to do what we do best as locally owned businesses - offer knowledge and service to our customers, create and support community growth and activity, make every effort to provide employees with fair wages and conducive working conditions. And some of us will continue to grow and employ new workers, as small business has always done, even with the Amazons of the world being excused for past transgressions and rewarded for predatory business practices.
We are disappointed that you feel Amazon deserves your attention and endorsement (even if implied). We hope you will carefully consider the message you are sending with such an appearance and perhaps re-think that message in the future.
Respectfully but with regret,
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association
July 29, 2013
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama:
On behalf of the American Booksellers Association, we are writing today to call your attention to how Amazon’s business practices are actually harming small businesses and the American economy. While Amazon may make news by touting the creation of some 7,000 new warehouse jobs (many of which are seasonal), what is woefully underreported is the number of jobs its practices have cost the economy.
For you to highlight Amazon as a job creator strikes us as greatly misguided.
As you’ve noted so often, small businesses are the engines of the economy. When a small business fails and closes its doors, this has a ripple effect at both a local and a national level. Jobs are lost, workers lose healthcare and seek unemployment insurance, and purchasing decreases. And while Amazon may now be boasting about the creation of jobs, any gains are elusive, and not a long-term solution.
The simple fact is that Amazon’s practices are detrimental to the nation’s economy.
The news this weekend that Amazon is slashing prices far below cost on numerous book titles is further evidence that it will stop at nothing to garner market share at the expense of small businesses that cannot afford to sell inventory below their cost of acquisition. In the end, monopolies are bad for consumers — and there are no examples in American history that prove otherwise.
For more than a decade now, Amazon has flouted sales tax laws in an effort to maintain a competitive advantage over Main Street businesses. To date, 16 states have passed sales tax laws to level the playing field for bricks-and-mortar businesses, and in all but three of those states Amazon (as well as Overstock.com) has fired its online affiliates in order to evade collecting and remitting sales tax to the state (two of the 16 states only just passed their sales tax laws). This has resulted in many online affiliates going out of business. Moreover, by eschewing its obligation to remit sales tax, Amazon has negatively impacted state budgets and services, as well as those of local communities.
In addition, Amazon’s continued practice of using books, both in print and e-book formats, as “loss leaders” in an effort to increase their already immense market share of the retail book trade and to up-sell large-ticket items has impacted Main Street retailers and the communities in which these stores are located in ways that can be calculated (job losses, store closures, a decrease in sales tax revenue, etc.) and in ways that simply cannot (urban blight, budget cuts affecting first responders and other community services, etc.).
All told, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, every $10 million in spending that shifts from Main Street retailers to Amazon results in a net loss of 33 retail jobs. That would mean for 2012 alone — using Amazon’s own numbers about its increase in sales — Amazon cost the U.S. economy almost 42,000 jobs just last year!
At a time when Main Street retailers, including indie bookstores, show promise of recovering from the recession, we are disheartened to see Amazon touted as a “jobs creator” and its warehouse facility used as a backdrop for an important jobs speech, when, frankly, the exact opposite is true.
Conversely, the value of a local business to its community cannot be overstated — whether through job creation or in the myriad ways it gives back to the community.
We would love to continue this timely and important conversation with you. We’ll bring together a group of real job creators to meet at your favorite local, independent bookstore! And we’ll buy the coffee!
Oren Teicher, CEO
American Booksellers Association
White Plains, New York
Steve Bercu, ABA President
Betsy Burton, ABA Vice President
The King’s English Bookshop
Salt Lake City, Utah
DIESEL, A Bookstore
Santa Monica, California
Valerie B. Koehler
Blue Willow Bookshop
McLean & Eakin Booksellers
Bank Square Books
Third Place Books
Lake Forest Park, Washington
Talking Leaves Books
Buffalo, New York
San Francisco, California
British bookshops are pleading with the government to stand up for them against Amazon after France pledged (£7.7m) of funding to help its booksellers fight back against the "destroyer of bookshops".
Tim Godfray, chief executive of the Booksellers Association, said Britain's bookshops, closing down at a rate of more than one a week, consider Amazon "the main threat to their business". He warned that if Amazon continues its "relentless expansion" even more bookshops will be driven out of business, and publishers and agents will also be forced to shut up shop, he said.
Godfray, whose association represents almost 1,000 British booksellers, called for government action as France's culture minister Aurélie Filippetti accused Amazon of undercutting traditional rivals to create a "virtual monopoly".
"Everyone has had enough of Amazon, which by dumping practices, slashes prices to get a foothold in markets only to raise them as soon as they have established a virtual monopoly," she said in a speech to booksellers in Bordeaux. "The book and reading sector is facing competition from certain sites using very possible means to enter the French and European book market... it is destroying bookshops."
Filippetti, who is also a published novelist, said she was considering banning Amazon from being able to offer free postage and may end the system allowing 5% discounting on books.
link to the full Guardian story
NICE WORK - Image of the Day: 'Tom Chalk'
On his website SneezingCow.com, Michael Perry, author most recently of Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace, shared a special visual treat that greeted him at his reading Monday: "What I saw when I arrived at the event last night. Thank you Weyenberg Library, and thank you Nick of Boswell Books (Nick did the chalk)."
This is an old, and very interesting item that I saved from Shelf Awareness, from sometime last year.
Pete Townshend: Acquisitions Editor Was 'Best Job I Ever Had'
"Are you kidding? That was the best job I ever had. I had lunch with the old chairman, Matthew Evans, this week, and we both went dewy-eyed about the old days. He's in the House of Lords trying to stay awake, and I'm pounding stages like an aging clown. I loved the way the Faber editorial committee was driven as much by gossip and rumor as ideas. It was fun. Not what you expect in such an esteemed publishing house."
— The Who's Pete Townshend, author of Who I Am: A Memoir, in a New York Times interview where he recalled working as an acquisitions editor at Faber & Faber.
Such a great line!
For the book Woke Up Lonely, an endorsement from Marie Claire:
"It's as if a Paul Thomas Anderson movie (The Master, There Will Be Blood) married a David Foster Wallace novel and had a baby. Which is to say, this story is weird, thrilling, and inimitable."
Indie Bookseller's Advice: 'Never Forget the Wonks & the Weirdos'
"Never forget the wonks, and the weirdos, and the people who will be delighted by this book that they never could even have imagined could exist and they will find on your shelf."
— Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson in NYC, the best piece of advice she ever received from her mother, Holly, founder of the McNally Robinson indie bookstore chain in Canada.
Amazon and Taxes ... Jesus, they have NO SHAME!
Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate income tax bill," Reuters reported, noting that during the past six years, Amazon has paid approximately $9 million in income tax on more than $23 billion of sales to British clients.
I just love this name ... now I just need to create something for the name.
'A Really Good Bookstore Is Not a Doughnut Shop'
"Maybe the solution [for independent bookstores] is to stop viewing such places simply as businesses that must succeed or fail according to the market, like doughnut shops or nail salons. A really good bookstore is not a doughnut shop; it is a social good. As citizens--and even potential investors--we need to put our money where our moany old mouths are."
— Leah McLaren in the Toronto Globe & Mail
A Dozen Interesting Literary Facts for Today
1. The original title of Fahrenheit 451 was The Fireman.
Ray Bradbury and his publishers thought The Fireman was a boring title, so they called a local fire station and asked what temperature paper burned at. The firemen put Bradbury on hold while they burned a book, then reported back the temperature, and the rest is history.
2. Ray Bradbury also wrote the 1956 screenplay for Moby Dick.
3. Don Quixote is the best-selling novel of all time, with over 500 million copies sold.
4. Edgar Allan Poe originally wanted a parrot to repeat the word "nevermore."
5. Charles Dickens believed in the supernatural, and he belonged to something called The Ghost Club.
6. John Steinbeck's original manuscript for Of Mice and Men was eaten by a dog.
Steinbeck's puppy, Toby, was left alone one evening and effectively ate some really important homework. Steinbeck wrote of the incident to his agent and said, "I was pretty mad, but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically."
7. Gabriel García Márquez refuses to allow One Hundred Years of Solitude to be made into a film. It's odd because most of his works have been made into films. Marquez stated that the reason is, “They would cast someone like Robert Redford and most of us do not have relatives who look like Robert Redford.”
8. To Kill a Mockingbird is Harper Lee's only novel, even though it won a Pulitzer Prize and spent 88 weeks on the best seller list. She currently lives in Monroeville, Alabama, and is allegedly working on her memoirs.
9. The manuscript for Hemingway's A Moveable Feast sat in a hotel basement for years.
In 1928, Ernest Hemingway stored two trunks that contained notebooks from the years he lived in Paris. Then in 1956, Hemingway retrieved the trunks and got to work transcribing them into his memoirs. The final product was published three years after Hemingway's death.
10. The band U2 borrowed a chapter title in Lord of the Flies to name one of their songs.
Chapter 7 of Lord of the Flies is titled "Shadows and Tall Trees," which U2 used as the final track on their debut album, Boy.
11. The Monster in Frankenstein has no name, but Mary Shelley once referred to him as "Adam."
Many people mistakenly think that the Monster is named Frankenstein, when in fact he's never given a name in the novel.
12. The original title for Where the Wild Things Are was Where the Wild Horses Are, and it would've featured horses.
The reason for the change was that Maurice Sendak couldn't draw horses. So, when his editor asked what he could draw, his reply was "things." Things are exactly what ended up in the book.
Tax Day wisdom from Mark Twain: "The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin."
American Library Association's 'Most Challenged Books List'
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom reported that in 2012 it received 464 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves, an increase from 326 the previous year. The new list was included in the ALA's State of America's Libraries Report 2013. "One reason we think the number went up in 2012 is that we made challenges easier to report by including a portal on our Web page," said Barbara M. Jones, director of the OIF.
The most challenged books last year were:
1. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
3. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
5. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
7. Looking for Alaska by John Green
8. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
9. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
10. Beloved by Toni Morrison
Well, I have taken a plunge into another website — I am now also listing the books I've read on LibraryThing. They do a pretty good job of listing them with other information that's quite interesting. It's great fun to be surrounded by book information and to list more and more of the books that you've read all through your life. I just started yesterday and I haven't put up reviews or rated most of the books, but there are more than 400 titles ... so far. (May 6 update - 2,200 titles ... so far) It's addictive.
A pick of the bookplates of the famous from Shelf Awareness.
Douglas Fairbanks & Mary Pickford
Twenty six years ago today, on March 14, 1987, we opened the doors of our very first bookstore. We had wild hopes and yet a little part of our minds wondered if we would be able to make it. Hopes won out wildly over those nagging little fears and our bookstore was open for 22 years. It was a wonderful run and we are so thankful to the many people who helped us and supported us for all those years. These people believed in what we were trying to do — to bring the best books together with the people who would love them and to do it with a style all our own. Today, with all the changes in the book trade, I appreciate each of our different bookstores more than ever. Thanks to all.
This would have been
the 88th birthday of Edward Gorey.
Over the next decade, Barnes & Noble will likely close a third of its 689 general retail stores, or about 20 a year, Mitchell Klipper, CEO of B&N's retail group, told the Wall Street Journal. Slimmed down to 450 to 500 stores, the retail stores represent "a good business model," he said, emphasizing that today only about 20 B&N trade stores--3% of the total--lose money. B&N also operates some 674 college stores, which are run separately from the general retail stores.
1.7.13 Huell Howser's smile has gone away ... after 67 years
Someone has died that always brought a smile to my face. He could also elicit a heavy groan and cause me to say, "Oh Huel." But, he was one of a kind, and the world is just not as happy a place without his overpowering enthusiasm and humor. Howser received his first name from a portmanteau of his parents' names, Harold and Jewell.
Corny, dopey, a hick, square-shouldered, naive, a happy gay man, say what you may — he loved California and all the people he and his single cameraman came across. His style kept me watching him for all these years. It's incredible to think about just how many times we have all heard him say, "That's amazing."
Thanks Huell. - John
from his website
BLOG ARCHIVE - former BLOG & news items
some PHOTOS from our life
what have we seen?
what did we think of them?
Please check out our page for my movie comments.
Every year on March 14th, I look back, way back to March 14, 1987…back more than 25 years ago. That was when we opened the doors of our very first bookstore, Mansion Book Merchants in Davis. It was a very good day, one of the best in my life. It was a day full of hope.
Who knew then,
how many more days we would have, opening other doors, in other locations?
Check out where words run free and sometimes simply stagger about.
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