The James Patterson Money Machine on Display at B&N

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Book Display Spotted on October 8, 2016 in Houston B&N Bookstore

This is an actual display in the Best Sellers section of the Barnes & Noble bookstore nearest me.  I expect that one similar to it can be found in other B&Ns, maybe even all of the B&N bookstores for all I know. So what makes it special, you ask?  Well, every single book on the display was “written” by one James Patterson – or at least that’s what the various covers say.  But with one or two exceptions, one being the throwback copy of Along Came a Spider, I doubt that Patterson did a whole lot of writing on these.

Somehow or another James Patterson has become a brand name, and now Mr. Patterson can just slap his name on a book cover in big, bright letters and leave the actual writing of the book to the author whose name appears in smaller, less colorful letters below the huge “James Patterson” logo.  And, of course, the authors willing to play the Patterson Brand Game are lined up down the block because being tapped on the shoulder this way by James Patterson means they are likely to sell more books with even one Patterson brand book than they ever would have sold by writing half a dozen non-Patterson brand books.  Ka-ching!

A couple of Patterson brand books a year would be one thing, but more than a dozen of them a year is just humiliating, in my worthless opinion, to the image of the authors who do Mr. Patterson’s grunt work for what is likely to be the smallest slice of the two-piece pie they produce for him.

…just saying.

On Judging a Book by Its Cover

I think it’s time to modify the old saying about judging a book by its cover.  For me, it should read, “You can’t always judge a book by its cover.”

When it comes to books, perhaps the most important bookstore marketing tool out there for them (other than a mega-selling author’s name in big letters splashed on the cover in red) is the image that appears on the front of the book’s dust jacket.  That’s what grabs the attention of the casual book-browser who just happens to be strolling through a bookstore on a Sunday afternoon.  If that picture or illustration is powerful enough to stop the browser in his tracks, then the book has a pretty decent chance of going home with him.

That leaves me wondering why publishers don’t put a more consistent effort into producing the kind of jackets that refuse to let you walk past them without at least picking them up to get a better look?  Take a look at these examples from a handful of the books I’ve read this year.  The first six are ones that I would not pass by without a second look:

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Each of them make me wonder what kind of tale is inside those covers.

These, on the other hand, would never get that (or any other) kind of reaction from me:

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Two of the six books in the first group are among my favorite reads to this point of 2016, and three from the second group are among my biggest disappointments of the year.  I would have ended up reading all twelve of the books anyway because none of them came from bookstores; they were either library books or review copies that came directly from publishers.  But if all twelve had depended on me discovering them in my local bookstore, the bottom six would have been in big trouble.

So, can you judge a book by its cover – or not?

My Used-Book Bookstore Addiction Is as Healthy as Ever

I have no room on my bookshelves anymore to be adding books to my collection.  In fact, I probably have almost as many books hidden away on closet shelves as I have on the shelves in my study by now – and I have close to 900 on these shelves (most of them hardbacks or ARCs).  And that’s not counting the 100…or 150…or 200 e-books that are hidden away in that great cloud in the sky which give me no pride of ownership whatsoever.

So why do I still look forward to browsing the shelves of used book stores in search of things I never even knew existed before I spot them there?  (I suspect that if you’re reading this, I don’t need to tell you the answer to that one.)  Now I am trying to live by the “one book in – one book out rule” and failing miserably – even though it gives me pleasure to drop a load of books off at an assisted living facility or hospital.  It’s just that the choices are getting to be more and more difficult every month.

Anyway, I’ve been to the local Half Price Books twice this week and walked away with four books, none of which appear to have ever been opened, much less read, and that means I need to slap four others in the giveaway box. (Those of you who have kept up with my horror at the Twitter personality exhibited by author Joyce Carol Oates will realize that this box contains a number of Oates volumes since I am in the process of ridding my home of over 100 of her books.)

6625119The Lineup: The World’s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives seems to have made hardly a blip since it was published in November 2009.  I say that based on the fact that it has only 18 reviews on Amazon.com, a site on which even the shabbiest of self-published books can generate 50 or so “reviews.”  This is a compilation of a bunch of the best contemporary crime fiction writers in the business revealing exactly how they came up with their most famous series lead character. I couldn’t resist this one because it includes some of my favorite characters: Jack Taylor (Ken Bruen), Hieronymus Bosh (Michael Connelly), Charlie Resnick (John Harvey), Spenser (Robert B. Parker), and John Rebus (Ian Rankin).  And there are several other authors in the book whose series I have read in and out of for years.

 

1430246Perhaps the biggest find this week was a pristine copy of Reporting Vietnam: Part Two published by the remarkable Library of America people.  I’ve been putting together a collection of Library of America books for several years now (this being my 89th LOA book), but I guarantee you that I have never paid as little as $3.00 for one of their books before (they retail for $30-$35 on average).  I snagged this one from the back corner of the store that usually features two or three shelves of “clearance books.” Half Price Books kindly includes the date on its price stickers that the books were placed on the shelves and I see that this one had been in the store for over three years.  It’s a beautiful first edition copy printed in 1998, and I’m looking forward to dipping into it soon.  It includes newspaper and magazine pieces by the likes of Peter Arnett, Sydney H. Schanberg, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Buckley, Doris Kearns, Stewart Alsop, Seymour Hersh, and James Michener. As a bonus, it includes in its entirety one of my favorite books to come out of this war, Michael Herr’s Dispatches.  I’m still floored by my good luck on finding this one for three bucks.

lost-lightSomehow or another (and I’m happy about it) there are still a few of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch books that I haven’t read – and because Connelly’ books are published in such huge numbers it is still pretty easy to find nice hard copy editions of the ones I’ve skipped for six or seven bucks a pop.  I did that with Lost Light, this week and have placed it at the bottom of my TBR stack for now…with no idea when it will finally surface again to be read.  This one was first published in 2003, and features Harry working a cold case under contract to the LAPD after he’s officially retired from the department.  And hey, the best part is that it’s a signed copy dedicated to some “Angela” out there in the world who decided to let Half Price books rip her off (she was lucky, really lucky to get a dollar for the book from these guys).  Thanks, Angela.  I’m happy you junked the book, and thanks, too, to Half Price books for not noticing that the book contains one of Connelly’s rather quirky looking signatures.

319XwLWExXL._BO1,204,203,200_And then there’s Literary Houston, published by TCU Press in 2010 (this is the most expensive book I bought this week at all of $10).  I’m always on the lookout for fiction or nonfiction books that feature Houston to some degree or another, but have been disappointed that they are harder to find than I’d like them to be despite the unusual history of what is now the fourth largest city in the U.S.  It includes pieces by what the editor, David Theis, calls “passers-through” such as Norman Mailer, H.L. Mencken, Simone de Beauvoir, and Frederick Law Olmsted.  But Houston has also sired a number of “important writers” who are also represented in the book: Donald Barthelme, Vassar Miller, and Rick Bass, among them.  And then there are the writers who have spent a considerable amount of time in and around Houston: Larry McMurtry, Philip Lopate, Mary Gaitskill, Rosellen Brown, and Edward Hirsch – all are represented here.  A quick glance through the Table of Contents also shows contributions from people like Walter Cronkite, Robert A. Caro, Stephen Harrigan, O. Henry, Max Apple, and more than a score of others. This looks like something I’ll be dipping into and out of for several years to come.

OK…now which four Joyce Carol Oates books are going to the assisted living facility?  Hmmm…

Barnes & Noble Preparing to Offer Booze and Better Food in Stores

Would you be more likely to make Barnes & Noble bookstores a regular stop if you could have a nice dinner, including your choice of beer, wine, or a mixed drink, as part of your visit? Well, Barnes & Noble seems to be counting on just that.

According to Fortune magazine, four Barnes & Noble “concept stores” offering that opportunity are set to open some time during 2017:

The first store will open in Eastchester, N.Y., about 30 miles north of New York City, in October and have amenities like a fire pit and bocce court. The three other stores will be in the Galleria Edina in Edina, Minn.; the Palladio at Broadstone mall in Folsom, Calif.; and One Loudoun, a mixed-use community in Loudoun County, Va.

The company’s Nook business has been a drain on its profits and growth strategy almost since the beginning. That has not stopped B&N, however, from straying farther and farther from its core business of selling…you know…books ever since. As regular customers of B&N know from their own eyes, less and less floorspace is devoted to books all the time – and more and more to things like puzzles, superhero figurines, vinyl record albums, and the infamous Nook.

Will this latest decision help? Only time will tell, but it looks like Barnes & Noble is already preparing to move the concept well beyond the initial four locations if it does. I noticed that one of my two local B&N stores (in The Woodlands, Texas) applied for a liquor license about 90 days ago, for instance.

Bookstores sure aren’t what they used to be, are they?

Would you shop at an Amazon brick and mortar bookstore?

Amazon Books – Seattle

Would you shop at an Amazon brick and mortar bookstore if there were one within convenient driving distance of you?  It appears that the people of Portland, Oregon, are about to get the chance to make that decision.  If any city in the country might actually shun an Amazon bookstore, it’s probably Portland, a city that prides itself on supporting independent retailers and is home to perhaps the largest independent bookstore in the world, Powell’s.  (The new store is said to be slated for a Portland suburb called Tigard, Oregon.)

Personally, I would have to take a look at it out of curiosity, if for no other reason – and I’m sure that I’d grab a couple of dozen photos for use here on Book Chase.  But I have a fundamental problem with the idea of Amazon going wholesale into the brick and mortar bookstore business.  I understand that Amazon has every legal right to open up physical bookstores anywhere its management wants to place them.  But, let’s face it, Amazon has already pretty much had the impact on used bookstores that Wal-Mart has had on small downtowns all across this country – they are now largely boarded up.  Are we, as consumers – and an economy – really better off as a result?

If you’re curious, the Los Angeles Times says that the new bookstore would not look much like a traditional bookstore at all:

If Amazon’s first store is any indication, the locations in San Diego and Tigard won’t look much like regular bookstores. The Seattle store features fewer books than most retailers, with all the books’ covers facing out. There are no prices listed on the books; shoppers have to use a scanner or a smartphone app to find out how much each item costs.
The Seattle store also sells electronics, such as Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, Fire TV and earbuds.

That last bit about the Amazon store selling electronic gear such as Kindles, however, could be describing any Barnes & Noble location in the country if the word “Nook” were substituted for “Kindle.”

So would you support an Amazon bookstore if one were plopped down in your area?  It might be a tougher call than you think.

Nomad Books: Edmonton’s Bookstore on Two Wheels

I can’t imagine there’s a whole lot of profit in it, but one Edmonton couple has found a cheap way to turn their love of books and people into the city’s only two-wheeled bookstore.  According to CBC News Edmonton, Yvonne and Jared Epp came up with the idea when they returned to the city after a four-year absence:

“I had been collecting and trading books for a while and then had wanted to start selling some of my own, and was thinking about how to do that without too much expense going into it,” Jared said during an interview with CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.
“And we thought, ‘Why don’t we just sell books on the trailer and kind of cruise around downtown and sell books that way?’ We thought, ‘Let’s do it, let’s see what happens.'”
Yvonne & Jared Epp

[…]

           They say the project is less about pushing a profit, and more about making personal connections.

“That’s kind of our main goal, I mean it would be nice to make money from it, that would be awesome, but we’re prepared not to,” Yvonne said with a laugh. 

“By the time we pay for the insurance and the business license, we have a long way to go before we break even, but it’s worth it.” 

Kind of a cool idea, isn’t it?  And who knows?  Maybe someday the Epps will have a whole fleet of little two-wheeled bookstores roaming the streets of Edmonton that will return a nice little profit to them.  Avid readers tend to be big dreamers, and I wish these guys well in pursuing theirs.

Bookstores: Not What They Used to Be

I browse the same two bookstores every weekend, and during the week I usually manage to make one or two other stops at different shops.  You might think that would get expensive…and it used to…but the sad truth today is that I walk away empty-handed at least four out of five times I go to a bookstore.  The bottom line is that there are fewer local bookstores for me to shop at, they carry fewer titles on the shelves, and they all carry pretty much the same limited selection.

So I come home, crank up the Kindle, and if the e-book version of what I was hoping to find is not too ridiculously priced, download a copy and begin reading it – all in just a few seconds.  And take note, Mr. Barnes & Noble bigwig, I said “Kindle,” not “Nook.”  That means that if you want to sell me a book, it is going to have to happen at a cash register housed in a brick and mortar bookstore.

And I’m not expecting obscure titles and huge author back catalogs.  Those have always been hard to find, often requiring special orders and patience on the part of the buyer.  No, what I’m expecting is to see more of the “big” book titles being released every month instead of four new books that have James Patterson’s name slapped on the cover, a few new thrillers by the same old names, and a whole bunch of relatively silly chick-lit titles.  (I get it that a huge percentage of books are sold to females…I do, but do try to remember that some men read more than thrillers.)  Where is all the serious literary fiction that gets released every month?

Why is this happening?  Well, maybe, just maybe, it’s because I have to make my way through all the puzzles, toys, vinyl albums, Nooks, greeting cards, and tiny little people crafted to look something like every character from every successful TV show of the last decade before I get to the books.  Bookstore managers, you are fast squeezing books right off the floor, aren’t you?

While I’m at it, one last thing: if you are going to bother to carry the new hardcover addition to a long-established series, would it kill you to carry the couple of books that preceded the new hardcover?  If I haven’t read those already, I’m probably not going to buy the hardcover first – and if it takes me forever to find copies of the older ones, your flashy new hardcover might be in paper by the time I’m ready for the new one.  But if they are there all at the same time…side by side…I will very likely be tempted to purchase all of them.  Think about it.  OK?

Barnes & Noble, you got what you wished for.  First you killed the smaller bookstore chains in the country, than you killed off the last few remaining big ones.  Job well done…from your point of view, I’m sure.  But now you seem equally intent on driving away serious book customers at the same rate you killed off the competition.  You are really good at creating Kindle sales – and I know you don’t want to do that.  We need more titles (better chosen ones) on the shelves, not fewer titles than ever.  

Austin Bookstore Offers 10% Discount to Shoppers Legally Packing Guns on Their Hips

That’s Brave New Books just below the “1904” sign. Note there’s a bank right next door.


It seems there is a bookstore (click on picture for larger view) in Austin, Texas, that is offering a 10% discount on purchases made by customers who are “open carrying” a gun while doing their bookish shopping. That is more amazing than you think…oh, not so much that it happened…but that it happened in Austin of all Texas cities. For those who don’t know Texas very well, let’s just say that when I visit Austin I sometimes wonder if San Francisco has been transported to Texas and laid atop Austin.  

News come from The Guardian that Brave New Books manager John Bush says:

 “We appreciate it when people take security and defence into their own hands. In a world where mass shootings are happening more and more, when seconds count, it’s up to we the people to protect our community.”

While I personally don’t have a huge problem with the open carrying of weapons in public places, I have to agree with the publisher representative quoted in the article as saying that the decision is less a “political statement” than it is a “marketing stunt that preaches to the converted.”  

The folks at my favorite Houston bookstore, Brazos Bookstore, had this to say about their Austin rival:

Jeremy Ellis from Houston bookshop Brazos Bookstore told Melville House that he had taken the decision to post signs restricting open carrying on 1 January. “I have always believed that bookstores are forums for all ideas, but I also understand that the free exchange of those ideas can be hindered (if not entirely obstructed) when one party in the conversation holds a deadly weapon,” said Ellis. “I would rather regulate the guns than the conversation, so we respectfully request that all our patrons leave their firearms at home or in their cars while shopping with us.”

You never know what’s going to happen next do you?  Even in bookstores.


Social Justice Warriors Intimidate Canadian Independents to Pull Politically Out-of -Favor Authors from Shelves

Social Justice Warriors Always Lie by Vox Jay

What a damn shame.


Politics is a dirty word, especially these days when compromise seems to be an impossibility in the minds of those on either end of the political spectrum. Conservatives call liberal names; liberals blast conservatives for existing. And it seems to get worse every year.  But say what you will about conservatives, it does seem to me that political intolerance of the other side even existing and having a voice is more often a characteristic of the liberal left than of the conservative right.

Here’s an example from Canada of the kind of personal attacks that those who pride themselves on their “tolerance” are capable of aiming at those who do not agree with them (per Breitbart.com):
File 770, the blog of three-time Hugo Award winner Mike Glyer, reports that bookstore owners in Toronto are being approached with negative information about authors who participated in the Sad Puppies Hugo Awards campaign.
The Sad Puppies campaign, as explained in the hyperlink above, was an attempt to expose political favouritism and intolerance in the sci-fi and fantasy community. If this latest incident is anything to go by, it continues to be a dispiriting success.

[…]

There is no doubt that some sci-fi authors hold views that are alien to much of mainstream, liberal opinion. However, the SJWs who are trying to drive them out continue to fail to grasp that no political opinion is justification for exclusion from awards participation, bookstores, or the sci-fi community at large. The point of sci-fi is good sci-fi, and the point of awards is to recognise good sci-fi, not politically conformist opinions. 

So is it acceptable to censor those whose political or social beliefs we disagree with? Can we not admit that some we disagree with are capable of creating worthy works of art?  Is this not, as Brietbart puts it, a little bit too “ISIS-like” to allow?  The scariest part of this whole thing is that, to a degree, it seems to be working.  Some Canadian independents have taken the targeted authors off their shelves.  GoodReads has closed at least nine author accounts on the site and banned those authors for good.

Really?  Is this what we’ve come to, people? 

What is happening in Toronto right now did not develop overnight. This ugly fight has been brewing for a while now – please click this link to get the rest of the story. 

Hong Kong Book Store Employees Are Disappearing

It appears that a Hong Kong publisher/bookstore owner is learning the hard way that it is not at all smart to publish books about the sex lives of Chinese leaders. According to Quartz.com, the still unpublished manuscript about Xi Jinping’s “six women” is directly linked to the disappearance of five men connected to the bookstore:

It is unclear whether the book alleges Xi had an extramarital affair. As part of his crackdown on corruption since he took office in 2012, Xi has led an anti-corruption campaign that made adultery grounds for banishment from the Communist Party. This past October, those rules were changed to forbid “improper sexual relationships with others,” a tweak that state-run news agency Xinhua said makes “the regulation stricter.”

[…]

Last week’s disappearance of Lee Bo, an employee at the Causeway Bay Bookstore, has brought international attention to mysterious case of the five missing men. Hong Kong democratic politicians including Ho believe they have been abducted by mainland Chinese security officials. 

[…]

China’s state-backed tabloid Global Times said in an editorial this week that the bookstore sells books that contain “maliciously fabricated content,” which enter the mainland, become the source of political rumors and “have caused some evil influence to some extent.” A Chinese-language version of the same editorial also accuses the bookstore of harming the “harmony and stability” of mainland society. 

Chinese officials are playing hardball on this case of censorship taken to the extreme and is warning foreign countries to keep all opinions to themselves. Freedom of the press is not an issue in Hong Kong these days; it simply does not exist.

Best Bookstore Per Square Inch? Take a Look.

I have seen dozens of news stories in the last few weeks saying essentially the same thing: independent bookstores are not only hanging on, they are doing quite well, thank you. And that is certainly good news for readers who still prefer physical books over electronic ones.

Despite the number of similar stories I’ve seen, this one made me smile.  I could not resist reading a story about a Santa Barbara bookstore whose total floor space comes in at a whopping 200 square feet, one that can justifiably claim that it is “the best bookstore, per square inch, this side of the Rocky Mountains.”

Successful bookstores are supposed to have no fewer than 150,000 titles, said Karys-Schiff. He has 7 percent that number, so he credits the store’s success to stubbornness and loyalty. One frequent visitor, now in his thirties, first visited the shop when he was 10. Another woman, who now lives in Rome, stops by whenever she’s back in town. 
Some customers browse in peace, but for those inclined to talk, Karys-Schiff offers an uncommonly attentive ear. Their enthusiasms, it often turns out, are his enthusiasms, too. He knows what they’re talking about. “Book people are the best,” he gushed. “They’re always excited about the book they just read or the next book they’re going to read.”

David Karys-Schiff, owner of The Mesa Bookstore, sounds like quite a character, a man who has truly found his calling in life. For more information, click on this link to the Santa Barbara Independent article. 

Trump and Carson Books Displayed in Barnes & Noble Humor Section Display

I’ve seen this kind of thing before, but at Barnes & Noble it has always turned out to be a customer prank rather than something condoned by store management.  It’s sort of like when I found about a dozen bibles in a Fiction display at my own local B&N one time – the manager almost hyperventilated when she saw them there while rather loudly explaining to me that customers sometimes used her displays to make points of their own.  

Found this on Twitter feed of @robbymyers who believes the book display reflects a liberal bias on the part of Barnes & Noble.  I really doubt that’s the case but I have seen similar things happen at independent bookstores that probably do reflect what Robbie is referring to here.  I’m much more willing to laugh at this kind of thing (because it really is kind of funny) than to tolerate a bookstore burying deep in the stacks somewhere those books its management disagrees with – and that happens all the time.

. and in the humor section at Miami Barnes & Noble, clearly no liberal bias .

A Tale of Two Bookstores – and Two Countries

I noticed two news stories today about bookstore censorship.  One took place in Saudi Arabia, the other in New York – and although they are spookily similar in nature, their outcomes are gratifyingly different.  


Example of an illustrate Quran

In New York, a man confronted bookstore employees about the illustrated Quran that was on display in the shop.  According to an Albany television station, the man threatened to put the bookstore “out of business” is his demand was not met.

According to Morrow, a man came into his Saratoga Springs store on Tuesday and threatened to put the company out of business because they had an illustrated copy of the Qur’an on display. He says the man, who he didn’t name, berated an employee and then called the Manchester store and yelled at another worker.
Originally, Morrow wasn’t going to say anything about the incident, but decided to, saying in part, “If terrorism succeeds in closing our minds off, terrorism has succeeded. No more shots need to be fired.”
“We’re engaged in a civil society here and we have to have this conversation,” said Morrow. “If people are going to do this then other people need to know about it.”

And in Saudi Arabia, it is the unpredictable Donald Trump whose book is being kept out of bookshops.  According to the story on RawStory.com, Trump’s book will not be offered for sale in at least one of the two largest bookstore chains in that country.

Saudi Arabia-based retail chain Jarir Bookstore has removed books written by U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump from its shelves, it said on Tuesday, part of a backlash against his proposal to stop Muslims from entering the United States.
Jarir, part of one of the Gulf kingdom’s biggest retailers, Jarir Marketing Co, announced the move in a Twitter response to another user’s call for a boycott of the Republican front-runner’s books.
“Jarir Bookstore sells books by Donald Trump, who is known for making comments offensive to Muslims and Islam. We ask them please to remove them,” wrote Saudi user Mogatah on Dec. 19, along with a photo of the Arabic-language edition of Trump’s 2009 book “Think Like a Champion.”
“The copies have been removed, we thank you for your comment,” Jarir replied, three days later.

Frankly, I’m not surprised that Trump’s book is being outlawed in countries like Saudi Arabia, but I am happy to see that the New York bookstore did not succumb to a similar demand to remove its Quran display.  The societal differences are obvious.  

Saturday Morning Book Browsing

I spent almost three hours this morning in a large Barnes & Noble store near me…just wandering the shelves, marveling at the large number of people inside the store, and even snagging one of the three or four comfortable chairs in the store for a few minutes.  Regular B&N shoppers will know how hard it can be to find a nice out-of-the-way place in any of the stores these days to rest the legs and back for a few minutes.  I spent those “resting” minutes wisely going through the seven or eight books I was carrying around so that I could choose the two or three I could actually afford to buy today.  

It wasn’t easy to put so many books back on the shelves, but I did remember to create a written want-list that I will be revisiting sometime next year.  For some reason, I found myself particularly intrigued by the Science Fiction section of the store, something that hasn’t happened to me in a number of years.  Lately if my SciFi reading doesn’t pertain to time travel, it doesn’t happen.  But I stumbled upon a book called The Sand Men by British author Christopher Fowler that promises to be something special.

I did the usual: read the cover information, flipped over to the backside of the paperback to read the publisher description of the plot, and started reading the first chapter.  The Sand Men is set in a Middle Eastern gated community for ex-pat families of foreign workers there (a lifestyle I’ve experienced firsthand), so that is a good sign.  And it seems to be mixing the elements of science fiction, political thriller, and fantasy novel into a package that can lead in countless directions.  But it was when a Muslim handyman froze to death in the sand of a resort beach so hot that tourists had abandoned it in favor of the hotel’s air conditioned bar, that I was all-in.  Escapism, here I come.

I also left with a copy of the Tin House “magazine” edition dedicated to essays, short stories and poems that have “theft” as a common denominator.  I can tell you that it is a brilliant and entertaining collection – as vouched for by whomever it was in a local coffee bar who walked away with the first copy that I carelessly turned my back on while getting a refill.  Rest assured that I will be more careful with this copy, even though I can still chuckle at the irony of having someone steal a book in public that includes the word “theft” in its title.  Heck, I’m even a bit impressed that anyone steals books these days…


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Barnes & Noble Signed Books Promotion

I was too late last year to take advantage of the Barnes & Noble signed books promotion, so I made a special trip to the bookstore this morning hoping to pick up a signed copy of Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover.  Because she is one of the more “literary” writers who signed books for the event, I was a little concerned that signed copies of her book would all be gone by the time I got there.  But I shouldn’t have worried.  There were about eight copies on the shelf and I bought one of the two they sold during the 45 minutes I was in the store.


Isabelle Allende Signature

The featured titles include cookbooks, novels, classic fiction, biographies, history, politics, celebrity books, and music legends and sports heroes. 

Well, take a look for yourself:

Here is the complete list of authors participating in our Signed Editions program.
Award-Winning Authors
  • Isabel Allende, The Japanese Lover
  • Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
  • David Mitchell, Slade House
  • Nathaniel Philbrick, In the Heart of the Sea
  • Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Admired Authors, Enduring Works
  • Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
  • Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (25th anniversary edition)
  • S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders
  • Khaled Hosseini, Kite Runner
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
Bestselling Fiction Authors
  • Mitch AlbomThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
  • Chris Colfer, The Enchantress Returns, The Wishing Spell, A Grimm Warning, and Beyond the Kingdoms
  • Victoria Aveyard, Red Queen
  • John A. Flanagan, The Tournament at Gorlan
  • Erin Hilderbrand, Winter Stroll
  • Jan Karon, Come Rain or Shine
  • Jeff Kinney, Old School (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #10)
  • Marie Lu, The Rose Society
  • Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • Gregory Maguire, After Alice
  • Richelle Mead, Soundless
  • Marissa Meyer, Winter
  • Rick RiordanThe Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard Series #1)
  • Rainbow Rowell, Carry On
  • Brandon Sanderson, Steelheart (B&N exclusive edition)
  • Adriana Trigiani, All the Stars in the Heavens
Bestselling Mystery & Thriller Authors
  • David Baldacci, The Guilty
  • Lorenzo CarcaterraThe Wolf
  • Lee Child, Make Me (Jack Reacher Series #20)
  • Michael Connelly, The Crossing
  • Patricia Cornwell, Depraved Heart
  • Clive Cussler, The Pharoah’s Secret
  • Janet Evanovich, Tricky Twenty-Two
  • Elizabeth George, A Banquet of Consequences
  • Newt Gingrich, Duplicity: A Novel
  • Sue Grafton, X
  • Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train
  • Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Crimson Shore
  • Lisa Scottoline, Corrupted
Favorite Authors from Page to Screen
  • Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  • Terry Brooks, The Elfstones of Shannara
  • Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Gayle Forman, If I Stay
  • Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
  • John Green, Paper Towns
  • Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  • Veronica Roth, Allegiant (Collector’s Edition)
  • Andy Weir, The Martian
Fascinating Celebrities
  • Drew Barrymore, Wildflower
  • Abigail Breslin, This May Sound Crazy
  • Christie Brinkley, Timeless Beauty: Over 100 Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts to Looking Great
  • Frederick Forsyth, The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue
  • Whoopi Goldberg, If Someone Says “You Complete Me,” RUN!: Whoopi’s Big Book of Relationships
  • Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me?
  • Khloe Kardashian, Strong Looks Better Naked
  • Mary-Louise Parker, Dear Mr. You
  • David Spade, Almost Interesting
  • Rainn Wilson, The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy
Internet Sensations
  • Shane Dawson, I Hate Myselfie
  • Connor Franta, A Work in Progress (B&N Exclusive Edition, hardcover)
  • Joey Graceffa, In Real Life: My Journey to a Pixelated World
  • Dan Howell, Phil Lester, The Amazing Book Is Not on Fire
  • Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy
  • Jenn McAllister, Really Professional Internet Person
  • Paige McKenzie, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl
  • Robby Novak, Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome
  • Tyler Oakley, Binge
  • PewDiePie, This Book Loves You
  • Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York—Stories
  • Zoe Sugg, Girl Online: On Tour
  • Kristina WebbColor Me Creative
Celebrated Chefs
  • Giada De Laurentiis, Happy Cooking
  • Paula Deen, Paula Deen Cuts the Fat
  • Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime
  • Bobby Flay, Brunch at Bobby’s
  • Ina Garten, Make It Ahead
  • Sammy Hagar, Are We Having Any Fun Yet?
  • Nigella Lawson, Simply Nigella
  • Matt Holloway & Michelle Davis, Thug Kitchen Party Grub
Masters of Business & Money
  • Charles G. Koch, Good Profit
  • Tony Robbins, MONEY Master the Game
Music Legends
  • Carrie Brownstein, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
  • Elvis Costello, Unfaithful Music
  • John Fogerty, Fortunate Son
  • Jewel, Never Broken
  • Patti Smith, M Train
Sports Heroes
  • Colin Cowherd, Raw
  • Tim Howard, The Keeper
  • Mike Lupica, Fast Break
  • Jerry Rice, 50 Years, 50 Moments
  • Jalen Rose, Got to Give the People What They Want
Bestselling Authors Who Motivate & Inspire
  • Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
  • T. D. Jakes, Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose
  • Joel Osteen, The Power of I Am
  • Dana Perino, And the Good News Is…
  • Ann Romney, In This Together
  • Don Miguel Ruiz, The Toltec Art of Life and Death
Favorite Authors On Politics & Culture
  • Ben Carson, A More Perfect Union
  • Chelsea Clinton, It’s Your World
  • Bill NyeUnstoppable
  • Rand Paul, Our Presidents & Their Prayers
  • Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
Powerful Narratives from Top Historians
  • Daniel James Brown, The Boys in the Boat
  • Brian Kilmeade, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
  • Erik Larson, Dead Wake
  • David McCullough, The Wright Brothers
  • Jon Meacham, Destiny and Power
  • Stacy Schiff, The Witches
  • Simon Winchester, Pacific
  • Bob Woodward, The Last of the President’s Men
Bestselling Authors of Children's Picture Books
  • Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express (30th anniversary edition)
  • Jan Brett, The Mitten (20th anniversary edition)
  • Caralyn Buehner, Snowmen at Christmas
  • James Dean, Eric Litwin, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas
  • Nathan Lane, Devlin Elliot, Naughty Mabel
  • Tom Lichtenheld (illustrator), I Wish You More
  • Brad Meltzer, I Am Abraham Lincoln
  • Julianne Moore, Freckleface Strawberry
  • B. J. Novak, The Book with No Pictures
  • Laura Numeroff, Felicia Bond, If You Give a Dog a Donut
  • Sherri Duskey Rinker, Tom Lichtenheld, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
  • Nancy Tillman, On the Night You Were Born
I don’t mean to be this some kind of ad for Barnes & Noble, but this promotion does offer a rather unique opportunity to pick up signed copies of some very popular writers.  For those of you unable to visit a brick and mortar B&N in the next day or so, these titles are also being offered online, but you probably should hurry because this promotion is a popular one.  I didn’t see all of these titles on display this morning and I do know that a couple of the “Fascinating Celebrities” had already sold out (Drew Barrymore and that Kim Kardashian person)…saying a lot about what people are willing to spend their money on, I think.  

My Special Love-Hate Relationship with Half Price Books Continues

Margaret Atwood 457/1000

My love-hate relationship with Half Price Books is a relatively new thing.  I’ve been selling books to Half Price for something like thirty years, but it is only in the last four or five years that the transactions leave me feeling cheated and abused.  The chain has it all figured out: books are very heavy and carrying around two or three dozen of them at a time is not an easy task.  So when they give you what, even in the kindest words, can only be called their usual low-ball offer, Half Price clerks know that the seller is not at all inclined to pack the books back up in order to drag them back home.  And it works…I’ve given in with a glare and a word or two of astonishment more than once in recent years, and have gone ahead and sold my books for pennies rather than the dollars they are worth.  I walk away muttering “never again,” but a few months later there I am at the counter offering myself as just another Half Price Books human sacrifice.  But I am now confident that those days are over forever.

Today, however, I experienced the love side of the relationship.  Pricing at the chain has never been consistent, so showing a little shopping patience can sometimes yield surprising results.  And that just happened: I scored a signed and numbered copy (still in original shrink-wrap) of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood (published in 2009 by Bloomsbury of London) that was marked as a $9.99 book.  Throw in the 50% off coupon I had, and I ended up paying all of $4.98 for the book.  Is it petty to want to shout a big “Gotcha” right now?  Honestly, it’s about time I got some of my money back from these guys, so I don’t feel guilty at all.

But here’s the best part.  The shrink-wrap I mentioned has a British price sticker on it marked at 75 pounds sterling…something like $130 U.S.  I don’t know how many of the one thousand books produced actually sold for that price, but I doubt than even one other one was purchased brand new for less than five bucks.  So…gotcha, HPB, gotcha.  (Of course, Half Price probably paid only a dollar or two for the book when they acquired it.)


Presentation Box
And here’s the book that fits inside the presentation box (what you can’t see is the beautifully gilded endpapers on all three sides and the quality of the paper and binding).


The beautiful cloth-bound book itself








Jonathan Franzen Reads Bedtime Story to Colbert

I love this YouTube clip for a number of reasons: Jonathan Franzen shows more “personality,” frankly, than I expected from him, the story he reads is relatively clever, and the ironic ending to the clip actually made me laugh.  For me, a little of Colbert’s persona goes a long, long way, but this backhanded endorsement of independent bookstores is really pretty funny.

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Barnes & Noble Really Regrets Driving All Those Independent Bookstores Out of Business and Now Wants to Re-create That Experience Via an E-Reader? Gimme a Break

For obvious reasons, Barnes & Nobles is probably considerably more understanding today about how it feels to be forced to close down bookstores than the chain was back in the nineties when it was rather gleefully causing independent bookstores around the country to fall like a chain of dominoes.  “What goes around, comes around” is a cliché that became a cliché for good reason, but the gods of Barnes & Noble management certainly never expected something like an Amazon to come along to so quickly to knock them off the lofty perch they had assumed would be theirs for a while.

Galen Moore over at the website BostInno has an interesting take on precisely that bit of bookstore history:

Now, indie bookstores are back stronger than ever. Borders is gone and Barnes & Noble’s future is uncertain. Now the big-box bookstore chain wants to bring back the experience of browsing books in a bookstore with a knowledgeable staff to help with good picks. Except they’re bringing it back on an e-reader. 

So Barnes & Nobles wants to bring back that old independent bookstore experience for its customers – even though so many of its bookstore employees don’t seem to know squat about books – but they want to do it on their proprietary e-reader, the Nook.  Give me a break, B&N.

Here’s my favorite part of Mr. Moore’s article:

 Sales of their Nook e-reader keep falling. If current trends persist, at some point there will be more indie bookstores in business than there are Barnes & Noble e-readers in use.

Somewhere way down deep inside me, I would hate to see Barnes & Noble fail to the point where it had to shutdown all of its brick & mortar stores, but it is really, really hard for me to feel sorry for these guys.  Really hard.

Brilliant Books Offers Refunds on All Copies of "Go Set a Watchman" Sold

One Traverse City (Michigan) bookstore is having an interesting reaction to the recently released “lost” novel by Harper Lee.  According to bookstore owner, Peter Makin, the marketing push surrounding the HarperCollins publication of Go Set a Watchman is deliberately misleading and he does not want to be a part of it.  For that reason alone, he is offering a full refund to the “dozens” of customers who purchased the book from Brilliant Books.  If customers feel that they were deceived by HarperCollins, all they have to do is return the book – no questions asked.


“We are not offering refunds based on the quality of the (Harper Lee) book or its content. We are offering refunds to those who bought the book based on marketing that led them to believe it was something other than what it actually was,” Makin said. “If you find yourself complicit in misleading a customer, you should make amends. Again, this isn’t about whether they liked the book. Its about being misled by the marketing.”

[…]

“It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as ‘Harper Lee’s New Novel’. This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted). We therefore encourage you to view ‘Go Set A Watchman’ with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that,” Brilliant Books said on its Web site. 

Honestly, I knew exactly what I was buying when I purchased my copy of Go Set a Watchman in the gift shop of Monroeville, Alabama’s old court house.  I heard much of the hype alluded to hear by Brilliant Books, but I did enough reading and research to see through the ad campaign and judge the book for what it was likely to be – not what was being claimed about it.  In my opinion, anyone deceived by the publicity surrounding the book, has no one to blame but themselves.  The facts were out there for anyone to find.  It was simply a matter of getting off our butts and finding it. Come on, people.  Take some responsibility for yourselves…we are all adults here, aren’t we?  

Click here for Detroit Free Press article.

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