Saturday, November 14, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spectacular First Editions from the 1970s

By Lily King

The 1970s saw end of the Vietnam War, the dawn of disco, the first commercially available microwave oven, the energy crisis, and the election of Margaret Thatcher. It was a decade of contradictions and nowhere was that more evident than in the world of books. From The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison's profound 1970 debut, right through to the New Journalism of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff in 1979, the'70s produced some of the 20th century's most compelling literature.
It was also the decade of the blockbuster bestseller. Peter Benchley's Jaws emptied beaches and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty inspired a global insomnia epidemic, while the more faint of heart became engrossed in sudsy sagas like The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullogh and Judith Krantz's Scruples.
Several authors who would go on to become household names made their debuts in the '70s, including Don DeLillo (1971), Stephen King (1974), and Anne Rice (1976).
Find new favorites and rediscover old friends on our list of the decade's most collectible and spectacular first editions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Ubiquitous Bookstore

Wayne Gretzky with blow-dried mullet
Great business advice often comes from unlikely sources. Image via Jeffery Simpson
Generals always fight the last war. This maxim came to mind recently as a series of proposals has been bruited about concerning building online bookstores. The proposals, most of which are in the whisper stage, come from different quarters. “How can we combat Amazon,” trade publishers ask. (The military metaphor is everywhere.) In the university press community, the idea of a UP bookstore has gained currency (several competing visions here), in part because of the overweening presence of Amazon, but also because it is widely felt that the Internet has let academic book publishers down on the discovery question. There is some justice to this: a casual search on Google will present links to resources of questionable merit, which is a real thorn in the side of publishers that do the Real Thing and do it the Right Way: peer review, careful editing, and faculty oversight committees. It can be difficult for some people to understand that for certain segments of society Wikipedia is not viewed as a reliable source.
I am an old general myself, or at least a foot soldier, and have taken a stab at defining what an online academic bookstore could look like. Nevertheless, I am concerned that some of the efforts in this area are, to paraphrase Wayne Gretzky, skating to the puck instead of where it is going. Amazon is a Web 1.0 company, and the best in class. It is also a player in the world of Web 2.0 (note particularly the acquisition of GoodReads), but it hasn’t really cracked the evolving ecosystem of social media, where companies like Facebook (the clear–and growing–leader) and Twitter dominate. If you skate toward the puck, you will develop a bookstore that will already be showing its age the day it launches.
Amazon, in other words, is a destination site; it was built when the idea was to bring users to a site. Marketers call this pull marketing. It has worked beautifully, as Amazon’s market cap attests. I’m an Amazon customer myself for ebooks (though for little else), having given up on Barnes & Noble and Google, and that’s because Amazon is exceedingly good at what they do. But the Web is now being brought to us; it’s evolving into a push medium. All that time we spend looking at the news feeds for Facebook, Flipboard, and Twitter point to where the Web is going and where new bookstores will have to be. To build a bookstore that goes head to head with Amazon is foolhardy. It would be easier to carry the ball into the defensive line of the Chicago Bears.
So a new bookstore is going to have to bring its offerings to where people are rather than the other way around; a new bookstore has to be ubiquitous. A recent example of this comes from HarperCollins,which has created an arrangement with Twitter to sell copies of the bestsellingDivergent series of young adult novels from within individual tweets. If the implications of this aren’t clear, look closely. Hundreds of millions of people swap information via social media every day. Now these online conversations can have bookstores, even tiny ones that sell only one or two titles, embedded within them. If I tweet about Divergent, a follower of mine can click on an embedded link and make a purchase right there. If that follower in turn retweets my original tweet, a new network of users is invited to purchase the book. Each retweet brings new prospects to the virtual bookstore. Bookstores, in other words, have been converted from a destination to a network of personal recommendations. This is the “marketing in the stream” that I wrote about for the Kitchen a while back.
While this may simply seem to be technologically beyond the reach of many academic publishers, and perhaps all but a few university presses, there are now commercial solutions for this from such companies as Aerbook. So why build only a destination site for a bookstore when you can in addition build a bookstore that follows online conversations around the Internet, pausing only to ring the cash register?
From a conceptual point of view, the most interesting project I have stumbled upon for “post-destination” bookstores is that of Chris Kubica, who explained his work in two articles in Publishers Weekly, which you can find here and here. Kubica gathered a group of publishing people in New York to brainstorm about a post-Amazon bookstore. The conclusion was that each individual potentially could be the site or source of a bookstore–a bookstore of one. With seven billion people on the planet (and growing), that’s potentially seven billion bookstores. Now, how can Amazon compete with that? In some respects this idea is not as exotic as it sounds. Are we not all individual bookstores when we recommend books to others? I am personally making a hobby out of recommending The Long Ships to anyone I run into on Facebook and Twitter, and of course on this blog. Yes, I am a bookstore, as is everyone I know.
So a real challenger to Amazon has to go beyond providing a place to go on the Internet; it has to be embedded in our personal activity on the Internet. It also, I think, should have a bricks-and-mortar component. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But bricks-and-mortar is making a comeback, as a presentation from Scott Galloway of the Stern School at NYU showsMy own view is that a physical bookstore or chain of bookstores is a useful and perhaps essential component to a new bookstore strategy. Such bookstores might be placed in university towns and major cities; I would like to see them in college libraries. Their role would be discovery, for which no one has ever invented a better way than to browse the aisles of a bookshop.
Future bookstores, to be competitive, will thus likely have these aspects:
  • They will include both print and electronic books. This is because the marketplace wants both.
  • There will be a Web-based destination site much like Amazon’s.
  • Book commerce will be embedded into the social media stream, making each individual potentially a bookseller.
  • A bricks-and-mortar component, perhaps in alliance with academic institutions and public libraries, will provide “showrooming” for discovery.
  • And there will be a flexible and comprehensive “back end” to handle transactions, inventory management, and metadata.
Let’s get those stores going now. But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that bookstores have been totally thought out by Amazon. The Internet is a dynamic medium, and the key to success is just as Wayne Gretzky said.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Doodles and poems found in Black Book of Carmarthen

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How novel! Revival of the paper book: Record rise in prices as readers show renewed appetite for printed pages

The British books market is turning over a new leaf. After two decades of fierce price competition driving shops out of business, book prices are rising at their fastest rate since 1997.

A trend towards buying hardback books and a growing number of parents purchasing real books to lure children away from screen-reading are part of the story.

In addition, many in the book trade are hoping that Amazon – under pressure from shareholders in the US to increase profit margins and from publishers to stop hard discounting – may be about to lift the price of its books.
New chapter: Waterstones boss James Daunt says buyers want both books and ebooks
New chapter: Waterstones boss James Daunt says buyers want both books and ebooks

This is bad news for voracious readers, perhaps, but good news for the long-suffering books industry as inflation on many other products stalls.

The price of books rose by 12.8 per cent in the three months to the end of September and an average of 7.4 per cent over the whole of 2014, as tracked by the Office for National Statistics. That is the highest rise since ONS records began in 1997.

The figures, which include hardbacks, paperbacks and ebooks across a range of outlets online and on the high street, reflect a new attitude among some book buyers, believes James Daunt, managing director at 276-store chain Waterstones.
‘The ebooks market was embraced very strongly at first, but it now looks like most ebook buyers are also buying physical books,’ he said.

‘The value of having a book sat on your desk, that you can pick up or lend to someone, has come back. It would be nice to say it was about consumers supporting local bookshops, but I’m not sure that is the case.
‘But as a company – and we are a large part of the high street market now – we are getting much better at selling hardbacks and we’re selling more, which hasn’t been the case for a long time.

‘We’re also seeing strong growth in children’s book sales. There was an expectation that children from the ages of nine to 12 would increasingly want to read on digital readers, but that doesn’t seem to have happened,’ said Daunt.

There has been some evidence that shareholders have been pushing Amazon to increase profit margins by easing the pressure on prices and by exiting unprofitable categories altogether. A recent drive to increase fashion sales has been a part of the company’s plan to raise profits by selling more higher margin products, rather than relying on its traditional staples of music, DVDs, electronics and books.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UK: Bookseller offers rarity that inspired Charlotte Brontë - and her pseudonym

A rare first edition of Thomas Bewick's History of British Birds belonging to Frances Currer, the woman believed to have inspired Charlotte Brontë's pseudonym of Currer Bell, has come to light.

  Dubbed 'England's earliest female bibliophile' in Seymour de Ricci's history of collectors, Frances Mary Richardson Currer's library in her family home of Eshton Hall, Yorkshire, ran to 15,000 to 20,000 volumes. Among them lay Bewick's classic of British ornithology - the work Jane Eyre is reading as Charlotte Brontë's novel opens, and whose 'enchanted page[s]' the author also celebrated in poetry.

Read more

Iraq: Rare books burned

Isis militants have reportedly ransacked Mosul library, burning over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning. Initial reports said approximately 8,000 books were destroyed by the extremist group. Read more

20 New Classics Every Child Should Own

Jordan B. Nielsen Headshot
     Last week Time published its 100 Best Children's Books of All Time, and a companion list, The 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time. As the children's book buyer for an independent bookstore and reviewer of children's fiction, several of my friends, family members and colleagues posted the link to my Facebook wall almost simultaneously. I sighed as I dragged my cursor over to the link, knowing full well what awaited me, a little thread of sadness knotting in my stomach.
     It's the same knot I get as a bookseller when I encounter a particular kind of adult customer who is looking to buy a book for a child: their eyes are darting nervously about my section of the store, they're picking up books and putting them down without really looking at them, they are babes lost in a realm long forgotten to them.
"Where are your classics?" they ask, a little sheepishly. I try to speak quickly as I walk them to the long table near the window, laden with time-worn favorites:
"Is there someone in particular you're shopping for? Boy or girl? You know, there are some wonderful new authors and illustrators I could show you."
"This book won the Caldecott Medal this year. Have you heard of Oliver Jeffers? Lauren Child? Sean Qualls was here just last week!"
Their hands land on Madeline, a mist coming into their eyes. "Oh I loved this book when I was young." My time is running out.
I snatch a few of my favorites from the other tables, not too many, afraid to overwhelm.
"If you liked Madeline you might also take a look at Julie Morstad. This is Sophie Blackall's latest book, are you familiar with Ivy and Bean?"
"You know...I think I'll just go with Madeline, it's for my niece, I'd love to share this with her."
I smile. "I'm sure she'll love it." Who could blame them?
"We're living in a golden age of young-adult literature," Time's round up began. Yes, YES! I thought, hope rising. Which made it all the more dismaying to see the same old familiar faces gathered once again to receive praise. A curmudgeon's voice took hold in my head as I clicked through the list: The Wild Rumpus is still in vogue? Must we bid the Moon Goodnight once more? Surely piling on one more commendation will fell The Giving Tree!
As with the customer who just wants to share a fondly remembered tale from their childhood with a son, daughter or young relative, I can hardly blame Time's esteemed judges for their selections. And three cheers for the inclusion of the modern masterpieces I Want My Hat BackExtra Yarn and Journey. But in the interest of widening the spotlight of our adulates, allow me to submit 20 new pictures books which in 20 years time may find themselves as dog-eared and long-loved as those on Time's list of venerable selections.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Top 100 Most Searched-For Books of 2014

By Beth Carswell

On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon
Easily one of my favorite moments of the literary year is the unveiling of's list of the top 100 most searched for out-of-print books, and the list is in for 2014.
The biggest news of the year is the ousting of Madonna's Sex, which has enjoyed lounging lasciviously around in the #1 spot since 2010, enjoying the view. But no matter how much Madonna might like to be on top, the winds of change blew Sex down to #3 this year. So what two titles were bold and daring enough to take down the queen?
Interestingly, the #1 spot on this year's list went to On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon. The book examines in deep detail the power dynamics and reasoning behind blunders in military leadership and strategy from The Boer War, WWI, The Crimean War and more. From a perspective of analyzing personalities and intellectual abilities behind positions of power, even considering factors such as character traits prized and abhorred in the military, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence asks very tough questions and even offers some answers. No doubt the book has ruffled its share of feathers since its original publication in 1975 by Jonathan Cape. The book's overlying, scathing assertion is that by its very own structure, the military is assuring its own continued failure by the types of people it attracts, promotes and makes leaders: 

"Such personality traits - fear of failure, need for approval, orderliness, excessive obedience and underlying hostility etc. - fit in so well with the requirements of military organizations, that a proportion of these people may rise to high rank. At the top, however, those features of their psychological make-up which assured their ascent may prove sadly incapacitating. Over-control, rigidity, having a 'closed-mind', do not lend themselves to the task of fathoming, let alone dealing with, the great uncertainities of war."
The book made its first appearance last year at #11, after never having appeared in the top 100 previously. While I'm not sure I want to live in a world where military incompetence trumps sex, it says something about the current state of things when that's the the most frequently searched-for out-of-print book.
The #2 spot goes to The Lovely Reed: An Enthusiast's Guide to Building Bamboo Fly Rods by Jack Howell, which wasn't even on the list last year. How wholesome. A bit of snooping around the net reveals that in October 2013, the Sioux City Journal featured an interview with a man named Jeff Hatton, whose collection of over 115 fishing rods (called "The Gnome's Traveling Rod Show") lovingly details the history of rods, dating back to the 1700s. In the interview, Hatton mentioned having taught himself to build fishing rods using a book - "The Lovely Reed". Could this be the cause of the book's seemingly sudden demand? Or is it merely a renewed interest in bamboo fly rod fishing? Do we have hipsters to thank? I would feel more confident making that assertion if it was a book about vinyl record collection, or making one's own kombucha, but the possibility remains.
It's always fascinating to see the fluctuations in the list. For those not in the know, when demand wanes for a book, a publisher can decide to give it the axe and not print any more copies. In the case of a resurgence of interest, the demand can soar again, making for some highly sought-after books indeed. These days, with the speed of communication and ease of printing, publishers are quick and eager to jump on a reprinting if the demand exists, so these lists become narrower. However, there is still a fascinating, eclectic gap between supply and demand, and this glorious literary grey area is where we find ourselves today. Some of the books on this list are extremely unlikely to ever be reprinted, such as #14 - Promise Me Tomorrow by Nora Roberts is widely acknowledged, even by the author and her most loyal devotees, to be entirely godawful ("She had never wanted a man so much. He had sworn no woman would ever possess him."). True fans insist on owning the whole Roberts bibliography, while Roberts herself would seemingly rather be drawn and quartered than put more copies of the book into circulation. Hence its scarcity: there are fewer than 20 copies currently for sale on AbeBooks.
What can cause renewed interest in an OOP title? Well, it's almost always media or celebrity-based. It's interesting to see the social and economic impact that comes of a nod from a wealthy, successful community figure. In July 2014, Bill Gates wrote that his favorite business book was Business Adventures by John Brooks (first recommended and lent to him by Warren Buffett - I find it gratifying to know the unimaginably wealthy people of Earth still lend one another books, rather than just having a small plane skywrite the entire text over Manhattan). This time last year it was an out-of-print title that didn't crack the top 100 spot. One year later, and Gates' recommendation not only sent searches for the book skyrocketing, but it has also been brought back, both as an e-book, and into print, which means, of course, it won't be on this year's list either, but eager would-be businessmen can easily find copies now.
My personal pet book on the list has to be #23, Cards as Weapons by Ricky Jay. The cover alone is enough to make me swoon. There's so much going on! The pyramids! The charging bull! The giant squid! What's happening in that saloon? Oh, how can I resist?! Well, the price tag helps me resist. It's a popular collectible book, and copies on AbeBooks start over $100. It's sorely tempting, though. Even the description of Ricky Jay is full of allure: "The author of the critically acclaimed Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, a nationally known sleight-of-hand expert, movie actor and magician extraordinaire..."
Masterful. If sleight-of-deadly-hand isn't your cup of tea, rest assured, this list is as eclectic as they come, and has something for everyone, even (especially) if you're weird.

The List:

3. Sex by Madonna
4. The Body by Stephen King
5. Rage by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
6. The Colorado Kid by Stephen King
7. The Road We Are Traveling by Stuart Chase
8. On the Nature and Existence of God by Richard M. Gale
9. 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert
11. Dark Carnival by Ray Bradbury
12. The Harvard Classics (51 volumes) edited by Charles W. Eliot
13. A Treasury of Great Recipes by Vincent & Mary Price
14. Promise Me Tomorrow by Nora Roberts
15. The Jerusalem Bible by Salvador Dali
17. Fast Times at Ridgemont High by Cameron Crowe
19. The Thwarting of Laplace's Demon: Arguments Against the Mechanistic World-View by Richard Green
20. Arithmetic Progress Papers by H. Henry Thomas
21. Racing Toward Judgment by David R Wilkerson
22. My Pretty Pony by Stephen King
23. Cards As Weapons by Ricky Jay
24. History of Art by H.W. Janson
25. The Angelique Series by Sergeanne (Anne) Golon
26. Murmurs of Earth by Carl Sagan
27. Ilsa by Madeleine L'Engle
28. The Modern Gunsmith by James Virgil Howe
29. Mandingo by Kyle Onstott
30. The Afronauts by Cristina de Middel
31. Airport by Arthur Hailey
33. 102 Favorite Paintings by Norman Rockwell
34. The Pink Dress by Anne Alexander
36. Sisters
37. Unintended Consequences by John Ross
39. Pookie by Ivy Wallace
41. Analysis of Beam Grids and Orthotropic Plates by the Guyon-Massonet-Bares Method by Richard Bares; Charles Ernest Massonet
42. Cyborg by Martin Caidin
43. Golden Book of the Civil War by Charles Flato
44. I Go Pogo by Walt Kelly
45. Set the Trumpet to Thy Mouth by David Wilkerson
46. A History of Hand Knitting by Richard Rutt
47. Hell, I Was There by Elmer Keith
48. A Pattern Book of Tatting by Mary Konior
49. The Book of Indians by Holling C. Holling
50. Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles by Linda Dawson & Terry Furchgott
51. Women Are Beautiful by Garry Winogrand
53. In A Dark Place by Ray Garton
54. A Complete Guide to Learning and Understanding Chi Mind Control by Mike Dayton
57. The Act of Creation by Arthur Koestler
59. The King Ranch by Tom Lea
61. Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman
62. The Holy Bible by Rev. Alfred Nevin
63. The Big Country by Donald Hamilton
64. Open Water Swimming by Penny Lee Dean
70. Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers
72. To Drop A Dime by Paul Hoffman
73. Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald
74. Kalinda by Evan Green
77. Sam's Sandwich by David Pelham
78. The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes by Kenneth Nathaniel Taylor
79. Kelso's Shrug Book by Paul Kelso
80. The Negro motorist green book: an international travel guide by Victor H Green
81. We by Charles Lindbergh
82. The Story of Civilization by Will Durant
83. The Barrakee Mystery by Arthur W. Upfield
84. The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy
86. Precious Souls: A Culture Unraveling by Nazareth V. Asorian
87. Impact Dynamics by Jonas A. Zukas
88. The Theory of Isotope Separation as Applied to the Large Scale Production of U235 by Karl P Cohen
89. This World and That: The Autobiography of a Diver by Thomas Ferris Milne
91. The Erotic Art of Edgar Britton by Jane Hilberry
92. Halloween by Curtis Richards
93. A Different Kind of Life by Virginia Williams
94. The Innovators The New Holland Story Hardcover by Homer K. Luttringer
96. The Airgun from Trigger to Target Paperback by Gerard Michael Cardew and G.V. Cardew
98. Birds of Britain by John D. Green
99. Permaculture: A Designers' Manual by Bill Mollison
100. Beyond the Plough by Janet Woods