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.

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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