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Tweet Others with Kindness . . . or Else

posted June 30, 2009

Posted by Mariko Fujinaka in publishing technology

Early hardback edition cover
Image via Wikipedia

Be careful what you tweet! Author Alice Hoffman found this out the hard way.  When a not-quite-glowing review of The Story Sisters, Hoffman’s latest novel, appeared in the Boston Globe on June 28, Hoffman reacted by posting her own opinions on her Twitter feed.

Hoffman’s first tweet was a personal attack on the critic: “Roberta Silman in the Boston Globe is a moron.” Hoffman then continued to criticize Silman, stating that “any idiot can be a critic” and wondering, “So who is Roberta Silman?” Perhaps Hoffman was not aware that Silman is an award-winning novelist and critic, with stories published in such periodicals as the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly.

Hoffman also slammed the Boston Globe and the city of Boston (her hometown, by the way), and she tweeted Silman’s contact information (including her phone number) and encouraged her Twitter followers to write to Silman to “Tell her what u think of snarky critics.”

Hoffman’s Twitter account was promptly deleted (by whom exactly is unclear). Hoffman issued a statement via her publicist in which she apologized if she had offended anyone. “I feel this whole situation has been completely blown out of proportion,” Hoffman stated.

The moral to this story? Someone may actually be reading your tweets, so don’t tweet it unless you mean it! For additional information on Hoffman’s tweets, see this gawker article.

Cowboy Up with IndieBound

posted June 29, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling uncategorized

What recourse does a lone independent bookseller (or even several hundred of them) have to fight the megapower of Amazon? Everyone knows the indies can’t compete on price when Amazon can leverage its economies of scale to sell books at significant discounts.

On the other hand, the algorithms of the Amazon brain (Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…) are no substitute for the informed, individual, hands-on customer servicethe inspired and unusual recommendationsthat you’re likely to get at your local independent (if it still exists). And the indies know it.


That’s why they’re rallying around IndieBound, an initiative from the American Booksellers Association (ABA), designed to champion the “buy local” movement. Members are banded together by a common logo and a fierce “Declaration” that opens like this:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for individuals to denounce the corporate bands which threaten to homogenize our cities and our souls, we must celebrate the powers that make us unique and declare the causes which compel us to remain independent.

Introduced a year ago, IndieBound is an expanded, rebranded, and reenergized version of BookSense, the ABA’s original vehicle for promoting the cause of independents. The new website features bookseller recommendations and best-seller lists, as well as copious DIY resources for independent booksellers to customize their IndieBound identities. By joining the community, users can create their own personalized wish lists, plug their favorite stores, and participate in social networking activities.

Big news at the BEA in May was the launch of IndieBound’s new iPhone application. Here are some of its features:

• Browse indie bookseller recommendation lists (The Indie Next List, The Kids Indie Next List) and best-seller lists (The Indie Bestseller Lists)

• Search for books from a comprehensive database of in-print titles

• Review detailed book information

• Buy books online from indie bookstores

• Find local, indie bookstores nearby or across the United States

• Find other independently owned businesses, like coffee shops, movie theaters, and bicycle stores

The application’s been downloaded more than 60,000 times in a monthwhich seems like a glimmer of hope in this otherwise dark night of the indie bookseller’s soul.

Books of a Feather

posted June 24, 2009

Posted by Anne Healey in book design books

Here’s a little selection of beautiful book covers featuring birds.

fulton_nightingales-copy every_bird_on_earth

The Nightingales of Troy (paperback) by Alice Fulton (W.W. Norton, 2009) — Designed by Kelly Blair

To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession (paperback) by Dan Koeppel (Plume, 2006).  According to the Book Cover Archive, the designer is Mike Langman, but I don’t see anything like it on his website, so I think that perhaps someone else designed the book using his wonderful paintings. I could be wrong!

capote2 fleisher-accidental-copy

My Side of the Matter by Truman Capote (Penguin Pocket 70s, 2005). This is my favorite of the bunch. I like the dimness of the photo contrasted with the pink lettering. Also, the composition really works — it’s held together with diagonals as opposed to a grid.

Accidental Species by Kass Fleisher (Chax Press, 2005). I wish I could find a larger picture of this. Is the image a photo of a three-dimensional assemblage?

abramowitz_dear1 chekhov-kiss

Dear Dearly Departed by Harold Abramowitz (Palm Press, 2008). I don’t have any information on the illustrator or designer.

The Kiss by Anton Chekhov (Penguin Pocket 70s, 2005)

Re-Imagine Bookstores, Too?

posted June 23, 2009

Posted by Erin Brown in Bookselling books

It seems impossible that Shaman Drum Bookshop, which has been a part of the cultural/intellectual lifeblood of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for nearly 30 years, is closing its doors on June 30. Just as it seemed impossible a year ago that Cody’s Books, that legendary Berkeley institution, was really disappearing off the map. How is it that two such esteemed and longstanding independent bookstores, proximate as they were to two of the world’s most prestigious public universities (and all of the students, professors, and inordinately literate citizens who circulate through and surround them), could be rendered unsustainable?

From the backside: 
“We feel that a good bookshop
[like a shaman drum]
is another way of facilitating a change of consciousness.”

When Cody’s closed last June, Andy Ross, who owned the store from 1977 until 2006, recalled that when Cody’s was thriving (through the end of the 1980s), independent stores claimed 40 to 50 percent of the bookselling market; in the new era of Barnes and Noble and Amazon hegemony, however, the independents are down to about 3 percent. In An Open Letter from a Distressed Bookseller, issued in February, Shaman Drum owner Karl Pohrt explained that in an already unstable economic climate, the nail in the coffin for his bookstore came with the steep decline in textbook sales that resulted from a change last fall in university policy (requiring professors to post textbook ISBNs online a month before the start of classes, thus driving sales to online retailers). Even so, Pohrt acknowledged, “It has been clear to me for a while now that the current model doesn’t work.” As such, he concluded, “The question then becomes: What is the next version of a bookstore?”

After June 30 Pohrt will continue to promote literary discourse in Ann Arbor through the Great Lakes Literary Arts Center (GLLAC), a fledgling nonprofit (originally conceived as an outgrowth of Shaman Drum) that plans to provide a public forum for author readings, panel discussions, writing workshops, and other nonelectronic gatherings of people who are passionate about good writing.  As Carolyn Kellogg pointed out in her Jacket Copy post, however, even if the GLLAC fares well, “it still leaves the question of what role bookstores play in our communities today–and tomorrow.”  Looking ahead, Kellogg wondered, “Will our future literary lives be split between buying books online and hanging out at the local literary nonprofit?”

Baudelaire on Windows Mobile

posted June 18, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books technology

Not everyone has an IPhone. It’s not even the best-selling smartphone brand (worldwide market shares are Nokia, 41 percent; Blackberry, 20 percent; Apple, 11 percent). So when the news arrived that IPhone owners could download Kindle books from, many people were left out.

Fortunately, until Kindle apps appear for other smartphones, there are good alternatives. Among the best are Mobipocket, a French company bought by Amazon in 2005, and eReader, owned by Barnes & Noble. Both have apps available for most smartphones, including my own, the Samsung Omnia, run on Windows Mobile.


I’ve been surprised by how pleasant and useful it is to read on a cell phone, despite the three-inch screen. Reading on my phone has been a slippery slope. It started with text messages, then e-mail, then the newspaper. When I signed up with Mobipocket, I decided I would start with a book of poems—short things to read when I was stuck somewhere and had nothing to do. With Mobipocket I was able to connect to the site and buy a book directly from my phone.

I love paper books, so in evaluating Mobipocket and eReader, the real test was whether I would use them. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. One evening at the grocery store, I found myself in the longest line of my life. I was stuck near the cosmetics and couldn’t even see the cashiers. As people grumbled around me, I decided this was the moment. I pulled out my phone. I opened up Les Fleurs du Mal. By the time I got a glimpse of the cash register, I had already read three curious, ecstatic poems by Baudelaire.

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