Monday, April 02, 2007

Link-Mad Monday: Announcements, etc...

- Well, the final results are in, and your Book Nerd finished rock-bottom, dead-as-a-doornail last in the Office Blogger Pool of the Tournament of Books. (Have I mentioned this is why I've never gotten into sports?) Perhaps a better reading of the current literary marketplace temperature would have made me a better predictor (it seems the TOB is right on the same page as our gal Oprah in naming Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD as the must-read of the season). But as the ALP and I agreed in our own post-tournament wrap-up conversation, the only way to make it any fun is just to vote for the books you like -- that way at least you know why you're rooting for something. I'm sorry my love for Richard Powers and Brian K. Vaughan couldn't quite carry them to victory, but I admit I had a damn good time reading the reasons why. Maybe I'll actually have to pick up the McCarthy book now that it's out in paperback. Or maybe I'll wait until after I get married to have my life changed by post-apocalyptic misery. In any case, you all should read it and tell me if the judges were blind (or, in some cases, just too tired to read the whole book...)

- In the bad news category, I'd like to quote in its entirety this short piece from Bookselling This Week:

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that newspapers' book sections are becoming endangered because publishers have moved away from buying ads in standalone book-review sections "in favor of paying to stack mounds of books in the front of chain bookstores." Sometime this spring, the Los Angeles Times is expected to fold its Sunday book review section into a new section combining books with opinion pieces, WSJ noted. "That would reduce to five the number of separate book-review sections in major metropolitan newspapers still published nationwide, down from an estimated 10 to 12 a decade ago," according to the article.

WSJ explained that, "in an era of targeted marketing, publishers say the best time to reach readers is when they are in the stores with money in their pockets looking to make an immediate purchase." The only to stand out in a large chain store is to "pay for real estate in the front and pile those books up high."

This is part of the ongoing (dare I say?) scandal of the way co-op is used at chain stores. Yes, all bookstores have the opportunity to take advantage of co-op: a system by which publishers help pay for joint promotions of books with the bookstore, whether through window displays, advertisements, author events, or in-store displays. The honorable way to do this is buy what you want to sell as a store, then find out how much the publisher can help you out. When it becomes a pay-for-play system as it is now with the chains and publishers, the cultural conversation literally suffers.

While this indicates the truth of what I'm reading now in Paco Underhill's great book WHY WE BUY -- that in an age of over-pervasive advertising most buying decisions are made on the store floor -- it also indicates an increasing obsession with selling more of the bestseller, at the expense of supporting a broader literary culture (i.e. newspaper book reviews) that would lead to the overall success of our industry. I think it's a major mistake that publishers will ultimately be sorry for. But it does explain in part why more and more thoughtful readers are turning to blogs, as the best means for finding good opinions on what to read next.

- Speaking of turning to the blogging world, BEA director Lance Fensterman continues to blog like a madman, and there's lots to announce. Along with generously helping to plan an Emerging Leaders party at BEA, he's announced the BEA Bon Jovi benefit concert (bet you didn't see THAT coming) and cool BEA website features like the Book Industry Characters series, which currently features ABA President and all-around cool bookseller Russ Lawrence.

AND, importantly for us bloggers, Lance has secured the sponsorship of Shelfari for the first-ever litblog-based panel at BEA. I'll let him spill the details, but fellow litbloggers should keep an eye on that space -- it's our chance to actually affect the programming at the biggest book industry event of the year, and an indicator that the powers that be are taking note of what we do here.

- In the meantime, the Litblog Co-Op is on the brink of announcing the Spring Read This! selection; I have my favorite, but they're all awesome this round. Stay tuned for the winner...

- And in another suspenseful announcement, Bookseller Chick is planning to out herself today! Stay tuned for litblog mysteries revealed...

Have fun with it all, and happy reading!