I think my last post made it pretty clear that I was not a fan of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. Actually, “not a fan” would be an understatement, I’d say “flat out disliked” would be more accurate.
I approached reading 1Q84 in much the same way I approach exercising before an upcoming beach vacation. I dreaded it every day, constantly questioned whether the results were worth the pain, and instead of marking my progress, I counted down till the finish. The only difference? Finishing 1Q84 didn’t make me any skinnier.
The most frustrating part about 1Q84 was that it was so extremely long and drawn-out. Those 944 pages could have easily been cut in half, maybe even more. And can someone please address the excessive number of sexual fantasy occurrences? Oh yea, that one, hot steamy night of lesbian experimentation? Cool, I got it the first time, no need to remind me of it every 50 pages. And oh yea, Tengo’s first erection? Didn’t need to know that the consistency was “somewhat thicker than urine.” DID NOT. And really, is it okay that Murakami rambled on for nearly a thousand pages without explaining anything at the end of the novel? Where were his editors?!
If 1Q84 were a movie, I’d ask for my money back.
Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France
Selexyz Bookstore, Maastricht, Holland
Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Livraria da Vila, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Cook & Book, Brussels, Belgium
Corso Como Bookshop, Milan, Italy
Plural Bookshop, Bratislava, Slovakia
The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA
The Bookàbar Bookshop, Rome, Italy
The American Book Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
By Dara Kerr / 01/16/12 at 5:00 am
Instead of a coffee table book, what about a book coffee table? Bay Area architect, artist and fabricator Lisa Finster is now custom creating what she calls the “Book Table.” She takes people’s favorite and different sized books and precisely fits them between panels of poplar—much like putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
“I love incorporating things into my work that have significance to me – it’s like I am building a home for something I love while giving it a reason to live on display, or to become something useful,” Finster says. “For me, the book table is like a functional memory capsule – it is a table made complete by a series of books from a formative time in my life.”
DECEMBER 15, 2011
Cheap new e-readers are expected to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season. But new owners of Kindles and Nooks may be in for sticker shock on Christmas morning: The price gap between the print and e-versions of some top sellers has now narrowed to within a few dollars—and in some cases, e-books are more expensive than their printed equivalents.
When Amazon.com Inc. introduced its first Kindle e-reader back in November 2007, the $9.99 digital best seller was a key selling point. Today, the price of a Kindle has plummeted to under $100—from $399 back then. But e-book prices for some popular titles have soared.
Take Ken Follett’s massive novel “Fall of Giants,” for example, which costs $18.99 as an e-book. On Wednesday it was selling for $16.50 as a paperback on Amazon.
The digital price increases are the result of a decision by the six biggest publishers to set their own consumer e-book prices, a move that effectively bars retailers from discounting their e-books without permission. No such agreement exists for printed books—where retailers are free to set their own prices. So while a best-selling e-book price is often less than half of the hardcover price, heavy discounting of the print version closes the gap.
Industry executives say this new state of affairs may already be hurting e-book sales, which have skyrocketed over the past three years and are today 15% to 20% or more of major publishers’ revenue.
“Some people who see $12.99 and $14.99 for e-books may find those prices a little expensive,” says Scott Waxman, a literary agent and digital-books publisher.
For best-selling authors like James Patterson, “people may feel that if they aren’t getting a bargain, at least they are getting convenience and portability,” Mr. Waxman says. But he’s less convinced people will shell out for lesser-known writers.
Mark Weaver, a New Yorker who owns an iPad 2 and used to have a Kindle, says he is “definitely buying fewer” e-books because of higher prices. “It’s hard to justify the purchase of e-books that are priced at $10 to $15 when you can buy the real book on Amazon used for $2 or $3,” he says.
Experts say higher prices could cause some digital consumers to turn to piracy sites. “We don’t have data that directly correlates higher e-book prices to higher rates of piracy, but the piracy rate per title has grown exponentially over the last 12 months,” says Matt Robinson, president of Attributor Inc., a leading antipiracy provider to the book industry.
To be sure, most e-books are still cheap. Yankee Group, a Boston-based research firm, says that the average price of a consumer digital book has fallen to $8.19 this year from $9.23 in 2009. Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group says that 83% of its digital titles are priced at $9.99 or below.
But for many of the country’s most popular titles, consumers are paying more.
Laura Hillenbrand’s nonfiction adventure tale “Unbroken” sells for $12.99 in digital form but $13.98 in hardcover on Amazon. Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography of Steve Jobs retails for $14.99 in e-book version, compared with the $17.49 hardcover available at Amazon and online at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
It was Mr. Jobs himself who wanted to level the playing field for e-book pricing. Early last year, as Mr. Jobs, then CEO of Apple Inc., planned for the launch of the iPad, the company wanted to start an e-book store so that iPad owners didn’t have to rely on Amazon’s Kindle store to buy e-books.
But Apple didn’t want to have to compete with Amazon’s discounted prices. Under Mr. Jobs’s direction, Apple persuaded five of the biggest publishers to abandon the wholesale model, by which retailers were free to discount the recommended retail price. Under the new pricing arrangement, publishers set the price of e-books.
In March, Random House Inc., a unit of Bertelsmann AG and the country’s largest consumer book publisher, joined its five large rivals in adopting the no-discounting digital pricing model.
The Justice Department confirmed last week that it was investigating whether there was improper collusion between the publishers and Apple to prevent discounting. Publishers last week either disagreed with the allegations, said they were cooperating with regulators or declined to comment. Random House said it isn’t part of the probe and otherwise declined to comment. Apple declined to comment at the time.
Ironically, though, publishers make less money with the arrangement. The six publishers which use this model today include Random House; Hachette; Macmillan, a unit of Germany’s Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH; Simon & Schuster Inc., a unit of CBS Corp.; Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group; and HarperCollins Publishers, a unit of News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.
Under the old book arrangement, major publishers charged the same wholesale price for e-books as they received for hardcovers. For a new novel priced at $25, for example, they received $12.50 for the e-book and $12.50 for the hardcover. When Amazon.com discounted the e-book at $9.99, Amazon took the loss.
But under the new pricing model, a $25 hardcover is often priced at $12.99 for the e-book. And because publishers receive 70% of the e-book retail price—while retailers retain 30%—that means publishers receive only $9.09. Publishers were willing to accept the lower profits because they felt the new arrangement preserved the value of books and encouraged other retailers to enter the e-book market.
Indeed, the new arrangement means guaranteed profits on best-selling titles for retailers like Barnes & Noble Inc., which today claims about 27% of the digital books market, as well as Amazon.
Even so, Amazon warns the arrangement has slowed the growth of the e-book market. Russell Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle Content, says the growth rate in dollar terms for publishers using the traditional wholesale model that allows discounting is significantly higher than that of publishers that don’t allow discounting.
Mike Shatzkin, chief executive of Idea Logical Co., a New York-based publishing consultancy, says that he expects e-books will account for 30% to 35% of all revenue for the country’s largest publishers by the end of 2012. That growth may also reflect wider penetration of e-readers in the population. James McQuivey, an analyst at Forrester Research, estimates that at least 20 million U.S. households will own a dedicated e-reader, like a Kindle or Nook, by year-end—compared with just over 10 million last year. Another 17 million tablets will be sold here this year, up from 7.6 million last year, the Yankee Group says.
Publishers believe that e-books are priced correctly and say consumers have shown that they are willing to pay $12.99 for a digital best seller.
“What that tells me is that there has been a change in the understanding of the value of a digital book, and that a digital book has advantages over a physical book in some cases,” says Maja Thomas, a senior vice president of Hachette Digital. “It’s instantaneous, it’s portable, it’s minimal in terms of storage, and it can be retrieved from all kinds of places and devices. It’s also searchable, and it’s easy to take notes and retrieve them.”
Other publishing executives acknowledge price is an issue. John Makinson, chief executive of Penguin Group, says Penguin has seen some price resistance at the higher end, such as the $18.99 that it charges for the digital edition of Mr. Follett’s “Fall of Giants.”
“Some of the issue is that digital customers can’t see how large the book actually is,” he says.
Mr. Makinson agrees that lower prices result in higher unit sales. But he says the revenue generated by those increased sales doesn’t make up for the lost revenue from sales at higher prices. Lower pricing also negatively affects income for authors dependent on royalty payments, he says.
Lorraine Shanley, a publishing industry consultant, says higher digital-book prices may lead some consumers to try self-published works. “If you really want a book, you’ll pay the $12.99 or $14.99,” she says. “But price is definitely an issue for consumers. At some point, they may say they’re willing to try a generic $2.99 mystery that has five stars from readers.”
Write to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org
A few minutes ago, I grabbed Liar’s Poker out of my purse, poured myself a cup of hot water, prepared my cheese and saltines plate, and was just about to jump back into 1986, NYC, the Saloman Brothers mortgage trading desk, BUT… something stopped me. That something, I believe, was my desire not to taint Thanksgiving. Not to disturb the purity of such an occasion by reading about money. And Wall Street. And greed. And collaterized mortgage obligations — yes, definitely NOT about collaterized mortgage obligations.
So in lieu of Thanksgiving, of celebrating family and friends, good health and good fortune, my sister coming home from college (YAY!), I am taking a breather from Liar’s Poker for the day. Don’t worry Michael Lewis, Black Friday* is all about the bottom line, so I have no qualms about seeing you tomorrow. Or the day after. Or I guess every other day of the year, although I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.
… Happy Thanksgiving!
* “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black”. (Source: Wikipedia)
These were the Rommely women: Mary, the mother, Evy, Sissy, and Katie, her daughters, and Francie, who would grow up to be a Rommely woman even though her name was Nolan. They were all slender, frail creatues with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices.
But they were made out of thin invisible steel."
— Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Lauren Passell on October 17, 2011
One time, I was carrying around Kafka’s “The Trial” and about three guys either winked at me (which was actually kind of alarming and creepy), asked about what I was reading, or said something book-nerdy but adorable about my choice.
Clearly, carrying around a book is a good way to meet a guy — bonus points if you’re actually reading it. Here are some awesome, nerd-tastic ways to score dudes without dealing with embarrassing pick-up lines, or even saying a word. It’ll be a great story for the grandkids.
Type of guy: Jock Type of guy: Philosopher Type of guy: The Beatnik Type of guy: The Outdoorsy Type Type of guy: The War Buff Type of guy: The Politician Type of guy: The Sk8er Boi Type of guy: Tech Geek. Type of guy: Science Geek. Type of guy: The Poli-Sci Major. Type of guy: Theater Buff. Type of guy: Dog Lover. (Source: The Date Report)
Book: It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong
You say: ”I can’t believe there was a time in my life I once thought it was actually
about the bike.”
Your date: Riding your bikes to the park to eat pretzels and critique the outfits of
Book: The Republic by Plato
You say: “Do you have a Greek dictionary on you? I’m getting my Greek and
Cyrillic words mixed up.”
Your date: Sitting under a tree and pondering something. Bring a pencil to twirl in your hair.
Book: Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
You say: “I’m giving all of my stuff away, because I’ve found there’s more to life
than material possessions. Do you want this book?”
Your date: “Lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all.”
Book: Walden by Henry David Thoreau
You say: ”You don’t happen to have an extra sleeping bag, would you? I’m going
to need it. When I’m camping. In my desolate cabin. For an entire year.”
Your date: Going on separate sabbaticals of isolation, then writing to each other
about your experiences with ink made of rabbit blood, on paper made of wood
Book: The Art of Warfare by Sun Tzu
You say: ”You know what would have really helped out Mighty Mouse? Knowing
his enemies and knowing himself, so he would fight without danger in battles.
You know, like it says inThe Art of Warfare by Sun Tzu.”
Your date: A game of Risk. Loser buys dinner.
Book: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
You say: ”Oh sure, I always keep this book with me. You never know when
you’re going to need some tips on forming a new government on the fly.”
Your Date: Two words: Medieval. Times.
Book: A copy of Thrasher magazine
You say: ”Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!”
Your date: Doing lots of ollies. Isn’t that what sk8er bois do?
Book: The Big Book of Apple Hacks. On your iPad.
You say: ”I’d like to see the way your hair shines by the light of my computer
Your date: Jailbreaking your iPad.
Book: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History in Time.
You say: ”You’re like an exothermic reaction, you spread your hotness
Your date: Discover a Supernova together and give it a cute pet name.
Suggestion: Keyboard Cat.
Book: Machiavelli’s The Prince.
You say: ”To quote The Prince, ‘It’s better to be impulsive than cautious; fortune
is female and if you want to stay on top of her you have to slap and thrust.’” Wait,
what? Maybe you should change the subject.
Your date: Spaghetti. The dude was Italian, right?
You say: ”You’re attracted to girls, right? No offense, just checking.”
Your date: Dramatic monologue-off of scenes from My Dinner With Andre.
Book: Call of the Wild.
You say: ”Yukon, Ho! …Um, that was nothing.”
Your date: Attend a dog fight! Totally kidding. How about a nice game of fetch?
Type of guy: Jock
Type of guy: Philosopher
Type of guy: The Beatnik
Type of guy: The Outdoorsy Type
Type of guy: The War Buff
Type of guy: The Politician
Type of guy: The Sk8er Boi
Type of guy: Tech Geek.
Type of guy: Science Geek.
Type of guy: The Poli-Sci Major.
Type of guy: Theater Buff.
Type of guy: Dog Lover.
(Source: The Date Report)
My weekend get-away plans to Santa Cruz were foiled by this crap-tastic Norcal “summer” weather of gloom and doom - boo hoo, cry me a river, I know. No need to tell me that I’m a spoiled brat complaining about cloudy 60 degree weather when the rest of the U.S. has been suffering through the second hottest summer on record. But the thing is, I am a spoiled brat and my zombie-like pasty complexion is about ready to start a grassroots rebellion if it doesn’t get some Vitamin D soon. Fortunately I was able to quell Lady Vanity’s little uprising today with the prospect of being mistaken for a true intellectual at the 47th Annual Big Book Sale at Fort Mason. Can you believe it’s already been a year? (And yes, I’m still obsessing over my tan, it’s very nearly a full-time job, thank you very much.)
In Helen Hanff fashion, I walked out of Fort Mason today with eight wonderfully “clean secondhand copies” of the following books for a whopping $8 (8 books, $8, 1 book, $1, you did the math right):
- Living History by Hilary Rodham Clinton
- Microtrends by Mark J. Penn
- The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
- The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
- Good to Great by Jim Collins
- The Return of Depression Economics by Paul Krugman
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Can I add that six of the eight books are hardback editions? And retail for a total of $181.39 new? Thus denoting an average retail book price of $22.67 and a total 2167% mark-up from what I paid? Yep, I know I’m obnoxious. Yea, I’m also a boast. But mostly I’m a cheapskate. So go ahead, hate me, hate me, hate me!