Books

The most popular independent bookstores in America (on Twitter)

NFI Research has compiled a list of the independent bookstores with the most Twitter followers. Powell’s of Portland comes in first, by far, with 9,880 followers as of October 13, 2009. New York stores dominate the list, and only one Bay Area store, Booksmith, even makes an appearance on it. This is a sharp reversal of the state of things earlier this decade when notable stores, such as Coliseum and Gotham, were closing in New York, while Cody’s and Book Passage were expanding in San Francisco. A revival of indie bookstores has taken place in New York over the past couple years with successful openings of Idlewild, Greenlight, and Word, among others.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

What was Barack Obama reading during the campaign? “Be Quiet, Be Heard”

Screen shot 2009-10-18 at 6.59.56 PM

According to New Yorker photographer Platon, President Obama had the book Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion by Susan and Peter Glaser on his desk during the campaign last year when Platon shot Obama for the magazine.

platon

Platon delivered this nugget during his talk at the New Yorker Festival this afternoon. Of course, there were several others, as well. When he shot Bill Clinton for Esquire towards the end of Clinton’s Presidency, Platon told Clinton, “Show me the love!” Clinton’s advisers frantically attempted to tell him to not show Platon anything. The President responded, “Shut up. Shut up. I know what he’s talking about,” before delivering the pose that landed on the cover of Esquire. When P.Diddy arrived at Platon’s studio, he told him to cut the Miles Davis record that Platon had on the stereo and put in one of Diddy’s own records. Vladimir Putin is a huge Beatles fan. The three things that Michael Bloomberg said he could not do without on a desert island are “Salma Hayek. Salma Hayek. And Salma Hayek.” One of Platon’s photos helped compel Colin Powell to endorse Obama for President.

MP3 of Platon on snooping through Obama’s desk

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The NewsHour on the future of publishing

Yesterday on the NewsHour Ray Suarez discussed the future of the book publishing business and its handling of e-books with Jonathan Karp of Hachette’s Twelve, one of my favorite imprints. Karp likens the publishing business to gambling, but what business isn’t like gambling? I found his analogy between the Kindle and the Walkman to be a little misleading, however. Sony, though it had a music library when the Walkman came out, didn’t have the same retail relationship with customers. The comparison would be more apt if Karp’s employer, Hachette, was the one behind the Kindle and not Amazon.

Suarez prefaces the conversation with a brief segment about the book business as a whole, including a story about layoffs at Tattered Cover in Denver and a customer’s book buying binge of a response. More →

How to read large PDFs—books, articles, etc.—on your iPhone

IMG_0055

In the past, I’ve tried emailing large PDFs to myself to read using the iPhone’s native PDF viewer. Unfortunately, it’s extremely slow with any sort of large file, so reading books is out of the question. I also tried importing PDFs of books into Stanza. However, the files tend to lose all formatting and line breaks, giving you large continuous paragraphs of text with page numbers and headers embedded in the text of the work itself. One of the reasons why I would like a Kindle DX is to read PDFs of books and journal/magazine articles. However, there are also several reasons why I don’t want a Kindle. More →

The Kindle DX is great, except that it’s a rip-off

Amazon Kindle DX

I eagerly read the news this morning about Amazon’s new, larger Kindle DX. The larger screen and the PDF capability seem to make it an ideal reader for not only newspapers and magazines, but also for books and and Word files and, well, nearly everything. The thought of 200-page books becoming 500-page books on the Kindle 2 never sat well with me, but it looks like the Kindle DX could preserve the original page dimensions for most books, which is great news. 

However, the problem I have with the Kindle is that it simply doesn’t make economic sense as a replacement for the publications I read. I subscribe to two magazines that are available on the Kindle—the New Yorker and the Atlantic—and sometimes subscribe to several others that aren’t, including the New York Review of Books, Elysian Fields Quarterly, the Believer, McSweeney’s, n+1, the Paris Review, I.D., and Open City. I also read the New York Times on a daily basis and am often a print subscriber. 

So, let’s see how switching to reading my subscriptions on the Kindle DX would work out. The initial cost of the Kindle is $489. I would also probably purchase the extended two-year warranty for an additional $109 because I’m a sucker for those things. I would probably purchase some sort of case for the device, but won’t include that cost here. Throw in sales tax of 8.25%, and you have an initial Kindle cost of $647.33. That’s a lot of money for a reader, but is it worth it? 

Well, let’s see. Subscribing to the New Yorker on the Kindle costs $2.99/month, the Atlantic $1.25/month, and the New York Times $13.99/month. I currently pay $29.99/year for the New Yorker, so I’ll just assume that there’s no cost savings at all for that magazine. I pay $24.90/year for the Atlantic, which works out to a savings of $0.79/month. Now, I’m aware that it’s not entirely fair to compare cash flows for a yearly magazine subscription paid all at once and the monthly Kindle costs, but it doesn’t make much difference in this example. Finally, let’s assume a print subscription cost of $30/month for the New York Times. Given the Times’ frequent promotional offers and my tendency to alternate between seven-day, Sunday-only, and weekend-only subscriptions, I think that value is fair enough for these purposes. Switching to the Kindle edition of the Times produces a monthly savings of $16.

Now, let’s assume an annual discount rate of 6% in better economic times. With a monthly savings of $16.79, it would take nearly four years before you broke even on the original cost of the Kindle. Four years from now, your extended warranty will be expired and your battery shot. It doesn’t seem like a very good deal.

Let’s include books in the mix and say that I purchase one new Kindle book each month, saving $6/book over Amazon’s existing hardcover prices. Even then it’ll take me two years to break even on the purchase price, by which time my Kindle DX will be obsolete. So, the Kindle never really generates any sort of sustained savings over its traditional media equivalents, at least for me. 

I’m aware that I’m not considering the value that users might put on the Kindle’s convenience and other features. Likewise, I’m not considering the premium that readers might put on traditional books—and the ownership rights, longevity, portability, and tangibility that come with them—either. Are any of those enough to make up for the shortfall? Or do they only swing the pendulum further against the Kindle? 

I have no problem with paying for digital content and the convenience that comes with it. In fact, I would probably prefer a less expensive device and more expensive content. At its current price-point, the Kindle DX is only going to attract early adopters and is far from becoming a product for the masses.