The Xmas (Paperback) Fanatic

Xmas card_Page_01I haven’t talked about Justin Marriott’s Paperback Fanatic, a wonderful magazine on paperback fiction of all genres, in a while, but this is too cool not to share. As I noted almost two years ago, this is a really fun magazine that offers a treasure trove of information on old paperbacks from a variety of genres. Individual issues sell out quickly, and back issues are almost impossible to find, but it is available via subscription at the main Paperback Fanatic webpage.

It’s always been print-only until now. Justin Marriott has released a short electronic-only version, for free, that includes a really neat article by Nigel Taylor on some of the most interesting appearances of Christmas-themed stories in science fiction and fantasy works. It is available for Xmas card.

Justin Marriott has also provided an update on where the magazine is going in the new year that I will reprint in its entirety here:

“Fellow Fanatics,

As a thank you for your support throughout the year I attach The Xmas Fanatic, my first attempt at electronic publishing. I hope you enjoy Nigel Taylor’s look at SF and horror stories with a Christmas theme, and his own line-up for a horror themed Xmas anthology. Please feel free to distribute/forward/re-post as a way of spreading the word.

There’s plenty of Fanatic related projects to look forward to in 2014. Issue 28 of The Fanatic is complete, and will be published at the end of January. It includes a couple of new subjects for The Fanatic, specifically JD books and some uber-rare film tie-ins that will blow your mind.

Issue 29 and 30 are coming together very nicely, with one being dedicated to the theme of ‘renegade publishers’ taking in those paperback houses which were short-lived and/or operated on the periphery of the book industry.

I’m also in the early stages of working with a paperback fanatic who has kindly agreed to provide scans of his superb collection of horror, SF and cult movie tie-ins, so I’m excited about the possibilities of what we might produce together.

And I’ve nearly completed the design of the fourth issue of Bedabbled! Martin Jones’ essential zine dedicated to British cult cinema. I won’t let the cat(s) out of the bag in terms of contents, but format wise it’ll be A4 and full-colour. Drop Martin a line if you would like to receive ordering details when it’s out –

Please have a great Xmas and New Year.

Justin The Fanatic”

Book News Round-up, March 11, 2013

Some book-related news I’ve come across since the last update:

03novelist1-articleLargeGérard de Villiers, French spy novelist: I have been hearing about de Villiers’ work for years. He’s an extraordinarily popular and prolific author of spy novels and political thrillers. He’s also a fascinating guy in his own right, with many purported connections with the French security services and others around the globe. The New York Times recently published a lengthy interview with de Villiers. By all accounts, if you like these kinds of spy thrillers (latter-day men’s adventure novels), then de Villiers is your man. Just one problem: as far as I can tell, none of his novels are available in English. Well, let me correct that and say that a few of them were translated into English in the late 1960s through the mid-1970s, but these are all long out of print. maybe I’ll come across them some day. (And don’t you want that hat? Sure, at first it seems absurd, but the more you think about it the better it looks — am I right?)

ArthurConanDoyleArthur Conan Doyle’s Estate Issues: I had no idea that the literary rights to the Conan Doyle estate were so convoluted. While the original (canonical) stories are in the public domain, the character of Sherlock Holmes himself is still under copyright in the United States. (I assume because of all the derivative works based on the character that are NOT in the public domain.) In any case, I had no idea that a woman named Andrea Plunkett had been masquerading as the rightful owner of the character. Apparently Wildside Press, publisher of the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, was even scammed by Plunkett before getting it all worked out with the real estate.

And speaking of Wildside, here are some new coupon codes for their books:
For our ebook store — — use coupon: ebookme (save 20%)
For our print book store — — use coupon: bookme (save $5 on $20 or more)
For our print book store — — use coupon: bookme2 (save $12 on $50 or more)
For our print book store — — use coupon: bookme3 (save $30 on $100 or more)

Book News Round-up, February 4, 2013

Some book-related news I’ve come across since last week’s update:

barnes-and-noble-logoB&N — THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING BOOKSTORE: We all know about the tragic demise of Borders in 2011. Readers just aren’t buying as many books from brick-and-mortar stores as they used to, Borders failed to capitalize on the growing eBook trend until it was far too late, and by all accounts, it was mismanaged. Borders’ failure obviously took a little pressure off its competitors like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million (BAM!). But fast-forward eighteen months, and it’s clear that at least Barnes & Noble isn’t doing so hot either. According to this recent news article, in 2008 B&N had 726 stores. It now has 689. In ten years, it plans to have only 450-500 stores. That’s a huge shrinkage, and frankly, I’ll be surprised if there are still 450 B&N stores around the country. (Just as an aside, BAM! has about 250 stores currently; no idea if they plan a similar downsizing.)

6a00d8341c562c53ef0168e498a893970c-800wiSTEPHEN KING INTERVIEW ON HIS NEW BOOK: By now, you’ve probably already heard that King plans to release a sequel to one of his best-known and most beloved books, THE SHINING. I never thought this would happen, and am just the teensiest bit skeptical of the project — THE SHINING is one of my favorite horror novels and one of the very few books I’ve ever read that genuinely scared me — but I’m looking forward to the sequel, DOCTOR SLEEP. Here is a nice long interview that focuses on the question of why King has decided to write this sequel now, 36 years after the original.

Book News Round-up, January 28, 2013

Some book-related news I’ve come across since last week’s update:

barnes-and-noble-logoBARNES & NOBLE ISN’T DOING SO HOT: Probably not exactly the news of the century, and frankly, it’s not a huge surprise. We all know that Borders’ collapse gave its competitors Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million some breathing room, but that’s probably not enough in the long-term. Stores that sell consumable media — like Best Buy and B&N — as well as brick-and-mortar stores that sell stuff that’s available cheaper online aren’t doing so hot these days. Apparently B&N’s Christmas sales weren’t great and its Nook business is slowly being overtaken by a combination of Kindles and iPads. Dedicated eReaders, I’ve read, are slowly but surely being squeezed out by various kinds of tablets. I only have a Kindle 3 myself, enjoy it very much, and have no plans to purchase a tablet PC any time soon, but I’m apparently in the minority. We’ll see where this goes, but expect a round of B&N store closures by next spring at the latest if this year’s sales continue their decline. Of course, all this begs the question: where exactly do people go to browse for books and discover new ones if they can’t examine store shelves full of them? This is a problem that Amazon has not yet figured out how to solve.

HydrogenSonata_ 615INTERVIEWS WITH IAIN M. BANKS: If you enjoy space opera and/or transhumanist SF, then you really should give Iain M. Banks’ Culture series a try. It’s been a long-time favorite of mine, though it does require some careful thought, as these aren’t what I typically think of as ‘easy” reads. Imagine a kind of post-scarcity interplanetary utopian society run by a coalition of extremely powerful artificial intelligences and you’ll picture something close to the eponymous Culture (that quick description glosses over all the most fun elements of the setting, but it’s a start. Last year, Banks came out with a new Culture novel, THE HYDROGEN SONATA, and has been interviewed about that novel, his views on utopia, technology, and many other issues. Here is one very recent interview with Banks, and here’s a second from last November that I just happened upon.

Buffy-and-Giles-buffy-and-giles-5883760-343-40020 HEROIC (FICTIONAL) LIBRARIANS: It’s probably no surprise that I love libraries almost as much as I love books. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life in various libraries, after all, and I regularly consult with librarians for my academic research. But as much as I like real-life librarians, I love the fictional heroic, super-heroic, and magical kind of librarian even more. Here’s a great list with illustrations and descriptions of twenty fictional badass librarians.

Book News Round-up, January 21, 2013

I used to do more reporting on cool news related to publishing, writing, book retail, etc., but I’ve moved away from that in the last year or two because time didn’t allow it. I’m not that much less busy than I have been, but I’ve decided to make a more concerted effort to share some interesting articles and tidbits I come across. The tentative goal is to do a short weekly post that provides some links and commentary. This weekly round-up is not intended to be comprehensive — that would never be possible without having a full-time staff and this is a one-man, unpaid show — and will necessarily be idiosyncratic. Here are some of the interesting book-related things I’ve come across in the last week or so:

SCANDINAVIAN CRIME FICTION: It’s all the rage now. Of course, English-language publishers are trying desperately to find the next GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO, just like they did with HARRY POTTER-esque themed books a few years back. But I’ve read some of the Scandinavian neo-noir, and I like what I’ve seen of it. But it’s hard to know where to begin, because in several of the major series, they have been published out of publication or chronological order in the English-language markets. Here’s a lengthy summary of the major Scandinavian crime novels available in English, along with booklists, original publication orders, and pronunciation guides.

HOW TO WRITE A PULP WESTERN: This is a piece from February 2012, but I just happened upon it, so here you go: a guide to writing pulp western novels by prolific author Ben Haas. I must admit that I have not yet caught the Western bug — the genre has just never resonated with me, and it’s one of the few genres that I can say that about (romance would be another). But a lot of what Haas suggests here resonated with me as a writer, so I wanted to share it. There are many interesting comparisons we could probably make with Lester Dent’s classic pulp novel writing guide. (If you haven’t seen that, you owe it to yourself to at least take a look.) Both Haas and Dent offer very particular formulas for writing pulp fiction. Sure, many consider authors like this “hacks,” a charge I find to be unfair, but say what you will, these guys knew how to churn out books. “Hack” writing doesn’t have to be bad writing.

BAEN EBOOKS TO BE SOLD BY AMAZON: I don’t nearly read as much of Baen Books’ output as I used to — they publish a great deal of fun, military SF — but I was always impressed by their dedication to eBooks. They were one of the first major publishers (and maybe the very first) to embrace eBooks in a serious way. They always emphasized eBooks as a low-cost option, with no annoying DRM that doesn’t deter pirates and just irritates legitimate customers. They always offered lots of free books as well, something we can all appreciate, as well as low-cost book bundles. They are now going to allow Amazon to sell their eBooks. Baen has taken down many of their free offerings as a result of the deal, though they promise to add some new ones in the future. Further evidence of Amazon’s growing monopoly on the sale of eBooks. They’ve practically cornered the market. Should be interesting to see what the eBook market shares are like in a couple years.

NEW LIMITED EDITION STEPHEN KIND PRE-ORDER: Stephen King has a new project that will be releasing this year in a very special limited edition. It’s titled GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY and sounds very interesting. It will be sold as a slipcover, leather-bound hardcover bundled with two CDs and a DVD for $50 from Cemetery Dance. Their Stephen King stuff always increases in value, plus it’s a neat item for completists (I admit that I am a Stephen King completist myself, despite my preference for vintage over recent King).

Borders Post-Mortem

Business Week has just posted a long, interesting post-mortem of the Borders book chain. The article also includes a nice history of the company. I haven’t posted about Borders in a good while — since it went out of business and all — and this may well be my final post on the topic. Some points I found interesting in the linked article:

* “When Borders declared bankruptcy in February, more than 200 of its 400 outlets were still ‘highly profitable,’ says its final chief executive officer, Mike Edwards.” Location, location, location. Some were good, others not so good. It’s really too bad that Borders’ overall debt picture was sufficiently poor that it was unable to restructure itself, close the unprofitable locations, focus on the ones that were working, and rebuild itself a leaner, meaner company.

* Suggested factors for Borders’ demise:
— The downturn in the economy.
— Tough competition from Amazon.
— Extremely late (and poor) embrace of online book retailing.
— Too much in investment in CDs and DVDs, just as customers were switching to digital downloads.
— Too much expansion of brick-and-mortar locations. Good locations are the key for bookstores, and a larger physical footprint may not be better.

* Brick-and-mortar stores can’t really compete based on having a large in-house inventory. No matter how large the store’s inventory is, it’s nothing compared to Amazon, which essentially stocks all in-print books, among other items.

* Barnes & Noble may have to start trimming its own less-than-profitable locations. We’ve seen just a few hints that this may indeed be going on, so perhaps there is some traction to the idea of an upcoming B&N downsizing. keep your eyes peeled for more indications that this is happening.

Book Industry Updates

I haven’t blogged about the state of the book industry (my catch-all term for the business of writing, publishing, and selling books in physical and electronic media) recently, so here are a few interesting recent updates.

First, we have some small movement in the growing effort to recognize that, yes, Virginia, eBook sales are real. They really do happen. Even for self-published authors. Joe Konrath has written about the silliness of the New York Times‘ addition of eBook sales to their bestseller lists, and how wildly accurate those are. The otherwise respectable Wall Street Journal will now start posting eBook sales on their bestseller lists. They claim they have the cooperation of Amazon, B&N, Google, and Apple and will have exclusive content. Should be interesting to see how the WSJ lists pan out.

Second, back in August, I last posted about Books-A-Million (BAM), and wondered if they would be able to succeed where Borders had failed. There, I mentioned that they were planning to expand into some of the old Borders locations, mainly in the Northeast. That expansion has and is continuing to happen. Next month, BAM will open a total of 41 new locations. Wow. Good for them. Should be interesting to see how BAM fares in the long run, especially in these new locations.

And third, it appears that Barnes and Noble (B&N) may be beginning a quiet drawdown of its store locations (read about it here and here). I don’t want to make too much of this, as it’s just a handful of stores so far, and reportedly B&N engages in long-term (10-15 year) leases, many of which are now, or soon will be, up for renewal. It’s simply a sound business practice to close unprofitable locations. But this is something we’ll have to keep our eyes on. If we see dozens of B&N stores closing in the next year, despite the demise of its biggest brick-and-mortar rival, we might reasonably start wondering how long B&N has left.