127 Hours (S&S) is Aron Ralston’s true story of being trapped under a boulder while climbing through canyons in Utah. After the cinema release of the adaptation, it’s at the top of the fastest movers chart. On top of the highest new entries chart is Grey Wolves (Robert Muchamore, Hachette), followed by Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Amy Chua, Bloomsbury). Michelle Bridges’ Losing the Last 5 Kilos (Viking) remains in first place on the bestseller chart this week, again followed by James Patterson’s Tick, Tock (Century). Jeff Kinney’s The Ugly Truth: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Puffin) is making a comeback, and is in third place on the bestseller charts–Weekly Book Newsletter.
The shortlisted titles for this year’s Australian Publishers Association (APA) Book Design Awards have been announced. The titles in ‘Best Designed Cover of the Year’ category are:
An Everyday Transience: The Urban Imaginary of Goldfield Photographer John Joseph Dwyer (ed by Philip Goldswain & William Taylor, UWA Publishing) designed by Anna Maley-Fadgyas.
Quay: Food Inspired by Nature (Peter Gilmore, Murdoch Books) designed by Reuben Crossman
Hand Me Down World (Lloyd Jones, Text Publishing) designed by W H Chong
The Gruen Transfer (Jon Casimir, ABC Books) designed by Emily Pacey & Katherine Hall, deLuxe & Associates
The Hard Light of Day (Rod Moss, UQP) designed by Sandy Cull
The Staring Owl (Luke Edwards, Omnibus Books)designed by Luke Edwards
Which one gets your vote?
The Lightkeeper’s Wife is the second novel from Canberra-based author and wildlife vet Karen Viggers (The Stranding was published in 2008). Mary Mason, family matriarch, is readying herself for her death. But before she leaves this world, she must embark on a journey of redemption that will take her back to her beloved Bruny Island, to the lighthouse, and finally, to Jack. Mary has a secret, long hidden, and must seek redemption before she dies. Her children disagree with what their mother is doing, but no amount of coaxing will change her mind. Viggers excels in her descriptions of landscape. Not only are we swept up by the stormy, windswept cliffs and beaches of Bruny Island, but we are also transported to desolate Antarctica as the story of Tom, Mary’s son, unfolds. There is sadness in Tom’s story as we discover the losses he endured during his time in Antarctica, and the comfort he finds in his companion, Jess, on his return. A trip to Antarctica in the 1990s inspired Viggers to write of her experience—the loneliness of being thrust into a small community for a length of time, and the difficulty in readjusting to society on return. It is heart-wrenching and absorbing stuff. The Lightkeeper’s Wife is a story of love versus passion, right versus wrong, and ultimately, a story of forgiveness.
Sharon Athanasos is a freelance reviewer and former bookseller. This review first appeared in the Summer 2010/11 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.
The top four books on the most mentioned chart received an equal number of mentions this week. Yannick Haenel’s The Messenger (Text) is a biography of Jan Karski, who was charged with the mission of his lifetime: to convey a message to the Allies about Hitler’s program to exterminate the Jews of Europe. Rhoda Janzen’s experiences a tragedy in her life in her memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (A&U), so she returns home to her quirky Mennonite family’s home, where she is welcomed back with open arms and offbeat advice. In David Vann’s Caribou Island (Viking) a marriage is unravelling on small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska. In a little coffee shop in one of the most dangerous places on earth, five very different women come together in Deborah Rodriguez’s Little Coffee Shop of Kabul (Bantam)–Media Extra.
For the most detailed reports on the REDgroup administration process over the past few months see the Bookseller+Publisher website.
As the news of REDgroup retail going into voluntary administration shines a light on the challenges that have been facing many local booksellers for some time, we find ourselves answering familiar questions over and over again.
So, in no particular order:
- Some of booksellers’ woes are common to all retailers, some are specific to booksellers
- Among the former: no stimulus package payments for Christmas 2010, a strong Australian dollar, overseas online competition (helped slightly by lack of GST on overseas purchases), move by consumers to online purchasing whether driven by price or not
- Among the latter: fewer ‘big books’ for Christmas 2010 (no Stieg Larsson, no Dan Brown, no Matthew Reilly)—as supported by Nielsen Bookscan figures which showed top 10 bestsellers down 50% over Christmas sales period, ramifications of Australia’s Parallel Importation Restrictions, ebooks (though not yet nearly as much of a factor as most journalists would like to make out)
- 2010 was the first year in its 10-year history in Australia that Nielsen BookScan reported a decline in book sales by mainstream retailers
- Anecdotal evidence in the local book industry suggests around 10-15% (possibly more) of book sales to Australian consumers are from overseas online retailers and the current strong Australian dollar and visibility of price differentials mean this proportion is growing
- Some in industry point to poor management on REDgroup’s part but there’s no denying that factors mentioned above have played a role in the chain’s decision to go into voluntary administration
- Anecdotally REDgroup’s ebook offering (on the Kobo platform) was an area of growth
- Majority of local bookshops that offer online sales facilities report growth in this area each year
- Local booksellers who sell only online report huge growth each year
- Around 60 Angus & Robertson stores are franchises, which are not in fact owned by REDgroup but simply pay REDgroup for marketing and use of Angus & Robertson name
- REDgroup company owns the remaining 100-plus Angus & Robertson stores in Australia
- REDgroup owns Borders stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore
- REDgroup owns Whitcoulls stores in New Zealand
- REdgroup reported a loss of $43 million for the financial year 2009-10
- The company has gone into voluntary administration, not receivership
- Administrators Ferrier Hodgson intend to meet with REDgroup creditors in first week of March
- REDgroup is owned by private equity firm PEP
- REDgroup stores represent approximately 23% of the Australian book market
- REDgroup’s 2010 revenue was over $500 million
- Most in the industry were expecting a contraction in the local book retail market, even before REDgroup news
- A contraction in local book retailers will have flow-on effects for local publishers
- All REDgroup stores are open and continuing to trade under administrators.
For the most detailed reports on the REDgroup administration process over the past few months see the Bookseller+Publisher website.
As reported by the Weekly Book Newsletter yesterday, REDgroup Retail, owner of Borders, Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls stores in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, has been placed in voluntary administration. Here is a round-up of recent media coverage:
‘Borders, Angus & Robertson parent Redgroup Retail in voluntary administration’, by Blair Speedy, The Australian, 17 February 2011
‘Angus & Robertson enters administration’, ABC News, 17 February 2011
‘Borders and Whitcoulls put under administration’, by TVNZ, 17 February 2011
‘Borders bankruptcy spreads to US and Australia’, by The Guardian, UK, 17 February 2011
‘Dark chapter for booksellers’, by Blair Speedy and Stephen Romei, The Australian, 18 February 2011
‘Internet spells the death of bookstores’, by Peter Lloyd, ABC News, 18 February 2011
‘Owners move to salvage Borders, Angus & Robertson’, by Eli Greenblat, Jason Steger & Chris Zappone, The Age, 18 February 2011
‘Online shoppers write unhappy ending for Borders, Angus & Robertson’, by Eli Greenblat, Jason Steger & Chris Zappone, SMH, 18 February 2011
‘Borders and Angus &Robertson in hands of administrators’, by Tim Dornin, The Advertiser, Adelaide, 18 February 2011
‘Online closes the books’, by Antonia Magee, Tony Grant-Taylor & Lizzie Stafford, The Courier-Mail, 18 February 2011
‘Whitcoulls workers’ future uncertain’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 18 February 2011
‘Whitcoulls stores face closure’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 18 February 2011
‘Poor success rate for voluntary administration, says insolvency specialist’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 18 February 2011
‘Borders, Whitcoulls under administration’, Stuff.co.nz, 18 February 2011
‘Technology blamed for Whitcoulls’ troubles’, by TVNZ, 18 February 2011
‘Troubled Whitcoulls issues voucher rules’, by TVNZ, 18 February 2011
‘Double trouble for holders of Borders’ gift vouchers’, by Chris Zappone, SMH, 18 February 2011
‘Internet blamed as booksellers enter administration’, by Peter Lloyd, Lateline, ABC, 17 February 2011
‘Nine Whitcoulls jobs threatened’, by Laurel Stowell, Wanganui Chronicle, 18 February 2011
‘Conroy links online retail to job losses’, ABC News, 18 February 2011
‘Borders, Angus & Robertson out of step, out of time: independents’, by Jason Steger, The Age, 18 February 2011
‘Book voucher auctions pulled’, by William Mace, Stuff.co.nz, 18 February 2011
‘Local shelf life looks good’, by Brian Ward, The Mercury, Tasmania, 18 February 2011
‘Book stores struggle as online sales rise’, by Greg Hoy, The 7:30 Report, ABC, 18 February 2011
‘Whitcoulls’ fate rests on two meetings’, by Tamsyn Parker, NZ Herald, 19 February 2011
‘Cuts loom as publishers rip into management’, by Tom Dusevic & Stephen Romei, The Australian, 19 February 2011
‘Shorten closes book on imports’, by Sid Maher & Blair Speedy, The Australian, 19 February 2011
‘Borders demise not just down to net, say booksellers’, by Jason Steger & Paris Cowan, SMH, 19 February 2011
‘Book gifts that keep on taking’, by Holly Ife, Herald Sun, 19 February 2011
‘Bookstores beef up security in face of fury’, by Isaac Davison, NZ Herald, 19 February 2011
‘Union to meet administrator over bookshop chains’, by NZPA, Stuff.co.nz, 19 February 2011
‘Site rationalisation’ may be on cards for REDgroup’, by Claire Rogers, The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, 19 February 2011
‘Little stores find safety in niches’, by John Mangan, The Age, 20 February 2011
‘Book business is its own worst enemy’, by Darren Osborne, Technology and Games, ABC Online, 21 February 2011
‘Malls to get in on the online shopping act’, by Bridget Carter, The Australian, 21 February 2011
‘TALKING POINT Books policy too contradictory to be true’, by The Australian, 21 February 2011
‘Staff sure Borders is not closing down here’, by Jing Yng, TODAYonline, Singapore, 21 February 2011
‘Administrator to honour cancelled vouchers’, by Chris Zappone, SMH, 21 February 2011
‘Whitcoulls staff advised to stay put’, by NZPA, NZ Herald, 21 February 2011
‘Struggling book industry only has itself to blame’, by Darren Osborne, The Drum, ABC, 21 February 2011
‘$830 hr to save bookshops’, by Isaac Davison, NZ Herald, 22 February 2011
‘Business as usual at Borders Singapore’, by AsiaOne, 22 February 2011
‘REDgroup executives resigned after loss’, by Tamsyn Parker & John Drinnan, NZ Herald, 22 February 2011
‘New chapter for book store’, by Sally Foy, Batemans Bay Post, 23 February 2011
‘Business as usual for local book store’, by Great Lakes Advocate, 23 February 2011
‘A&R voucher fight gets aggressive’, by Mark Bode, Sunshine Coast Daily, 23 February 2011
‘Angus & Robertson still trading’, by Jaime Newborn, Daily Mercury, 23 February 2011
With a number of book signings happening all over the country, Michelle Bridges’ latest weight-loss book, Losing the Last 5 Kilos (Viking) tops both the bestsellers chart and the fastest movers chart this week. In her book, the Biggest Loser trainer sets a 30-day challenge–involving a meal plan, exercises, recipes and a shopping list–to get readers to the finish line in their weight-loss journey. James Patterson’s Tick, Tock (Century) is second on the bestsellers chart, followed by The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (Stieg Larsson, Quercus). The third book in ‘The Return’ trilogy, Midnight: Vampire Diaries: The Return (HarperCollins), is top of the highest new entries chart followed by Crime (Text), a collection of true crime stories told by criminal defence lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach–Weekly Book Newsletter.
It is difficult to feel much sympathy for the ridiculously overpaid futures traders and investment bankers who caused the Global Financial Crisis and then became its first casualties. The banking meltdown affected far more people than just the super-rich, of course, and Elisabeth Wynhausen tells some of their stories in The Short Goodbye. She also sets out to reveal the lie in the notion that the Australian government somehow averted the crisis and that we sailed through unharmed while the rest of the world foundered. She achieves this by relating personal accounts of ordinary Australians whose livelihoods and businesses were wrecked by the unrestrained greed of the era, and how the banks and the government have consigned the GFC to history already, without addressing its structural causes or its social cost. This book is the sort of social criticism that will appeal to readers of Will Hutton or Barbara Ehrenreich, but with a specifically Australian focus. The economic analysis is a little thin, but this is not a book about economics so much as about people and the failure of governments to protect their own from the rampant greed and rapacity inherent in the global financial system.
Dave Martus of Paperchain Bookstore in Canberra has 15 years’ experience as a bookshop manager and buyer in London and Sydney. This review first appeared in the Summer 2010/11 issue of Bookseller+Publisher.
Ferdinand von Schirach’s book Crime (Text) is a collection of true crime stories told by one of Germany’s most prominent defence lawyers. Rhoda Janzen’s memoir Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (A&U) is another collection of stories, which are about her childhood, marriage and eccentric family. Prime Cut (Fremantle Press) is the debut crime thriller by Alan Carter. These three books share the honour of the most mentions this week and were followed by The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating (Elisabeth Tova Bailey, Text), as well as David Levithan’s portrait of relationships in all their guises The Love Dictionary (Text)–Media Extra.
This breakdown by VIDA Women in Literary Arts of how many women writers are reviewed in US publications versus how many men are reviewed has prompted some self-analysis by those who undertake reviews both in Australia and overseas.
In light of this we thought we’d take a look at our own reviews and see how women authors fared. The results—reviews of books by women ever so slightly outweighed reviews of books by men—is perhaps not all that surprising. Bookseller+Publisher attempts to review as many new Australian books as possible each month—that is, as many as we can find willing reviewers for in our fairly short window of opportunity. A quick eye-balling of our adult reviews for 2010 indicates that of these reviews just under half (48%) are of books by men, while 52% are of books by women. When children’s books are added to the mix the percentage by women is even higher (57%), compared to 42% by men. (We should note, too, that although we do review some genre titles we by no means capture the output of romance or spec-fiction genres—we’re mostly dealing with mainstream trade publications in both fiction and nonfiction.)
We may well have our own biases here in the office and each of our reviewers who say yes or no to a title may be operating from their own also, but given that our purpose is to cast a wide net, the percentages quoted above would seem to suggest that the gender split in terms of what actually gets published in Australia is fairly even, possibly even skewed towards women.
Hopefully this can provide something of a basis against which to compare the gender split in the reviews sections of Australia’s mainstream literary publications—the argument that there are more reviews of books by men because there are more books by men out there would seem, by our reckoning, to be a hollow one.