By Lily King
The 1970s saw end of the Vietnam War, the dawn of disco, the first commercially available microwave oven, the energy crisis, and the election of Margaret Thatcher. It was a decade of contradictions and nowhere was that more evident than in the world of books. From The Bluest Eye
, Toni Morrison's profound 1970 debut, right through to the New Journalism
of Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff
in 1979, the'70s produced some of the 20th century's most compelling literature.
It was also the decade of the blockbuster bestseller. Peter Benchley's Jaws
emptied beaches and The Exorcist
by William Peter Blatty inspired a global insomnia epidemic, while the more faint of heart became engrossed in sudsy sagas like The Thornbirds
by Colleen McCullogh and Judith Krantz's Scruples
Several authors who would go on to become household names made their debuts in the '70s, including Don DeLillo
(1971), Stephen King
(1974), and Anne Rice
Find new favorites and rediscover old friends on our list of the decade's most collectible and spectacular first editions.
Generals always fight the last war. This maxim came to mind recently as a series of proposals has been bruited about concerning building online bookstores. The proposals, most of which are in the whisper stage, come from different quarters. "How can we combat Amazon," trade publishers ask. (The military metaphor is everywhere.) In the university press community, the idea of a UP bookstore has gained currency (several competing visions here), in part because of the overweening presence of Amazon, but also because it is widely felt that the Internet has let academic book publishers down on the discovery question. There is some justice to this: a casual search on Google will present links to resources of questionable merit, which is a real thorn in the side of publishers that do the Real Thing and do it the Right Way: peer review, careful editing, and faculty oversight committees. It can be difficult for some people to understand that for certain segments of society Wikipedia is not viewed as a reliable source.
Amazon, in other words, is a destination
site; it was built when the idea was to bring users to a site. Marketers call this pull marketing
. It has worked beautifully, as Amazon's market cap attests. I'm an Amazon customer myself for ebooks (though for little else), having given up on Barnes & Noble and Google, and that's because Amazon is exceedingly good at what they do. But the Web is now being brought to us; it's evolving into a push medium
. All that time we spend looking at the news feeds for Facebook, Flipboard, and Twitter point to where the Web is going and where new bookstores will have to be. To build a bookstore that goes head to head with Amazon is foolhardy. It would be easier to carry the ball into the defensive line of the Chicago Bears.
So a new bookstore is going to have to bring its offerings to where people are rather than the other way around; a new bookstore has to be ubiquitous. A recent example of this comes from HarperCollins
,which has created an arrangement with Twitter to sell copies of the bestsellingDivergent
series of young adult novels from within individual tweets. If the implications of this aren't clear, look closely. Hundreds of millions of people swap information via social media every day. Now these online conversations can have bookstores, even tiny ones that sell only one or two titles, embedded within them. If I tweet about Divergent
, a follower of mine can click on an embedded link and make a purchase right there. If that follower in turn retweets my original tweet, a new network of users is invited to purchase the book. Each retweet brings new prospects to the virtual bookstore. Bookstores, in other words, have been converted from a destination to a network of personal recommendations. This is the "marketing in the stream" that I wrote about for the Kitchen a while back
While this may simply seem to be technologically beyond the reach of many academic publishers, and perhaps all but a few university presses, there are now commercial solutions for this from such companies as Aerbook
. So why build only a destination site for a bookstore when you can in addition build a bookstore that follows online conversations around the Internet, pausing only to ring the cash register?
From a conceptual point of view, the most interesting project I have stumbled upon for "post-destination" bookstores is that of Chris Kubica, who explained his work in two articles in Publishers Weekly
, which you can find here
. Kubica gathered a group of publishing people in New York to brainstorm about a post-Amazon bookstore. The conclusion was that each individual potentially could be the site or source of a bookstore-a bookstore of one. With seven billion people on the planet (and growing), that's potentially seven billion bookstores. Now, how can Amazon compete with that
? In some respects this idea is not as exotic as it sounds. Are we not all individual bookstores when we recommend books to others? I am personally making a hobby out of recommending The Long Ships
to anyone I run into on Facebook and Twitter, and of course on this blog. Yes, I am a bookstore, as is everyone I know.
So a real challenger to Amazon has to go beyond providing a place to go on the Internet; it has to be embedded in our personal activity on the Internet. It also, I think, should have a bricks-and-mortar component. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But bricks-and-mortar is making a comeback, as a presentation from Scott Galloway of the Stern School at NYU shows
. My own view
is that a physical bookstore or chain of bookstores is a useful and perhaps essential component to a new bookstore strategy. Such bookstores might be placed in university towns and major cities; I would like to see them in college libraries. Their role would be discovery, for which no one has ever invented a better way than to browse the aisles of a bookshop.
Future bookstores, to be competitive, will thus likely have these aspects:They will include both print and electronic books. This is because the marketplace wants both.There will be a Web-based destination site much like Amazon's.Book commerce will be embedded into the social media stream, making each individual potentially a bookseller.A bricks-and-mortar component, perhaps in alliance with academic institutions and public libraries, will provide "showrooming" for discovery.And there will be a flexible and comprehensive "back end" to handle transactions, inventory management, and metadata.
Let's get those stores going now. But let's not make the mistake of thinking that bookstores have been totally thought out by Amazon. The Internet is a dynamic medium, and the key to success is just as Wayne Gretzky said.
By Lucy BallingerBBC Wales News
Ghostly faces hidden at the bottom of this page were uncovered by UV lighting
The collection of poetry and illustrations was penned by one scribe in the 13th Century who added to it over the years.
It was then passed from owner to owner, with more additions being made in the margins.
Prof Paul Russell, from the University of Cambridge, who has been uncovering the book's secrets, said: "That tradition of adding to it over the years was carried on by subsequent owners, it was a living text that was constantly added to."
But 300 years after it was first written the then owner, believed to be Jaspar Gryffyth, decided to purge the pages of anything that was not original.
Prof Russell added: "This man in the 16th Century went through the book tidying it up. The owner erased a lot of material from the left, right, top and bottom margins. Anything he thought was an addition, he got rid of."
The earliest poem concerning the adventures of King Arthur appears in the book, his wizard Merlin also appearsThe book measures just 17cm by 12.5cm and has 54 pagesAlthough it was written by just one scribe over a number of years his handwriting got increasingly smaller as he got olderIt is called the Black Book because of the colour of its bindingIt contains pieces of religious verse and story poetryThe book was bought by the founder of the National Library of Wales, Sir John Williams, in 1904Special lighting was among the techniques used by researchers to uncover the book's secrets
The Black Book of Carmarthen is not the first to have had hidden secrets uncovered by using modern techniques.
Material to write on in medieval times was expensive and hard to get hold of, so it was not unusual for it to be reused.
With the Black Book the researchers used a number of techniques to try and uncover text hidden within the pages.
They first looked at some of the pages with UV light, before taking high resolution photos which they digitally enhanced.
One of the illustrations which wasn't erased from the Black Book of Carmarthen
PUBLISHED: 17:01 EST, 21 February 2015 | UPDATED: 03:54 EST, 23 February 2015
The British books market is turning over a new leaf. After two decades of fierce price competition driving shops out of business, book prices are rising at their fastest rate since 1997.
A trend towards buying hardback books and a growing number of parents purchasing real books to lure children away from screen-reading are part of the story.
In addition, many in the book trade are hoping that Amazon - under pressure from shareholders in the US to increase profit margins and from publishers to stop hard discounting - may be about to lift the price of its books.
New chapter: Waterstones boss James Daunt says buyers want both books and ebooks
This is bad news for voracious readers, perhaps, but good news for the long-suffering books industry as inflation on many other products stalls.
The price of books rose by 12.8 per cent in the three months to the end of September and an average of 7.4 per cent over the whole of 2014, as tracked by the Office for National Statistics. That is the highest rise since ONS records began in 1997.
The figures, which include hardbacks, paperbacks and ebooks across a range of outlets online and on the high street, reflect a new attitude among some book buyers, believes James Daunt, managing director at 276-store chain Waterstones.
'The ebooks market was embraced very strongly at first, but it now looks like most ebook buyers are also buying physical books,' he said.
'The value of having a book sat on your desk, that you can pick up or lend to someone, has come back. It would be nice to say it was about consumers supporting local bookshops, but I'm not sure that is the case.
'But as a company - and we are a large part of the high street market now - we are getting much better at selling hardbacks and we're selling more, which hasn't been the case for a long time.
'We're also seeing strong growth in children's book sales. There was an expectation that children from the ages of nine to 12 would increasingly want to read on digital readers, but that doesn't seem to have happened,' said Daunt.
There has been some evidence that shareholders have been pushing Amazon to increase profit margins by easing the pressure on prices and by exiting unprofitable categories altogether. A recent drive to increase fashion sales has been a part of the company's plan to raise profits by selling more higher margin products, rather than relying on its traditional staples of music, DVDs, electronics and books.
Last year The Mail on Sunday revealed that music chain HMV had seized the crown as the country's biggest seller of physical music goods, helped in its revival as sales of vinyl rose and as Amazon sold fewer CDs and DVDs at cut prices.
Meanwhile, in November, Amazon settled a seven-month dispute with French publishing house Hachette during which the $89 billion turnover dotcom giant was accused of 'aggressive' negotiating tactics.
From this year Amazon said it had agreed to allow Hachette to set the consumer prices of its ebooks. Amazon said Hachette will receive better terms and promotions when prices are set lower.
But Daunt said there is so far little evidence that overall pressure from Amazon is easing off.
Turning over a new leaf: A trend towards buying hardback books and a growing number of parents purchasing real books to lure children away from screen-reading are part of the story
Daunt said: 'The inflation growth is about a change in mix from what people are buying, higher value items and people spending more on hardbacks and children's books, and not a fundamental change to higher prices being paid on books like-for-like. On that we are seeing zero change or very little. The pressure on prices from Amazon on the top titles is as ferocious as it ever has been over Christmas - astonishingly so.
'We could have bought our books cheaper from them than we could have from publishers. That is not an exaggeration. It is a literal statement of fact.
'The whole business of Amazon was predicated on the basis that book buyers are the best wallets around.
'If you needed to define people who have a high disposable income - highest earners, educated and so on - selling them books in high volumes is about the best way to bring them to your website.
'That wouldn't necessarily be the same for music buyers or for DVDs. But our theory is they need to remain aggressive in books because you need to keep those credit cards working to keep them coming in and buying other things.
'I think the overall book market is still declining. Waterstones is growing which means someone isn't. Supermarkets are doing really badly and I think being more impacted by digital books than specialist booksellers.
'We've sorted the business out to a greater degree and we're on an upward trajectory,' he added. 'On top of that our book sales are increasing which hasn't been the case for a long time.'
A rare first edition of Thomas Bewick's History of British Birds belonging to Frances Currer, the woman believed to have inspired Charlotte Brontë's pseudonym of Currer Bell, has come to light.
Dubbed 'England's earliest female bibliophile' in Seymour de Ricci's history of collectors, Frances Mary Richardson Currer's library in her family home of Eshton Hall, Yorkshire, ran to 15,000 to 20,000 volumes. Among them lay Bewick's classic of British ornithology - the work Jane Eyre is reading as Charlotte Brontë's novel opens, and whose 'enchanted page[s]' the author also celebrated in poetry.
Isis militants have reportedly ransacked Mosul library, burning over a hundred thousand rare manuscripts and documents spanning centuries of human learning. Initial reports said approximately 8,000 books were destroyed by the extremist group. Read more
By Julie Morstad "How to See the Wind" trails down the side of a two-page illustration of children flying kites in an overcast field. "How to watch where you're going" instructs a sketch of a girl dancing with her shadow. Morstad's esoteric and evocative illustrative style reaches breathtaking impact in this non-narrative musing on the way children interpret their world. Soft colors meet eerie figures with wide-set, jet black eyes in a wonder-land where common words or phrases find more poignant definition. Imaginative and haunting.
Dragons Love Tacos
By Shaun Tan Similar to Morstad's How To, Rules of Summer poses as a set of lessons, but here a story seems to connect the ponderous warnings. "Never leave a red sock on the clothesline" the first page advises before an illustration shows two brothers cowering behind a wall while an enormous red rabbit roams the streets of their city. "Never eat the last olive at a party" come next, and we see the boys withering under the ferocious glares of a flock of tuxedoed hawks, a single olive left to be eaten. Part of the early fun of Summer is trying to create your own story for this bizarre place, how action can be so absurdly related to outcome. But as the vignettes progress we watch the two boys go from partners in crime to strained, jealous, hostile. A terrible fight ensues followed by what seems like eons of silence before forgiveness is found and love remembered. That so much can be conveyed through one-line mandates speaks to Tan's brilliance both as a storyteller and an illustrator.
Come On, Rain!
By Langston Hughes and Sean Qualls Qualls' dreamy illustrations, in shades of navy and violet, are as tender as the words of Hughes' ode. "My little dark baby, / My little earth-thing, / My little love-one, / What shall I sing / For your lullaby" Music swirls with stars in the sky above the lovely, round-faced figures, the clouds a dance floor beneath their feet. Qualls' skill in subtly and emotion adds layers and layers of nuance to Hughes' words, the expressions of the mother and baby both specific and universal. A bedtime poem for families to cherish together.
By Lemony Snicket Snicket's surreal and macabre voice burst onto the scene withA Series of Unfortunate Events, a beloved series worthy of the title "New Classic" in its own right, but his recent forays into modernist poetry for children have yielded some breathtaking results (See also Girls Standing on Lawns). In Swinster Pharmacy, two children ponder nature and existence of an entirely ordinary pharmacy that sits in a town next to theirs. Written as a list, the verses range from comical: "3. Rumors around town say there are four secrets about the Swinster Pharmacy, but no one knows what any of them are." to indescribably moving: "22. Nothing's perfect. The Swinster Pharmacy is not perfect. The glow of the moon on the car, there, is not perfect." Snicket masterfully captures the odd associations and accidentally philosophical thinking of young children trying to understand their world. A book to be read again and again as different meanings emerge.
On A Beam of Light
By Peter H. Reynolds Even for children, the uber-imaginative among us, the blank white page can hold a lot of intimidation. Art class is over, but Vashti is still staring at her empty canvas, angry and convinced that she just isn't an artist. With a little push from her teacher, Vashti jabs her paper with a marker, a frustrated little splotch of ink welling up in its center. But this dot is just the beginning, as Vashti learns that "art" doesn't have to mean painting the Mona Lisa. Allowing yourself to just follow your creativity, wherever it leads can lead to remarkable things. A lesson we could all use from time to time in letting go of your own self-judgements so inspiration can shine, The Dot makes artists of us all.
Have You Seen My Dragon?
By Yangsook Choi A thoughtful and relatable story about a Korean girl's first days attending an American elementary school, The Name Jar will resonate both with children from diverse backgrounds, and with anyone who has every felt anxious about fitting in to a new environment. Having just left her home country, Unhei is worried about attending an American elementary school. How will anyone grow to like her if they can't even pronounce her name? So on the first day of school, Unhei tells her classmates that she has not yet chosen a name for herself. Eager to help, her classmates fill a jar with suggestions: Laura, Amanda Suzy, Unhei tries them all, but none are quite right. On decision day, the jar of names mysteriously goes missing. With the encouragement of all her new friends, Unhei instead decides to keep the name she was born with, and teaches her classmates its pronunciation. A warm, lovely story about acceptance and honoring our cultures.
On the Wing
By Oliver Jeffers For those of us who have known and adored Oliver Jeffers and his squiggly little figures for some time, the arrival of this glowingly red volume felt like a landmark event. It's very weight, thickness and vibrancy declare it to be a book that will be passed down from generation to generation, growing faded with each new set of hands who learn from it and love it. In Jeffers' last published work, The Day The Crayons Quit we saw his knack for revealing the private lives and struggles of inanimate objects. In Alphabet he continues in a similar spirit, giving us a short story for each letter of the alphabet: An Astronaut afraid of heights, a Bridge Burned down, Jeffers' quirky and wonderful styling animates the alphabet like never before.
A Lion in Paris
By Maira Kalman Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in a Maira Kalman illustration, a flamingo-pink road always beneath your feet? Kalman's jubilant yet sophisticated art is wonderfully suited to the picture book format, and Looking at Lincoln finds it dressing up one of our most beloved historical figures in a brand new suit. A young girl locks eyes with a portrait of old Honest Abe and finds herself enthralled, and determines to learn more about this commanding figure. From his humble log cabin beginnings to his tragic death, Kalman punctuates the monumental acts of the man with the quirks and anecdotes that made him human. As much a pleasure to read as it is to simple gaze upon, Looking at Lincoln delivers spark and personality.
By Patrick McDonnell On a blue-sky day, little Louis goes skipping through the flower-speckled meadow, tra-la-la-ing his little heart out. Then out of nowhere: SPLAT! A giant gob of jelly plops down in the middle of his two-dimensional word. All Louis wanted was for this story, his story to be perfect, and now you've gone and ruined it! Patrick McDonnell's innovative multimedia (is jam a medium?) work about embracing imperfection is a beautiful, funny, creative mess.
By Beth Carswell
The biggest news of the year is the ousting of Madonna's Sex
, which has enjoyed lounging lasciviously around in the #1 spot since 2010, enjoying the view. But no matter how much Madonna might like to be on top, the winds of change blew Sex
down to #3 this year. So what two titles were bold and daring enough to take down the queen?
Interestingly, the #1 spot on this year's list went to On the Psychology of Military Incompetence
by Norman F. Dixon. The book examines in deep detail the power dynamics and reasoning behind blunders in military leadership and strategy from The Boer War, WWI, The Crimean War and more. From a perspective of analyzing personalities and intellectual abilities behind positions of power, even considering factors such as character traits prized and abhorred in the military, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence
asks very tough questions and even offers some answers. No doubt the book has ruffled its share of feathers since its original publication in 1975 by Jonathan Cape. The book's overlying, scathing assertion is that by its very own structure, the military is assuring its own continued failure by the types of people it attracts, promotes and makes leaders:
"Such personality traits - fear of failure, need for approval, orderliness, excessive obedience and underlying hostility etc. - fit in so well with the requirements of military organizations, that a proportion of these people may rise to high rank. At the top, however, those features of their psychological make-up which assured their ascent may prove sadly incapacitating. Over-control, rigidity, having a 'closed-mind', do not lend themselves to the task of fathoming, let alone dealing with, the great uncertainities of war
The book made its first appearance last year at #11, after never having appeared in the top 100 previously. While I'm not sure I want to live in a world where military incompetence trumps sex, it says something about the current state of things when that's the the most frequently searched-for out-of-print book.
The #2 spot goes to The Lovely Reed: An Enthusiast's Guide to Building Bamboo Fly Rods
by Jack Howell, which wasn't even on the list last year. How wholesome. A bit of snooping around the net reveals that in October 2013, the Sioux City Journal featured an interview with a man named Jeff Hatton, whose collection of over 115 fishing rods (called "The Gnome's Traveling Rod Show") lovingly details the history of rods, dating back to the 1700s. In the interview, Hatton mentioned having taught himself to build fishing rods using a book - "The Lovely Reed". Could this be the cause of the book's seemingly sudden demand? Or is it merely a renewed interest in bamboo fly rod fishing? Do we have hipsters to thank? I would feel more confident making that assertion if it was a book about vinyl record collection, or making one's own kombucha, but the possibility remains.
It's always fascinating to see the fluctuations in the list. For those not in the know, when demand wanes for a book, a publisher can decide to give it the axe and not print any more copies. In the case of a resurgence of interest, the demand can soar again, making for some highly sought-after books indeed. These days, with the speed of communication and ease of printing, publishers are quick and eager to jump on a reprinting if the demand exists, so these lists become narrower. However, there is still a fascinating, eclectic gap between supply and demand, and this glorious literary grey area is where we find ourselves today. Some of the books on this list are extremely unlikely to ever be reprinted, such as #14 - Promise Me Tomorrow
by Nora Roberts is widely acknowledged, even by the author and her most loyal devotees, to be entirely godawful ("She had never wanted a man so much. He had sworn no woman would ever possess him.")
. True fans insist on owning the whole Roberts bibliography, while Roberts herself would seemingly rather be drawn and quartered than put more copies of the book into circulation. Hence its scarcity: there are fewer than 20 copies currently for sale on AbeBooks.
What can cause renewed interest in an OOP title? Well, it's almost always media or celebrity-based. It's interesting to see the social and economic impact that comes of a nod from a wealthy, successful community figure. In July 2014, Bill Gates wrote that his favorite business book was Business Adventures
by John Brooks (first recommended and lent to him by Warren Buffett - I find it gratifying to know the unimaginably wealthy people of Earth still lend one another books, rather than just having a small plane skywrite the entire text over Manhattan). This time last year it was an out-of-print title that didn't crack the top 100 spot. One year later, and Gates' recommendation not only sent searches for the book skyrocketing, but it has also been brought back, both as an e-book, and into print, which means, of course, it won't be on this year's list either, but eager would-be businessmen can easily find copies now.
My personal pet book on the list has to be #23, Cards as Weapons
by Ricky Jay. The cover alone is enough to make me swoon. There's so much going on! The pyramids! The charging bull! The giant squid! What's happening in that saloon? Oh, how can I resist?! Well, the price tag helps me resist. It's a popular collectible book, and copies on AbeBooks start over $100. It's sorely tempting, though. Even the description of Ricky Jay is full of allure: "The author of the critically acclaimed Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women
, a nationally known sleight-of-hand expert, movie actor and magician extraordinaire..."
Masterful. If sleight-of-deadly-hand isn't your cup of tea, rest assured, this list is as eclectic as they come, and has something for everyone, even (especially) if you're weird.
by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
19. The Thwarting of Laplace's Demon: Arguments Against the Mechanistic World-View by Richard Green
by Madeleine L'Engle
41. Analysis of Beam Grids and Orthotropic Plates by the Guyon-Massonet-Bares Method by Richard Bares; Charles Ernest Massonet
54. A Complete Guide to Learning and Understanding Chi Mind Control by Mike Dayton
80. The Negro motorist green book: an international travel guide by Victor H Green
by Charles Lindbergh
88. The Theory of Isotope Separation as Applied to the Large Scale Production of U235 by Karl P Cohen
89. This World and That: The Autobiography of a Diver by Thomas Ferris Milne
94. The Innovators The New Holland Story Hardcover by Homer K. Luttringer
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All hail paper, the book reading technology resurgent. Eight years after the first Amazon Kindle and five years since the first Apple iPad, lowly pressed wood pulp is on the rebound.
The consequence looks more like co-existence than conquest. For now.
Depending on whose stats you believe, eBooks that people actually pay for have settled in to represent slightly more than a quarter (27%) of all U.S. book sales, and perhaps up to a third (self-published author direct sales are harder to measure, and freebies are, well, not paid).
Why the pushback against pixels? It may be a combination of how we're wired, and where eBooks and their devices still fail to connect with readers.
Multiple studies find that we pitiful humans seem to read differently when given the same text on a screen instead of on a page - and are distracted more easily - so less of what we read sticks. Researchers at James Madison University
, for one, suspect that readers skim eBook pages quickly and repeatedly, while eye-tracking software shows paper books are read line-for-line. The result is that grokking the content of eBooks "takes longer and requires more effort to reach the same level of understanding."
Then add distractions. Lots of eBooks aimed at kids are chock full of animations, games and other digital delights. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop found young kids recall a lot less of the eBook narrative than kids who read print versions of the same story. Another study
found young readers frequently skip eBook text, period, and move to the "fun" stuff.
On a tablet I can be constantly tempted, and pulled away from losing myself in the book, by notifications of incoming email, status updates, direct messages and Words With Friends moves.For those of us who are older, there is the Facebook Factor. I know I'm not the only one who discovered that the downside of moving from a dedicated Kindle eReader to a Kindle Fire tablet is I now can be constantly tempted, and pulled away from losing myself in the book, by notifications of incoming email, status updates, direct messages and Words With Friends moves.
If I were to ask how you'd remember a page or a passage in a paper book, you'd look at me as though I were an idiot. You'd grab a pen or highlighter - two familiar tools that are used for more than reading - and mark the words or scribble in the margins. Or just dog-ear the page, a simple, quick physical motion.
Frank Catalano (@FrankCatalano) is an independent consultant to firms in education and consumer technology, a veteran industry analyst, and a professional speaker and author. His regular GeekWire columns take a practical nerd's approach to tech.