Argentina Is World Capital Of Bookstores

All across Argentina’s capital, lodged between the steakhouses, ice cream shops and pizzerias, is an abundance of something that is becoming scarce in many nations: bookstores. From hole-in-the-wall joints with used copies of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to elegant buildings with the latest children’s books in several languages, Buenos Aires is filled with locales that pay homage to print.

The city has more bookstores per capita than any other major city in the world, according to a recent study by the World Cities Cultural Forum, an organization that works to promote culture. With a population of 2.8 million people within the city limits, there are 25 bookstores for every 100,000 people, putting Buenos Aires far above other world cities like London, Paris, Madrid, Moscow and New York. The closest is Hong Kong, which has 22 bookstores per 100,000 people.

“Books represent us like the tango,” said Juan Pablo Marciani, manager of El Ateneo Gran Splendid, an immense bookstore in the affluent Recoleta neighborhood where 7,000 people visit each week. “We have a culture very rooted in print.” Behind the high number of bookstores, 734 by last count, is a combination of culture and economics. Culture boomed along with the economy in the early part of the 20th century, and even if the economic path grew rocky, ordinary Argentines embraced and stuck to the habit of reading. To this day, many across the region call the Argentine capital the “Paris of Latin America” thanks to its architecture, wide streets and general interest in the arts. During the Spanish civil war in the 1930s, many top writers fled to Argentina, further cementing the country as a literary capital and powerhouse for printing.

In 2014, there were 28,010 titles in circulation and 129 million books were printed in the country, according to the Argentine Book Chamber, making it one of the most prolific book printers in Latin America. Many stores carry rare books that are hundreds of years old. At Libreria Alberto Casares, bookworms can gaze at a collection that includes a French translation of Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega from 1650 and Gregorian chants on papyrus dating to 1722.

In buses and subways, parks and cafes, it’s common to see people flipping pages of whodunits, histories and poetry, or most recently, new books about the mysterious death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman, a case that has rocked the country since he was found shot dead in his bathroom Jan. 18. “I was born with paper books and I’ll die with paper books,” said Aida Cardozo, 65. “Computers are for responding to emails and using Facebook, but not to read a novel,” she said.

Books also receive help when it comes to staving off the digital deluge. There are no sales taxes on books, notable in a country where most products get 21 percent slapped on top of the sticker price. And heavy import taxes on books, and electronics such as e-readers, help keep the local printing industry strong. While Argentines are increasingly glued to their mobile devices, customers who want to use foreign retailers like Amazon have to pay a 35 percent surcharge on their peso-denominated credit cards. The use of e-readers like the Kindle is still relatively low. Less than 10 percent of the 1.2 million people who attended the city’s annual book fair last year said they used electronic devices to read books, according to a fair survey.

Ignacio Iraola, the Southern Cone editorial director for publishing house Grupo Planeta, said the economic factors make printed books an attractive business for bookstores and make books a popular gift in tight economic times. “A book costs 200 pesos ($23) compared to 400 pesos $46 for a shirt,” said Iraola. “And the perceived value of a book is much higher.”

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Amazon Expands 1-Hour Delivery

Amazon has expanded its one-hour delivery service to Baltimore and Miami, after a four-month test run in parts of New York City. Amazon said that its service, Prime Now, expanded to “select Baltimore and Miami zip codes” and will soon expand to wider neighborhoods in those cities.

Amazon said the service is available to Prime members (costing $99 a year) and can be accessed through an app on iOS and Android devices. One-hour delivery costs $7.99 and two-hour delivery is free. The service is available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. Prime Now was launched in December as a test in lower Manhattan, and it was later expanded to Brooklyn.

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Lost Sherlock Holmes Story Discovered In An Attic

An historian has unearthed the first unseen Sherlock Holmes story in more than 80 years. It’s a story Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote to help save a town bridge.

Walter Elliot, 80, found the 1,300-word tale starring the famous detective in a collection of short stories written for a local bazaar. The wooden bridge in the Scottish town of Selkirk was destroyed by the great flood of 1902 and locals organized a three-day event to raise funds for a new one in 1904.

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Amazon To Take Over The Campus Bookstore At UMASS

The campus bookstore, a seeming anachronism in the digital age, will soon become history at the University of Massachusetts. Starting next fall, students at the flagship Amherst campus will buy almost all textbooks from The online retail giant has struck a deal with UMass to replace an on-campus “textbook annex.” UMass officials hope the arrangement will save students money.

“We really recognize that textbooks and course materials are a major expense for students, and those have continued to go up over time,” said Ed Blaguszewski, UMass spokesman. “This is about convenience and saving money for students.” Amazon told UMass that it could save students an average of 31 percent, or $380 annually, compared with prices at the old store. The Amazon system will offer students access to digital textbooks and, for old-fashioned ink-and-paper texts, free one-day delivery to addresses on campus and apartments in nearby towns. Students can also pick up texts, ordered online, at an Amazon-staffed storefront in the campus center that’s set to open in June. The Amazon system will also be integrated into the school’s course-selection software, letting students see exactly which books they need to buy for each class they are registered to take.

Under terms of the five-year deal, the online retailer will pay UMass Amherst a 2.5 percent commission on most sales to students through the school’s dedicated Amazon storefront. The company has agreed to pay at least $375,000, $465,000, and $610,000 in the first three years, respectively. This isn’t Amazon’s first foray onto campus. In 2013, the company launched its first textbook partnership with the University of California Davis, followed by Purdue University in 2014. The company said it is negotiating similar contracts with a number of other universities and colleges.

“Many schools are feeling pressure to control the cost of education, and textbooks contribute to that,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs. “Many are also seeing revenues in their bookstores flat at best, or even going backward, so they’re looking at ways to stem that trend. We’re trying to reinvent the bookstore experience.” Blaguszewski said Amazon was chosen over five other companies bidding to replace the textbook annex because of its low prices and familiar interface. “Clearly, they’re renowned for their ability to manage technology and deliver prompt customer service,” he said. “We think it’s a great match.”

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Amazon’s 2014 Top Fiction and Non-Fiction titles ~ Show Jan 17 and 18


“In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette” by Hampton Sides
“We Are Not Ourselves” by Matthew Thomas
“Fives and Twenty Fives” by Michael Pitre
“Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art” by Carl Hoffman
“No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State” by Glenn Greenwald
“I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style…With a Twist” by Betty Halbreich with Rebecca Paley

Cristina Henriquez, Author

A look at the top fiction and non-fiction titles selected by Amazon’s as 2014’s best. Elaine speaks with Cristina Henriquez about “The Book of Unknown Americans,” her title that earned a well deserved spot on many of the year’s “Best Of” lists.

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Amazon’s Top Selling Books For 2014

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings was Amazon’s top-selling title in 2014, the e-tailer said recently. The title was released January 7, and was Amazon’s Best Book of the Month pick for January. The book was also a selection for Oprah’s Book Club.

Gray Mountain by John Grisham came in second, followed by All the Light We Cannot See, Twenty Seconds Ago, and Big Little Lies.

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The Amazon Hachette Battle Ends


Publisher Hachette won an important victory recently in its battle with Amazon: the ability to set its own prices for e-books, which it sees as critical to its survival. But even as the publisher and retailer announced a negotiated peace after sparring since January, hardly anyone seemed in the mood for celebratory fireworks.

The conflict, which played out in increasingly contentious forums as the year progressed, left wounds too deep for that. Amazon has been cast as a bully in publications across the ideological spectrum, and a large group of authors is calling for it to be investigated on antitrust grounds. Its sales were hit by the dispute, analysts said. Hachette, too, revealed its vulnerability. Amazon’s supporters publicly questioned the need for Hachette, the fourth largest publisher, to exist in an era when authors can publish themselves digitally, an accusation Hachette was reluctant to respond to.

Even if Amazon got less in the deal than it originally wanted, it still controls nearly half the book trade, an unprecedented level for one retailer. The dispute showed it is not afraid to use its power to discourage sales.

James Patterson was a forceful voice against Amazon during the dispute. “Books and publishing need to be preserved if not protected in this country,” said Patterson, a best-selling Hachette novelist.

The multiyear agreement, which includes both e-books and print books, broadly follows a deal Amazon recently worked out with Simon & Schuster. A source with knowledge of that deal said it was negotiated relatively quickly and gave the publisher control over most of its pricing but offered incentives to sell at lower prices. Amazon feels publishers get too much of the revenue from e-books, another major area of contention. One industry insider commented, “If anyone thinks this is over, they are deluding themselves. Amazon covets market share the way Napoleon coveted territory.”

Listen to The Book Report at your convenience. Go to, or at, click on Archived Shows

A Show Dedicated to Dads ~ Show June 14th and 15th

“The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” by Brad Stone
“The Skin Collector” by Jeffery Deaver
“All the Great Prizes” by John Taliaferro
“Where Nobody Knows Your Name” by John Feinstein
“The Best Sailing Stories Ever Told” edited by Stephen Brennan
“Target” by David Baldacci
“Tales from the Dad Side” by Steve Doocy
Jeffery Deaver, Author
A show dedicated to Dads…and designed to offer up gifts destined to please. Titles span the spectrum: history, business, thrillers, comedy and sports.



Nobody at Portland’s Powell’s Books knew on the morning of June 4th the bookseller was about to get a high-profile plug that would send traffic at its online store into a historic spike.

The scheme to send Stephen Colbert’s fans to an independent bookstore to pre-order a novel by a relative unknown was cooked up between “The Colbert Report” and Colbert’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, which is locked in an ebook pricing dispute with online retailer Amazon.

Powell’s only got a call from the show on Wednesday morning, said marketing director Kim Sutton. That left only a few hours to prepare before Colbert and author Sherman Alexie (also published by Hachette) urged viewers of “The Colbert Report” to pre-order “California,” a debut novel by Edan Lepucki, through

“I don’t think historically we’ve ever had one single moment in time when this many people have arrived at the site to shop,” said Sutton said. The company had its IT staff on hand to deal with the spike in traffic. Because the book won’t be released until July 8, Powell’s didn’t actually have to have the books in stock or prepare them to ship.

Powell’s isn’t releasing sales figures yet, but Sutton said she’s relayed the numbers to Colbert’s producers for an update on the June 5 show. The attention did shake up Powell’s bestsellers list, sending “California” to the top. A debut novel rarely even approaches bestseller status, Sutton said. Other books that now appear on the list include Colbert’s book “I Am a Pole (and So Can You!)” at No. 9 and Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” at No. 17.


“Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s 1925 quasi memoir and manifesto on the “the Jewish peril,” has become a full-fledged e-book chart-topper. Across platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes, the book is wiping up the floor with more contemporary political authors.

In an effort to make sense of this, observers speculate the reason for the e-book success is because you need not go to a store and ask for it. You don’t have to conspicuously pull it out on the commuter train – it’s hidden by a Kindle cover.

But as one reporter from the UK’s Guardian points out, “The privacy electronic readers are availing themselves of isn’t exactly private. The person opposite you on the train may not know you’re following der Führer on your Kindle, but Amazon knows.”

For more astonishing book news, tune into my show The Book Report.