Book Collecting As Popular As Ever


Book collecting appears to be alive and well, sustained in part by the very same people who are driving adoption of smartphones, tablets, and e-readers.

Dealers such as Strand Bookstore near New York’s Union Square and Freebird Books on the Brooklyn waterfront are counting on passionate collectors, as the rise of digital media and higher commercial real-estate prices decimate other corners of the bookselling business.

Strand, an 88-year-old purveyor of new and used books, says business has been good lately, helped in part by the popularity of its rare-book room, where a signed first edition of “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle can be had for $5,000 and where a book edited and signed by Jackie Kennedy recently sold for $900.

Last year “was one of the strongest years in Strand history,” says Strand marketing manager Brianne Sperber, 25, who insists it’s “wrong” to think people in their 20s and 30s don’t want to switch back and forth between digital and print. “I know a lot of people my age who read the way I do,” she says.

Sperber says demand for rare and collectible books has been more or less stable over the past few years, an assessment echoed by Freebird owner Peter Miller, whose specialty is books about New York, and Thomas A. Goldwasser, a veteran rare-book dealer in San Francisco.

“I don’t think demand for rare books has diminished as a result of digital platforms,” says Mr. Goldwasser, 62, whose office houses more than 4,000 rare volumes. At the same time, Mr. Goldwasser says he hasn’t noticed prices appreciating greatly over the past 10 years or so, either.

Annette Campbell-White, the founder of a California venture-capital firm says collectors should be driven by their interest in books, not by the prospect of financial gain. “I wouldn’t encourage anyone looking for a quick profit to turn to book collecting,” she says. “If you make money, it is incidental.” Campbell-White says she got hooked on book collecting in 1973 when she was 25 and over the years amassed collections of poetry from the World War I era, as well as copies of books included in literary critic Cyril Connelly’s “The Modern Movement, 100 Key Books from England, France and America, 1880-1950.” She sold two-thirds of her Modern Movement collection in a private auction at Sotheby’s in 2007. “Yes, I made money, about a 40% profit over 30 years,” she says. “Not a good investment.”

Darren Sutherland, manager of the rare-book room at Strand, advises collectors to “always buy the best combination of condition and edition that you can afford, and buy what you love, not because you have a suspicion it might go up in value.” First editions can command higher prices, as can books with unusual inscriptions by the author. Original manuscripts are often valuable, too.

Like everything else, he says, book values are “driven by supply, which is largely stationary, and demand. So on a smaller scale, some prices can be affected in the short term by cultural events, the death of an author, a new biography or film. But in the longer term, the demand will be set by larger forces, a long-standing cultural reassessment of an author’s work and their effect on our history, or a cultural shift in terms of what we consider to be important.”

Dealers note that a book doesn’t have to be old to be collectible. Honey & Wax Booksellers, an online dealer founded by Strand veteran Heather O’Donnell, offers a 1990 edition of Maira Kalman’s “Max Makes A Million” for $125. The popularity of the author and the book, as well as the quality of the art and production, can drive the value of newer works. Says Mr. Goldwasser: “Many younger collectors are drawn to books for their decorative or atmospheric quality.” Illustrated books and graphic novels are popular today, he says, while demand for photography books has leveled off.

Prices for collectible books can fall, too—sometimes significantly. The first editions of books by some late 20th century authors went through a bubble in the late 1990s, only to fall some 50% from their peak a few years later, Mr. Goldwasser says.

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EL James’ Husband To Write Movie Sequel Script


EL James, the author of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, has enlisted her husband to write the script for the sequel. Niall Leonard, who is married and has two sons with the British author, is an author himself, in addition to being a screenwriter. He’s written for the British TV shows Air Force One Is Down and Wire in the Blood, among others. He’s also the author of the Crusher book series. He worked on the script for the first Fifty Shades, but was not credited.

“Niall is an outstanding writer in his own right, with multiple established credits, and we are lucky to have him join Team Fifty,” says producer Michael De Luca.

James, whose real name is Erika Leonard, has been credited with keeping a strong amount of creative control when it comes to Universal’s adaptations of her books. On the first film, she clashed with director Sam Taylor-Johnson about many aspects of the film, including the ending. Neither Taylor-Johnson nor screenwriter Kelly Marcel are returning for the sequel. Due to the exit of Taylor-Johnson and Marcel, and the fact that stars Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, are negotiating for more money for the sequel, there hasn’t been much news on the follow-up. The first film earned a massive $568.8 million worldwide.

There have been rumors circling that James wanted to write the screenplay herself. But having her husband work on it may be a happy compromise since he has screenwriting experience that James lacks.

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Book To Be Published About First US Ebola Victim


The fiancee and family of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan hope a settlement and a book deal will provide closure after his death and opportunities to bolster his legacy.

Duncan’s fiancee Louise Troh is writing a memoir for release in April. The book “will tell the story of her and her family’s ordeal,” according to her publicist. Troh told The AP it will be a “love story” about meeting Duncan two decades ago in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast while a civil war raged in their home country, Liberia.

Troh, a nursing home assistant said she will use part of her advance for a down payment on a new home.

She’s been living in her daughter’s two-bedroom apartment with nine other people because she’s not been able to find a place to rent since finishing 21 days of quarantine. Troh’s church and Dallas County are also raising money to help her replace household items lost when cleaning crews stripped the apartment where Duncan stayed, incinerating most of the contents.

Many have been critical of the care Duncan received, believing his death was partly due to his race, nationality and lack of insurance.

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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.”

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New Book Coming From Jonathan Franzen


Jonathan Franzen’s fans will have plenty to read next year. There’s a forthcoming biography of the author by Philip Weinstein, an English professor at Swarthmore College. And in September, Franzen’s fifth novel, “Purity” will hit the shelves.

“Purity” is a multigenerational American epic spanning decades and continents. The story centers on a young woman named Purity Tyler, or Pip, who doesn’t know who her father is and sets out to uncover his identity. The narrative stretches from contemporary America to South America to East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and hinges on the mystery of Pip’s family history.

The novel also marks a stylistic departure for Franzen. His publisher commented, “There’s a kind of fabulist quality to it. “It’s not strict realism. There’s a kind of mythic undertone to the story.”

Weinstein’s biography, titled “Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage,” will explore “Franzen’s metamorphoses as a person and as a writer” and includes an analysis of “Purity.” It was written with Franzen’s consent and cooperation Weinstein said.

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A Song By The Boss Inspires A Book


Simon & Schuster has acquired world rights to Outlaw Pete, an adult picture book based on Bruce Springsteen’s song of the same name about a bank-robbing baby. Cartoonist and writer Frank Caruso will provide illustrations to accompany Springsteen’s lyrics from the song, which appeared on his 2009 album “Working on a Dream.” The book will publish on November 4.
When Bruce wrote “Outlaw Pete” he didn’t just write a great song, he created a great character,” said Caruso. “The first time I heard the song this book played out in my head. Like Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Dorothy Gale and for me, even Popeye, Outlaw Pete cuts deep into the folklore of our country and weaves its way into the fabric of great American literary characters.”
Both the song and the book were inspired by a children’s book, “Brave Cowboy Bill,” which Springsteen’s mother read to him as a child. “Outlaw Pete is essentially the story of a man trying to outlive and outrun his sins,” Springsteen writes.

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Cultural Icons ~ Show Oct 11 and 12


“The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee” by Marja Mills
“The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra” by Helen Rappaport
“The Creation of Anne Boleyn” by Susan Bordo
“I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford and the Most Important Car Ever Made” by Richard Snow
“Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss and the Battle to Control the Skies” by Lawrence Goldstone
“Off the Edge of the Map: Marco Polo, Captain Cook and 9 Other Travelers and Explorers That Pushed the Boundaries of the Known World” by Michael Rank
“A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal” by Ben MacIntyre

Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service

A spotlight on new titles that offer balanced factual accounts of people who have become cultural icons. Elaine speaks with Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, about an icon who celebrates his 70th anniversary as a beloved figure in popular culture.

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Misfits ~ Show Oct 4 and 5


“How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky” by Lydia Netzer
“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty
“We Are Called to Rise” by Laura McBride
“All Fall Down” by Jennifer Weiner
“The Girls from Corona del Mar” by Rufi Thorpe
“Heft” by Liz Moore
“2 AM at the Cat’s Pajamas” by Marie-Helene Bertino

Liane Moriarty, Author of “Big Little Lies”

New titles that spotlight endearing characters who just don’t fit in. These stories about misfits pack heart…and the punches that hit us squarely in our emotional center. Elaine speaks with Liane Moriarty, whose “Big Little Lies” is coming soon to the big screen.

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

Why Some Find “The Giver” So Controversial


Since its release in 1993, The Giver has been one of the most controversial books in American schools. Between 1990 and 1999, The Giver ranked 11th on the list of the books most frequently requested for removal. In the 2000s, it was 23rd, just two spots below To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which maintains a database of attempts to remove books from schools, reports that since 1990 they have recorded over 11,000 separate instances of what they call “challenges,” (attempts to remove or restrict materials). For The Giver just under one-third of all challenges (for which the outcome was reported) resulted in a removal. The state that has seen the most attempts to remove The Giver is Texas, but the book has also been challenged in Massachusetts, Washington, and other states all over the country.

The most frequently cited reasons to challenge The Giver have been “Violence” and claims that the book is “Unsuited to the Age Group”—in other words, the book is too dark for children.

The Giver has not seen any recent uptick in challenges, but given the movie’s summer release, there will probably be more challenges. The OIF reports that last year the top three most challenged books were Captain Underpants, The Bluest Eye, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Booker Prize Long List

The 2014 Man Booker Prize longlist, which, for the first time in the prize’s 46 year history, includes writers outside of the U.K. and Commonwealth, has been announced. Americans Joshua Ferris and Richard Powers made the cut, but Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch was surprisingly absent.
The shortlist of six books will be announced on September 9. The shortlisted authors each receive £2,500 and a specially bound edition of their book. The winner of the prize, announced October 14, will receive another £50,000.
The 2014 Man Booker Longlist
Joshua Ferris (American) To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Richard Flanagan (Australian) The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Karen Joy Fowler (American) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Siri Hustvedt (American) The Blazing World
Howard Jacobson (British) J
Paul Kingsnorth (British) The Wake
David Mitchell (British) The Bone Clocks
Neel Mukherjee (British) The Lives of Others
David Nicholls (British) Us
Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American) The Dog
Richard Powers (American) Orfeo
Ali Smith (British) How to be Both
Niall Williams (Irish) History of the Rain