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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After bad health habits nearly killed him, “The Prince of Tides” author Pat Conroy said he is opening a fitness studio near his South Carolina home to help him stay healthy enough to write several more books. Conroy announced the new business venture on Facebook recently and acknowledged it was an odd move for a 69-year-old writer who in 2009 published a cookbook featuring recipes for breakfast shrimp and grits and beefsteak Florentine.

“There is nothing on my resume that indicates I’ll be successful in this unusual endeavor,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “But I’m doing it because there are four or five books I’d like to write before I meet with Jesus of Nazareth, as my mother promised me … and I can’t write them unless I’m healthy.” In a related post on his blog, Conroy said he stopped drinking and began dieting on the advice of his doctor after nearly dying three years ago from “my own bad habits.” The novelist said he also joined the YMCA in Beaufort, South Carolina, where he met a trainer who has whipped him into shape.

Conroy, whose works of fiction and memoir include “The Great Santini” and “The Death of Santini,” said he is now partnering with his trainer, Mina Truong, to open the Mina & Conroy Fitness Studio in Port Royal. “For two years, I’ve tried to satisfy my great interior hunger with a diet that would satisfy a full-grown squirrel but did little to conquer the hippopotamus that lives within me,” he wrote.

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Business And Government ~ Show April 11th and 12th


“Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators and Icons Accelerate Success” by Shane Snow
“How to Fly a Horse” by Kevin Ashton
“Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same Sex Marriage” by Barney Frank
“On His Own Terms” by Richard Norton Smith
“Essentialism” by Greg McKeown
“The One Page Financial Plan” by Carl Richards
“Leap First” by Seth Godin

Congressman Barney Frank

A show that gets down to business with books from creative thinkers who innovate – in the corporate world, and in government. Congressman Barney Frank stops by to discuss his memoir, “Frank.”

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

Chipotle’s Going Literary…..Again

Eight months after author Jonathan Safran Foer turned his mid-burrito boredom into a series of stories for Chipotle cups and to-go bags (by the likes of himself, Toni Morrison, Michael Lewis, and George Saunders), he’s at it again.

The fast-casual burrito chain recently announced a new slate of authors for its beverage cups and packaging. Augusten Burroughs (Running with Scissors), Julia Alvarez (In the Time of Butterflies), Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist), and Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible) are among the new additions. Foer curated the mix, which also includes Aziz Ansari and Walter Isaacson.

“When I received Jonathan Safran Foer’s invitation, he mentioned that as many as 800,000 people a day might read Cultivating Thought,” Alvarez said. “I was blown away! I love this democratization and liberation of literature from the gated communities of those who already have access to literature and an inclination to seek it out. I love the idea of taking Toni Morrison or George Saunders or Jonathan Safran Foer out of the classrooms, down from the bookshelves, out of ‘devices,’ and putting their two minutes of wisdom or whimsy in front of people, people of all ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, instead of the usual ‘reader’ types and intellectuals.”

Alvarez also said she’s pleased to add a Latina voice to the series, an omission that attracted some criticism when Chipotle announced its first batch of authors in May of last year. “I thought it was important as a Latina to add my voice to this series,” she said. “So it’s not just our food being served at Chipotle, but also our arts which we all vitally need to nourish the spirit and open wide the heart.” Alvarez’s story, “Two-Minute Spanglish con Mami,” focuses on the immigrant experience, especially as it pertains to what Alvarez described as “the biggest, hugest challenge I faced when I came to this country: learning English.”

“I love the idea of unexpected stories in unexpected places,” Burroughs said. “I’m working on a complicated memoir at the moment so writing a miniature memoir for the back of a cup was highly appealing.”

Coelho added that he hopes the cups and packaging will make “all of us to stop for one minute of our busy lives and read something special.” “As a writer, I think we all should find our daily spot to stop and meet our thoughts,” he added.

Kingsolver, who revealed she has “been known to pull out my reader even during a long red light,” said she dreads being caught without reading material. Naturally, I’m eager to help anyone who might be caught dining without food for thought,” Kingsolver said.

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FaceBook’s New Book Club


Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made a New Year’s resolution to read two books a month in 2015, and he’s inviting his 31 million Facebook friends to join him.

Zuckerberg created a Facebook page, “A Year of Books,” where readers can follow along and discuss the books he’s reading. He posted his first selection, “The End of Power,” by Moises Naim.

Before Zuckerberg endorsed it, “The End of Power,” which came out in March 2013, sold 20,000 copies across all formats. Now, it’s shot up to No. 19 on Amazon’s best-seller list.

In a Facebook post on his personal page, Zuckerberg wrote that he would be focusing on books about different cultures, beliefs, histories and technologies. He described “The End of Power” as “a book that explores how the world is shifting to give individual people more power that was traditionally only held by large governments, militaries and other organizations.”

In the social media era, celebrities and public figures can push sales of a book overnight. Last summer, Bill Gates blogged about the best books he had ever read, and named “Business Adventures,” an out-of-print 1969 nonfiction title by John Brooks, as his favorite. The book shot to No. 2 on The New York Times nonfiction e-book best-seller list. Open Road Media brought the book back into print in a paperback edition in August, and has since sold more than 77,000 print copies and more than 126,000 e-books.

It is unclear how influential Zuckerberg’s new reading initiative will be in the publishing industry, and whether he can confer something akin to the “Oprah effect.” “The End of Power” was hardly an obscure title before Zuckerberg promoted it. Mr. Naim is a former executive director of the World Bank and served as Venezuela’s minister of trade and industry. The book, which examines how power is shifting and disintegrating in business, religion, education and politics, was chosen as one of the best books of 2013 by The Financial Times. Still, Naim said he was stunned to learn he had essentially won Facebook’s literary lottery. “I was flabbergasted,” he said, and added he planned to participate in the discussion on Facebook.

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A New Look For The New York Times Bestseller Lists


The New York Times Book Review announced a redesign to its bestsellers lists that will see the introduction of 12 new monthly charts.

The new lists include Travel, Humor, Family, Relationships, and Animals. In addition, on a rotating basis, the Book Review will also publish in print lists that were previously online exclusives. A newly designed print page will highlight four niche lists, also on a weekly rotating basis, from among the following categories: Humor; Travel; Relationships; Business; Family; Celebrities; Science; Animals; Sports; Religion, Spirituality and Faith. The new layout will increase space for print editorial content including reviews, essays and features.

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Finalists For Top Business Book Award


Six finalists have been named for the 2014 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. The winner will be announced on November 11 in London, and will receive £30,000, with each shortlisted author receiving £10,000.

The shortlist for the 2014 Award are:
“Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance” by Julia Angwin
“The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologie” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee
“Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull
“Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with Rupert Murdoch” by Nick Davies
“House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again” by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty

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

New Business Titles ~ Show Aug 30 and 31

This week on The Book Report


“Think Like a Freak” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
“The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday
“Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town” by Beth Macy
“Things a Little Bird Told Me” by Biz Stone
“Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises” by Timothy Geithner
“Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull
“Talk Like Ted: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo
“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown

Beth Macy, Author

A vibrant and varied crop of new business titles worthy of your time investment. These books feature solid principles we can all employ in our lives.

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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.

Book Stores ~ James Patterson

Bestselling author James Patterson is putting his money where his heart is, pledging $1 million to independent bookstores in the next year.

He comments, “We’re making this transition to e-books, and that’s fine and good and terrific and wonderful, but we’re not doing it in an organized, sane, civilized way. So what’s happening right now is a lot of bookstores are disappearing,” Patterson says he hopes the funds will support everything from raises for staff to larger projects. What’s essential is that the bookstores have a viable business model and that their shops include a children’s section. Bookstores interested in learning more can fill out a form on Patterson’s website.

Kudos to those who care about our bookstores. Keep current on literary news by checking my website,