By Philip Downer
Waterstone's MD James Daunt has a truly difficult task ahead
When entertainment and record shop group HMV sold Waterstone’s to Alexander Mamut last month, the big surprise wasn’t the buyer, or the price -– it was the appointment of James Daunt as Managing Director of the newly independent business.
Daunt has made his name as the owner of Daunt Books, a small chain of shops in some of London’s most exclusive neighborhoods –- Notting Hill, Hampstead, Chelsea. The flagship store in Marylebone is one of the world’s great bookshops, combining the feel of an Edwardian library with the title choice and presentation of expert booksellers. Daunt Books is stable, profitable and much-admired. But its founder’s early experience at JP Morgan must have asserted itself; although Daunt has been scathing about Waterstone’s and multiple retail in the past, the opportunity to reinvent British bookselling’s last chain standing was too tempting to pass up.
Daunt doesn’t take over at Waterstone’s until next month, and –- aside from restating his commitment to the printed book -– he’s kept his strategy under wraps so far. But there will be plenty waiting in his in-tray:
Publishers are downsizing the book format, with Hodder hitting the market with its flipback model and Penguin already there with their stylish bookettes, writes DARRAGH McMANUS
SMALL BOOKS: why aren’t there more of them? Sounds like a strange question, but it’s a valid one. For readers still in thrall to paper and ink, unlike e-readers, size really does matter. A stately hardback might look beautiful on the bookshelf, but it’s not that handy to carry around.
Besides, there’s an aesthetic pleasure to dinky books. They can be pretty and endearing, these tiny but mighty things: series such as the “Oxford Classics” miniatures of Sherlock Holmes and Last of the Mohicans ; the amusingly titled “Midget Classic” series which miniaturised Shakespeare; or perhaps all those quote-of-the-day giftbooks, from Helen Exley sentimentality to Mark Twain’s entertaining cynicism.
Despite all this, the vast majority of books are standard paperback size at least, and often much bigger. So bibliophiles with small bags and weak backs will be heartened by this summer’s innovation from Hodder.
| Charlotte Williams
Booktrust has suspended the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, Booktrust Early Years Award and Booktrust Teenage Prize for 2011, blaming funding cuts.
The book charity said it hopes to bring them “back with a bang next year”, so long as they are able to find new sponsorshop. The book charity lost 50% of its funding from the Department of Education in February this year, receiving £7.5m in 2011-12 and £6m in 2012-13 to execute its national bookgifting programmes.
29.06.11 | Graeme Neill
Philip Roth was honoured as the winner of The Man Booker International Prize 2011 in London last night (28th June), but controversy over his win continued.
Roth was unable to attend but the prize was accepted by the author and academic Hermione Lee at an awards dinner held at Banqueting House, Whitehall. The awarding of the prize to the Nemesis author lead to the publisher, writer and critic Carmen Callil withdrawing in protest earlier this year.
When you read, say, The Day of the Triffids, did you seriously believe that the world was in danger of being taken over by man-eating plants? What about Bram Stoker’s Dracula – did it make you think a blood lusty vampire was lurking outside your bedroom window, just waiting for his chance to bite your neck and force you into the ranks of the undead? When you finished On the Road did you yearn to set off on an epic road trip across the States, accompanied by your lawyer and a truck load of drugs?
Well, maybe, but I’m sure you didn’t ACTUALLY do it.
So when you kick back with a Jackie Collins novel do you genuinely imagine that you yourself can only be happy if you end up married to a Hollywood mogul or a billionaire Vegas casino boss? It’s a nice fantasy sure, but no, I didn’t think so. And why not? Because most of us aren’t complete and utter morons, most of us are perfectly capable of separating fact from fiction, and it’s frankly insulting to our intelligence to suggest otherwise.
A controversial article published in the US last month argues that women who read romance novels may be ruining their chances of finding happiness in real life; that the chick lit genre fuels unrealistic female expectations about love and can prove as addictive and damaging to relationships as some men’s over use of pornography. This strikes me as not only ridiculous, wildly sexist and plain wrong but also the most patronising piece of rubbish I’ve ever read. Kimberley Sayer Giles, author of this drivel and apparently one of the top 20 life coaches in America, wrote that: ‘Women are more stimulated by romance than sex, so when they read romantic stories (and they don’t have to be explicit to work) they can experience the same addicting chemical release as men do [when they watch porn]. For many women, these romance novels may be more than a necessity; they may be an addiction.’ To add grist to her mill of stupidity Sayer Giles quotes Dr Julianna Slattery, Christian psychologist (whatever the hell that is) and author of the terrifyingly titled Finding The Hero In Your Husband: Surrendering The Way God Intended, who says she is seeing more and more women who are clinically addicted to romantic books.
| Victor Mecoamere |
DELEGATES who are due to attend Education International’s quadrennial World Congress in Cape Town are being encouraged to bring books to help shore up local community libraries.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshek-ga is due to open the congress – themed the People’s Summit For Quality Education – which will be attended by more than 4000 learners, teachers, parents, non governmental organisations, education specialists, academics and others with the education, training and development of the nation at heart.
The opening will take place at the OR Tambo Hall in Landsdowne Road, Khayelitsha, on July 18 and the congress will last a week.
Education International’s local affiliates Equal Education, who are the hosts; and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), are continuing a book collection and distribution campaign that is aimed at tackling the desperate state of school and community libraries.
They have highlighted that 8percent of public schools have functional libraries, 13percent have a library space without books or a librarian, while 79percent of schools do not have a library.
Additionally, and most tragically, South Africa is suffering a serious “aliteracy” problem. Aliteracy, also spelled alliteracy, is commonly described as the state of being able to read but being uninterested in doing so; or, simply put “the lack of the reading habit in capable readers”.
According to the summit’s hosts, they are driving the books collection and distribution drive because major international studies have shown that the provision of a functional library in a school will add between 10 and 25percent to average learner outcomes, they said.