July 01, 2011

June Bestsellers

1. Embassytown by China Mieville
2. The Devil Colony by James Rollins
3. Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
4. Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey
5. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
6.  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
7. Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan
8. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
9. Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick
10. Jim and the Flims by Rudy Rucker

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Deadline by Mira Grant
2. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
3. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
4. Feed by Mira Grant
5. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
6. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
7. Heartless by Gail Carriger
8. Desdaemona by Ben Macallan
9. Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
10. Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Trade Paperbacks
1. Save Yourself, Mammal! A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection by Zach Weiner
2. xkcd volume 0 by Randall Munroe
3. Soft Apocalype by Will McIntosh
4. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
5. Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein tie with
    Happily Ever After edited by John Klima

Racing to the Bottom

by Alan Beatts

"Racing to the bottom" has become a bit of a buzzword recently.  The common usage has moved a fair bit away from the origin, which dates from the late 19th century and related to the economic practice of states reducing taxes and regulations for corporations in the interest of attracting them.  Today it's used anytime financial pressures cause businesses to reduce their prices in response to competition, which prompts their competitors to drop _their_ prices and so on and so on.  The cascade effect can drive prices downwards to the point that none of the businesses involved can make a profit while producing a good quality product.

And what, you may ask, the hell does that have to do with books?  For a very long time, it had nothing to do with them.  The majority of books were created by a small group of publishers who all worked within a very similar set of financial constraints (i.e. the cost of paper, shipping expenses, rent in New York, editor and other production staff pay rates, advertising expenses, usual discounts, reasonable expectations for author advances and so forth).  Additionally, the prices were set by the publisher and printed on the product.  All of this left very little room for price drops as well as no real interest or willingness to do so.

On top of that, the distribution chain for books was pretty firmly fixed.  Books were published, sold either directly to retailers or to wholesalers who then sold to retailers.  Though it was possible to self-publish a book, it was very hard to get it into that distribution chain.  And, for all intents and purposes, it was impossible to get a self-published book into that chain on anything like an equal footing with books published by major publishers.

But now, it's all changing and I'm worried we might start seeing a race to the bottom on book pricing, with disastrous consequences.  And I'm not saying that as a bookseller -- I'm saying that as a reader.

July News Roundup

 * For those who would like an advance peek at Vernor Vinge's forthcoming novel CHILDREN OF THE SKY (sequel to FIRE UPON THE DEEP), Tor.com has posted an excerpt here: <http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/06/children-of-the-sky-excerpt>.  The novel will be released in October.

* You know you've written a pretty impressive novel when Ursula Le Guin raves about it.  Enjoy this review of China Mieville's novel EMBASSYTOWN: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/may/08/embassytown-china-mieville-review>

* The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists has announced the finalists for the 2011 Chesley Awards.  You can see the list here: <http://www.asfa-art.org/pages/06-currentawardspage.html>.  Congratulations to all of these worthy nominees!

* Genreville's Rose Fox responds to an unintentionally condescending article on the Nebula Award Weekend from The Washington Post.  Original article here: <http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/science-fiction-and-fantasy-writers-of-america-hold-annual-convention/2011/05/21/AF4vkK9G_story.html>, and Rose's response here:  <http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/genreville/?p=1218>

* Lev Grossman (author of THE MAGICIANS) reviews George R.R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS for Time Magazine (and compares Martin to Tolkien): <http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,2081774,00.html