Snapshot of the Week – 4 August 2017

Snapshot of the Week – 4 August 2017

It remains to be seen how many foreign publishers will visit the Tehran International Book Fair next year, but those that do will surely want to visit the extraordinary Tehran Book Garden which has just opened.  Reports describe a 700,000 sq ft light-filled mini-city, comprising a giant bookshop, science halls, gallery space, cinemas and library, all housed beneath a vast, landscaped, lawn-covered roof that is like an aerial park and takes its inspiration from the Persian garden.


The idea was first mooted in 2004, as a way of effectively having a Tehran International Book Fair all year-round.  It was opened by the Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani who noted the government’s massive investment in the project.  He observed that “the hours spent reading books in Iran is rather low”, referring to the temptations of technology which eat into reading time, and said he hoped that the atmosphere of the Tehran Book Garden would inspire more reading among the young.


Good to see Martin Grindley’s name again.  The outspoken independent bookseller who closed his Grindley’s Books in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex in 2008, cropped up recently commenting on Philip Pullman’s call to re-open the discussion on book pricing which might include the return of the Net Book Agreement.  He said that as a former independent bookseller, his heart was with Pullman, but he felt that it wasn’t practical.  If fixed prices were brought back, he argued, “there would be little to stop Amazon and other online booksellers importing English language editions from America, undercutting any price-protected UK editions… No UK government would, in a post-Brexit trade deal with the USA, agree – or even have the negotiating strength – to erect such a barrier.  In theory, copyright rules would forbid such imports, but stopping them would be impossible.”


There has been what the New York Times called ‘one last party’ for the agent Ed Victor who died in June.  It was hosted by media titans Tina Brown and Harold Evans and was the cocktail party as memorial service.  It included a guest list that Victor would have enjoyed: the writer Erica Jong, the Hollywood A-listers Mel Brooks, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, and from publishing Barbara Marcus (President and Publisher Penguin Random House Children’s), Julie Grau (co-founder of PRH imprint Spiegel & Grau), Stephen Rubin (President and Publisher, Henry Holt), Maya Mavgee (President and Publisher, Crown Publishing Group) and HarperCollins’ Jonathan Burnham, who said Victor’s client list ranged from “high to low, to lowest”.  Victor would have liked that too.


Canada’s Indigo Books & Music are rumoured to be looking at expansion into the US, buoyed no doubt by good figures on their side of the border.  With more than 200 stores under a variety of names, its figures have been going up.  The company says its new concept bookstores that include a range of non-book items have helped this increase.  Meanwhile, still with Canada, the sales tracking agency BookNet Canada revealed the week’s least surprising fact about Canada’s readers: the Canadian author they know best is Margaret Atwood.  Surely it would be a story if that wasn’t the case?


Much is being made of John Grisham’s Camino Island as his first ‘beach read’.  What not so many people seem to have mentioned is what a trade novel this is.  The plot involves the theft of rare F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts and its hero (of sorts) is a rare bookdealer and bookseller called Bruce Cable.  It’s all in here – Publishers Weekly, the ABA, sentences like: ‘There was great uncertainty in the business, with the chains expanding and the Internet filled with unknowns.  There were horror stories of established bookshops driven out of business when large discount stores popped up just down the street…’


Cable persuades publishers to include the store on author tours.  ‘Bruce joined the American Booksellers Association and immersed himself in its causes, issues and committees.  In the winter of 1997, he met Stephen King and convinced him to pop over for a book party…It was a glorious day that put Bay Books on the map.  Three years later it was voted Best Independent Bookstore in Florida.  In 2005, after nine hard years in the trenches, Bruce Cable was elected to the ABA Board of Directors.’


This is a PW news story as bestselling fiction!  UK BA President Rosamund de la Hey of the Mainstreet Trading Company in St Boswells in the Scottish Borders is rumoured to be lobbying Peter James for similar treatment in his next book….

Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.

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