PW and Shelf Awareness report that Audio Publisher Association sales figures show a 22.7% increase in audio sales in 2017.  The article also lists a number of observations from Edison research that I think are noteworthy.  Here’s a subset of these:

  • More than half (54%) of audiobook listeners are under the age of 45.

  • More and more audiobook listeners use smartphones: the percentage of listeners most often using smartphones to listen to audiobooks is 47% in 2018 vs. 29% in 2017 and 22% in 2015.

  • Smart speakers are becoming more popular: 24% of listeners said they have listened to audiobooks on a smart speaker and 5% said they listen most often on a smart speaker.

  • The most popular genres in audiobooks were mysteries/thrillers/suspense, science fiction and romance.

When I first read “Smart speakers are becoming more popular” for a few seconds I thought they meant listeners are particularly attracted to sophisticated, eloquent narrators.  What a fuddy duddy.  But in fact the tech trend toward wireless speakers is another factor nudging us to eAudio from discs, along with changes in new cars.  The last point, about fiction genres being especially popular, is something to note as we transition, too. In physical audio I have not been emphasizing these genres, mainly because of the difficulty of keeping series together and because standalone bestsellers circulate even better.  That might be worth a re-think in eAudio, especially when you can buy one copy of something that won’t automatically go away.  Almost no audio files are metered.

Despite how it’s stuffing our shelves, the audiobook collection continues to have a respectable turnover, still higher than many print collections, but circulation shows an undeniable “soft landing.” Here are numbers from our Operational Report.

(Adult) Audiobook First Checkouts Jan – May 2017 61807
Audiobook First Checkouts Jan – May 2018 54651
eAudio Circulation Jan – May 2017 196300
eAudio Circulation Jan – May 2018 250934

 

 

 

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The lists and links for Day of Dialog are conveniently compiled by Library Journal at the bottom.  This year DOD featured two sessions dedicated to non-fiction, on Great Reportage and The Art of Memoir, as well as being in the usual mix of editors’ picks .  A mystery session of editor’s picks is also worth a glance. In another BEA session, NPD BookScan Client Development Exec Director David Walter confirmed the strength of non-fiction in print, with unit sales rising from 240 million to 280 million in last few years.  Meanwhile, adult fiction has been relatively stable if not in slight decline in print.  That NPD figure specifically excludes the library market because it’s concentrated exclusively on individual retail consumers of traditionally published books.  So focused, NPD figures it captures about 85% of all such sales. In fact, they actively weed out titles they suspect have been inflated by mass purchasing schemes (or more innocently, mass purchases for large reading campaigns, etc.) from their bestseller lists they distribute to booksellers. I did NOT know that.

 

 

 

 

This is one of the two most revealing sessions I attended at BookExpo and is well worth a watch if you’re able to tune into C-Span2 this Sunday, June 16th. Unfortunately it looks like it’s at 8AM Pacific.

The panel of three top publishing executives included John Sargent of MacMillan, Carolyn Reidy of Simon & Schuster, and Markus Dohle of Random House.  Mr. Sargent started by doing a bit of a victory lap about Fire & Fury and talking about the intimidating letter he got from the White House attempting to stop him from publishing.  All three noted the political energy right now and emphasized the value of free speech for everyone, including right wing views in an industry that frankly draws mostly from a liberal environment.

Another key point was the profitability, increasingly important, of backlist titles (older titles still in print, especially after a year) and classics, with an interesting factoid that sales of George Orwell’s 1984 spiked 9000% when a certain spokesperson coined the phrase “alternative facts.”  This profitability, as well as huge runaway bestsellers, allows the industry to fund new voices and talent and take chances on the frontlist, trying to determine tomorrow’s bestsellers.  The idealism that sees profit mostly as a means to a greater purpose was evident.  How sincere that is the viewer can judge.  (Side note: as for me, I have a great deal of respect for Reidy especially.  Simon & Schuster was reluctant years ago to join the lendable ebook market, honestly noting that they weren’t sure the economics would work for them and worrying about unrestrained copying, etc. However, Mike’s run the numbers and S & S now gives us by far the best circulation to cost ratio in OverDrive – interesting.)

A third point I noted was that if these large traditional publishers are supposed to be running scared because of ebooks and Amazon, they couldn’t seem more unworried about it.  It was noted that after a crossroads year of 2013 when Borders closed and ebooks reached their maximum percentage of the trade market, ebooks had settled down to under 20% of sales and print has been increasing 2-3% a year ever since.  Markus Dohle also mentioned the fact of growing literacy worldwide and the continued promise of the English-language book market in particular.

One final thing I found notable: Penguin Random House has over 300 imprints when its German sister company is included.  All have many smaller imprints rather than a few larger ones. Why?  The CEO’s see their  business as people-intensive and believe it’s important that everyone actively involved in promoting a title have actually read it and be familiar with it.

UPDATE: This is now available as a video clip by C-Span.

Here is the C-Span link if interested.  I’m betting this will be replayed – hopefully.

This is the last ARC I have leftover from conference but we get many shipped to us as well so I’ll try to keep going this summer.  Comment to claim.

Ganeshram, Ramin. The General’s Cook. Arcade, November 6th.

The General's Cook by Arcade PublishingPublisher summary: Philadelphia 1793. Hercules, President George Washington’s chef, is a fixture on the Philadelphia scene. He is famous for both his culinary prowess and for ruling his kitchen like a commanding general. He has his run of the city and earns twice the salary of an average American workingman. He wears beautiful clothes and attends the theater. But while valued by the Washingtons for his prowess in the kitchen and rewarded far over and above even white servants, Hercules is enslaved in a city where most black Americans are free. Even while he masterfully manages his kitchen and the lives of those in and around it, Hercules harbors secrets– including the fact that he is learning to read and that he is involved in a dangerous affair with Thelma, a mixed-race woman, who, passing as white, works as a companion to the daughter of one of Philadelphia’s most prestigious families. Eventually Hercules’ carefully crafted intrigues fall apart and he finds himself trapped by his circumstance and the will of George Washington. Based on actual historical events and people, The General’s Cook, will thrill fans of The Hamilton Affair, as they follow Hercules’ precarious and terrifying bid for freedom.

A couple of years ago Ganeshram’s children’s picture book A Birthday Cake for George Washington was pulled by publisher Scholastic, which explained :

While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.

Ganeshram, who is Trinidadian and had researched this topic for years, gave her side to the story in a Guardian article , pointing out for instance that children’s authors often have little opportunity to consult with their illustrators.  The General’s Cook seems to be a different vehicle to tell the same story in perhaps more depth for an adult audience.  It will be interesting to see how it’s received critically and by readers.

 

 

 

Comment to claim.  The Ali book is an interesting and highly visual presentation, in many places resembling magazine article formatting. I’m only now ordering this but wondered if someone out there would be in to sports related ARCs.  While on the subject of daughters writing about fathers, I wanted to mention the upcoming title Small Fry: A Memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs.  The word at Day of Dialog was that this portrays a highly unconventional and sometimes severe upbringing by a late tech icon, but expressing admiration all the same.  I’m starting with 15 copies which will be in the catalog soon. Sorry no ARC of that.

Arthurs, Alexia. How to Love a Jamaican. July 24th.

How to Love A Jamaican

“In these kaleidoscopic stories of Jamaica and its diaspora we hear many voices at once: some cultivated, some simple, some wickedly funny, some deeply melancholic. All of them shine.”–Zadie Smith

Named one of Entertainment Weekly ‘s “Hot Summer Reads of 2018” and BuzzFeed ‘s “Summer Books to Get Excited About”

Tenderness and cruelty, loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret–Alexia Arthurs navigates these tensions to extraordinary effect in her debut collection about Jamaican immigrants and their families back home. Sweeping from close-knit island communities to the streets of New York City and midwestern university towns, these eleven stories form a portrait of a nation, a people, and a way of life. In “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” an NYU student befriends a fellow Jamaican whose privileged West Coast upbringing has blinded her to the hard realities of race. In “Mash Up Love,” a twin’s chance sighting of his estranged brother–the prodigal son of the family–stirs up unresolved feelings of resentment. In “Bad Behavior,” a couple leave their wild teenage daughter with her grandmother in Jamaica, hoping the old ways will straighten her out. In “Mermaid River,” a Jamaican teenage boy is reunited with his mother in New York after eight years apart. In “The Ghost of Jia Yi,” a recently murdered student haunts a despairing Jamaican athlete recruited to an Iowa college. And in “Shirley from a Small Place,” a world-famous pop star retreats to her mother’s big new house in Jamaica, which still holds the power to restore something vital.

 

Brennan-Jobs, Lisa. Small Fry: A Memoir. Grove Atlantic, Sept. 4th.

Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents—artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs—Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be.

Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents’ fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

 

Ali, Hana.  Ali on Ali. Workman, 2018.

Ali on Ali

The Greatest—in his own unforgettable words. This collection of quotes is accompanied by family photographs and the stories behind the sayings by Ali’s daughter and biographer, Hana Ali. A book of inspiration, humor, and Ali’s inimitable way with words, it’s a unique look at a unique and beloved person.

This is the latest from Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the astrophysicist who is at least the Carl Sagan of our time if not even more of an ambassador for cutting edge science. Compared to previous bestselling titles this one seems more in-depth and yes has a strongly detailed military component. The historical appreciation for the role of military motives in spurring science and discovery is all the more compelling coming from a rationalist cosmopolitan who would have us move in a more Vulcan direction.  Especially interesting is the discussion of the potential militarization of space and the actual international agreements that no one is supposed to spike a flag on the moon or planets and claim them.

Tyson, Neil DeGrasse. Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military. Norton, September.

Accessory to WarIn this fascinating foray into the centuries-old relationship between science and military power, acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and writer-researcher Avis Lang examine how the methods and tools of astrophysics have been enlisted in the service of war. “The overlap is strong, and the knowledge flows in both directions,” say the authors, because astrophysicists and military planners care about many of the same things: multi-spectral detection, ranging, tracking, imaging, high ground, nuclear fusion, and access to space. Tyson and Lang call it a “curiously complicit” alliance. “The universe is both the ultimate frontier and the highest of high grounds,” they write. “Shared by both space scientists and space warriors, it’s a laboratory for one and a battlefield for the other. The explorer wants to understand it; the soldier wants to dominate it. But without the right technology–which is more or less the same technology for both parties–nobody can get to it, operate in it, scrutinize it, dominate it, or use it to their advantage and someone else’s disadvantage.”Spanning early celestial navigation to satellite-enabled warfare, Accessory to War is a richly researched and provocative examination of the intersection of science, technology, industry, and power that will introduce Tyson’s millions of fans to yet another dimension of how the universe has shaped our lives and our world.

A recent NEA study indicates significant increased poetry reading by American adults, especially by diverse youth but generally.  One likely contributing factor is social media, an unpredictable positive coming out of new technology.

From the article:

Nearly 12 percent (11.7 percent) of adults read poetry in the last year, according to new data from the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA). That’s 28 million adults. As a share of the total U.S. adult population, this poetry readership is the highest on record over a 15-year period of conducting the SPPA, a research partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

 

There seems to be a resurgence of interest here at Sno-Isle as well. Indian-Canadian Instagram poet Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers have respectively 10 and 11 copies with continued holds queues. These titles have topped paperback bestseller lists as well.  American poets of note and popularity include Robert Drake, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver, and Rickey Laurentiis, among others.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers  Milk and Honey - Kaur, Rupi  Black Butterfly  Boy With Thorn - Laurentiis, Rickey  Nepantla The Rain in Portugal