Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Borders and Build-a-Bear

1. Slate fact-checked Picoult and Weiner’s accusations and tabulated if The New York Times reviews more men than women.

They do, almost two to one.

Of the 545 books reviewed between June 29, 2008 and Aug. 27, 2010:
—338 were written by men (62 percent of the total)
—207 were written by women (38 percent of the total)

Of the 101 books that received two reviews in that period:
—72 were written by men (71 percent)
—29 were written by women (29 percent)

Slate hesitated to conclude that the paper treated certain types of literature differently when they were written by men.

2. Meanwhile, Lincoln Michel of The Faster Times rebuts the claims by Picoult and Weiner that commercial fiction deserves more respect.

Somehow it isn’t enough that we are inundated with mass culture work—that the subways are plastered with ads for the latest formulaic thriller or romance, that Hollywood blockbuster trailers play non-stop on TV, that corporate record labels get their artists constant rotation on the radio—or that such work, as its fans and creators are always quick to point out, makes the most money 99% of the time. We also need Michael Bay winning Oscars, Twilight getting the Pulitzer, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry reviewed in favor of Big Boi or Animal Collective, and probably McDonald’s being reviewed by NYT food critics instead of whatever new Keith McNally restaurant has opened. After all, McDonald’s is where people are “actually eating.”

I don’t disagree with Michel’s assessment, but Big Boi is an awful example. He sold more than 20 million records as half of Outkast.

(Then again, I rolled my eyes when The Dark Knight didn’t get a Best Picture nomination from the Oscars.)

3. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series is in the early stages of development for a television series. I have four thoughts.

One, I love Sandman and would love for other people to love Sandman. Without Sandman, I would have never read Lord Dunsany, Hope Mirrlees or Italo Calvino.

Two, a television series is preferable to a movie. There is no way to encapsulate all that makes Sandman wonderful in a 2-hour movie.

Three, I really hope this doesn’t suck. I didn’t love Watchmen, so I was OK with the mediocre, hyperviolent movie. But if Sandman sucks... I don’t know. I’ll complain about it on the Internet.

Four, Gaiman’s name is not yet attached to the series. It should be. Even if it’s only a respectful consultant position.

4. Borders will be putting Build-a-Bear stations into its bookstores.

The decision smacks of desperation but it makes some sense. They want to get kids into bookstores, but kids can easily download books. So dangle a carrot to get them inside the store — for example, an adorable, customized stuffed bear — and hope they buy a book or two while they are there.

Borders CEO Mike Edwards talked about tweaking the stores in an interview with Publishers Weekly.

Edwards clearly articulated the reason for adding more nonbook product—as more books are sold in digital formats, retailers need to redeploy the space they have used to sell trade titles. For Borders, that means adding more educational children’s toys and games, more adult games and puzzles, plus high-end stationery.

-Jason Lea,

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