Books in General

What Books Have the X-Factor? Measuring a Book’s Net Promoter Score

11 February 2016

From Digital Book World:

This week, we will explore a book’s recommendation factor—how likely it is that readers will recommend a book to others, and how this relates to reading behavior.

So what makes readers recommend a book? And can we measure the books that have that X-factor, or—as we at Jellybooks prefer to call it—a high recommendation factor?

In 2003, business writer and strategist Fred Reicheld introduced the concept of the “Net Promoter Score” in the Harvard Business Review as the “one number you need to grow.” The score is a simple but highly effective tool for measuring customer satisfaction.

. . . .

The Net Promoter Score is based on a simple question: Would you recommend this book to a friend?

The reader is asked to answer this question on a scale of 0-10, in which 0 means “definitely not,” 5 means “neutral” and 10 means “absolutely.”

. . . .

Those who choose 9 or 10 out are considered “promoters.” i.e. strong advocates of the book, those who choose 7 or 8 are considered “neutrals,” and those who choose between 6 and 0 are considered “detractors.” The percentage of those indicating between 6 and 0 is then subtracted from the percentage choosing 9 or 10. The resulting percentage is the Net Promoter Score or NPS.

. . . .

At Jellybooks we first used the methodology in a pilot with Simon & Schuster, but with a twist. We surveyed users separately based on whether they had read the book from start to finish or if they had abandoned the book. We then proceeded to calculate a separate score, which we call the “recommendation factor,” for each group or cohort.

Let’s have a look at the results for one specific book.

Those who finished it rated the book as follows:

. . . .

Note that 120 readers described this book as “awesome,” 190 readers said it was “great,” 70 thought it was “gripping,” 90 described it as “entertaining” and a mere 60 said it was just “good” (multiple answers were allowed). None of the readers who finished the book (including those rating it 0-6) described it as “boring,” “disappointing” or “did not meet my taste.”

Thus, deeming a book “good” does not mean that the reader will strongly recommend it.

Now let us look at the results for those readers who did not finish the book. The title had a completion rate of about 70 percent, so 30 percent of readers did not finish the book; not everybody chose to answer the survey:

a1. . . .

Readers who don’t finish a book are very unlikely to recommend a book they abandoned. This of course sounds utterly logical and intuitive, but has anybody ever scientifically measured it? We think not!

What’s more, we often hear editors and publishers say to us, “What do I care if people read my books as long as they buy them?” Well, word of mouth is one of the most powerful drivers of book sales. So if reading the book is a prerequisite to recommending it, then authors, agents and publishers should surely care whether book buyers are reading them, lest sales peter out like water in the dessert.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to William for the tip.

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Adult Coloring Books: The Boom Continues

10 February 2016

From Shelf Awareness:

The theme last night of the Book Industry Guild of New York’s panel Color My World: An Exploration of Adult Coloring Books was gratitude–gratitude that the adult coloring book boom has grown so large and is continuing, with huge benefits for the entire book industry. Color us happy, panelists said in so many words.

First, the numbers: panel moderator Jim Milliot, editorial director ofPublishers Weekly, noted that through November last year, the top 10 coloring books sold 1.5 million copies, as reported by BookScan, which doesn’t fully cover the traditional book retailing market and doesn’t include the many non-traditional retailers that sell coloring books, such as Michael’s. “There’s no doubt those number are much, much higher,” he said.

Jennifer Feldman, publisher of Dover Publications, said that since the 2012 launch of Dover’s Creative Haven brand, which specializes in adult coloring books, the company has sold more than 11 million coloring books.

Ed Spade, senior account manager, content acquisition, of the Ingram Content Group, estimated that last year the company printed between 250,000 and 500,000 coloring books, which he called “a pretty stunning figure.”

. . . .

The panelists said they believe that the adult coloring book boom, which began in earnest a year ago, should continue for some time. Already there are a range of what Feldman called “spinoffs,” particularly color by number and connect the dot books. “Adults who color want something new all the time,” she said. “So we’ve tried to come up with all kinds of new things.” She held up a copy of Midnight Forest by Lindsey Boylan, an October 2015 title with designs on a striking black background instead of a mostly blank terrain–a twist that has found an enthusiastic audience. She added: “I don’t think this is a flash-in-the-pan craze.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Terry Pratchett statue to bring Discworld author home to Salisbury

10 February 2016

From The Guardian:

Plans to erect a bronze statue of Terry Pratchett in Salisbury are gathering pace after campaigners received the backing of the city council.

Almost 9,000 people have signed a petition calling for a permanent statue of the Discworld author, who died last year, to be installed in a prominent position in his hometown. Started by resident and designer Emily Brand, the campaign has received the backing of Pratchett’s family, as well as his friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman.

“He would have said something a bit sarcastic about it, and have been secretly very pleased. And then he would have discovered that you can hide something inside a statue, and confided in all his friends that in a few hundred years people would be in for a surprise … I hope the statue gets made,” Gaiman wrote on Facebook, urging his followers to sign the petition.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

The Tiny London Shop Behind Some of the Very Best Libraries

8 February 2016

From The New York Times:

Let’s say you need some books. Maybe you have recently acquired a big fancy house, boat or plane with a big empty library, and you want to fill it with real books, not those things that look like books but are actually built-in fake book spines engraved with ornate titles.

One lazy solution would be to employ a decorator to acquire an aesthetically pleasing instant collection. Another would be to visit an estate sale and hoover up someone else’s, caveat emptor. Or you could do what the smartest bibliophiles do: Put yourself in the hands of the staff at the London bookstore Heywood Hill, who promise to go to the ends of the earth to hunt down the books you need — the rare, the old and the out of print as well as the newly published — to build your perfect custom library.

‘‘It’s not that we’re selling by the yard,’’ said the store manager, Nicky Dunne. ‘‘But if they’re interested in a subject’’ — 19th-century French topiary, Brutalist architecture, salmon husbandry or something more obscure — ‘‘and haven’t properly explored books on that subject, then they come to us.’’

When Dunne, 45, says ‘‘us,’’ he is referring to a lovely old Mayfair shop with a rich history. John le Carré set a scene there in his great novel ‘‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.’’ Real-life characters associated with the store include Heywood Hill himself, who opened it in 1936; his successor as manager, the delightfully named Handasyde Buchanan; Nancy Mitford, who worked there during World War II and filled it with her gossipy society friends and immortalized it, in her way, in the novel ‘‘The Pursuit of Love’’; and John Saumarez Smith, the deeply intellectual and beloved manager from 1974 until 2008.

. . . .

Requests are as varied as the world of books is wide. Dunne has kitted out a hotel, at least one cruise ship and a fleet of private jets. For the Bulgari hotel in London, Heywood Hill supplied about 3,000 books: volumes on business, travel, history, politics and the like for the boardrooms; fashion, art, design and fiction classics in the guest rooms.

Then there was the customer, a regular, whose wife had taken up marathon running in her 40s; he surprised her with a gift of 300 books on the subject of endurance. The topic had a pleasingly broad scope, comprising everything from a book about the founding of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece to a book on fell running (also known as mountain or hill running) in Cumbria. Another customer, an Englishman living in Switzerland who flies his own plane, wanted every available aviation memoir from the First and Second World Wars — about 1,000 books in all, Dunne said.

. . . .

The cost for such literary curation can run into the six figures, depending on the size of the library, but for people who don’t want or can’t afford to purchase complete libraries, the shop offers preselected ‘‘book boxes’’ of five to 10 volumes, intended mostly as gifts. They’re arranged by themes, some with help from friends of the store: Edmund de Waal’s ‘‘The Books That Made Me’’; A. A. Gill’s selection of cookery writing; Simon Berry’s starter library for the young wine connoisseur.

There’s also a program called A Year in Books, in which readers receive a book a month for a year. The customer pays a set fee — about $515 for hardcovers — and the store chooses the exact volumes after interviewing the recipient about their likes, dislikes and idiosyncratic interests. ‘‘We get attuned to our customers,’’ Dunne said. ‘‘These are human rhythms as opposed to algorithms.’’

. . . .

Heywood Hill’s customers hail from 60 countries (about a third of their customers are from the Unites States), and have been known to throw themselves entirely at the mercy of the staff, such as the ‘‘nice American lady’’ in the Hamptons who was renovating her house. ‘‘She said, ‘I’m sick of seeing the same glossy rubbish books in my friends’ houses; please send me some good books,’ ’’ Dunne recalled. She lucked out, receiving, among other non-glossy, non-rubbish selections, John Julius Norwich’s ‘‘Sicily’’; A. N. Wilson’s ‘‘Victoria: A Life’’; some volumes of philosophy by John Gray; ‘‘Hall of Mirrors,’’ Barry Eichengreen’s book about the Great Depression and the 2008 recession; and what Dunne referred to as ‘‘a nice chunk of fiction,’’ including works by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Publishing Should be More About Culture Than Book Sales

8 February 2016

From The Digital Reader:

It seems too obvious to point out that publishing is a cultural activity, not just a process for corporations to make money. That being said, we rarely talk or write about publishing without talking about money, about book sales.

That’s because, even though contemporary publishing has seen the emergence of diverse independent publishers and theself-publishing boom, it is still dominated by multinational corporations. And corporations are all about the numbers.

Most books are produced by one of the “big five” publishing multinationals (Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster).

Katherine Bode of Australian National University puts this figure at 74% of books in Australia. These transnational corporations are, by their very nature, focused on the creation of profit rather than the creation of culture.

In fact, for some of those multinational corporations, books and writing aren’t even the largest part of their business.

HarperCollins and Hachette are both subsidiaries of media companies (News Corp and Lagardère respectively). Commercial or “traditional” publishing is not so much aimed at telling a story and hopefully making a profit but at making a profit by telling a story.

In this publishing climate culture is always subsumed to business. The book and its story or narrative are merely a vehicle to generate sales and as such are understood as a unit of exchange rather than as an artefact of expression and/ or meaning.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

The Future of the Humanities: Reading

3 February 2016

From Pacific Standard:

Reading always seems to be in crisis. Two and half millennia ago, Socrates inveighed against the written word because it undermined memory and confused data with wisdom. When the codex—the bound book—appeared, some conservative Romans almost certainly went around complaining: “What was wrong with scrolls? They were good enough for Horace and Cicero.” Gutenberg’s press gradually undercut the market for illuminated manuscripts. Aldus Manutius, inventor of the pocket-sized book, rendered huge folios a specialty item.

. . . .

 By the late 19th and early 20th century, when public education made basic literacy available to everyone, the Western world couldn’t get enough printed matter. Andrew Carnegie financed the construction of hundreds of city libraries. Newsstands resembled caves of wonder, overflowing with magazines and serial fiction for every taste. This was the heyday of Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, and the Scarlet Pimpernel, of The Secret Garden and The Thirty-Nine Steps, of The War of the Worlds and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Escapist reading had never been better.

. . . .

Of course, scolds regularly complained—then as now—that people were just drugging themselves with trash, that bad books were driving out good, that young people were being corrupted by pulp fiction when they should be devoting their days and nights to Plato and Shakespeare. Civilization was obviously being dumbed down, if not entirely destroyed. Consequently, educators and fast-talking salesmen were soon promulgating the virtues of spending 15 minutes a day with the Harvard Classics or, a little later, of investing large sums in the Great Books of the Western World.

Today, many people similarly bluster that digital books and our increasingly screen-based culture herald the end of serious reading. This is nonsense. There are consequences, and sometimes drawbacks, to all new technologies, but human beings can’t live without stories and poems.

. . . .

Through social media, the young woman of today who discovers Sylvia Plath can quickly share her excitement with friends around the world. She might leave a comment about Ariel or The Bell Jar on Goodreads, or join an online discussion group, or post links to sites devoted to the poet’s work and memory. Her enthusiasm might lead a dozen or a thousand more people to Plath.

That’s just one advantage of our screen-based culture. Older and half-forgotten titles are now readily available through Project Gutenberg and its ilk. Entire libraries can be carried in your pocket. Digitized texts can be easily and quickly searched, or their font size enlarged for aging eyes.

Nonetheless, countering these real benefits are various pitfalls. Computers encourage skimming instead of focused attention and solitary engagement with a book’s words and ideas. The buzzing Internet hive fosters meaningless chatter as well as meaningful dialog. Screens themselves impose a factitious homogeneity: James Bond looks like Jane Austen and a smartphone blurs the difference in size between the Giant Bible of Mainz and a tiny miniature book.

Above all, no digital facsimile can ever replicate the mana, the glamour of a physical artifact.

Link to the rest at Pacific Standard

For those who, like PG, aren’t familiar with mana, the word originates in Tonga and means a generalized supernatural force or power that can be concentrated in objects or people.

With all the snow PG has shoveled over the past several days, he’s pretty much into physical forces and powers at the moment. Looking around his office, he sees what Mrs. PG regards as entirely too many objects, but doesn’t sense mana emanating from any of them.

What Makes Great Detective Fiction, According to T. S. Eliot

3 February 2016

From The New Yorker:

In 1944 the literary critic Edmund Wilson wrote an exasperated essay in the pages of The New Yorker titled “Why Do People Read Detective Stories?” Wilson, who at the time was about to go abroad to cover the Allied bombing campaign on Germany, felt that he’d outgrown the detective genre by the age of twelve, by which time he’d read through the stories of the early masters, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Yet everyone he knew seemed to be addicted. His wife at the time, Mary McCarthy, was in the habit of recommending her favorite detective novels to their émigré pal Vladimir Nabokov; she lent him R. F. Heard’s beekeeper whodunit “Taste for Honey,” which the Russian author enjoyed while recovering from dental surgery. (After reading Wilson’s essay, Nabokov advised his friend not to dismiss the genre tout court until he’d tried some Dorothy Sayers.) Surrounded on all sides by detection connoisseurs, Wilson sounded genuinely perplexed when he wondered, “What, then, is the spell of the detective story that has been felt by T. S. Eliot and Paul Elmer More but which I seem to be unable to feel?”

That T. S. Eliot, of all people, was a devoted fan of the genre must have rankled Wilson in particular. Eliot, the author of famously difficult and formidably learned poems, whose every critical pronouncement was seized upon by dons and converted into doctrine, was an unimpeachable authority in matters of literary judgment. Wilson, indeed, had played a part in establishing Eliot’s reputation as such, having gushed, in his era-defining study “Axel’s Castle” (1931), that the poet-critic had an “infinitely sensitive apparatus for aesthetic appreciation”—a sensitivity presumably not worth squandering on something as puerile and formulaic as mysteries.

. . . .

 Eliot was composing his reviews in the early years of detective fiction’s Golden Age, when authors like Sayers, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr were churning out genteel whodunits featuring motley arrays of suspects and outlandish murder methods. More even than the stories of Poe or Doyle, the early work that to Eliot served as a model for the genre was “The Moonstone,” by Wilkie Collins, a sprawling melodrama about the theft and recovery of an Indian diamond, which appeared in serial installments in Charles Dickens’s All the Year Round magazine in 1868. In his introduction to the 1928 Oxford World Classics edition of the novel, Eliot called it “the first, the longest and the best of modern English detective novels.”

. . . .

 A key tenet of Golden Age detection was “fair play”—the idea that an attentive reader must in theory have as good a shot at solving the mystery as the story’s detective. To establish parameters of fairness, Eliot suggests that “the character and motives of the criminal should be normal” and that “elaborate and incredible disguises” should be banned; he writes that a good detective story must not “rely either upon occult phenomena or … discoveries made by lonely scientists,” and that “elaborate and bizarre machinery is an irrelevance.” The latter rule would seem to exclude masterpieces like Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” which involves a murder carried out by a snake trained to shimmy through a heating duct, then down a bell rope whose tassel extends to the victim’s pillow. But Eliot admitted that most great works broke at least one of his rules. He in fact adored Arthur Conan Doyle, and was given to quoting long passages from the Holmes tales verbatim at parties, and to borrowing bits and ideas for his poems. (He confessed in a letter to John Hayward that the line “On the edge of a grimpen,” from “Four Quartets,” alludes to the desolate Grimpen Mire in “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”)

. . . .

 It  is disappointing, then, that Eliot’s reviews included no opinions on the new kind of literary detective novel that was taking shape across the ocean. At precisely the moment when Eliot was laying down his rules in The Criterion, Dashiell Hammett, a former Pinkerton detective and an enthusiastic reader of “The Waste Land,” was in the process of serializing his tale of a jewel-encrusted statuette in the pages of Black Mask. Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” marked a shift in detective fiction, away from decorous country-house puzzles into a meaner, starker, bleaker kind of urban crime thriller, in which the mechanics of the crime were often less essential than the atmosphere through which the characters moved. With the advent of this “hardboiled” style, the British murder mysteries began to seem quaint and artificial. (In his 1950 essay “The Simple Art of Murder,” Raymond Chandler would deem Van Dine’s Philo Vance “probably the most asinine character in detective fiction.”) One wonders what Eliot, who built his great poem around the Grail legend, would have made of “The Maltese Falcon,” with its cosmopolite eccentrics chasing after a shadowy MacGuffin with a history going back to the Knights Templar. And one wonders what, with his more-British-than-the-British expat sensibilities, he would have made of this bold new American literature.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Tom for the tip.


2 February 2016

From The Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

yogiˈbogeybox, n.

. . . .

The paraphernalia of a spiritualist.

. . . .

1965 Spectator 15 Jan. 73/1 Yeats, like AE..stood for the whirlpool, Madame Blavatsky and the yogibogeybox.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

Koreans not bookworms

1 February 2016

From The Korea Times:

The rate of adults who read at least one book last year was the lowest since the government started keeping records, according to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Friday.

The findings are from the ministry’s survey of 5,000 adults and 3,000 elementary, middle and high school students from October 2014 to September 2015. According to the survey, the average yearly reading rate among adults was 65.3 percent, a 6.1 percent drop from 2013.

. . . .

The rate was 86.8 percent in 1994, fell to 79 percent in 1995 and remained in the 70s percentage in the 2000s, until it fell to 65.4 percent in 2010.

. . . .

Korean adults, on average, read 9.1 books and spent 22.8 minutes during the week and 25.3 minutes on weekends reading last year.

. . . .

They attributed this to “not having enough time due to work or studies,” followed by “because they do not want to read nor are they in the habit.”

However, according to the ministry, Koreans’ reading rate is on par with the average of OECD members.

Link to the rest at Korea Times


30 January 2016


omphaloskepsis, noun

contemplation of one’s navel as part of a mystical exercise

Link to the rest at

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