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Books, authors and all things bookish

Category: BEA

Audio books, by my troth, are faring well

Othello

Book publishing may be struggling, but there’s one area that seems to be managing fine under the circumstances: audiobooks. There’s a reason for it, as Nicolas Soames of Naxos AudioBooks explains. “People have less time to read but the desire is still there,” he says, “which is why they turn to us.”

That makes sense. With BEA this year in Los Angeles, the kingdom of commuters, it makes even more sense to see Naxos AudioBooks and similar companies here--and that they're doing reasonably well. As Soames notes, a worthy portion of their customer base, along with public libraries, consists of commuters.

Soames and his associates are publicizing the release in July of an award-winning production of “Othello” featuring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and many others. We would all like to spend our days reading in quiet, of course, if our lives allowed it. But if you don’t have this time, consider this as a consolation: McGregor as the cunning Iago. By Janus, commuting has just gotten better.

Nick Owchar

George Hamilton's book party

Hamiltonhefner

The man (with Hefner) back in 2004.  (photo: Carol Kaelson ABC)

It was a crush of crepey cleavage and vintage Hollywood royalty Thursday night at George Hamilton’s book party at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills. We nibbled on porcini ravioli and tiny lambchops from hand-grown, organically fed micro sheep. We swilled house Chianti and watched as vintage 1980s television superstars paraded, air-kissed and lined up for photo ops.

There was leonine Loni Anderson, newly remarried and glowing behind her majestic cheekbones. She spooned chicly shagged and laid-back Stephanie Powers, who cocked a knee beside Linda Gray, still radiant nearly 20 years post-“Dallas.”  Plumped lips curled into super-pro camera smiles all around. New York publishing lackeys watched in awe; this is why it’s good to hold Book Expo America in L.A.: star power, baby.

Suddenly the crowd parted and there was Hamilton himself, radiant in a bespoke suit and his signature 500-watt smile. His hair was shellacked to perfection, his teeth adazzle, skin burnished to the sheen of a fine, old wallet. The man, on the brink of 70, is still a total chick magnet. Women of all ages flocked to him, pulling wee cameras from tiny evening bags and jockeying for a photo, letting their hands linger in his as he smiled down at them.

It was an anticipatory party for his October book, “Don’t Mind If I Do,” an intimate look at behind-the-scenes Hollywood, and if his ghostwriter (William Stadiem) did his job right, it should be a pip. Hamilton was at the "Cleopatra" wrap party where Richard Burton declared his love for Elizabeth Taylor in front of Eddie Fisher; he witnessed one of Judy Garland’s suicide attempts and, apparently, skinny-dipped with JFK (giving new meaning to the phrase “I knew John F. Kennedy and you’re no John F. Kennedy").

“I came on the scene in the '50s, and I didn’t want to be stuck in that plastic era,” Hamilton told me as I tried to stay focused on his words and not be hypnotized by his animal magnetism. “I wanted to write about what really happened.” He was inspired by David Niven’s books “The Moon’s a Balloon” and “Bring on the Empty Horses,” which brought the insider Hollywood memoir to a giddy new level in the 1970s.

There’s hope for similar fun from "Don't Mind If I Do" because Hamilton clearly knows everyone -- and is in on the joke about himself. The promotional goody bag was an assemblage of personalized M&Ms, sunglasses and exotic tanning products.  The book's cover photo has him posed in a leopard-skin chair, in ascot, nonchalantly gesturing toward the camera. He has a reality show in the works, also called “Don’t Mind if I Do,” in which he freeloads his way around the world on his charm and good looks without ever having to touch money.

In this new age of the stubbled, rude and tattooed, Hamilton is old guard Hollywood. Back in the 1950s, Hamilton told me, his idols were Rudolph Valentino and the Duke of Windsor. “I was 30 years out of date back then!”

Erika Schickel

Books are heavy; Kindles are not

BEAbook expobooks

Playingwithkindle

At the Amazon Kindle booth in the L.A. Convention Center, there are just two Kindles, which is not quite enough. People don't give them up easily, no matter how closely other Book Expo attendees gather. Scrums of conventioneers form. Everyone wants to hold it, to "turn" the "pages" of the electronic books within.

Kathy Schalk-Greene (above), a librarian from New Jersey, had seen the Kindle -- an electronic reader that can download and hold 200 books -- before, but this was the first one she'd gotten to hold. "It's very cool," she says. "I can really see the advantage of having that much content in that small space." Better than a bag of books, I suppose.

But Shalk-Greene sees this as just one more reading tool, one good for "convenience and mobility," rather than something that would replace books. Like so many book lovers, she has a fondness for the physicality of the books themselves.

Yesterday I heard a new term for these lovers of books with pages and binding: "Ink Sniffers." Add "Paper Caressers" and count me in.

Carolyn Kellogg

BEA begins with the buzz

BEABook Expobooks

Booksellersswag On day one Book Expo kicked off with a panel called Editors' Buzz. Six editors each lauded one upcoming title. When they were done, the audience streamed past and picked up galleys of the books, stacked head-high by the door. (Note: that's head-high for me; I'm about five-foot-two.)

Notable was the omission of titles by such heavyweights as Stephen King or James Patterson -- his new book is being advertised on a massive banner outside the L.A. Convention Center. Instead, the five novels featured were by newcomers. (The sixth book, a nonfiction title, was a follow-up to a bestseller.) One seasoned attendee seemed to find this disturbing -- no names, no bigshots -- but I found it kind of exciting.

For publishers to push new novelists, to find something exciting about new voices -- that, to me as a reader, is good news. It's evidence of a kind of vivacity in the field if publishers focus on good, perhaps risky new works, in lieu of a proven writer. Although booksellers might be happier with another Harry Potter.


Grabbing the swag after the buzz panel.

Carolyn Kellogg

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