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Events and News from Borderlands Books

July, 2011

Chapter One - Event Information, News, and Special Features

Upcoming Author Events

Steve Englehart, THE PLAIN MAN (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Saturday, July 9th at 3:00 pm

SF in SF with authors Mira Grant and John Shirley at the Variety Preview Room in the Hobart Building, 582 Market Street, Saturday, July 9th at 7:00 pm

Writers With Drinks at the Make Out Room with authors Jesse Ball, Bill Brent, Anna North, Lynn Peril and Charles Yu, 2335 22nd Street, Saturday, July 9th at 7:30 pm

Rudy Rucker, JIM AND THE FLIMS (Night Shade Books, Hardcover, $24.99) Sunday, July 10th at 3:00 pm

Release Party for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS (Del Rey, Hardcover, $35.00) Tuesday, July 12th at midnight. NOTE: THIS IS NOT A SIGNING OR AUTHOR EVENT.

Erin Hoffman, SWORD OF SEA AND FIRE (Pyr, Trade Paperback, $16.00), Saturday, July 23rd at 1:00 pm

Clarion West Fundraiser Reading with authors Vylar Kaftan, Dan Marcus, Tim Pratt, and Rachel Swirsky, Saturday July 23rd at 3:00 pm

Jacqueline Carey, NAAMAH'S BLESSING (Grand Central, Hardcover, $26.99),  Saturday, July 30th at 3:00 pm

Charles Stross, RULE 34 (Ace, Hardcover, $25.95), Saturday, August 6th at 3:00 pm

(for more information check the end of this section)


* For those who would like an advance peek at Vernor Vinge's forthcoming novel CHILDREN OF THE SKY (sequel to FIRE UPON THE DEEP), has posted an excerpt here: <>.  The novel will be released in October.

* You know you've written a pretty impressive novel when Ursula Le Guin raves about it.  Enjoy this review of China Mieville's novel EMBASSYTOWN: <>

* The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists has announced the finalists for the 2011 Chesley Awards.  You can see the list here: <>.  Congratulations to all of these worthy nominees!

* Genreville's Rose Fox responds to an unintentionally condescending article on the Nebula Award Weekend from The Washington Post.  Original article here: <>, and Rose's response here:  <>

* Lev Grossman (author of THE MAGICIANS) reviews George R.R. Martin's A DANCE WITH DRAGONS for Time Magazine (and compares Martin to Tolkien): <,8599,2081774,00.html>

From the Office

Racing to the Bottom

"Racing to the bottom" has become a bit of a buzzword recently.  The common usage has moved a fair bit away from the origin, which dates from the late 19th century and related to the economic practice of states reducing taxes and regulations for corporations in the interest of attracting them.  Today it's used anytime financial pressures cause businesses to reduce their prices in response to competition, which prompts their competitors to drop _their_ prices and so on and so on.  The cascade effect can drive prices downwards to the point that none of the businesses involved can make a profit while producing a good quality product.

And what, you may ask, the hell does that have to do with books?  For a very long time, it had nothing to do with them.  The majority of books were created by a small group of publishers who all worked within a very similar set of financial constraints (i.e. the cost of paper, shipping expenses, rent in New York, editor and other production staff pay rates, advertising expenses, usual discounts, reasonable expectations for author advances and so forth).  Additionally, the prices were set by the publisher and printed on the product.  All of this left very little room for price drops as well as no real interest or willingness to do so.

On top of that, the distribution chain for books was pretty firmly fixed.  Books were published, sold either directly to retailers or to wholesalers who then sold to retailers.  Though it was possible to self-publish a book, it was very hard to get it into that distribution chain.  And, for all intents and purposes, it was impossible to get a self-published book into that chain on anything like an equal footing with books published by major publishers.

But now, it's all changing and I'm worried we might start seeing a race to the bottom on book pricing, with disastrous consequences.  And I'm not saying that as a bookseller -- I'm saying that as a reader.

As I've mentioned several times before, I'm not against ebooks per se.  I know that they are going to have negative consequences for my business but I see them as a logical and beneficial technological advance.  But -- they are changing the economics of publishing and writing in ways that I don't think we can even predict right now.  And one way that they might change things is by making racing to the bottom on price a reality for publishing.  That's driven by three factors:

1)  There are no fixed costs to producing an ebook.  Almost all of the costs associated with producing a physical book don't apply to ebooks.  The only one is distribution and even that can be cut down to almost nothing.  For example, if I were to inflict a novel on the unsuspecting world I could write it, edit it (probably poorly -- it's _hard_ to edit your own work), lay it out, and use one of the (free) tools out there to convert it to an EPUB file (which is a common, open format for ebooks).  I could then post it on a blog provided by Google and ask for people to pay for it by donations to my PayPal account (which I don't have -- privacy issues there -- but I could certainly get).

Total cost?  Nothing more than my time.

Of course, the most likely outcome is that some of my friends and my mom would hear about it, read it, and perhaps donate some bucks.  Given all the time I spent writing it and so forth, I would have been much better off getting paid hourly digging ditches or flipping burgers.

Or, I could let Amazon have a piece of the profits (either 65% or 30% depending on the deal I make with them) and in exchange they'll make it available throughout their sales channels (i.e. both their website and via direct purchase through Kindle devices and clients, which include iPhones, iPads and Android OS devices).  In this case, if I'm lucky, I might get some attention which could lead to some meaningful money.  Meaningful in this case being thousands of dollars or even over ten thousand.  I know that seems like pocket change but remember, I'm a bookseller and cafe owner -- writing would just be a hobby.  And ten grand is pretty damn nice money for a hobby.  And it's also more than any number of authors get for an advance when they sell a book to a "real" publisher.

2)  There's no fixed or even standard price for ebooks.  Granted, many publishers have semi-fixed the price of ebooks somewhere around $9.99 to $14.99 but in the first place, that is not true for self-published ebooks.  And in the second place, I think that is a temporary state of affairs.  Long term I think that books pricing is going to slide fluidly based on how long a book has been out, how popular it is, and promotional desires of the publisher and author.  In general, I think that prices are going to drop down through a number of price points during the life of the book, much the way that a popular book will be published in hardcover for no other reason than the public's willingness to pay upwards of $25 to read it.  After the sales die down a fair amount, it will be published in paperback, and all the people who wouldn't pay hardcover prices for it buy it then.  If an author is very popular, the paperback will coincide with the release of their next book in hardcover and it's used to create interest and buzz for the hardcover.

With ebooks however, there is no format difference and so there's no need for arbitrary price-points.  A publisher could drop the price every time sales slow enough to warrant it, thereby getting the most money from readers based on their desire to read the book.

Net result is that there is no "usual" price for a book.

3)  The internet makes it easy to compare items and their prices.  Almost all ebooks are sold on-line and the vast majority of them are sold by a short list of companies so it is very easy to compare them.  Which means that price competition can be very fierce.  Example:  I'm in a book store and I want a Spanish to English dictionary.  I ask the nice bookseller and she directs me to the single copy they have on hand.  There is no good way for me to check if the one on the shelf is more or less expensive than any of the other ones currently in print.  Even if they have three or four different ones, all I can do is compare what they have for sale.  And, if I need that dictionary, they're going to make a sale.  Regardless of how high or low their prices are.

On the other hand, if I'm looking around Amazon's web site, it's trivially easy for me to compare the price of pretty much all the Spanish to English dictionaries in print.  But that isn't really going to make much difference to what I spend because I'm looking at printed books, which are generally priced close to each other (questions of format and size notwithstanding) for the reasons I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

But what if I'm looking at ebooks?  And moreso, what if I'm looking at fiction?

Let's say that I'm in the mood for a nice space opera, something along the lines of Iain M. Banks or Neal Asher, and all I want is something "good".  I do a search at Amazon.  I choose "Kindle" format, "science fiction" as the department, "space opera" as a keyword and ask for it sorted by average customer review.  I'm not going to tell you what the list was (though please do try it yourself) but I will say that, out of the top 12, there were only four books by authors I know.  If those 12 books were my choices, I'd probably buy The Rookie by Scott Sigler.  I know Scott and he's a good writer.

But, if I were the average shopper, I think that I might very well buy a different book by Scott.

The Starter is only $2.99.

It's never been possible for me to shop for books by price.  Sure, there was a long, broke time in my life when I only bought used paperbacks because I couldn't afford anything else, but most of the time the only way that price affected my book-shopping was whether I'd look at paperbacks or hardcovers.  But now, I can easily consider all the ebooks out there on the basis of price.  If I'm looking for bargains, I could shift my spending to the cheapest ones -- which could be very cheap indeed.

So, what happens if people start doing that?  We may start racing to the bottom.

But that's not what really concerns me.  When it comes to books, I don't actually think that you get what you pay for.  Gods know, I'd far rather read a cheap paperback of Kipling or Poe (or a free ebook -- they're both in the public domain and you can get them at project Gutenberg < >) than anything Danielle Steel or Don Pendelton ever wrote.  If some guy wants to self-publish his ebook and sell it for $1.99, I'm fine with that.  It might actually be good.

What concerns me is that a race to the bottom might mean that authors can't make a living as writers.  It's already incredibly hard to support yourself as a word-smith.  There really is a reason that many solid, talented writers live in moderately priced, unromantic areas of the country like Ohio (yes, Scalzi, I'm talking to you) or Sacramento (you too, Roche) -- it's too damn expensive to live anywhere else on what even a pretty successful writer earns.  If, as a society, we decide that cheaper books are _better_ books . . . not so good.  Not at all.

- Alan Beatts

Top Sellers At Borderlands

1. Embassytown by China Mieville
2. The Devil Colony by James Rollins
3. Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
4. Naamah's Blessing by Jacqueline Carey
5. Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi
6.  The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
7. Clockwork Rocket by Greg Egan
8. The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
9. Dancing With Bears by Michael Swanwick
10. Jim and the Flims by Rudy Rucker

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Deadline by Mira Grant
2. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
3. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
4. Feed by Mira Grant
5. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
6. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
7. Heartless by Gail Carriger
8. Desdaemona by Ben Macallan
9. Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds
10. Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Trade Paperbacks
1. Save Yourself, Mammal! A Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal Collection by Zach Weiner
2. xkcd volume 0 by Randall Munroe
3. Soft Apocalype by Will McIntosh
4. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks
5. Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein tie with
    Happily Ever After edited by John Klima

Book Club Info

The QSF&F Book Club will meet on Sunday, July 10th, at 5 pm to discuss THE CLOUD ROADS by Martha Wells.  Please contact the group leader, Christopher Rodriguez, at, for more information.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club will meet on Sunday, July 17th, at 6 pm to discuss A GAME OF THRONES by George R.R. Martin.  The book for August 21st is ZOO CITY by Lauren Beukes.  Please contact for more information.

Upcoming Event Details

Steve Englehart, THE PLAIN MAN (Tor, Hardcover, $24.99) Saturday, July 9th at 3:00 pm - Borderlands welcomes the return of comics sensation Steve Englehart & the triumphant return of Max August! From the book jacket: "Max August is not invulnerable, but he never ages -- a gift he earned while studying under the legendary alchemist Cornelius Agrippa. August, now an alchemist himself, is using his magickal abilities to fight the right-wing conspiracy known as the FRC, which seeks to control all aspects of society. At the top of the FRC is a nine-member cabal, each member of which is a powerful force in one area of society, such as media, politics, finance . . . and wizardry.  When Max learns that two members of the cabal are en route to Wickr, a Burning Man-like festival held in the American Southwest, he stages a plan to gather information from them and, he hopes turn one member against the others. Max has been careful not to leave a trail, but the cabal sees all, and an 'accident' at a nuclear waste facility just 100 miles from the festival would send a clear message to those who oppose the FRC. Max may be timeless, but he is running out of time to stop the FRC and save millions of lives."

SF in SF with authors Mira Grant and John Shirley at the Variety Preview Room in the Hobart Building, 582 Market Street, Saturday, July 9th at 7:00 pm - We are very excited to help SF in SF welcome these authors!  Each author will read a selection from their work, followed by Q&A from the audience moderated by author Terry Bisson.  Authors will schmooze & sign books after in the lounge. Books available for sale courtesy of Borderlands Books.  Seating is limited, so first come, first seated.  Bar proceeds benefit Variety Childrens Charity - learn more at <>.  We REALLY encourage you to take BART into the City, or use MUNI to get here - parking can be problematic in San Francisco, to say the least.  We are less than one block away from the Montgomery St. station.  Trust us - you don't want to be looking for parking and be late for the event!  Phone (night of event) 415-572-1015.  Questions? Email

Writers With Drinks at the Make Out Room with authors Jesse Ball, Bill Brent, Anna North, Lynn Peril and Charles Yu, 2335 22nd Street, Saturday, July 9th at 7:30 pm - Writers With Drinks is a spoken-word variety show hosted by Charlie Jane Anders.  This month the guests are: Charles Yu (HOW TO SURVIVE IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE), Jesse Ball (THE CURFEW), Lynn Peril (SWIMMING IN THE STENO POOL), Anna North (AMERICA PACIFICA), Bill Brent (BEST BISEXUAL EROTICA).  Sliding scale $5 - $10, no one turned away for lack of funds.  This month's proceeds benefit the Center for Sex and Culture, and Borderlands will be on hand to sell books.

Rudy Rucker, JIM AND THE FLIMS (Night Shade Books, Hardcover, $24.99) Sunday, July 10th at 3:00 pm - Rudy Rucker:  author, artist, mathematician, genius, and one of the godfathers of Cyberpunk!  Be here to meet him and check out his new novel, JIM AND THE FLIMS, which in typical gonzo Rucker style, is set in Santa Cruz and the afterlife.

Release Party for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS (Del Rey, Hardcover, $35.00) Tuesday, July 12th at midnight. NOTE: THIS IS NOT A SIGNING OR AUTHOR EVENT.  Join us for coffee (sure, we'll have decaf) and cookies, and witness what some of our more cynical employees thought would never happen: the next George R.R. Martin book goes on sale at midnight!  (The bookstore will re-open at 11:30 pm on Monday, July 11th, but no copies of DANCE will be sold until after 12 am.)

Erin Hoffman, SWORD OF SEA AND FIRE (Pyr, Trade Paperback, $16.00), Saturday, July 23rd at 1:00 pm - We're happy to welcome local author Erin Hoffman as she presents the first volume of the Chaos Knight series! Look for high adventure, rogue telepathic magic users, gryphons and much, much more in this atypical quest fantasy that's recommended by both Allen Steele and Piers Anthony.  Erin designs video games in "real life,"  and she's also a graduate of the Odyssey Writer's Workshop.

Clarion West Fundraiser Reading with authors Vylar Kaftan, Dan Marcus, Tim Pratt, and Rachel Swirsky, Saturday July 23rd at 3:00 pm - Join us for an awesome fund-raising reading for Clarion West!  Clarion West is an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy, held annually in Seattle, Washington.  As Clarion West is a non-profit, it relies on donations from members of the writing community and other supporters.  All of the readers appearing at Borderlands are either Clarion West or Clarion alumni; Vy Kaftan was just nominated for a Nebula Award, and Rachel Swirsky just won one!  If you are interested in learning more about Clarion West, want to support working writers in your community, or just want to check out some exceptional readers, this is the place to be!

Jacqueline Carey, NAAMAH'S BLESSING (Grand Central, Hardcover, $26.99),  Saturday, July 30th at 3:00 pm - We're thrilled to welcome the awesome Jacqueline Carey back to Borderlands for the last book in the Naamah trilogy.  From the book description: "Returning to Terre d'Ange, Moirin finds the royal family broken. Wracked by unrelenting grief at the loss of his wife, Queen Jehanne, King Daniel is unable to rule. Prince Thierry, leading an expedition to explore the deadly jungles of Terra Nova, is halfway across the world. And three year old Desirée is a vision of her mother: tempestuous, intelligent, and fiery, but desperately lonely, and a vulnerable pawn in a game of shifting political allegiances.  As tensions mount, King Daniel asks that Moirin become Desirée's oath-sworn protector. Navigating the intricate political landscape of the Court proves a difficult challenge, and when dire news arrives from overseas, the spirit of Queen Jehanne visits Moirin in a dream and bids her undertake an impossible quest."

Charles Stross, RULE 34 (Ace, Hardcover, $25.95), Saturday, August 6th at 3:00 pm - We are delighted to welcome Charles Stross to Borderlands!  Borderlands' customers really need no introduction to Stross, who is both incredibly prolific and fascinatingly diverse in his novels and short stories.  From the book jacket of the newest novel: "Detective Inspector Liz Kavanaugh is head of the Rule 34 Squad, monitoring the Internet to determine whether people are engaging in harmless fantasies or illegal activities. Three ex-con spammers have been murdered, and Liz must uncover the link between them before these homicides go viral."  Mr. Stross lives in Scotland and doesn't make it to San Francisco very often, so don't miss this rare opportunity to meet him!

Borderlands event policy - all events are free of charge.  You are welcome to bring copies of an author's books purchased elsewhere to be autographed (but we do appreciate it if you purchase something while at the event).  For most events you are welcome to bring as many books as you wish for autographs.  If you are unable to attend the event we will be happy to have a copy of any of the author's available books signed or inscribed for you.  We can then either hold it until you can come in to pick it up or we can ship it to you.  Just give us a call or drop us an email.  If you live out of town, you can also ship us books from your collection to be signed.  Call or email for details.

Dispatches from the Border
Editor - Jude Feldman
Assistant Editor - Alan Beatts

All contents unless otherwise noted are the property of

Borderlands Books
866 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA  94110

Comments and suggestions should be directed to


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