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Reading Trails logo

Happy New Year!

I have a present for you.

No, really.

You deserve it, especially if you work in retail or publishing.

Allow me to introduce Reading Trails, a fantastic new site for bibliophiles that allows users to build groups or ‘trails’ of books linked together by any esoteric theme you can come up with. (A few of my favorites: Books I obnoxiously insist on pushing on my friends’ children, books to write home about, and the ever-popular They Made Me Read it and I Still Resent Them.)

It’s a remarkably simple idea. Find a trail that you like, browse through it, and look for books that intersect with another trail, and then keep exploring. See a trail that sparks an idea? Make a trail of your own in response. Share it with friends direct from the site, or add a widget to your blog and show it off.

Like the Visual Thesaurus, and another of my all-time favorite musical sites Pandora, the whole thing is very intuitive, and as the site grows I expect it will become richer and richer with collective creativity. I can imagine all sorts of great uses, like book club suggestions, a repository for essential lists, and just plain fun.

At the moment, many lists have only a handful of books in them, but I know that you—the pixie stix readeratti—can kick some major butt when it comes to making great lists with substantial meat.

The site was launched in November 2008, but with the industry maelstrom many of us have been in, it seems to have flown under the radar so far. Not for much longer I hope.

It’s a great way to kick off a fantastic year of new reading.

Postscript: I know this is going to come up from booksellers, so let me say that I have already been in touch with the site managers about adding a link to IndieBound along with the purchasing links to Amazon and Abebooks. On the plus side, this site also links to libraries, which is awesome, I think.

firmin2

In the rat race that is publishing, everyone is trying to make their books stand out on the shelf. Some retail studies suggest a product has three seconds or less to catch the eye of a shopper. So the package of a book is important, and there is some truth to the cliche about how to judge a book. However, in the rush for recognition, it’s possible to make a major miscalculation.

Like this one, for instance, which sparked the cussing ire of Paul Constant of the Stranger today.

The book in question is Sam Savage’s Firmin, first published in 2006 to good critical review by Coffee House Press, a non-profit house in Minneapolis, which is presumably why it has found new life.  Here is the just published edition from Random House.

firmin-new

That cutesy chomp is actually a die-cut, which I’m sure cost a pretty penny in production. The problem? It falls right where many readers would like to hold the book.

The original edition was less slick, but eminently more readable.

firmin-original-2006-edition-coffee-house

The book was also published in the UK this year by Weidenfield & Nicolson, and they seemed to have had a close brush with overly ambitious design as well.

Here’s the UK galley:

firmin-uk

And here’s the final book where they wisely pulled back.

firmin-uk-final-copy

It’s still a great story, but it’s always best not to piss off your readers. Also, just from a authenticity point of view, mice always chew from the corners.

Have a story about bad book design that got in the way of YOUR reading experience? Do share.

Howdy!

Welcome to pixie stix kids pix, the site for reviews and opinions about new and interesting books for children and young adults, by a professional in the children's book industry.

What rates?

When I read books they get rated on a 10 point scale. What I like is subjective, but basically I look for great content, excellent design, and fresh ideas. Generally, only books that receive a 7.0 or higher make it on to the site.

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