E got game

By Bill Castanier

Local literary roundup, including talk by NYT bestselling author who’s gone electronic

A new short story has brought the writing career of New York Times best seller author Jodi Picoult full circle. The online publisher Byliner recently released “The Color War,” a return to the form for the novelist: She got her start in the literary world when, as an undergrad at Princeton, two of her stories appeared in Seventeen magazine. Picoult fans will find her 8,000-word short story as contemporary as her previous works, which touch on issues such as the Holocaust, homosexuality and familial relationships. “The Color War,” available only as a $1.99 ebook, delves into racial issues between blacks and whites. It follows a 9-year old African-American inner-city kid who is sent to a summer Bible camp and becomes enamored with a white female counselor. Picoult will speak at the Lansing Town Hall Celebrity Lecture Series at 11 a.m. Monday at the Best Western Plus Lansing Hotel. Print editions of her books will be available for sale at the event.

The leap to an electronic format was not a big one for Picoult. Like other major authors, she has gone over to the proverbial “dark side,” selling as many books digitally as she does in print. The print version of her newest book, “The Storyteller,” sells for $10.98 on Amazon and $16 in bookstores, while the ebook version is priced at $9.99. However, it’s unlikely anyone will ask Picoult to inscribe their Kindle version to Aunt Betty.

You can hardly blame Picoult, who is just responding to consumer demand;

more than 40 percent of the adult American public now owns an ereader, according to a recent USA Today poll. Since the Amazon Kindle was introduced in 2009, ebooks have grown to a point where they have siphoned off up to 40 percent of the traditional print book market. What the poll fails to mention is that, although ebook readers are roughly equal by gender, women are responsible for 70 percent to 80 percent of all new books sold. A recent report by Publishers Weekly said that through the first eight months of 2013, ebook sales were at $872.2 million, and in a one-month period ebooks sold more than hardcovers, but less than trade paper books. And records keep breaking; prolific author James Patterson recently became the first author to sell 10 million ebooks.

Amazon has also made dramatic strides in becoming an originator of content, selling ebooks that are not available elsewhere with great success; it has exclusive rights to one out of six of the national best sellers. What’s even more revealing is Amazon often does not share these books with libraries, opting instead to “loan” them to premium customers who pay $79 a year to Amazon and join mostly for free two-day mailing.

Bath author/illustrator open house

One area of publishing that has remained mostly untouched from ebooks is children’s books — but anyone who has “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on a touchscreen reader will tell you that can’t be too far behind. (The Pew Research Center cites research that shows 81 percent of the reading public still prefers print books when reading with a child.)

Until then, you can wallow in children’s book art and books at the annual Hazel Ridge Workshop and Gallery Holiday Open House next week at the bucolic Bath farm of Robbyn and Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen.

Each year, the van Frankenhuyzens, who have illustrated and written a combined 30 books, open their Bath farm and artist’s workshop to the public. The open house, which runs from Dec. 12 through Dec. 15, is free.

Most area fans know the Netherlandsborn Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen (known as “Mr. Nick” in local elementary schools) for the work he has done for Sleeping Bear Press, including the tremendously successful “Michigan Legends” collection. Two of his most noted books are “The Legend of Sleeping Bear” and “The Edmund Fitzgerald: The Song of the Bell.”

Gijsbert got his start in the children’s market in 1987 when he designed the custom collectible Sesqui Bear for the Michigan Sesquicentennial. He has since created a growing number of illustrated children’s books, including the “Farm” series, which he collaborates on with his spouse. His next book, “I Love You Just Enough,” is due in 2014; it focuses on a wild duck that was raised by his daughter, Heather.

Verlander’s parents take the mound

Fans of Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander will have an opportunity on Thursday to purchase signed copies of the new memoir, “Rocks Across the Pond: Lessons Learned, Stories Told,” written by the Cy Young Award winner’s parents, Richard and Kathy Verlander.

The book, unsurprisingly, is all about raising a superstar baseball player, following the youthful Verlander as he grows into one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Richard and Kathy Verlander will appear at a signing at Schuler Books in Okemos.

Tiger fans hope that the Verlanders will get the opportunity to update their book next season with an additional chapter about what it’s like to win a World Series ring.

Cedar St., Lansing $30 lecture only

(luncheon tickets sold out) (517) 349-2516 Lansing Town Hall Celebrity Lecture Series with author Jodi Picoult 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9 Best Western Plus, 6820 S.

Hazel Ridge Holiday Open House

4-6:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday Dec. 12-13; 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Dec. 14-15 7409 Clark Road, Bath FREE (517) 641-6690, hazelridgefarm.com

Richard and Kathy Verlander, “Rocks Across the Pond”

4 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5

Schuler Books & Music 1982 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos FREE (517) 349-8840, schulerbooks.com