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National Book Critics Circle Awards Finalists Announced

The National Book Critics Circle announced on Monday the 30 finalists for the organization’s 2013 awards. Finalists have been chosen for the categories of autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. See the full list of finalists here.

Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth), has also been announced as the winner of the first-ever John Leonard Prize, which recognizes outstanding debut titles. Additionally, writer and editor Katherine A. Powers has been named the winner of the 2013 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing for her contributions to national book review sections in the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and the Barnes & Noble Review. Rolando Hinojosa-Smith is the recipient of the 2013 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.

The awards will be presented on March 13 at the New School in New York City in a ceremony that is free and open to the public.

Holiday Sales Numbers Increase as Predicted

The National Retail Federation reported on Tuesday that holiday retail sales numbers came in as the organization expected. Total holiday sales increased 3.8 percent to $601.8 billion, just shy of NRF’s predicted 3.9 percent. Non-store holiday sales, indicating online and e-commerce sales, rose 9.3 percent, to $95.7 billion.

“Despite facing a truncated holiday season, severe weather, and shaky consumer confidence, retailers rose to the challenge and executed their strategies with proven success,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.

The report also noted that the categories of clothing and accessories, health and personal care, and non-store retail increased in seasonally-adjusted month-to-month numbers. Building material and garden equipment, electronics and appliances, furniture and home furnishings, and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores saw sales numbers decrease. General merchandise sales remained flat.

IBM Says E-Commerce Will Lose to Bricks-and-Mortar

IBM says that e-commerce will lose out to physical retail in the next five years, according to its newest research as part of IBM’s “5 in 5” series of predictions about innovations changing our lives in the coming five years, reported

By taking an omnichannel approach, a combination of physical shopping paired with online intelligence, IBM said that retail staff will be able to recognize consumers instantly when they shop in stores and will be aware of consumers’ shopping habits and what they’d be interested in buying. With a computer’s help, consumers will be offered exactly the right products and will have real-life experience with the product.

“On one hand, you have a very personal relationship, which some people do prefer. At the same time, the technology they have available to serve you is as good as anything that’s been available in online shops. It’s an interesting evolution, and it is coming,” said IBM’s Vice President of Innovation Bernie Meyerson. “As you probably may have heard, there are a number of online shops that have talked about setting up brick-and-mortar showrooms, for this precise reason.”

Simon & Schuster to Launch Simon 451 Imprint

Simon 451, a new imprint from Simon & Schuster, will launch this year with a focus on literary and commercial speculative fiction, fantasy, dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, the supernatural, and more. S&S announced on Tuesday that the imprint’s first titles would be released in the fall of 2014.

Simon 451 will publish in both electronic and print formats and will feature digital first and e-book originals. It will also produce short stories and serialized novels. Actress Gillian Anderson, known for her role on The X Files, will release the first volume of the EarthEnd Saga series, co-authored by Jeff Rovin, in October.

Simon 451’s name is a tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Deadline Approaching for NBF’s Innovations in Reading Prize

Entries for the National Book Foundation’s 2014 Innovations in Reading Prize are due by February 19. The prize acknowledges initiatives or programs that create and sustain a lifelong love for reading. Candidates can nominate themselves or can be nominated by others.

The foundation is looking in particular for interdisciplinary approaches that incorporate innovations in design, technology, and social activism. Winners will receive $2,500 and prominent recognition on the NBF’s website and in other publicity.

Macmillan to Distribute Guinness World Records

Macmillan Publishers announced Thursday that it has entered into an agreement with Guinness World Records for the sales, distribution, and fulfillment of their titles in the United States, including the Guinness World Records® book and the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition. The distribution agreement is effective immediately.

“We are delighted to welcome Guinness World Records to the Macmillan family of distribution clients,” said Alison Lazarus, president of sales at Macmillan Publishers. “We look forward to working with them to build upon their considerable success to date and helping them reach their many fans with these much-beloved and anticipated titles.”

Laurie Muchnick Named Fiction Editor at Kirkus

Kirkus Reviews announced on Wednesday that Laurie Muchnick will assume the role of fiction editor, taking over for Elaine Szewczyk, who is resigning. Muchnick comes from Bloomberg News and serves as the president of the National Book Critics Circle. She has previously worked for the Village Voice Literary Supplement and Newsday, and her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, and other publications. Muchnick has also acted as judge for the Los Angeles Times Prizes for Fiction and First Fiction and will be a fiction judge for the upcoming Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

“Laurie’s integrity and passion for books are highly regarded throughout the industry and perfectly aligned with Kirkus’ mission,” said Claiborne Smith, the editor-in-chief of Kirkus Reviews. “We are thrilled to welcome her to our team.”