Dog-Eared and Dispatched
T.G.I.S., literary citizens! Dog-Eared and Dispatched is back after our week hiatus while attending the AWP conference and bookfair. We had a blast talking to writers, scholars, and book industry professionals; if you haven’t had a chance yet, be sure to check out Aileen’s AWP 2014 Recap on the Late Night Vlog.
Meanwhile, in this week’s rundown, we investigate the L.A. Times decision to become an Amazon affiliate and the backlash this choice has ignited so far. Next, we give the scoop on Anne Rice’s experience with bullying on Amazon and the petition currently in play to stop such review-related harassment. Lastly, we present the latest update on Apple’s antitrust woes as the company requests Judge Denise Cote’s full removal from the case.
But wait! Our coverage of the wild world of book culture doesn’t end there! Be sure to check out the newly added “footnotes” portion of Dog-Eared and Dispatched for links to additional noteworthy headlines.
The Los Angeles Times is facing some heat this week after releasing their Festival of Books schedule online, with the conference website featuring buy links to Amazon.com rather than the IndieBound affiliate program that would allow customers to order directly from participating bookstores’ websites. “It would not be overstating the case to say we feel a deep sense of betrayal and concern,” said Maryelizabeth Hart of Mysterious Galaxy bookstore. Skylight Books Event Manager Mary Williams echoed Hart’s sentiment, telling Shelf Awareness, “I was alarmed to see the buy buttons and even more alarmed because so many local booksellers exhibit at the festival. The Festival of Books is a huge part of the L.A. book scene—but then, so is the L.A. bookselling community. We’d like to see the festival support us like we try to support the festival.” According to Publishers Weekly, the choice to partner with Amazon wasn’t determined by the Festival’s organizers; instead, it was part of a larger agreement made between Amazon and the L.A. Times‘ advertising department, with the Festival earning a commission on all Amazon book sales made through their site. The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA) is currently working to have this arrangement amended, with SCIBA President Maureen Palacios drafting a letter to the Festival committee that includes such proposals as “store or publisher website buttons for participating Festival authors, a discount to SCIBA members on the cost of exhibit space, a gratis booth for SCIBA at the event, and advertising in the Times for SCIBA events and California Bookstore Day in May.” Weighing in on the matter, Melville House Marketing Manager Dustin Kurtz said, “We’ve discussed Amazon links before . . . For authors linking to their own books it’s not a good practice, but their motivations are understandable. For an institution like the Festival, it’s oversight, callousness to local bookstores or, most likely, just a tale as old as Hollywood itself.” [Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!]
While the SCIBA battles Amazon in L.A., Anne Rice has joined the petition to “protect Amazon.com users and indie publishing authors from bullying and harassment by removing anonymity and requiring identity verification for reviewing and forum participation.” The campaign was launched by freelance editor Todd Barselow in order to highlight “the lack of oversight and control in the Amazon system” where product reviews—namely of books—are concerned. During his interview with GalleyCat, Barselow elaborated by stating, “People are able to create multiple accounts and then use those accounts to viciously attack and go after any author or person that they feel doesn’t belong on Amazon or who shouldn’t have published a book, made a comment on a forum post, etc. With the current system, if one anonymous account gets deactivated because it was reported for these things, it is easy for the bully or harasser to simply create another anonymous account and continue on with their shenanigans.” Rice appears to be in agreement of this assessment, telling The Guardian, “I think the anti-author gangster bully culture is made up of individuals who desperately want a place at the table in the world of books and readers . . . They’ve worked their way into the Amazon system as parasites, posting largely under pseudonyms, lecturing, bullying, seeking to discipline authors whom they see as their special prey. They’re all about power. They clearly organize, use multiple identities, and brag about their ability to down vote an author’s works if the author doesn’t ‘behave’ as they dictate.” So far, the petition has gathered several thousand signatures. [The Guardian, Shelf Awareness, GalleyCat]
It seems like Apple may be getting just as fed up with the inexhaustible nature of their antirust case as the public is, with the company now asking for Judge Denise Cote to be removed from the proceedings altogether. As noted by Publishers Weekly, “The argument that Cote is biased ramps up the pressure on her to remand the case immediately or to recuse herself from ruling in the summary judgment.” Apple attorneys have also been pushing for the plaintiffs’ motions for summary judgment to be denied on the basis that a class has yet to be certified in the case: “Plaintiffs put the cart before the horse, seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages on summary judgment on behalf of an uncertified and non-existent class. But Plaintiffs cannot represent this phantom class before it is even certified.” In addition to these motions, Apple continues to argue against their damage charges as estimated by Stanford economist Roger Noll, with the company claiming that Noll’s findings are inaccurate and therefore inadmissible. [Publishers Weekly]
1. Is Amazon rigging their algorithms? Author Stephan Eirik Clark shares the search for his missing book.
2. Neil Gaiman speaks out about copyright and why he thinks piracy might not be such a bad thing.
3. At the request of warehouse workers, the Supreme Court is set to scrutinize Amazon.
4. Can $200,000 make you a bestseller? Melville House discusses the going rate of popular authorship.
5. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos adds his two cents to Business Insider‘s recent $12 million funding.
6. Ingram and CourseSmart combine powers to become one of the largest forces in digital college textbook field.