DOG-EARED & DISPATCHED: September 28, 2014
Authors United is back in the spotlight this week, plus Penguin Random House’s latest way to turn books into profits, and the first class of Amtrak residents. Footnotes include more banned book goodness, another way to fight Amazon, and so much more.
Authors United, the group of more than 1,000 authors formed in response to the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute, is taking its case to the Department of Justice. The group, which includes Junot Diaz, Stephen King, and Malcolm Gladwell, is preparing a letter to William Baer, head of DOJ’s antitrust division. This comes after having published an open letter in The New York Times urging readers to e-mail Jeff Bezos, and lobbying Amazon’s board of directors to end “sanctions” on book sales. Will the new tactic work? “There is a case that Amazon is in violation of the law,” said Douglas Preston, the group’s leader and chief letter writer. “Their actions to manipulate behavior [by Hachette] are exactly the reason these laws were created.” [Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly]
Are movies the future of books? Penguin Random House seems to think so. The Big Five publishing house has signed a two-year deal with Universal Pictures that gives the studio first-look rights for its titles. Random House Studios (RHS) president Peter Gethers will oversee the agreement. “It’s a huge plus for the authors and for Penguin Random House’s bottom line if we come up with one or two books that can be turned into a series of movies,” Gethers said. RHS will also help authors’ works be “translated as faithfully as possible,” and ensure that there are “cross-promotional sales opportunities” for their books. In 2012, Random House inked a similar deal with FremantleMedia to create TV scripts based on its books. Universal is already set to release two film adaptations of PRH titles: Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie, which comes out on Christmas Day; and E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, due out next February. [Media Bistro, Galleycat, The Hollywood Reporter, Publishers Weekly]
24 authors are getting ready to write on the rails as part of Amtrak’s writers residency program, including PRI’s Marco Werman (host of The World), transgender author Jennifer Boyland (She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders), and Portland’s own Karen Karbo (congratulations, Karen!). According to the company’s blog, the first 24 residents were culled from more than 16,000 applications and “offer a diverse representation of the writing community.” The program proves that in the age of Twitter, some wishes really can come true. It all started when Alexander Chee told PEN Ten interviewer: “I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers.” The comment turned into a hashtag that turned into a pilot that turned into a full-fledged program that counts Chee among its judges. “There’s something very classic and timeless about trains,” journalist Farai Chideya, another resident, told the Los Angeles Times, “but [there’s] also a very modern social media aspect to the entire enterprise of the residency.” [LA Times, Amtrak, PBS Newshour]
- Bustle rewrote 11 contemporary novels as tweets.
- PopSugar asked “If your life was a children’s book, which would it be?“
- The super cute Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia is fighting that “community-unfriendly website named after a South American River” with kindness.
- Minnesotans and pundits speculate about what Amazon’s up to in the land of 10,000 lakes.
- Apple bought a digital magazine publishing platform.
- Electric Literature showed us why readers still prefer paper.
- The Huffington Post gave us 5 infographics about banned books.