Dog-Eared and Dispatched: June 1, 2014
Well hello, Literary Citizens! We’re back after a one-week hiatus with all the newest publishing news about … Amazon and Hachette? Yes, it’s like we’ve never been away. During the past two weeks, Amazon and Hachette still have not been able to come to an agreement, but at least they’ve made some public statements about it. We’ll also look back on the life of celebrated poet and memoirist, Maya Angelou. Finally, we’ll take a look at the news from this year’s Book Expo America, including new titles, ebooks, and diversity (or lack of it). This week’s footnotes includes kids, books, Reading Rainbow, the credibility of self-publishing, and more. Ready? Steady … Read!
Sad news in the literary world, as this past week saw the announcement of Maya Angelou’s death at age 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, NC. She had been in poor health for some time. A poet, essayist, professor, and performer, Angelou was perhaps best known for her memoirs, which filled seven volumes and documented her troubled life in turbulent times. In a 1990 interview with The Paris Review, Angelou discussed how people react to her writing and said: “The greatest compliment I receive is when people walk up to me on the street or in airports and say, Miss Angelou, I wrote your books last year and I really—I mean I read … That is it—that the person has come into the books so seriously, so completely, that he or she, black or white, male or female, feels, That’s my story. I told it. I’m making it up on the spot. That’s the great compliment.” She will be missed. [NY Times, Paris Review]
From the sublime to the ridiculous: the Amazon/Hachette debacle just keeps getting crazier. Amazon has finally made a statement which finally acknowledges that, yes, they “are buying less (print) inventory and ‘safety stock’ on titles from the publisher, Hachette, than we ordinarily do, and are no longer taking pre-orders on titles whose publication dates are in the future.” Amazon suggests setting up a jointly funded “author pool” to help Hachette authors whose royalties have been affected by Amazon’s tactics in the ongoing negotiation.* Among the Hachette titles penalized by Amazon: J. K. Rowling’s new book, which isn’t available for pre-order on the retailer’s site. In a carefully worded response to Amazon, Hachette vows that it “will spare no effort to resume normal business relations with Amazon […] under terms that value appropriately for the years ahead the author’s unique role in creating books, and the publisher’s role in editing, marketing, and distributing them.” More pragmatically, Hachette has also teamed up with Books-a-Million to launch a dedicated Hachette webstore on the Books-a-Million site. Hachette books are guaranteed to be in-stock, and are currently discounted by 30–40%. Meanwhile, James Patterson, best-selling author and supporter of independent bookstores, earned a standing ovation at the BEA with some fighting words about Amazon, which he says “wants to control bookselling, the book business and book publishing. That’s a national tragedy. If this is the new American way, it has to be changed by law if necessary.” Hopefully Judge Cote will keep this mind as she continues to review the Apple case. [Mobylives!, Galleycat, Publishers Weekly, Digital Book World, Shelfawareness]
Book Expo America (BEA), the annual book industry trade show, took over the Javits Center in New York this week. Booksellers large and small took note as publishers announced their biggest books for the coming year, including Neil Patrick Harris’s “choose-your-own-adventure” themed autobiography and Tor’s DRM-free ebook imprint. In a change from previous years, BEA organizers focused on outreach to the general public with some “uncontrolled chaos” also known as “ReaderCon,” which was aimed at consumers rather than industry insiders; Lance Fensterman, the global vice president for ReedPOP—the company that oversaw the conference—observed: “While books fans might not look the same as Comic Con fans or ‘Star Wars’ fans, we think they have the same passionate DNA that will make them say on a beautiful day, ‘We want to go to the Javits Center instead of the beach’.” Despite these efforts and an increased international presence at BEA this year, lack of diversity in all areas of publishing, including the BEA itself was still an issue at the conference and noted in most media coverage. Coming after Junot Diaz’s hard-hitting opinion piece about diversity in MFA programs back in April (the most prominent of many criticisms), the overwhelming whiteness of BEA came as a disappointment. [Book Expo America, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Galleycat, Huffington Post, New Yorker, AP]
1. Touching story about the impact of books on the life of a child over at Storycorps: “The bookmobile staffer asked Storm what she was interested in and sent her home with a couple of books. ‘I took them home and I devoured them. I didn’t just read them, I devoured them,’ Storm says. ‘And I came back in two weeks and had more questions. And he gave me more books, and that started it.’ The experience, she says, was life-changing.”
2. Speaking of kids and books, Reading Rainbow is raising money “to establish a Reading Rainbow digital library and to allow 1,500+ classrooms to access this library free of charge”; the project has been subject to some criticisms.
3. Another pearl is added to Oyster as Simon & Schuster joins the ebook subscription service; meanwhile, Smashwords has partnered with Overdrive, and a curated list of its titles will soon be available in libraries.
4. Self published books are becoming respectable: Publishers Weekly in integrating its reviews of self-published titles with “traditional book” reviews. It also launched Booklife a site devoted to self-published books, on May 29. They got the site rolling by self-publishing a guide to self-publishing called Publishing 101, by journalist Rachel Deahl. The book “offers a no-nonsense perspective on how publishing works, and what writers can do to make their own projects take off” – including the necessity to do their own marketing. Booklife is still in beta, so functionality can be limited/rocky.
5. The Kirkus Review has founded the Kirkus Prizes for “fiction, non-fiction, and young-reader’s litearture.” Book published between October 2013 and September 2014 that receive a Kirkus star are automatically entered; the prizes will be announced on October 23, 2014.
6. We still enjoy (and agree with) Laura Miller’s reasons for quitting Amazon.
7. Human Libraries help unite communities through story telling.
8. Target and ebook subscription service Librify have joined forces to sell ebooks through the retailer’s website – in hopes of being the host for your next book club. Says Librify CEO Joana Stone Herman: “We’re taking advantage of all the breadth and reach that Target has.” We’re interested to see how that works out.