Dog-Eared and Dispatched: June 15, 2014
Another busy week in the wild world of book publishing. The United States has a new poet laureate, Neil Gaiman is miffed with Amazon, and Judge Cote adds yet another case against Apple and the big five publishers. We have a generous selection of footnotes on the value of bookstores, the bravery of librarians, the dangers of the short story, and much more. Get ready. Get set… Read!
This past Thursday, the Library of Congress named Charles Wright the next poet laureate of the United States, taking over from Natasha Trethewey. His response to his appointment was refreshingly self-effacing: “I’m very honored and flattered to be picked, but also somewhat confused […] I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do, but as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.” He’s equally modest in his plans for his tenure as poet laureate: “I’ll probably stay here at home and think about things […] I will not be an activist laureate, I don’t think, the way Natasha [Trethewey] was … and certainly not the way Billy Collins was, or Bob Hass, or Rita Dove, or Robert Pinsky; you know, they had programs. I have no program.” This of course tells you little about his poetry, so thankfully people have rooted around in their archives for poetry, including some audio recordings. If that isn’t enough to give you a sense of who Wright is, there are also interviews with him at PBS and The Paris Review, where he has some refreshing things to say about the writing process: “If one has to write poorly before one can write well—which I think is true—and if that can be extended to read that one has to write deplorably before one can write extraordinarily well, then I definitely started in the right place for the latter. I suppose it’s nostalgia that makes me keep them. That and the sense of duty that one shouldn’t destroy one’s stunted darlings. Keep them out of sight, yes, but don’t abuse them.”
[New York Times, Moby Lives!, NPR, The New Yorker, The Poetry Foundation, PBS, The Paris Review]
With no end in sight in the feud with Hachette (and Bonnier and Time Warner) , another author speaks up against Amazon this week, with Neil Gaiman saying he, too, is not best pleased: “What is obviously problematic is that Amazon has, whatever it is, 30 to 40 percent of the book market. Which is not a good thing. The point, I think, where I would go incandescent is if Amazon ever repeats the number it pulled, I think a few years ago, with the Macmillan books — which is basically saying, we are not selling you this book […] I think that books are special. Books are sacred. And I think that when you are selling books, you have to remember that in all the profits and loss, in all of that, you are treading on sacred ground. Again, it’s complicated by the fact you’re dealing with giant multibillion-dollar book corporations.” Meanwhile, Amazon workers continue to lack a living wage. Not a banner week for the retailer, even though a US ambassador did take her oath using a Kindle copy of the constitution and Amazon Prime has entered the streaming music market; we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out. [Moby Lives!, Salon, The New York Times, Moby Lives!, Galleycat]
It’s been a busy week in the legal department. Judge Denise Cote really does not approve of Apple, publishers, or price-fixing, given that she allowed Australian ebook retailer DNAML to proceed with its suit against Apple and the publishers. There will be a pretrial conference at the end of July to set “a schedule for fact discovery, and settlement talks.” Judge Cote will be busy this summer, as the damages trial against Apple goes forward in August. On a different digital front, the Authors’ Guild lost its appeal in the Hathitrust copyright case, with the courts saying scanning of works does not, in fact, harm the authors’ markets. Between copyright and ebook pricing, digital books are a tricky issue; some would like to see “the next chapter for e-books should feature Justice Department lawyers and federal judges who have the humility to stand aside and let the market determine winners and losers.” Not sure that we can trust the market on this one, but equally sure that Justice Department isn’t doing much good as a referee. [Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal]
1. Jennifer Crewe has been named president and director of Columbia University Press, becoming the first female director of an Ivy League University press.
2. Is the American short story too limited?
3. You’ve probably seen it already, but Haruki Murakami has a new short story, “Yesterday” in The New Yorker.
4. If you are interested in the possibilities for hypertext, check out OpenXanadu: “proposing an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; where it is possible to see the origins of every quotation; and in which there is a valid copyright system—a literary, legal and business arrangement—for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount.”
5. In the UK, the self-published book market grew 79% in 2013 according to Nielsen Book.
6. Are all ebook subscription services created equal? Mike Shatzkin thinks not.
7. David Sedaris wants the beauty and charm of physical bookstores rather than websites.
8. A bookstore is more than its discounts.
9. First ever Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity announced.
10. Is Amazon really the devil?