Dog-Eared and Dispatched: November 23, 2014
Welcome to this week’s reckoning with the world of literary culture. We take a look at the National Book Awards, the Apple settlement, and whether ebook subscription services will last. Read on!
As you have probably heard by now, Phil Klay has won this year’s National Book Award for fiction for his debut collection Redeployment. Louise Gluck won for poetry, Evan Osnos for nonfiction, and Jacqueline Woodson for “young people’s literature.” There were two other notable incidents from the night. David Handler made a fool of himself for making racist jokes (for which he has apologized). Ursula Le Guin’s acceptance speech was awesome: “I have had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.” A much-needed call to action. [National Book Award, This Mess, Twitter, MobyLives!]
At last: Judge Denise Cote has approved the $400 million settlement in the DoJ v. Apple antitrust case. It can now continue on to the Second Circuit court, which will hear Apple’s appeal of Judge Cote’s original verdict against the company. If the Second Circuit says that Judge Cote’s liability findings are not valid, Apple will only pay $50 million to consumers and $20 million to the lawyers (!). As the New York Times put it: “The settlement appeared to reflect fatigue by Apple, the Justice Department, state attorneys general and class-action lawyers eager to conclude a case that has dragged on, largely because of delays by Apple.” To say nothing of the consumer’s fatigue with the entire business. Further bulletins as events warrant. [Publishers Weekly, The New York Times]
Ebook subscription services (such as Scribd, Overdrive, and Oyster) have been in the news recently, as Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House declared that readers don’t want ebook subscriptions. Quoth the Weldon: “We have two problems with subscription. We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books. [Moreover, Penguin Random House does not] understand the business model” – although subscriptions might work “in certain markets around the world in emerging economies where access to books and bookshops is extremely limited” (such as the USA). Despite this doom and gloom (from a major player in publishing), the subscription services are still adding to their product lines: Oyster announced a new literary journal and Scribd has added audiobooks to their service in a bid to compete with Audible, while Barnes & Noble has also resumed audiobook service for the Nook. Oh, yes, and Penguin Random house has made an audiobook app called Volumes, which will feature excerpts of current titles and sometimes complete audiobooks. Hmmm. Having competition is rough isn’t it, Mr. Weldon? [The Bookseller, Digital Book World, Forbes, Digital Book World]
- A look at inscriptions in books – to people who no longer own them.
- Jonathan Franzen has a new novel coming out next September, about a young woman named Pip. Great expectations, etc., etc.
- A former Amazon employee is going on hunger strike for improved working conditions at the company.
- Is neuroscience killing the humanities, or do the humanities just need to up their game?
- Hachette devours Little Dog & Leventhal.