By October 30, 2009 0 Comments Read More →

Weeklings: Loss Leaders, Unpaid and Unhappy Book Reviewers, and the Power Trio of the Future

Nook, vook, blook, p-book, wovel, poegel . . . am I forgetting anything?

Some in the publishing industry say that, thanks to e-readers such as the Kindle, people are reading more books (“E-Book Fans Keep Format in Spotlight,” by Brad Stone, New York Times). Who, exactly, says this? Well, the manufacturers of the Kindle, but that’s beside the point. Given that the average Kindle edition is priced at $9.99, it stands to reason that people might buy more of them than $24 hardcovers. Of course, when you factor in the cost of the e-reader itself, you have to buy a lot of Kindle editions before they become a bargain, which may be why people are buying so many: to save money.

But what’s happening to those $24 hardcovers? They’re being sold for as low as $8.98 by retailers such as Amazon, Wal-Mart, and Target (“In Book-Pricing Battle, How Low Can They Go?” by Motoko Rich, New York Times). The American Booksellers Association has cried foul–indeed, some have wondered how publishing can survive when the biggest sellers are treated as loss leaders, like cans of tuna fish in the grocery store. Then again, it’s the retailers who are absorbing the loss (some in hopes of selling mountain bikes or big-screen TVs) and while some independent booksellers have gnashed their teeth, others have shrugged and said that they don’t sell a lot of bestsellers anyway.

Indeed, some see Barnes and Noble as a perfect storm of unenlightened self-interest: in going head-to-head with Amazon in the e-reader business (with the adorably named Nook), they might just have found the doomsday device to hasten the demise of their 700-plus superstores (“The Nook of Doom,” by Marion Maneker).

In other financial news, Amy Hertz, editor-at-large at Dutton and editor at HuffPost Books–you know, the one who said that “Book reviews tend to be conversation enders“–said, when asked whether it hurts writers to write for free (“A new-media read on books at Huffington Post,” by James Rainey, Los Angeles Times):

“I’m not going to answer that question one way or another . . . I just don’t think it’s a useful question to ask at this point. It’s a new world.”

Let us know when the question becomes useful, Amy, and we’ll ask it again!

However, some book reviewers don’t even need not getting paid as a reason to quit. Jessica Mann has quit reviewing all books, if I’ve read that right, because so many crime writers are jumping on the “sadistic misogyny” bandwagon (“Book reviewer quits over ‘increasing sexist violence’,” by Amy Willis, The Telegraph).

“Each psychopath is more sadistic than the last and his victims’ sufferings are described in detail that becomes ever more explicit as young women are imprisoned, bound, eaten, starved, suffocated, stabbed, boiled or burned alive,” she told the Observer.

And just who does she blame for this disgusting trend? Women, actually. Ian Rankin said something similar a few years back (“Ian Rankin: The singing detective,” by Danuta Kean, The Independent) and took his bows to boos–wonder if Mann will hear from the women as well.

And now for something completely different: Wiley has signed Tony Little, “America’s Personal Trainer,” to write, dictate, or sculpt the body of a motivational business book called There’s Always a Way (“Wiley Signs Tony Little for Biz Book,” Publishers Weekly). It’s scheduled for this December, but if Tony is worried about writer’s block, I have one message: You can do it!

Interestingly, another hair-rific figure is putting Little’s own considerable work ethic to shame: Frank McKinney, “Daredevil Real Estate Artist and Bestselling Author,” has three–count ’em, three–new books out: The Tap, Burst This! and Dead Fred, Flying Lunchboxes, and the Good Luck Circle. It’s hard to imagine his appeal on the page being any greater than it is in person.

You know what? Little and McKinney need to form a band. And to complete their band, they need–you guessed it, Sammy Hagar. Thank you, everybody, and good night!




About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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