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New theme song for Reading Rainbow offers an even better reason to read books
June 5, 2014 | 8:27 pm

LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter is running up a fairly godlike funding tally. In case you’re wondering what his secret is, he reveals it in this “new version” of the Reading Rainbow theme via humor site Funny or Die. Reading Rainbow's New Theme Song with LeVar Burton from LeVar Burton ...

European Commission inquires into Amazon/Hachette dispute
June 5, 2014 | 1:58 pm

European Commission anti-trust officials are looking into the ongoing contract negotiations between Amazon and Hachette, Reuters reports. EU’s Competition Commissioner told reporters that they are “trying to understand what’s going on there.” Given that one of the affected books is UK author Joanne Rowling’s latest titles, it’s easy to see why there might be more than a little concern. That being said, experts doubt the European Commission will actually get involved in what amounts to a business dispute. Nonetheless, I imagine it might put pressure on Amazon and Hachette to show some progress. As Nate points out at...

Robinson-Patman, Amazon, the publishers, and the ABA: Where’s the lawsuit? (Updated)
June 3, 2014 | 3:16 pm

Two different op-eds have popped up on CNN and Al Jazeera suggesting that Amazon, big bully that it is in the Hachette negotiation, needs to be taken down a peg under the Robinson-Patman Act. (If you didn’t hear a raspy voice say “I’m Patman” when I mentioned the name of that law, I’m pretty sure you did just now.) Robinson-Patman is an anti-predatory-pricing regulation that’s on the books dating back to the ‘30s, intended to prevent businesses from charging different prices in different towns to undercut local competition, or from using their size to bully suppliers into giving...

Publishers, Amazon, and competition: Three points of view
June 1, 2014 | 11:00 am

There’s a theme in the triad of Amazon/Hachette articles I found this morning, and the theme is…competition. First of all, here’s a rare op ed in favor of Amazon that originally appeared in CNN’s “Fortune” section. (Though it seems to have vanished from there; the link no longer works and the author reposted it on his own blog.) Len Sherman rebuts an earlier anti-Amazon piece by Adam Lashinsky and argues that Hachette’s background as an illegal colluder suggests it is more interested in keeping prices high, whereas Amazon wants to keep them lower for consumers. ...

Not everyone has a local bookstore, nor should they have to
May 30, 2014 | 12:14 pm

img_1118 People like to talk about the importance of buying books in a local independent bookstore to help keep local independent bookstore culture alive—especially now that the mud is flying around about Amazon and Hachette squabbling with each other. Rather than support a bully, the thinking goes, you should buy books from a local instead. But as Kelly Jensen notes in BookRiot, that’s often not possible. It may even smack of “privilege.” Not all readers have access to brick and mortar stores. Not all readers have the capability to walk to their local indie...

Hachette responds to Amazon’s statement, will discuss compensating authors when terms are reached
May 28, 2014 | 1:28 pm

Last night we got a statement from Amazon in regard to its current squabble with Hachette over contract terms; today we get a (somewhat snarky) statement from Hachette. Digital Book World has posted Hachette’s statement, which I’ll reproduce in full here: It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles. Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult...

Amazon issues statement on Hachette dispute, calls it an ordinary supplier negotiation
May 28, 2014 | 1:21 am

Amazon has finally issued a statement about the little spat going on between itself and Hachette, in the form of a post to its Kindle forum. It basically says about the same thing everyone who’s taken Amazon’s side on the blogs so far has said: Amazon is simply negotiating the prerogative of any retailer in negotiating with a supplier for better terms and deciding how to stock and sell their product based on those terms. Unfortunately, Amazon and Hachette haven’t been able to come to mutually-acceptable terms, and Amazon is “not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.”...

Sneaking books into bookstores is not a good idea
May 25, 2014 | 10:36 am

Here’s another one from the “probably not a good idea” department. Self-published writer Brendan Leonard had a bright idea: he might see if he could get his book more exposure by planting it in a Barnes & Noble store. All that was necessary for it to ring up was to have an ISBN bar code on it, which it did. He then had the idea to use it as an Instagram promotional gimmick: place books in various stores and post their location to Instagram so people could go buy them. Granted that he was giving money away by giving his...

Updated: ‘Amazon Derangement Syndrome’ characterizes dispute between Amazon and Hachette
May 24, 2014 | 12:36 am

So, there’s a thing. Over on The Passive Voice, and some other blogs with similar points of view, they refer to it as “Amazon Derangement Syndrome (ADS),” for the way a certain class of people seem to like to run around like chickens with their heads cut off whenever the evil Amazon does another evil thing evilly. Now, I’ll grant that ADS might not be the best term to go around using if you want to engage in serious discourse, given that the sort of people who toss it around are likely to be just as opinionated in...

Scarlett Johansson sues over French novel featuring character that looks like her
May 14, 2014 | 12:44 pm

scarlett_johanssonPop culture can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives us a set of shared experiences that we can use to find common ground with even a complete stranger. Who trifles with discussing something as prosaic as the weather anymore when you can instead discuss your mutual reactions to Captain America 2? But on the other hand, sometimes those shared experiences can lead us to take shortcuts we probably shouldn’t. Why go to the trouble of describing a character physically when you can just tell us what well-known public figure she looks like? Or why not...

Missouri parents complain over sexual health book in school library
May 7, 2014 | 4:25 pm

NormalUh oh! We have another case of parents being outraged over a book. This time it takes place in Missouri where a sex education e-book is available to middle school children, according to USA Today. “Perfectly Normal” shows images of naked people and others engaged in sexual activity. The book’s cover states it’s about “changing bodies, growing up, sex and sexual health.” The book has been around for more than a decade and has received its share of criticism and praise. The book states it’s for children 10 and up, but some parents do not find this acceptable for children of that age...

Weekend Roundup: HarperCollins/Harlequin, Dead Novels, and more
May 4, 2014 | 6:54 pm

Kindle Daily Deal: Spider Woman's Daughter (and others) -- HarperCollins Acquisition of Harlequin and What it Means for Readers (Dear Author) I saw a number of people speculate that the sale of Harlequin had to do with Harlequin being in trouble financially and while Harlequin has seen decreasing profits in the recent years, it was still a healthy and profitable division of Torstar. -- The Novel is Dead (and This Time it's for Real) (The Guardian) Literary fiction used to be central to the culture. No more: in the digital age, not only is...