Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday on the Links

Calm down, Chris K. I'm not talking about playing golf. It's too hot for that. No, I'm talking internet links. Here for your reading pleasure and, hopefully, to stimulate conversation, are some links to what's been happening in the publishing world this week.

In case you've been away from all forms of media, Barnes & Noble is rumored to be putting itself up for sale. The company founder and, iirc, chairman of the board, Leonard Riggio is in a battle with Ron Burke for control of the company. This article from Reuters notes that the fall-out from lower than expected earnings and in-fighting may have detrimental effects on the potential sale of the big box chain.

Jodi Picoult has taken on the NYT, claiming it is biased toward male writers. According to this post, Picoult tweeted the following: NYT raved about Franzen's new book. Is anyone shocked? Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren't white male literary darlings. It is possible this is a case of sour grapes after receiving a fairly scathing review from NYT. Still, is this something an author should be doing? More to the point, would a mid-list or new author be able to do something like this and get away with it?

Censorship also reared its ugly head again. If you haven't heard already, author Ellen Hopkins was un-invited to the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, TX. This is after she's made other appearances there -- without incident. I'll let Hopkins' own words explain what happened:

Apparently, a middle school librarian saw my name on the roster and decided my presence would somehow negatively affect her students. I’m not sure how that is possible. Maybe she thinks I sweat “edgy and dark.” (Are those things catching?) Anyway, she went to a couple of parents with her concerns. I’m guessing she knew the exact ones who would raise a stink, and they did. They went to the school board, and the superintendent, Guy Sconzo, decided to uninvite me. (He says I was never invited, but I was!)

You know, I’m kind of getting used to this, and I had just about decided not to make a big deal about it. But then another Texas librarian, who is a great supporter, e-mailed Mr. Sconzo. His reply was arrogant and condescending and really made me mad, on two fronts. First, he admitted he “relied on his head librarian’s research” in regard to my books or me or both. Meaning he never bothered to read them himself. (Censors rarely do!) Never bothered to contact me with his concerns. Didn’t listen to the other librarians who lobbied heavily to keep me on the speaker roster, or ask other teen book festival organizers about their experiences with me.

But that's not the end of the story. Other authors who had been invited to the Teen Lit Fest, upon hearing what happened, have pulled out to show their support of Hopkinsl. From the Publishers Weekly blog: In the last few days, four authors who were also scheduled to appear at the festival—Pete Hautman, Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, and Tera Lynn Childs—announced in quick succession that they were also withdrawing. “What is important is that a handful of people – the superintendent, the one (one!) librarian, and “several” (three? five?) parents – took it upon themselves to overrule the vast majority of teachers and librarians and students who had chosen one of the most popular YA authors in America to be their headliner,” wrote Hautman in a blog post. “That is a form of censorship as damaging and inexcusable as setting fire to a library.” And on her blog, de la Cruz wrote, “I believe that as a writer, we have to stick up for each other, and against censorship, and against people who want to tell everyone else what to think, what to read, what to watch.”

Finally, for the gadget geeks and gawkers out there, news of two new tablets coming to your hot little hands soon. The first is a Chrome OS tablet from Google, scheduled for the end of November. The second comes from HP. It is due out the beginning of next year. Look out, Apple. It looks like there might be some real alternatives to the iPad soon.

So, any thoughts about any of these links? Do you have other publishing related news you want to discuss? The floor is now yours.


MataPam said...

Pity all the publishers are hurting when B&N is looking for a buyer.One of the big publishers might find themselves marketing to the readers instead of the B&N buyers, and might find that lucrative. Cut the distributors out of a big chunk of the business.

Other than that, the more reader types, the sooner they'll settle on a universal format.

I still get the feeling of a large number of businessmen thinking longingly of committing hari kari over it all.

C Kelsey said...

So no hole in one, Amanda?

Here's the thing that interests me. I just got a new Droid X to replace my hated Blackberry. It comes with a Kindle app. To try it out I bought "A Battle Won" by S. Thomas Russel. A nautical fiction novel. I've found it's a pleasant reading experience on my phone, not to mention that I paid $12.99 for it rather than the near $30.00 that B&N charges. Which is a big problem I think. New books are too danged expensive in dead tree format.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

All very interesting, Amanda.

Thanks for keeping track of these things.

Dave Freer said...

I'm mildly amused by the storm in Jodi Picoult's tea-cup. The NYT is biased in so many ways as to make bias the norm rather than not. (most of which could be adequately backed up by good stats - unlike the mystery writers ones quoted by a commenter on that site, which stated that the proportions of male/female mystery writers was the same. It didn't of course look at the demographics or sales of those equal proportions. Here is my guess: Male writers are generally longer-in-print (and therefore more established, and more likely to get reviewed - a situation which is changing.) Female writers (and almost all MY favorite murder-mystery writers are female) are actually more numerous in the younger-in-print group, and very possibly sell more. Ergo, this balance will shift in time. The question, of course is: when it does, will the same people be calling for more male-written murder-mysteries to be reviewed?) If Picoult had been squalling about the neglect of say... Westerns, or Horror, or by republican-supporting middle-American dwelling men... I'd be impressed.

And B&N? - I think they're in trouble, and it is going to hurt us.

Amanda Green said...

MataPam, the Barnes and Noble situation is interesting to say the least. How the dust will settle after the proxy fight, the resultant legal fights, etc., is anyone's guess. So far, the only outside interest I've seen linked to possibly buying the chain is Amazon. Part of me would love to see it, if for no other reason that to see Steve Jobs choke and rush out to buy Borders (but then, that's my pique over his role in bringing about the agency model of pricing on e-books). Part of me quakes in terror over the thought simply because I'm not sure that would be a good fit either for Amazon or for the purchasing public.

Amanda Green said...

No hold in one, Chris. Sorry.

And you have hit on the issue that many publishers just don't seem to understand. The majority of the buying public simply will not (or cannot) pay hard cover prices any more. But, instead of taking advantage of being able to sell more units at a lower price -- but also with lower production costs -- the publishers want to raise the prices for digital copies in order to promote the sale of the higher priced units.

Amanda Green said...

Rowena, my pleasure. The way I look at it, this is our industry and we need to know what's going on if we're to survive.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, it always amazes -- and amuses -- me when a "big name" gets bent out of shape by a review and goes on the war path like this. To me, they come across sounding like petulant kids. It doesn't help their cause, especially when they have been writing on auto-pilot for a book or more.

Will there be fall-out for Picoult? Probably not. But, had it been a new author or mid-list, I can almost guarantee there would be. It's only been a year or so since another author, one who wasn't a "name" went on a tirade on their blog against an editor. Yes, the tirade was taken down very quickly. But the damage was done.

I guess the link about Picoult, like the one about the Humble teen lit fest issue, was simply one of those situations where I simply wound up shaking my head and wondering, "What were they thinking?"

Mike said...

Well off-topic, but I think perhaps some people might be interested. Over at James Alan Gardner is trying to put together a list of the fundamental skills of writers, especially SF&F writers. He's started with the interesting question -- what's the most important skill to have or develop? He suggests that he considers it to be: "An sf writer must develop the capacity to respect and believe in imaginary things."