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The inside scoop on the book world

Amazon.com, Gianni Versace, and more made book news this week

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Paper cuts
Book buyers are giddy about the steep 50 percent discount — up from 40 percent — now being offered by the big three online bookstores for New York Times best-sellers. But the amazon.com/barnesandnoble.com/Borders.com price war has few fans in the publishing industry. ”It hurts the independent bookstores, which hurts us,” says Roger Straus, publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Other publishers are worried where the cost cutting will lead. As one industry exec puts it, the last company that ”made price their message was Crown Books,” referring to the bankrupt chain. ”There’s a part of me that’s delighted to see [B&N and Amazon] trying to knock each other out with this insane discounting,” says Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. ”I just wish it wasn’t happening over books.” One thing to note: Price-conscious consumers can find even better deals than those offered by the big three elsewhere on the Web: Books.com offers a 51 percent discount; Booksamillion.com, 55 percent; and Buybooks.com, 10 percent below whatever Amazon and the others are asking.

Giannni on the spot
Little, Brown has abruptly canceled Undressed: The Life and Times of Gianni Versace, a controversial expose by journalist Christopher Mason that was due out July 1. Mason says that the company feared extensive legal trouble from the Versace family. One publishing insider thought there might be a problem in Britain, where libel laws tend to favor plaintiffs. Another source noted that even if the publisher withheld a U.K. edition, the book could still be purchased there over the Net. In a statement, Mason accused the Versaces of waging an ”unrelenting campaign…to squash” the book, including threatening legal action against people who gave interviews. ”Questions regarding [Little, Brown’s] decision should be directed to them,” responds Lou Colasuonno, a spokesman for the Versace family. ”Christopher Mason has withdrawn the manuscript,” says Little, Brown publisher Sarah Crichton. ”It was very much by mutual agreement.”