On The Books: Hachette Amazon feud escalates, affecting Rowling and Connelly
The feud between Hachette Book Group and Amazon has intensified. The Los Angeles Times reports that Amazon has taken the pre-order buttons off of big Hachette titles, like The Burning Room by Michael Connelly and The Silkworm by Richard Galbraith, the pen name for J.K. Rowling. This is in addition to allegedly extending back order times for popular books, like Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point. Hachette has issued a statement saying they are “sparing no effort and exploring all options” to resolve this conflict, but Amazon has declined to comment. Hachette author James Patterson has been very outspoken about this battle. “What I don’t understand about this particular battle tactic is how it is in the best interest of Amazon customers,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “It certainly doesn’t appear to be in the best interest of authors.”
There was an uproar in England yesterday when word got out that To Kill A Mockingbird and other American classics are being cut from British standardized testing. British Education Secretary Michael Gove is changing the English literature format of the GCSE test, which may bump American books by John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller, and Harper Lee out for more Anglo-centric authors. After twitter exploded in protest, Gove wrote an article in The Telegraph to explain the new format. He said the core curriculum calls for: “a whole Shakespeare play, poetry from 1789 including the romantics, a 19th-century novel and some fiction or drama written in the British Isles since 1914.” The operative phrase being “written in the British Isles.”
When I first read the New York Times headline: “Music Data Analyst Turns Sights to Books,” I thought it meant that the taste prediction algorithms used by Pandora and Spotify would be tuned to books for better book recommendations. Book recommendations on Amazon just aren’t good enough. Certainly not as accurate as music programs. But alas, the customer must still suffer. The music data analyst is Alexander S. White, co-founder of Next Big Sound which tracks data about musicians to predict sales. His new division Next Big Book has partnered with Macmillan to build a dashboard that “allows the publishing company to see what factors — from Facebook posts to book reviews to appearances on NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ — are most influential on sales.”
A sociology professor from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has published an analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey, where she concludes that the book is a self-help guide and a legacy of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Fifty Shades is “as much a cultural fantasy as a sexual one, serving as a guide to a happier romantic life.” I would question this woman’s credentials, but she notes that the book has “some of the worst writing I have ever seen and a plot that made my toenails curl.” So she’s not totally deluded.