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Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Book News for Monday, August 6, 2007

  • Golden Years: In the Guardian, Louise Tucker asserts that the publishing industry never had a golden age and that there has never been a better time than the present.

    Was it ever easier or better? Well, in the 1920s Virginia Woolf would have written a story, set it and had it printed. Independent-spirited, discerning booksellers would have recognised a startling new talent and begun to stock her books for similarly minded readers. How lovely and romantic — and possibly imaginary — that sounds. But is it?

    Because how often do you willingly go into an independent bookshop to pay £9.99 for one book, when you can buy two for a tenner down the street? I confess this is a personal bugbear. But it is hypocritical to complain about the Tesco-fication of books at the same time as buying into the cut-price deals. If you care about writing and its future, about publishers taking risks or about the survival of independent bookshops (and their much wider range) you should make a point of paying full price.

    I take it "Tesco" is sort of the U.K. equivalent of WalMart, or maybe Barnes & Noble. The big-box discount machine, in other words.

    Meanwhile, all I can say is, there are still plenty of authors who publish their own books these days. However, instead of A Room of One's Own, today's self-published authors are more likely to have written a 2,000-page "thriller" about how the Illuminati run the U.S. government and keep the secret of Earth's hollow center from the rest of us, and how only the author (casting himself as the ruggedly handsome lead character) can reveal the truth to the whole world.

    Which is just as good, if you ask me.

  • Rank and File: As if writers needed another diversion to feed into their obsessive-compulsive tendencies, the New York Times reports that many authors are so caught up in checking their Amazon ranking that they neglect their work in progress.

    It may seem obsessive, but every day — sometimes hourly — Aaron Shepard checks the sales rankings for his 12 self-published books. He even created a Web site,, that lets authors check their Amazon rankings instantly.

    [...] “There really should be a 12-step program,” said Harry Kirchner, a senior national accounts manager with Ingram Publisher Services, a book distributor that counts Amazon as a customer.

    What a bunch of weirdos. I mean, it's not like I'm obsessively checking the blog's Technorati ranking all day or something. Speaking of which, what the hell is wrong with you people? Link to us already! We gotta get those numbers up...

  • Oh Yah, Good Books, Sure, You Betcha: Yes, it's that kind of news day: the winners of the 2007 Midwest Booksellers' Choice Awards have been announced.

    The prizes will be presented on October 5th in Minneapolis — which should be buried under fifteen feet of snow by then, right?

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Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.

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