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Book News: Year’s Biggest Book News, Women Writers Get the Shaft, and More

  • In Memoriam: Carlene Hatcher Polite, whose work includes the novel The Flagellants, passed away on December 7th at the age of 77.
  • Unclutter Your Books: Powells.com's online book buying service was featured in this Washington Post article on cleaning out your clutter.

    For an online option, try Powell's Books (http://www.powells.com). Based in Portland, Ore., the new and used bookseller will buy just about any title, and the people there make the process easy: Type in a book's ISBN number (usually on the back cover), and they'll tell you if it's a title they need and how much they will pay for it. Expect $1 or $2 for popular fiction paperbacks and $10, $20 or more for specialized academic or technical titles, says Hillary Smith, director of used books. (Powell's will buy textbooks, but they must be the current edition.) Payment is typically issued within one to two weeks through PayPal or through an online credit that can be used at the bookseller's Web site. The bonus: Powell's pays for shipping, too. "Our goal is to keep books circulating," says Smith, "so we want it to be simple."

    Want to sell us your books? Click here to get started!

  • The Year's Biggest Book News Story: Give you a hint — it starts with an "E."

    Powells.com has been selling eBooks for at least 10 years, since the Gemstar days. I remember the Rocket eBook reader that took off and crashed nose-first into the ocean. Despite constant boasts to the contrary by ambitious manufacturers, for years the word "eBook" produced snickers and guffaws.

    This year, all of that changed. Was it Amazon's Kindle, or the iPhone, or the proliferation of new e-readers? (All of the above gets my vote.) Whatever the reason, the face of the publishing industry and the way people read books will forever be changed, for good or ill.

    Even the people who are being dragged kicking and screaming toward the new technology have to admit that the landscape has changed — and there's a big, digital "E" in front of it.

  • All the Literary Ladies: Possibly the year's other biggest story is, depending on which version suits you: A) women novelists just don't matter; or B) women's contributions to literature remain horrendously overlooked.

    First, Publishers Weekly issued its instantly-infamous list of the year's ten best books, and not one was written by a woman. (Women fared only slightly better on their top 100 list, with a meager 29 titles.)

    But this is hardly the only such negligible list this year, prompting Juliana Baggott to write in the Washington Post:

    I could understand Publishers Weekly's phallocratic list if women were writing only a third of the books published or if women didn't float the industry as book buyers or if the list were an anomaly. In fact, Publishers Weekly is in sync with Pulitzer Prize statistics. In the past 30 years, only 11 prizes have gone to women. Amazon recently announced its 100 best books of 2009 -- in the top 10, there are two women. Top 20? Four. Poets & Writers shared a list of 50 of the most inspiring writers in the world this month; women made up only 36 percent.

    When asked about its choices this year, Publishers Weekly said it chose books that "stood out" and weren't trying to be "politically correct," as if this were the only reason female writers could have gotten on the list. Or is it that we have stamped the publishing industry post-feminist and can now slide back to comfortable stereotypes?

    Stoking the fire even further, Lydia Netzer offers a possible theory in The Examiner:

    The list is right. The things that women write about are neither culturally nor historically significant, and the books that women write are not the best books.

    I suspect this is a battle that will rage well into 2010. It is perhaps worth noting that no one is having this discussion about children's and young adult literature, where names like J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins rank so far ahead of any male writers, one might wonder if there's a reverse bias.

Book News Round-up:

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com 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.


Books mentioned in this post




One Response to "Book News: Year’s Biggest Book News, Women Writers Get the Shaft, and More"

  1.  
    DeniseB January 2nd, 2010 at 10:56 am

    "Even the people who are being dragged kicking and screaming toward the new technology"

    This would be me, Brockman! Happy to report no digital reading as of yet. Still a paper girl. Although I know it is called progress, they can't drag hard enough for me to go there! Does that make me old and set in my ways...hmmm...

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