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November 21, 2013

‘Good Lord Bird’ Is Surprise Winner for National Book Award in Fiction


James McBride won the National Book Award on Wednesday night for “The Good Lord Bird,” an irreverent, sharp-eyed novel narrated by an escaped slave. It was published by Riverhead Books, part of Penguin Random House.

Taking the stage with a stunned expression, Mr. McBride, who was considered an underdog in speculation before the awards, said he had not bothered to write a speech.

Mr. McBride wrote the book amid personal tragedies, he said, naming the deaths of his mother and his niece, and the unraveling of his marriage.

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October 9, 2012

Julian Assange Has Book Deal


The publisher OR Books announced on Sunday that it had acquired “Cypherpunks,” a new book about freedom and the Internet by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Mr. Assange, who was granted asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in August, wrote the book with three other authors: Jacob Appelbaum, Jérémie Zimmermann and Andy Müller-Maguhn.

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April 19, 2012

Pulitzer Fiction Snub Has Book Publishers Fuming

Filed under: Literary Prizes — Tags: , , — Bookblurb @ 5:54 am


Just when the publishing industry thought things couldn’t get any worse.

Days after the Department of Justice made the blockbuster announcement that it was suing five of the biggest book publishers in the business, the Pulitzer Prize board dropped its own bombshell on Monday: for the first time in 35 years, there would be no Pulitzer winner for fiction.

Publishers, authors and booksellers howled in outrage, attacking the Pulitzer board on Twitter and on blogs (“how can this be?” was the Tweet from the Boulder Bookstore). Winning the Pulitzer for fiction offers an unparalleled boon in prestige and sales, a rare splashy opportunity to bring a novel in front of the public and to permanently change the course of a writer’s career. Not to choose a winner, the industry raged, was an insult.

It was the 11th time in the prize’s history that a winner in fiction was not chosen, said Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, but the first time since 1977. That year, the jury recommended “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean but the board declined to give the award.

Usually, a winner is selected in a two-step process. A three-member fiction jury reviews hundreds of books (341, in this case), comes up with three finalists and sends those finalists to the Pulitzer board.

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March 28, 2012

Julie Otsuka Wins PEN/Faulkner Award


 Julie Otsuka is the winner of the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction for her novel “The Buddha in the Attic” (Alfred A. Knopf), the directors of the award announced on Monday. The book, which traces the lives of six Japanese mail-order brides who sail to San Francisco in the early 20th century, was chosen from more than 350 novels and short-story collections, all by American authors and all published in 2011.

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February 16, 2012

In Amanda Knox Tale, a Delicate Bet for Publishers

Alberto Pizzoli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images Amanda Knox at the appeal of her murder conviction in Perugia, Italy. She spent nearly four years in jail before being freed.


In person, Amanda Knox came across as soft-spoken, smart, almost scholarly, naming literary novels that she found moving. She said it was a longtime dream of hers to be a writer. And her book, she told the publishers, editors and publicists who listened raptly, would be the true and unvarnished story of what happened in Perugia, Italy.

“Everybody fell in love with her,” said one publishing executive who attended a meeting, echoing the sentiments of a range of people who have met Ms. Knox recently to discuss publishing her memoir.

Her personal charm aside, however, Ms. Knox’s story is complex, disturbing and still hotly debated by an American public that loves to take sides when it comes to did-she-or-didn’t-she crime tales.

This makes the next step trickier for publishers vying this week for the rights to her memoir, whose blockbuster allure has a backdrop of unsettling details: Ms. Knox was arrested in 2007 in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in what prosecutors described as a sex escapade gone wrong, spent nearly four years in an Italian prison and was exonerated last October after an appeals court overturned the original conviction.

The surge of media attention that will surely accompany the book’s release — normally good for publishers — comes with risks. To some members of the public, Ms. Knox was an innocent abroad who was imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. To others, she is a cunning femme fatale who got away with murder.

And that brings some difficult questions: do book-buying Americans see Ms. Knox as a sympathetic figure? And if the book commands a seven-figure advance, as is widely expected, will it be worth it?


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December 9, 2011

Is It Plagiarism? Publisher Says No


Another novel, another accusation of plagiarism. Except this time, the publisher is standing by its author.

That publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has steadfastly defended Lenore Hart against charges of literary fraud in the writing of her novel, “The Raven’s Bride,” released earlier this year. The book contains passages that are markedly similar to those in “The Very Young Mrs. Poe,” a 1956 novel by Cothburn O’Neal, who died in 2001. Both novels are centered on Virginia Clemm, the first cousin and child bride of Edgar Allan Poe who inspired the poem “Annabel Lee.”

The similarities were highlighted by Jeremy Duns, a spy novelist, on his blog last month, and on Web sites devoted to Poe. Also last month, The Guardian noted that Ms. Hart had defended herself by saying she and Mr. O’Neal drew on the same sources.

After taking time to review the allegations, St. Martin’s issued a statement this week saying it was “satisfied” with Ms. Hart’s explanation.

Mr. Duns said that they are all in denial. “It’s unbelievably plagiarized,” he said, sounding exasperated.

Publishers are extremely sensitive to charges of plagiarism, considered among the gravest sins in the literary world, and in some cases are quick to respond. Last month, for instance, Little Brown & Company pulled a mystery novel from the shelves when it was discovered that the writer had lifted material extensively from James Bond and Robert Ludlum novels. more

December 8, 2011

Selling Books by Their Gilded Covers

Publishers are putting more thought into books' aesthetics. Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times


Even as more readers switch to the convenience of e-books, publishers are giving old-fashioned print books a makeover.

Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions — deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.

“When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,” said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. “It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.”

The eagerly anticipated 925-page novel by Haruki Murakami, “1Q84,” arrived in bookstores in October wrapped in a translucent jacket with the arresting gaze of a young woman peering through. A new novel by Stephen King about the Kennedy assassination, “11/22/63,” has an intricate book jacket and, unusual for fiction, photographs inside. The paperback edition of Jay-Z’s memoir “Decoded” features a shiny gold Rorschach on the cover, and in March the front of “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller will bear an embossed helmet sculpted with punctures, cracks and texture, giving the image a 3-D effect.

Publishers in recent years have had a frugal attitude about so-called special effects, but that attitude has begun to shift, said Julie Grau, senior vice president and publisher of Spiegel & Grau, part of Random House.

“We’re rethinking the value in certain cases of special effects and higher production standards,” Ms. Grau said, citing “Decoded.”

“Now in some cases, creating a more beautiful hardcover or paperback object is warranted.”

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December 6, 2011

Book Shopping in Stores, Then Buying Online

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times


Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival,

Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers as showrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations. According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first.

Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.

As frustrated bookstore owners see it, the practice allows customers to take advantage of the stores’ careful selection of books, staff recommendations and warm atmosphere — all while spending their money elsewhere.

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November 22, 2011

For Their Children, Many E-Book Fans Insist on Paper

Before nap time, Ari and Sharon Wallach read books to their twin daughters Ruby (in yellow shirt, left) and Eliana. Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times



Print books may be under siege from the rise of e-books, but they have a tenacious hold on a particular group: children and toddlers. Their parents are insisting this next generation of readers spend their early years with old-fashioned books.

This is the case even with parents who themselves are die-hard downloaders of books onto Kindles, iPads, laptops and phones. They freely acknowledge their digital double standard, saying they want their children to be surrounded by print books, to experience turning physical pages as they learn about shapes, colors and animals.

Parents also say they like cuddling up with their child and a book, and fear that a shiny gadget might get all the attention. Also, if little Joey is going to spit up, a book may be easier to clean than a tablet computer.

“It’s intimacy, the intimacy of reading and touching the world. It’s the wonderment of her reaching for a page with me,” said Leslie Van Every, 41, a loyal Kindle user in San Francisco whose husband, Eric, reads on his iPhone. But for their 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Georgia, dead-tree books, stacked and strewn around the house, are the lone option.

“She reads only print books,” Ms. Van Every said, adding with a laugh that she works for a digital company, CBS Interactive. “Oh, the shame.”

As the adult book world turns digital at a faster rate than publishers expected, sales of e-books for titles aimed at children under 8 have barely budged. They represent less than 5 percent of total annual sales of children’s books, several publishers estimated, compared with more than 25 percent in some categories of adult books.

Many print books are also bought as gifts, since the delights of an Amazon gift card are lost on most 6-year-olds.

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November 9, 2011

For Stieg Larsson Fans, New Editions to Savor

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Fans of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster “Millennium” trilogy can count on a few more editions to collect.

“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the final book in Mr. Larsson’s series, will be issued in paperback in February, his publisher said on Monday, after spending 70 weeks on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-seller list.

A movie tie-in edition of the first book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” will be released on Tuesday, ahead of the film’s release in the United States on Dec. 21. Russell Perreault, a spokesman for Vintage Books, part of Random House, said the publisher is planning to ship more than 1.3 million paperback copies of the newest edition of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in November.

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