Readersforum's Blog

March 25, 2013

HarperCollins sued by former death row prisoner over ditched book

NickSeven Days to Live, Yarris, who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for murder, sues publisher over abandoned life story.

By Josh Halliday

From death row to the high court. Book publishing giant HarperCollins is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with a former prisoner who spent 21 years in solitary confinement in the US for a rape and murder he did not commit.

Nick Yarris, who was released from death row in Pennsylvania in 2004, is suing HarperCollins, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, at the high court in London for breach of contract over his life story, Seven Days to Live, published in 2008.

Yarris was sentenced to death in 1983 after being convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in Delaware. He spent the next two decades in one of America’s toughest prisons but was dramatically acquitted in January 2004 thanks to DNA evidence.

His harrowing account of the ordeal appeared in the book, Seven Days to Live, which was set to go on general sale in July 2008.

However, days before the release date, Yarris was arrested and charged with growing marijuana.

That prompted HarperCollins to swiftly halt the book’s publication – but not before a number of copies had been passed to retailers, including Amazon.co.uk and high street bookstores.

It is estimated that more than a thousand copies of the book were purchased by readers around the world. Used copies are for sale online for between £35.99 and £81.55.

The marijuana-growing charges against Yarris were later dismissed.

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December 4, 2012

How Mergermania Is Destroying Book Publishing

bookstore_ap_img  By André Schiffrin
The recently announced merger of Penguin and Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann in Germany, sent shock waves throughout Western publishing circles. This new leviathan will publish a quarter of all books appearing in English, with annual sales of close to $4 billion, yet it is being treated by The New York Times and other media as a routine and perhaps even beneficial development.

Since the 1980s, when Random House was purchased by Si Newhouse’s Advance Publications, mergers have swallowed up most small and independent US and British firms. Publishing has been so dominated by the major conglomerates that another merger seems natural, the Times suggests. Indeed, others can be expected to follow. Rupert Murdoch has already expressed his disappointment at not having bought Penguin and his desire to buy another large firm to merge with HarperCollins, a subsidiary of News Corporation, which his family controls.

In a way, there’s a logic to this analysis. The mergers are occurring because book publishing has proved to be less profitable than the conglomerates had hoped. For most of the past two centuries, Western houses averaged a mere 3 percent annual profit. The new owners had hoped to raise the rate closer to 25 percent, to match those of their other holdings: newspapers, magazines and TV stations (even though these depend on advertising). But try as it might, publishing failed to churn out enough bestsellers.

Then came the competition from Amazon, which has entered the publishing market itself, hiring agents and editors to help it find bestselling authors. Amazon has also forced publishers to accept its pricing of e-books at $9.99—which has drastically reduced their profit margins and has the additional benefit for Amazon of weakening sales of the traditional trade paperback, the format publishers have counted on as a dependable earner.  It has even refused to list the books of houses that resisted its policies. Amazingly, the Justice Department has taken an extremely narrow view of the antitrust laws, prosecuting the publishers resisting Amazon’s pricing rather than the behemoth pressuring them.

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January 25, 2012

Rupert Murdoch ‘dropped Lord Patten’s book to curry favour with Chinese’

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:06 am

Rupert Murdoch dropped Lord Patten’s book about his time as Hong Kong governor to “curry favour” with the Chinese leadership, the Leveson Inquiry heard.

Lord Patten said the media mogul made a “commercial decision” to stop his publishing house, HarperCollins, publishing the memoir because he feared it would damage his efforts to expand his business into China.

He told the hearing: “Plainly, Mr Murdoch took the view that publishing a book which was critical of the Chinese leadership would not improve his chances, so he instructed HarperCollins to drop the book on the grounds that it was no good.

“Plainly, there was much evidence to suggest that that wasn’t the view of the main editor at HarperCollins.”

Lord Patten, who was governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 and became BBC Trust chairman last May, sold rights to his memoir to HarperCollins for a £50,000 advance.

He said his editor Stuart Proffitt was so pleased with the first six chapters of the book that he threw a party for him at the Savoy Hotel in London.

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October 3, 2011

Maurice Sendak: ‘I refuse to lie to children’

There be monsters … Maurice Sendak, children's author, at his home in Connecticut. Photograph: Tim Knox for the Guardian

At 83, children’s author Maurice Sendak is as productive – and angry – as ever. Roald Dahl? Glad he’s dead. The US right? Schnooks. Life? Awful. Emma Brockes gets an earful.

Maurice Sendak looks like one of his own creations: beady eyes, pointy eyebrows, the odd monsterish tuft of hair and a reputation for fierceness that makes you tip-toe up the path of his beautiful house in Connecticut like a child in a fairytale. Sendak has lived here for 40 years – until recently with his partner Eugene, who died in 2007; and now alone with his dog, Herman (after Melville), a large alsatian who barges to the door to greet us. “He’s German,” says Sendak, getting up from the table where he is doing a jigsaw puzzle of a monster from his most famous book, Where the Wild Things Are. Sotto voce, he adds: “He doesn’t know I’m Jewish.”

At 83, Sendak is still enraged by almost everything that crosses his landscape. In the first 10 minutes of our meeting, he gets through:

Ebooks: “I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book! A book is a book is a book.”

New York: “You get pushed and harassed and people grope you. It’s too tumultuous, it’s too crazy!”

The American right: “These Republican schnooks would be comical if they weren’t not funny.”

Rupert Murdoch: “His name should be what everything is called now.” But he publishes you! “Yes! Harpers. He owns Harpers and I guess the rest of the world, too. He represents how bad things have become. But I don’t know a better house. They’re all in trouble. They’re all terrible.”

Sendak shakes his head beneath the low-beamed ceiling, in this room full of art and old rugs. “I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it.” He smiles and his face transforms. “I was young just minutes ago.”

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August 10, 2011

Times Books to Publish Account of British Hacking Scandal

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:29 am

By JULIE BOSMAN

Times Books will publish the “definitive account” of the hacking scandal swirling around Rupert Murdoch and News International, the publisher said on Tuesday, written by Sarah Lyall and Don Van Natta Jr., longtime reporters for The New York Times.

The book will be “a narrative and investigative account of the culture of phone hacking, payoffs, and coziness with police officials and politicians at the News of the World and other media outlets owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation,” according to a statement from Times Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, and will explain “the genesis of the scandal, how it unfolded, and its ever-widening scope.”

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July 26, 2011

John Blake signs Murdoch book

Rupert Murdoch

| By Neill Denny

John Blake has signed a book by a journalist-turned-lawyer on the Rupert Murdoch story, for publication next February.

Called The Rise and Fall of the Murdoch Empire the book will be written by John Lisners, who worked for Murdoch in America, Australia and Britain before leaving to take up law a decade ago.

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July 16, 2011

As Harry Potter series ends, journalists say they’ve covered just about every angle of it

By Mallary Jean Tenore

Friday’s release of the final Harry Potter movie marks the beginning of the end for all the Muggles who have followed Harry’s adventures.

And it marks a notable stopping point in journalists’ 13-year-long coverage of the Harry Potter books, movies and overall phenomenon.

Throughout the years, journalists have stood in line at movie screenings and interviewed kids dressed as wizards. They’ve helped turn “Voldemort” into a moniker for people (like Rupert Murdoch) who have done wrong. They’ve suggested that Harry Potter has forever changed not just children’s literature, but the world. And they’ve criticized the series for creating “a nation of dweebs.” “What to do with a nation of little nerds running around with capes and wands?” critic Hank Stuever once asked. “Is there a coolness shortage coming?”

Now that the final movie is coming out, some journalists are ready for it all to end.

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Jewels in Rupert’s tarnished crown

By Boyd Tonkin

Thoroughbred in the stable: Victoria Barnsley, Harper Collins

How much – if at all – should we care that Rupert Murdoch’s company controls the fourth largest book publisher in Britain, and has done for 21 years? The road that led a high-minded Glasgow Bible printer founded by William Collins in 1819 to integration into Murdoch’s News Corporation was a winding and eventful one. Collins finally joined the family in 1990, when News Corp merged the newly purchased UK firm with American outfit Harper & Row.

HarperCollins later acquired the illustrious independent imprint Fourth Estate, in 2000. Bucking the industry norm, the taken-over party, Fourth Estate’s founder Victoria Barnsley, then took charge of the entire business. A decade later, she still serves – with distinction – in that role.

According to the latest figures, HarperCollins has a market share of books in Britain of around 7.5 per cent – nothing like Murdoch’s hold on the press or subscription TV. Three bigger beasts easily outpace it: French-controlled Hachette UK, the German-owned Random House, and the native Penguin (which also has family ties to newspapers via parent group Pearson’s ownership of the Financial Times). HarperCollins does not disaggregate its results, which makes the UK – as opposed to the US – performance hard to gauge. But, after a period of decline, its prospects do seem to have brightened in recent months.

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January 12, 2011

iPad Newspaper

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 3:19 pm

Extra, extra, read all about it – media moguls team up for digital newspaper assault.

That’s right people, two of the most successful businessmen in the world, Apple’s Steve Jobs and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, are going to take to the stage at the same time to officially announce The Daily – the much anticipated iPad digital newspaper….
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