To ban or not to ban. Online reaction was swift and angry yesterday when a new self-published Kindle book, The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure by Phillip Greaves, was offered for sale at Amazon.com. Customers piled up hundreds of one-star reviews and called for Amazon to remove the title. The backlash was strong on Twitter and Facebook as well, with calls for an Amazon boycott until the company stops selling the title.
reported that Amazon responded to the outcry by saying the company
"believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we
or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not
support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the
right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions." By late Wednesday, however, Amazon had apparently removed the book from its website.
The Associated Press (via NPR) noted that this "isn't the first time Amazon has come under attack for selling objectionable content in its store. In 2002, the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative group, threatened to sue Amazon for selling Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers. That title is still available through Amazon. In 2009, Amazon stopped selling RapeLay, a first-person video game in which the protagonist stalks and then rapes a mother and her daughters, after it was widely condemned in the media and by various interest groups."
CBS News reported that Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, "said that Amazon has the right under the First Amendment to sell any book that is not child pornography or legally obscene. Finan said Greaves' book doesn't amount to either because it does not include illustrations."
The question of censorship was also a substantial part of the online discussion. In a post titled "Crossing a Line: Is Banning Books Ever OK?" a Book Smugglers blogger observed: "My first reaction was that of revulsion and I not only RT the link with a 'I have no words' attached to it, I also wrote and I admit it, without thinking about what I was saying: Seriously @Amazon? YOU NEED TO REMOVE THIS FROM YOUR SITE. Which is of course an attempt at book banning. Needless to say, madness ensued and we got hundreds of @ replies who shared the feelings of disgust and who retweeted the request to pull the book off Amazon.
"There were also quite a few replies who questioned the request on the grounds that censorship should never be encouraged even if the content of a book is disgusting and reprehensible. The ensuing conversation was not only interesting but also eye opening. Because I have always, always seen myself as someone who would never EVER condone book banning or censorship on any grounds, there I was facing a very uncomfortable truth about myself: a line I never ever thought I would cross and yet I did, in a heartbeat."
Acknowledging the dramatic increase in e-book sales and digital publishing's influence, the New York Times said it will feature e-book bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction beginning early next year. The lists will be compiled using weekly data from several sources, including publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers.
"We’ve had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began," said Janet Elder, editor of news surveys and election analysis for the Times. "It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales."
RoyaltyShare, which tracks data and aggregates sales information for publishers, will work with the Times to "provide data and offer an additional source of independent corroboration."
Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the Book Review, observed: "To give the fullest and most accurate possible snapshot of what books are being read at a given moment you have to include as many different formats as possible, and e-books have really grown, there’s no question about it."
with the National Book Foundation, the Association of American
Publishers' Young to Publishing Group is hosting the inaugural House
Party: A Celebration of the National Book Awards, 7-11 p.m., next
Wednesday, November 17, at Random House at 1745 Broadway in New York
City. A live feed of the ceremony will be shown.
An auction will
be held to benefit Literacy Partners. Robert Redd will host an
interactive literary game. The House Party will also have a Green Room
for the media.
The House Party is open to all book lovers and not limited to AAP members. For more information, go to youngtopublishing.com.
Is Amazon about to revolutionize the re-gifting tradition? The Telegraph reported that Amazon "has been granted a patent application that will make it easy for them to request a different item in place of the gift ordered by a friend or relative." The patent--"System and method for converting gifts"--lists Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as one of the inventors.
"As in other gift-giving situations, it sometimes occurs that gifts purchased online do not meet the needs or tastes of the gift recipient," according to the patent. "The gift giving experience through network shopping services would be improved for both senders and recipients if enhanced systems and methods were provided for converting gifts."
But would etiquette experts take a dim view of this option? TechFlash reported that KIRO Radio went right to the logical source, asking Anna Post, Emily's great-great-granddaughter, for her verdict: "Dishonest, is the blunt answer.... A gift is expressing a much bigger sentiment behind it. To cut someone short before they can complete that process is the ultimate interruption."
In a New York Press piece headlined "Raging Skull," Adam Rathe recounted "the sordid history of New York's firebrand independent book publisher," Soft Skull Press, which closed its New York office last week (Shelf Awareness, November 4, 2010).
"The two rooms that Soft Skull inhabits sit at the end of a hall in the offices of a commercial art firm, and today both are almost empty," Rathe wrote. "It's essentially the end of the line for a company born in 1993 at a Kinko's just below Union Square that has, over the years, been one of the most provocative, daring, loved and hated independent presses in New York."
"Every day was like an episode of a public access show," said Cat Tyc, Soft Skull's director of publicity from 1998-2001. "You never knew who was going to walk in, whether it was a Left activist or a famous actor or a writer... and seeing these worlds interact while publicizing these books and making them, it was crazy but it was really exciting. It's too simplistic to call it punk rock, because beyond music and literature, there was hip-hop culture and activist culture. My job became being a diplomat to all of these worlds because they weren't worlds that would intersect. But because of Soft Skull, they came together."
Electric Literature has launched a new venture, Electric Publisher, designed to be "an affordable way for publishers and authors to create iPad/iPhone apps for a single book or their entire catalog."
The Storybook Shoppe is scheduled to open at its new Bluffton, S.C., location November 26 after moving from Beaufort. The Island Packet reported that while owner Nancy Beaupre is closing the Habersham Marketplace location near Beaufort, she "will have an office and a small collection of books at 30 Market St., Habersham Marketplace, that will be open by appointment."
The new store is located at 41A Calhoun St. Bluffton, S.C. 29910; (843) 846-6786; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Algonquin's Booksellers Rock series featured Tom Campbell, co-owner of the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., who answered the question "What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome?" by saying: "They still put up with us after all these years. And Durham is becoming so cool these days, we hear Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill is thinking of becoming Algonquin Books of Durham."
"No place in the world I'd rather be sitting," wrote the Southern Pines, N.C., Pilot's Steve Bouser regarding the Country Bookshop. The Pilot will officially take over the bookstore later this week (Shelf Awareness, November 1, 2010). "What a wonderful, friendly, soul-nourishing place this little store is to have right here in the middle of our beloved Southern Pines."
New co-owner David Woronoff has also "forged a partnership with Nancy Olson, of Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, one of the best such stores in the country, who will help with things like bringing notable authors to town," Bouser wrote. Woronoff said Country Bookshop is "a 57-year-old institution, and we're a 90-year-old institution. It's appropriate that we're together. We want to keep it as a cultural hub for the community."
Cummings Books, a 14-year-old used bookstore in Minneapolis, Minn., will close at the end of the year, the Pioneer Press reported. Owner Jim Cummings said, "I'm still making money, still selling books, but there's been a gradual decline of interest.... It used to be that people who lost their jobs would still buy an $8 used book. This time, people aren't. Customers used to come from towns where they had no access to a collection like mine and they'd buy a couple boxes of books. Now they seem to have stopped traveling."
Walking Off the Big Apple showcased "25 New Books for New York, New York" in which "the city appears as the culmination of creative success, a troubled dystopia, the place of theatrical dreams, a crime scene, a sports venue, or in the case of the last five books, a really good place to start a restaurant."
Anna Shevchenko, author of Bequest, chose her top 10 novels set in Moscow for the Guardian and observed that she "chose the books where Moscow is more than a setting--it shapes the characters and their actions, almost becoming a character itself. I was always intrigued by the way the cityscape can influence the mindset: Moscow, for example, can be seen as a chaotic cluster of villages, a cobweb of streets or as a grid."
To mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of Leo Tolstoy's death, Flavorwire featured "The Many Covers of Anna Karenina: A Brief Visual History"
Book trailer of the day: Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan (Prospect Park Books).
Langenscheidt Publishers is closing by the end of the month. The
company has sold its map and atlas business and is winding down its
distribution services and is now distributing only the Hammond Atlas, Mobil Travel Guide book lines and the Fluenz CD-ROM line.
was the final day for ordering the titles of these three product lines.
Tomorrow, November 12, is the final day for shipping. November 22 will
be the final day for returns. Langenscheidt will accept no returns of
any imprint other than these three lines.
For orders or
information on Insight Guides, Berlitz or Langenscheidt Dictionaries,
please contact the new distributor, Ingram Publisher Services.