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FEBRUARY 2000

  • GET YOUR FREE BOOKS: Earlier this year Amazon sparked a book price-war by upping its discount on NYT bestsellers. Last week, in just under two hours, Bol.com gave away 20,000 books at a cost of more than 100,000. In return, it got 40,000 book buyers to register their e-mail addresses, and lengthy articles in at least two national newspapers. In terms of marketing spend it was a cheap deal. How can internet booksellers afford to undercut their prices? Six online booksellers talk about their strategies. The Bookseller 02/29/00

  • "UNREADABLE, UNINTELLIGIBLE, INCOMPREHENSIBLE": Judging by his last three projects, David Mamet is in a major slump. Now a scathing London Times review of the author/playwright's new book, which is so bad, goes the speculation, it can't even find an American publisher. Mamet's American agent refuses comment. Boston Globe 02/25/00 

  • CHAPTERS ON PARADE: Canadian mega-bookseller Chapters defends itself to Canadian government inquiry into the book business. Chain denies it has tried to run independent bookstores out of business. Independents have claimed that Chapters has 55 per cent of the Canadian market. "This is categorically false," says Chapters. "We have somewhere between 20 and 23 per cent of the consumer book market in Canada." CBC 02/25/00

  • IT'S NOT ME: Authors worried about publishing sensitive writing have a new, anonymous way of doing it - online. Wired 02/25/00 

  • WORD HEIST: Most writers generally don't mind when historians or students borrow their words, but beware the "new secret plagiarists, the media and communications behemoths whose magazines and newspapers, cable networks and film companies routinely raid the work of biographers to satisfy their ceaseless need for product - at no cost." Brill's Content 03/00

  • OF DOGS, CATS AND BOOKFLAPS: Why is it that so many writers feel the need to include apercus to their pets on the backs of their book-jackets? The muse finds many forms. New York Times 02/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

  • "DAMN THOSE CANADIAN JUDGES": Francis Ford Coppola's online writers' workshop is a figure skating free-for-all. The judges can be brutal, but the experience of having your work mauled out there in the ether can also be strangely addictive. Salon 02/22/00

  • SLUMP? WHAT SLUMP? US book publishing sales rose 4 percent last year, beating $24 billion. Publisher's Weekly 02/22/00

  • AFRICAN-AMERICAN WRITERS IN EXILE: Think of American ex-pat writers in Paris and you think Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Henry Miller. But Paris has also been a hospitable refuge for black American writers looking for a place to work. Philadelphia Inquirer 02/21/00

  • THE CAIRO INTERNATIONAL BOOK FAIR is the largest in the Arab world. But the impressive size doesn't necessarily mean it reflects the state of Arab-world publishing. AL-Ahram (Egypt) 02/16/00

  • "NEW YORKER" READERS choose best books of 1999. Salon 02/16/00

  • ALL ABE ALL THE TIME: Chicago bookstore wins "Niche-Of-The-Year" award by making a go of selling only books and memorabilia related to Abraham Lincoln. Publisher's Weekly 02/14/00

  • POSTMODERN DEAD END? The postmodern fiction of Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace can tie you up in knots and circles. But is their tangle a literary dead end? Or is there a way out? Keith Gessen looks for clues. Feed 02/11/00

  • A BORING BOOK ABOUT DRAGONS? So Seamus Heaney won this year's Whitbread "Book of the Year" honors. And Harry Potter's J.K Rowling won "Children's Book of the Year." Something for everyone. But the judges let slip Rowling lost "Book of the Year" by only one vote, and now a big brouhaha has erupted. MSNBC (Newhouse) 02/11/00

  • HOLOCAUST DENIAL TRIAL: British writer David Irving has instigated a libel suit against an American historian for calling him "one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial." The trial, will almost inevitably be used by some to claim legitimacy for Holocaust "revisionism" -- as if the Holocaust as a historical fact were open to debate. But let's get the facts straight. The Atlantic 02/00

  • RETURN TO SENDER: An author is horrified to discover her personal letters offered for sale on the internet - and chagrined to think her life's aspirations are worth only $125. Salon 02/10/00

  • AMAZON'S SOARING SALES and huge losses. Publisher's Weekly 02/07/00

  • FROM OBSCURITY TO OPRAH: No one's complaining, mind you. After all, when you've planned only a 10,000-copy run of a new book, and getting picked by Oprah ups it to half-a-million, you've hit the jackpot. But for a smallish literary press used to lower stakes, the logistical hassles of just getting the book out on this scale are enormous. Salon 02/09/00

  • BOOK-BUSTING: A tide of vandalism has swept most of the UK's libraries clean of musical texts and scores, writes Norman Lebrecht. "Glasgow, Liverpool and most London boroughs have lost their music libraries. The BBC has wantonly trashed thousands of scores. British library managers are burning more books than any group since Hitler's stormtroopers." Now comes the Manchester City Council. London Telegraph 02/09/00

  • POETRY ON DEMAND: Three Seattle women sit at typewriters in public places, turning out instant poetry for anyone who stops by. "In a city built on industrial cyberspace, these three performers are putting ink-stained paper in the hands of people and getting them to prattle over it. And they earn just enough money - $1 a poem (they'll write 50 this night) - to keep themselves in typing ribbon." USA Today 02/09/00

  • THE FIRST E-BOOKS begin showing up in traditional bookstores, available alongside the latest hardback Grisham. Wired 02/09/00

  • OVERNIGHT SENSATION: Twenty-something writers - provocative, sexy and extremely marketable - are achieving overnight best-selling status...but let's not confuse artistic development with publishing glory. Shouldn't suffering, poverty, and failure be part of the literary journey? The Age (Melbourne) 02/04/00

  • THE "NEW YORKER'S" SOUTH OF THE BORDER BALLOT BOX: Mexican workers are reportedly paid sweatshop wages to count New Yorker's literary contest votes The Nation 02/21/00

  • PETER PRINCIPLE: "Of all the book-crafting companies in the world, Workman Publishing is arguably the loosest, the looniest, the least predictable--and one of the most successful. The firm, in its 33rd year, also owns the haute-lit house Algonquin Books and the artsy Artisan publishing company. Though publisher Peter Workman won't reveal its financial footing--one knowledgeable publishing source estimated Workman's annual revenues as 'north of $100 million' - he will say that each year has been better than the previous one." Washington Post 02/08/00

  • COMPUTER VS. GOOD WRITING: Nobel writer Gunter Grass says computers and the internet are bad influences on good writing, and that pen and paper are an essential part of his life as a writer. " I mistrust this computer work,'' he says. Wired 02/07/00

  • POTTER POUT: The newest Harry Potter book is leading Amazon's bestseller chart. But it hasn't even been published yet. The Potter tomes are remarkable - so much so that they almost read themselves. But come on - let's not confuse them with great literature. And that's what some awards-folk seem to be doing of late. The Age (Melbourne) 02/07/00

  • LET'S PLAY THE FEUD: The Canadian province of Newfoundland has a good old fashioned literary feud going. "The affair erupted last month over the rights to a 'little poem' allegedly reprinted in a textbook without the author's consent. Raising the stakes, the 'textbook' is a bound pilot document for one of the most ambitious projects in provincial publishing history. National Post (Canada) 02/07/00

  • RARE FIRST-EDITION COPERNICUS book stolen from Russian library. The Times of India (AP) 02/06/00

  • LITERARY LETTERS: No predictors of literariness. Some writers are just as witty and interesting and fun in their correspondence as they are in their work. Then there are Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning's letters to each other. "You can ask someone to tap you repeatedly on the head with a teaspoon or you can wade through the detailed description of every thought either of them ever had." The Hungry Mind Review 02/04/00

  • HARRY POTTER AUTHOR wins British Book Association's "Author of the Year." BBC 02/04/00 

  • ANY DOUBT where publishing is going? None, if you're paying attention to the headlines. A year ago e-publishing was little more than talk. But a glance at the publishing headlines of the past several months shows an industry racing towards its future. *spark-online 02/00 

  • ANATOMY OF A LITERARY FEUD: Tom Wolfe versus the Three Stooges. A battle for posterity. New York Observer 02/02/00

    • ONCE UPON A TIME Okay, so Tom Wolfe changed journalism. Nonetheless, when he starts lecturing about art, he's tiresome. Salon 02/01/00

  • STRANGE DAYS: Where did the contemporary novel come from, and where is it going? Five writers write about the future of fiction. Village Voice Literary Supplement 02/00 
  • A GOOD YEAR FOR BOOKS: Preliminary sales figures suggest 1999 was an excellent year for the book business, with sales increases registered by most publishing houses. Publisher's Weekly 02/01/00

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