Due to the snowfall

Saturday evening, January 31st, in the middle of yet another snowstorm, author Barry Lynn gave a terrific and timely talk about his new book, CORNERED, arguing the dangers of the growing monopolization of business both domestically and globally. It was perfect timing because all weekend the telephone lines and emails among independent booksellers were humming with the news that Amazon had removed all the Macmillan Publishing Group's titles from their for-sale inventory. This meant that authors, like our own World-War-II historian Rick Atkinson, with books published by Macmillan, Holt, Farrar Straus, St. Martin's, Picador and others would lose the sales and royalties for their books that would have been sold by Amazon.

The heart of this contretemps was Amazon's demand that all ebooks be priced on their website at $9.99. Macmillan, fearing the attendant consequences on this distributor-imposed price structure and the impact on hardback book sales, was fiercely determined to protect the current author royalty levels and demanded a $15 retail price for many of their ebooks. Independent bookstores and authors cheered for Macmillan, but feared, at the gut level of this corporate standoff, that the sad facts were that Macmillan might need Amazon more than Amazon needed Macmillan.

Then, an astounding announcement came from Amazon on Monday morning that surprised us.  Here is the latest development:

Publisher Wins Fight With Amazon Over E-Books

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Amazon said it would accept Macmillan’s decision. On Friday, Amazon removed “buy” buttons from thousands of titles published by Macmillan, including recent best sellers like WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel and THE GATHERING STORM, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Customers who wanted to buy print editions could do so only from third-party sellers. Digital editions made for Amazon’s Kindle device disappeared.

In a strongly worded message on its Web site on Sunday, Amazon said that while it disagreed with Macmillan’s stance, it would bow to the publisher’s plan.

Apparently, Amazon decided that they did stand to lose too much by forgoing these sales. We see this as a victory against the corporate giant. You can read more about this industry battle in The New York Times.


Timothy Egan (author of THE WORST HARD TIME and THE BIG BURN) writes a weekly column for The New York Times Online called The Opinionater.  In a timely comment, he offered an eloquent re-framing this week of the book industry's domestic fallout

The traditional book, judging by [Steve] Jobs’s announcement (of Apple's new iPad), and a recent eulogy of sorts by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is headed for that cultural compost pile of long-playing albums, Kodachrome film and boxy computers nicknamed Hal. This raises two issues: what the loss of book stores does to communities, and what the brave new publishing world will mean to authors and readers.

... if Denver were to lose Tattered Cover, or Portland lose Powell’s, or Washington, D.C., lose Politics and Prose, it would be like ripping one lung from a healthy body. These stores are cultural centers, shared living rooms; no virtual community on the Web, or even a well-run library, can replace them.

The good news, the recession shows, is that most of the iconic independents will survive. Again, there are no limits to our appreciation of so many of our customers' loyalty to Politics and Prose when they are choosing where to purchase a book. Your purchases support a local, independent bookstore as well as essential services, including the public schools, in the District of Columbia. As you may remember, we provide jobs in the local economy, offer all of our employees health benefits, and pay taxes to our local government. An online retailer such as Amazon pays no local taxes and takes your money out of the neighborhood.


Cheers for Bob Lehrman and The Political Speechwriter’s Companion

It was quite an accomplishment for Bob Lehrman, that we sold out of his book, The Political Speechwriter's Companion at his author event earlier on Saturday.  Within the week, we will have additional copies and the ever-cooperative author will be back in to sign and personalize copies of his book for those who left empty-handed.  Call us or click this link to our website to reserve your copy.

-- Barbara & Carla


P.S. - Yes, we have received McSweeney's Issue 33 - The San Francisco Panorama

Issue 33 of McSweeney’s Quarterly is a one-time only, Sunday-edition-sized newspaper—the San Francisco Panorama. It has news and sports and arts coverage, and comics (sixteen pages of glorious, full-color comics, from Chris Ware and Dan Clowes and Art Spiegelman and many others besides) and a magazine and a weekend guide, and is basically be an attempt to demonstrate all the great things print journalism can (still) do, with as much first-rate writing and reportage and design (and posters and games and on-location Antarctic travelogues) as the editors could get in there. Journalism from Andrew Sean Greer, fiction from George Saunders and Roddy Doyle, dispatches from Afghanistan, and much, much more.