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Monday Midday Links: Reuters Reports Agency Pricing Settlement Likely & Everyone...

News

On Friday, Reuters reported that Apple and five of the Big 6 publishers are moving toward settlement.  My guess is that either Random House is arguing that it wasn;t involved in any collusive activity as it’s decision to move toward Agency came far later and based on market influence rather than any collusion or  Pearson/Penguin is holding the line with its argument that it really is engaged in Leegin approved retail price maintenance.

While negotiations are still fluid, the settlement is expected to eliminate Apple’s so-called “most favored nation” status, which had prevented the publishers from selling lower-priced e-books through rival retailers such as Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) or Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N), the people said.

The deal could also force a shift, at least temporarily, in pricing control from publishers to retailers, one of the people said.

This settlement is enraging the literati.  Dennis Johnson of Mobylives writes:

Mind-fuckingly, the purported settlement, according to the Reuters story, will be favorable to Amazon, and will probably work to lower the price of ebooks — exactly the thing the so-called “collusion” was intended to prevent, by exactly the monopoly everyone in the publishing industry is praying for the DOJ to do something about. (See our earlier report, and our report before that, as well as this report on the Authors’ Guildblowing a gasket about the same thing.)

Amazon is pressing for bigger discounts from publishers.

 The world’s largest Internet retailer wanted better wholesale terms for the small publisher’s books. Starting Jan. 1, 2012 — then only 19 days away — Amazon would buy the publisher’s books at 45 percent off the cover price, roughly double its current price break.

Amazon is evil mantra is one I recall from when Wal-mart became a big player in the print publishing market, at least for mass market books. Time and again, publishers have faced problems with retailers becoming too important to their business.  In 10 years, maybe it won’t be Amazon who is the threat but someone else.

One thing I do find fascinating about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is the high demand for the books in print.  According to Publishers Weekly, the initial print run of a book that has already sold several hundred thousand copies is a half million.  This signals to me that print is far from dead, but that digital first might be the dominating business model in 5 years.  As if reaffirming my theory, I received an email today from Grand Central announcing that it would be publishing Debra Webb’s self published novellas:

Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, announced today that it will publish six books in Debra Webb’s bestselling romantic thriller series FACES OF EVIL, under their Forever and Forever Yours imprints.

One thing we don’t see much of in romance is risk taking.  This NYTimes article argues that the number of adults reading YA is increasing because YA authors are taking more risks.

It’s because adults are discovering one of publishing’s best-kept secrets: that young adult authors are doing some of the most daring work out there. Authors who write for young adults are taking creative risks — with narrative structure, voice and social commentary — that you just don’t see as often in the more rarefied world of adult fiction.

I want to point out that the Hunger Games contains a strong romantic thread with a questionable HEA so the risk taking really isn’t in the relationship aspect but the storytelling. Of course, given that Hunger Games so closely resembles Battle Royale which is, itself, a riff off Lord of the Flies, begs the question of whether these stories actually are risk taking.

This article on the rise of genre fiction at the collegiate level is somewhat related.  The article presumes, or at least advances the maxim, that literary fiction is the only thoughtful fiction and misquotes, I believe, a NYTimes article that suggest fiction can create empathy.  Not sure why genre fiction is being excluded by the North Dakotan article, but I think the idea that genre fiction could push out the studies of classical literature is interesting.

But with universities focusing on exposing students to those kinds of books, few people are afraid classic literature will fall by the wayside.

“There is a broad range (of texts) in composition courses, but literary texts predominate in literature courses and creative writing courses,” said Laura White, professor and Vice Chair of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

According to White, a third of the students majoring in the English department are interested in pursuing creative writing. With such a large percentage of students interested, some may find it surprising that one of the most profitable aspects of writing is not taught, but UNL English professor Judith Slater said preparing students to be professional writers is not the main goal at the undergraduate level.

Pamela Clare is receiving a journalism award for her work on exposing sexual assault for her real life work as an investigative reporter.  Congrats!

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

42 Comments

  1. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 12:18:09

    UNL English professor Judith Slater said preparing students to be professional writers is not the main goal at the undergraduate level.

    My BA is in creative writing, but I can only speak to my own experience. I was required to take a playwriting class, which is administered through the theater department, not the English department (between whom there is apparently a blood feud, but whatever).

    The playwriting class WAS disposed to teaching you to write for professional production. Writing professionally was the goal.

    I also was required to take technical writing classes, again, which were training students to write professionally.

    But the creative writing classes were geared toward publishing in literary magazines and college rags, either short stories or poetry, which is not professional in the sense that one can make a living from it. It’s treated a bit more like a serious avocation/hobby. Of course, they don’t teach novel writing at all. In fact, one would be tempted to believe that novels don’t exist. Oh, the dirty looks I got when I said, “I write novels.”

    My playwriting class was, by far, the most valuable part of my creative writing coursework.

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  2. SAO
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 12:31:59

    Sounds like some people miss the whole point of anti-trust action. It is to prevent the sellers from colluding to raise the price for the buyers. But the Author’s Guild seems to think that colluding to keep prices high is good for the market and, by extension, readers.

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  3. Jane
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 12:36:43

    @SAO – I believe, although have not seen it explicitly stated, that the argument for high prices is that high prices leads to a quality product. Low prices equal a shoddy product. If you want good writing, then you need to pay a higher price so that the authors will continue to write.

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  4. Sunita
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 12:50:31

    Collusion is collusion, no matter which direction you’re trying to push the prices. Remember the Ivy League case? A number of colleges attempted to remove price competition in financial aid packages and got busted by the Justice Department back in 1991:

    http://articles.latimes.com/1991-05-23/news/mn-3080_1_ivy-league-universities

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  5. Sarah
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 12:58:54

    I’ve been only casually following the agency pricing narrative as it keeps unfolding, and I have to admit my brain only half-engages when trying to make sense of industry business jargon, so forgive my ignorance. But as a reader — a reader who buys tons of books and reads constantly, but really only cares about the product I buy — I’m still confused on the whole “Amazon is evil” meme. Maybe it’s not a meme, but it sure feels like one, like it’s a trendy thought I’m supposed to buy into but which I can’t understand why. Amazon is awesome. Its books are always cheaper than everywhere else, so I buy from them. But I’m supposed to hate them because they’re big? Even if product and service are excellent? I… don’t get it.

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  6. Isobel Carr
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:02:08

    There’s at least one grad program that now focuses on writing genre fiction (a friend of mine went) and there’s a grad program for children’s lit (my godmother runs it), but my BA minor and MFA were both poetry/lit-fic focused. But I do remember when I taught an undergrad creative writing class, all genres were welcome. I didn’t have any romance writers, but I had several mystery and SFF novels being workshopped.

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  7. Jane
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:03:32

    @Sarah – The Amazon is evil meme is fostered by (some) authors, publishers, and other retailers who argue that lowered costs to the consumer means less money for them and thus a lower quality product for readers. In other words, we readers/consumers are only looking at the short term and not realizing that in order to maintain a robust and competitive marketplace for books, we need to pay higher prices.

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  8. Isobel Carr
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:19:42

    @Sarah: IMO it isn’t about hating Amazon. I shop there all the time, especially now that there are NO bookstores in downtown San Francisco. But I also see the likely connection between these two things, and I’d gladly give up the discounts Amazon gives me in order to be able to browse at lunch again. The entire book world is undergoing a sea change, and it’s ugly (and likely going to get uglier before it settles into the new norm).

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  9. Kerry
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:25:26

    Publishers should look to healthcare providers for guidance. When insurance companies want to pay them 45% of their charges, they inflate their charges until 45% gives them the payout they want.

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  10. Jackie Barbosa
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:26:52

    @Jane: I think the real concern about Amazon is that they are such a dominant player in the ebook market, they really have the power to dictate terms to the producers of those products. If Amazon continues to push publishers (be they large publishing houses, small houses, or self-publishers) for a larger and larger slice of the revenue pie on ebook sales, it’s nearly impossible for those publishers to walk away at this stage. The large NY houses actually have the best hand when it comes to this game, since they tend to be the producers of the titles that bring in the largest revenue, but smaller publishers and self-publishers could be in real trouble. If Amazon were to change its terms and offer me 5-10% less on each sale than they do now, I would not be very happy about it, but I wouldn’t pull my books. After all, when 90% of my sales come through their site, even if I were to get 5-10% less from every sale, I’d still be getting the vast majority of my revenue from them.

    It’s a bit Catch-22, really. I love that Amazon makes it easy for readers to find and purchase my books. They clearly have a storefront that works well for me. At the same time, I can’t help worrying about the fact that I’m so dependent on one retailer, who can pull the rug out from under me at any time.

    I suspect, honestly, that most other publishers feel the same way…

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  11. Sarah
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:27:36

    @Jane: Okay, I see, sort of. I wonder if agencies actually expect the book-buying public to buy that argument, though. I consider myself a savvy reader/shopper, and frankly those arguments are not the least bit persuasive for me. I guess I’m different from @Isobel Carr in that while it would be a shame to see fewer bookstores, I recognize that my own book-buying habit doesn’t support them anyway. Oops. I’d rather have my cheap, cheap books from Amazon than pay more up front and then tell myself that premium made a difference later. I agree that a sea change is coming, but I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing.

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  12. Sarah
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:31:31

    ^ Just to add: Yes, I’m a selfish book-reader and -buyer. I acknowledge this freely. I probably should be more compassionate to hard-working authors who supply me with my reading fix. But my money is my money, and I tend to be stingy with it, and the guy who gives me the most for it will be the guy I buy from, generally speaking. It just strikes me as rather naive of the publishers to insist that most people think (or act) otherwise.

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  13. gillyweed
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 13:37:23

    Jane, thanks for including the deal for James Scott Bell’s craft book. I would love to see more non-fiction deals, when they’re available (and relevant to DA readers).

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  14. KZoeT
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 14:24:20

    Pamela Clare! I became aware of her work via SmartBitches http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/pamela-clare-romance-state-law-and-womens-rights/ last year and am so thrilled she’s being recognized as a force of awesome for women. Yay!

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  15. gillyweed
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 14:47:16

    @Sarah: Please don’t call yourself a selfish book-buyer. Buying books on Amazon does NOT make you a bad person. I don’t see it here at DA but on some of the other blogs I follow, the vilification of Amazon (which I’m fine with) results in the public shaming of people who buy books there (not cool!). On one book podcast, I heard a guest host admit with blushing trepidation that the device he owned–which he’d called “my e-reader”–was actually a kindle. Horrors! For me, convenience and price outweigh most current arguments against buying books at Amazon.

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  16. SAO
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 14:53:18

    I know that authors and publishers would like to convince us that quality can only be maintained at a higher price. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. I’ve fooled around with writing, would like to get published and make a moderate income writing, so I get the author side, but from an economic perspective, I think the argument is garbage.

    From a practical standpoint, I don’t see it either. It you look at the top of the market, will Nora stop writing if her price per book is cut 10%? No. At the bottom of the market, will the millions of wannabes stop writing? No. In fact, the ability to publish low price e-books is bringing floods of new books to the marketplace. Sure, many of them are bad, but also, new micro-niches are opening up.

    The other argument is the fight big, bad Amazon argument. I can think of many ways to compete with Amazon that don’t involve jacking the prices of books for readers. A pity the rest of the industry is unwilling to think strategically and look at the new opportunities e-books open, rather than sticking to their old models. In short, that’s a garbage argument, too.

    And of course, the idea of anti-trust, as I understand it, is to protect the consumer, not to mediate intra-industry infighting.

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  17. DS
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 15:19:15

    I’m rather curious to see what the EU will do with their anti-trust action as well as the class action suit against Apple and the publishers. My google net dredged up this link http://paidcontent.org/article/419-lawsuit-says-circumstantial-evidence-enough-to-prove-e-book-conspiracy/ about a new filing in the class action suit. I haven’t had a chance to take a close look at it yet.

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  18. Dabney
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 15:39:10

    @KZoeT: I am a big Pamela Clare fan! Her last book was phenomenal.

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  19. Helen
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 17:14:26

    @Sarah:
    From my viewpoint they are evil because they are going to destroy the remaining larger bookstores in the US. I foresee BN going the way of borders in the not too distant future if Amazon continues to engage in its bullying tactics. I do agree for many consumers it is easier to go with cheaper, particularly if you are not near a brick and mortar store, but personally I dread the day when I can no longer browse book shelves or ask for recommendations from my favorite book sellers. I am willing to pay a slightly higher price for the service and pleasure I get from face to face interaction.

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  20. Sally
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 17:40:10

    The most horrifying statement in this discussion is there is no bookstore in downtown San Francisco. There wasn’t a bookstore in Nashville until Ann Patchett opened one. When there are no longer bookstores, Amazon will be able to charge any price they want. Competition is good.

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  21. Ros
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 17:56:47

    @KZoeT: Me too, and I was so impressed by the work she had done. A great advocate for women and someone the romance community should be incredibly proud of.

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  22. Kathryn
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 18:03:12

    Book publishers are worried because their direct customer base (e.g., book wholesalers like Baker and Taylor, large retailers like Walmart, and book chains like BN) is shrinking or disappearing except for Amazon. And in the long run a monopoly on the retail distribution side for print and ebooks would not be good for readers (and with Amazon entering the list as a publisher this could just make things even more problematical). But as others have mentioned there are other ways for publishers to fight this than be colluding–publishers (especially the big six) could develop their direct to the readers sale sites (just like Harlequin) instead of making it impossible for a reader to use their websites. They could do a better job of finding out what their real customers want instead of worrying about what the wholesalers and book chains. They could rethink the relationship between the various print and digital versions of the books and work with their authors to develop innovative marketing strategies not just for their new books, but for their backlists. The list of what they could do besides agency pricing is long . . .

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  23. Ann Somerville
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 18:41:37

    @Isobel Carr:

    “there are NO bookstores in downtown San Francisco”

    Huh? In 2009 I spent a couple of hundred dollars here:
    http://www.citylights.com/

    And it’s still open.

    If you want to talk about lack of bookstores, you should visit suburban Brisbane. Apart from QBD which is essentially a remainders clearing house, and Christian bookstores, there’s nothing outside the 3 for $5 bins in the newsagents.

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  24. Susan
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 19:52:30

    Yeah, I’m with @Sarah on this one. I buy a ton of books, and I’m going to go with the vendor who provides me with the best value, service, ease of purchase, etc. For me, that’s usually Amazon. If B&N, BAM, or indie bookstores want my business, well, by gum they need to work for it and treat me like I’m a valued customer rather than someone who owes it to them to shop there in order for them to stay in business.

    Maybe I’m just feeling cranky today but, frankly, I’m tired of everyone getting all judgemental on me whenever I want to do something that benefits me, even if it isn’t actively preserving the rainforest, feeding starving children, reducing my carbon footprint, helping small businesses, or whatever their pet cause happens to be. I just want to be able to read a book, not try to save the world every time I make a purchase. If everyone else thinks that’s selfish, self-serving, evil, etc., that’s tough.

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  25. Darlynne
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 19:58:34

    @Ann Somerville: I’m going to see Christopher Moore tomorrow night for the launch of his new book at Books Inc. in Opera Plaza. Maybe that doesn’t qualify as downtown SF?

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  26. Kelly in Hockeytown
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 19:59:25

    I have next to no choice but Amazon. The 2 B & N closest to my home are both 30 minutes away. And I DON’T live in the middle of nowwhere. There is a small independent very close by, and yet, their romance section is pitiful (but then so is B & N) I do have UBS’ I can go to, however, the keyword is USED. Not that I have a problem with used books, but when I want a book, I want it now…not potentially months down the road, kwim? I will eventually own an e-reader, maybe. I LOVE books, I do not love electronics.

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  27. Rebecca
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 20:03:48

    Well, I’m a customer who doesn’t care for Amazon and doesn’t buy from them, but it’s because I prefer to support a company that has physical bookstores. I also feel Amazon is more supportive of ebooks than print books, and I read only print.

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  28. Sunita
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 20:04:52

    @Sally: I think Isobel meant there are no bookstores specifically in the “downtown” area of the city. There are still quite a few bookstores in SF neighborhoods (branches of Books Inc., City Lights, Booksmith, and some specialty bookshops).

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  29. Dabney
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 20:23:20

    @Susan: I feel your pain. I love ebooks, both as a reader and as a reviewer. I’m the product of a long line of historians and librarians and I see nothing inherently better about a print book than an eBook most of the time. My poor kids drag around absurdly heavy backpacks–I’ll cheer the day they just have to tote an iPad or a Kindle or some such device. I think the issues are thorny and grey here. A few years ago, Slate.com looked at the environmental impact of eBooks vs. print books. Back then, it was a hard call to make. I’d be interested in seeing more current data.

    I feel for those who long for bookstores and haven’t any near them. I have two near me and I never go in them. I prefer the vast choices and input from other readers I get on Amazon. What I want, in the long run, is more choices and, despite all the heavy handed talk about the dangers of Amazon, I’m not convinced readers aren’t, writ large, ending up with more. I, for one, don’t miss albums a bit. I think it’s great iTunes created the ability to buy just a song. And, guess what, I buy most of my music from Amazon. They hopped on the DRM-free bandwagon long before Apple would consider it.

    Let me say too that one of the coolest places I’ve been this year was in Asheville, NC. There, there is a thriving winebar/used book shop that is mobbed at night. I’d go there over a Barnes and Noble any day. I bought a gorgeous copy of one of my favorite kids books, now out of print. A friend of mine is thinking about opening up a similar place in DC.

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  30. Andrea
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 21:10:17

    Price is not Amazon’s big draw, at least for me. It’s range. Amazon does offer nice prices on many books, but I shop for range. And physical bookstores will never compete for range.

    I’d like to see Amazon’s competitors (particularly its e-competitors) focus on some of the things Amazon offers which they don’t seem that interested in – huge variety, ease of purchase, and a high quality browsing and searching experience.

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  31. Ridley
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 21:40:24

    Cornering a market isn’t evil, it’s capitalism.

    Where was the hand-wringing over a lost way of life when Orbitz and Expedia put mom and pop travel agents out of work en masse? When Netflix killed brick and mortar video rental shops? When email broke the postal service’s back?

    If people actually valued bookstores or independent stores actually offered added value, they would be perfectly profitable. I avoid bookstores myself, as they’re rarely wheelchair-friendly and I read ebooks, but I know a local indie here is doing just fine. In fact, a B&N opened right by Brookline Booksmith, then quietly closed some time later. Clearly they offer customers something they want and can’t get elsewhere while B&N was just a less convenient Amazon with a smaller selection.

    Amazon’s not killing bookstores, complacency is.

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  32. MaryK
    Apr 02, 2012 @ 23:17:31

    I came across this blog post about Amazon versus B&N from an author’s perspective.
    http://marshacanham.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/shameless-promo-and-another-vent-or-two/

    Price fixing is the opposite of competition. Amazon didn’t get where it is overnight. What were publishers and brick & mortar bookstores doing while Amazon was growing to what it is today? It is a competition and Amazon is winning. Online shopping has changed the way a lot of people shop and retailers have to deal with that. I sometimes shop online at Books a Million because I like their stores and want to support them and because they have coupons. Their online store isn’t very good. When I order there, I almost always have to use Amazon to reference book information.

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  33. A.
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 09:03:37

    I don’t like Amazon only because their Canadian store is a joke – higher prices, higher shipping, less shipping. I’m a huge, huge fan of Book Depository – I don’t know how the prices compare with Amazon but a pre-release of a must-have book is usually $5.20 – $6 and that’s very kind on my wallet (with free shipping) Wish more people knew or used Book Depo to at least foster some competition.

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  34. A.
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 09:04:36

    *less stock/less options, sorry.

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  35. Maili
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 09:17:36

    Shallow Alert:

    Of course, given that Hunger Games so closely resembles Battle Royale which is, itself, a riff off Lord of the Flies

    Author Takmi’s idea of children killing children came from a few real-life child murder cases during the 1990s including one with a 14-year-old boy beheaded a seven-year-old and knifed a five-year-old and a 12-year-old; one with a 12-year-old girl who tried to poison her entire family; one with a 15-year-old boy who killed four boys with a machete; six 15-year-old boys sexually assaulted and tortured a 17-year-old girl for 44 days before killing her, and one with a 13-year-old girl who used a box cutter to maim and blind two of her classmates in their home room (a similar incident happened roughly six years later in 2004 or 2003, but this time, a 11-year-old girl used it on her ‘rival’ classmate).

    This kind of thing was rare in Japan so all incidents were a nationwide shock, which prompted fear and hysteria that youths were out of control and that the government should take control to ensure that there would be no more youth killings. Of course, some blamed all these crimes on violent comics, TV, films and video games as well as ‘lazy parents’. There were many debates about whether children can be born ‘evil’ and whether it’s an environment that produces one, and whether it’s possible for a child to kill when cornered (in relation to the environment question).

    All this went on while Takami was working as a crime reporter, so I suppose it’s easy to see how his story came about? As in, what if the government did take control to deal with potentially problematic kids?

    I think it’s also fair to say that all those murders had influenced other novelists, comic authors and film-makers as well because the children-harming-children theme crops up in their works quite a bit.

    Examples: Confessions (2010), based on Kanae Minato’s too-selling novel (a 13-year-old boy kills a toddler and a teen girl; a teen girl poisons her family, and another teen girl dreams of becoming a serial killer), and All About Lily Chou Chou. The concept of kids killing kids is apparently still very much alien, so I suppose that’s why it’s such a popular theme in pop culture, current affairs and social commentaries?

    BR author Takami did, however, say he was heavily influenced by an Australian film, Gallipoli. That said, Suzanne Collins has one advantage over Takami: she’s written three novels while – after 15 years since he finished BR – he’s still working on his second novel. Some say he’s suffering from insecurity or similar as there are huge expectations for his next book after how his debut novel became such a worldwide success. But I digress.

    This is probably more than you’d want to know, sorry.

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  36. Tina
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 09:40:41

    I live in a town that has a B&N and 3 indie book stores.

    2 of the 3 indie stores sell new books. But the selection is abysmal for a genre reader like myself. They either only sell NY Times hard-cover buzzy bestsellers, high-brow literary fiction, really obscure authors, or local faculty authored books. Their mass market shelves tend to be full of mystery, science fiction, Stephen King and Jodi Picoult. When there are romance novels –hi Nora! — there is no back-list of speak of only the newest and decidedly A-list. Added to that, their customer relations tend to suck. I always feel like an unwelcome guest who is expected to put my feet on the furniture. They really have a boutiquey feel to them.

    The used bookstore is awesome, full of comfy chairs, a great kid section and a bck room full of Magic the Gathering types. And they sell all their romances for just a dollar (yeah, this town tends to look down on romance novels). But that is great news for me because A DOLLAR! I found some great Judith Ivory’s & Mary Baloghs when they were OOP for just a dollar.

    The B&N I go to mostly for my kids and to continue to fill my ‘browse in a real bookstore, touching real books’ need. I buy all my kids’ books there. But I can’t stay in B&N for long. I don’t read YA and it seems like fully half the store is given over to teen books. I swear I can’t turn around without seeing a book with some overwrought girl on the cover. Romance is shoved in the back corner (yeah, this town really looks down on romance readers).

    For the real business of book buying I use Amazon. Selection and customer service and price can’t beat.

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  37. lisabookworm
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 09:49:45

    Personally, I’m getting tired of the ‘amazon is evil’ mantra. While I don’t want them to be the only place that sells ebooks (or any other good), they offer their items with great customer service and great return policies.

    Customer service is practically non-existent these days. While employees at retail stores will smile and be kind to me, you’d better not be in a hurry – employees all seem to work at the same slow pace, with no apology for how long I’m in line. I’ve had a store quote me a price over the phone, then when I show up at the store 60 minutes later, they refuse to honor it or even look like they care that they made a mistake. I’ve been at another store that took forever to get through the line, and then the checker just turns away from me and starts a conversation with another employee when I finally get to the counter.

    It’s sad to say, but I get better customer service from amazon employees sitting at the desk miles/states/continents away than when I’m dealing with retailers face-to-face. Perhaps if retailers would treat me better, I would shop at their stores instead of amazon.

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  38. Anne V
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 10:00:57

    Y’all, maybe I’m just old, but this is a cycle. It’s just faster now. I remember when B&N was the bully and the menace, and then Borders was bullying/overwhelming/out marketing B&N. Meanwhile, the stores got attached to malls, hand selling was replaced by stocking random tchotchkes (journals, stickers, Burt’s bees, shiny pens, Lindt chocolates) and the title base narrowed.

    I love bookstores – there was one by the capezio store in the village that I am pretty sure was actually heaven – and its not my goal to tall smack about them, but I started shopping at amazon when I worked at borders, y’all, because amazon could get a book to my house in 4 days that borders took 6-10 weeks to get in the store.

    Amazon is customer focused to the point of obsession. They are not interested in playing the old-line publishing game of cultural superiority, they’re interested in selling things, in this case books, to people who want them. During the whole agency pricing rampup, when publishers pulled titles from kindle and authors (yes, Lilith Saintcrow, looking at you) became apologists for price fixing and collusion, it was Amazon that had savvy enough customer support to respond to my (irate and nasty) email about my canceled preorders with a phone call (!?!), apologizing for the hassle, and saying (yeah, I wrote it down) that as readers themselves, they shared customer frustration about being treated like pawns, when readers are why both publishers and amazon are in business. Marketing dept developed or not, it was a better approach than anyone else took.

    Publishing needs to take a look at what’s happened to the music industry since MP3s came along. All the record label machinations didn’t preserve the old model. And the new model has been defined by the folks at the retail level – the buyers and the sellers – and the marketers (apple, amazon – hello again!) who paid attention to consumers and developing technology.

    ReplyReply

  39. Gwen Hayes
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 10:47:56

    I was sick last week and watched a slew of movies, one of them being “You’ve Got Mail”. Remember when the big bookstores were the devil?

    I hate to see the bookstores disappearing, but at the same time, I feel like they wouldn’t be disappearing if there were more interest from the market in keeping them open. The corporate bookstores made this bed we’re in now.

    It’s the buyers for chain bookstores that have held the power, not publishers and not authors. Publishers have been catering to BN, Borders, BAM etc for so many years that we now have the mess we have. Pubs could only sell what the bookstore buyer wanted, and the bookstore buyers all wanted certain books that looked a certain way that earned a certain margin that fit a certain merchandise tie-in. Because of that, the “gatekeepers” like agents and editors no longer took on as many non-homogenized titles because who would they sell them to?

    I’d love to see a resurgence for the big publishers. I think they have to stop thinking they way they do, though. Their customer should be the reader, not the corporate buyer. Why not move their operations out of expensive Manhattan offices and use that money to rent their own brick and mortar stores? They wouldn’t have to pay the middleman any more and could afford to discount the books to what the customers seem willing to pay right now without sacrificing profit margin. They could offer bookstores with lots and lots of BOOKS and no tie-ins. They could sell paper and ebooks directly from their website. They could keep their finger on the pulse of what readers are looking for, rather than what movie tie-in are trendy right now. They could compete with Amazon.

    ReplyReply

  40. Anne V
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 15:37:44

    @Gwen Hayes: YES.

    ReplyReply

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