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Book News: Booksellers Irate Over Obama's Amazon Visit

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • President Obama's Tuesday trip to an Amazon distribution center in Chattanooga, Tenn., has raised eyebrows (and hackles) in the bookselling community. Publisher's Weekly ran a provocative story titled "Does President Obama Hate Indie Bookstores?" that called Obama's visit "a slap in the face" to booksellers. In an open letter to the president, the board of the American Booksellers Association called his choice "greatly misguided." It added, "The news this weekend that Amazon is slashing prices far below cost on numerous book titles is further evidence that it will stop at nothing to garner market share at the expense of small businesses that cannot afford to sell inventory below their cost of acquisition." Deputy Press Secretary Amy Brundage told PW that "what the president wants to do is to highlight Amazon and the Chattanooga facility as an example of a company that is spurring job growth and keeping our country competitive." As NPR's Bill Chappell reported Monday, Amazon announced a day before Obama's trip that it planned to add more than 5,000 jobs in the U.S.
  • In the wake of J.K. Rowling's recent admission that she wrote under the pen name Robert Galbraith, The New York Times asked several prominent writers what their pseudonyms would be and what kinds of books they would write using them. Carl Hiaasen said he would conceal his identity as "Rick O'Mortis," a fantasy author who would write "a series of vampire-romance novels set at an assisted-living facility in post-apocalyptic Boca Raton, Fla." He added, "Perhaps there could also be trolls and pythons."
  • Adam Johnson, who won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction with his novel The Orphan Master's Son, has a new story in Esquire: "Nirvana," which is set in the Silicon Valley of the future. Johnson is known for his playful futuristic writing: In one memorable sentence, he writes, "The drone offers up its firewall like a seductress her throat."
  • The Oxford English Dictionary has put out a public appeal for anyone with documentation of the word "def" (in the sense of "cool" or "great") appearing before 1981 to come forward. The dictionary has recently been crowdsourcing some of its more problematic words.
  • An excerpt from George R.R. Martin's upcoming novella was published Tuesday on the Tor website. The novella, The Princess and The Queen, or, The Blacks and The Greens, is set two centuries before the events of his popular Game of Thrones series, and recounts "the Causes, Origins, Battles, and Betrayals of that Most Tragic Bloodletting Known as the Dance of the Dragons."
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