Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Books

At BookExpo America, Amazon is big, bad wolf

NEW YORK

“Can anyone compete with Amazon?"

During BookExpo America 2014 the last week of May, that headline splashed the big topic of the three-day book industry convention across the front page of Show Daily, the combination program-newspaper Publishers Weekly produces each day.

BEA draws more than 10,000 publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians and others in the book industry each year. In recent years, hot topics on the show floor at the Javits Convention Center have included e-books, self-publishing and books for young readers, but this year the buzz was all about the ongoing battle between Amazon, the 2,000-pound gorilla of online retail (41 percent of all new book purchases, 67 percent of digital book sales), and the Hachette Group, one of the Big Five publishing companies and home to such imprints as Grand Central and Little, Brown. Although details of the dispute between the two players are confidential (and representatives aren't talking), the main issue is likely e-book pricing: Amazon wants to muscle it lower.

The tactic that's at issue is Amazon's decision to remove preorder buttons for many upcoming Hachette books (which has a big impact on bestseller lists) and delay delivery by up to five weeks of some books already published, a move that has frustrated countless consumers and that has some bestselling Hachette authors affected by it unhappy.

Take James Patterson. At the Celebration of Bookselling and Author Awards lunch, where he received an award for his support of independent bookstores, he said, "If Amazon's not a monopoly, it's the beginning of one. If this is to be the new American way, this has to be changed, by law if necessary."

Or St. Petersburg writer Michael Koryta, whose latest book, Those Who Wish Me Dead, was published June 3. On a panel of mystery writers, when author Sandra Brown said her mother had told her that the emotions of fear and sadness never had to be justified, Koryta cracked, "So I don't have to justify my feelings about Amazon?"

In other news, BEA added a whole day of events open to the public, and its 10,000 tickets sold out. BookCon, held on the convention's last day, was stocked with appearances by bestselling YA authors such as John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Veronica Roth (Divergent) as well as celebrity authors like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jason Segel and Mario Batali. That pitch to younger readers seemed to work, judging by the throngs of teens and 20-somethings on the show floor that day. One young man exclaimed, as he dove into a scrum reaching for galleys of a new edition of Anne Rice's Interview With the Vampire, "It's just like ComicCon!"

As always, BEA featured book signings and talks by authors new and well-known. This year's roster included Florida's own Carl Hiaasen, pitching his fall book and first YA novel, Skink: No Surrender, as well as David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks), James Ellroy (Perfidia), Jane Smiley (Some Luck) and more.

Celebrity authors are a big draw for grownups, too. Hillary Clinton made a private appearance (no press allowed) to speak to booksellers about her memoir, Hard Choices, out Tuesday. Among celebrities appearing at this year's author breakfasts was actor Neil Patrick Harris, who pitched his memoir, written like the Choose Your Own Adventure kids' books. "I'm Neil Patrick Harris, and you can be, too!"

Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, got a huge laugh from an audience of booksellers when he said he and his wife were opening a bookstore in their hometown: "We're doing it to get rich!"

And Lena Dunham, creator and star of HBO's Girls, talked about her upcoming memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. She was on a panel with actors Alan Cumming and Martin Short and novelist Colm Tóibín, and she kicked off her talk with her usual decorum: "What a great panel of guys! I've f----- them all, but I still feel empowered!"

Colette Bancroft can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435.

Comments
5 fiction writers who've turned their attention to Donald Trump

5 fiction writers who've turned their attention to Donald Trump

He might not have intended it, but Donald Trump has been good for book publishing.
Published: 06/15/18
What’s Neal Thompson, author of ‘Kickflip Boys,’ reading?

What’s Neal Thompson, author of ‘Kickflip Boys,’ reading?

Neal ThompsonFor Father’s Day, we checked in with Neal Thompson from his Seattle office. In his new book, Kickflip Boys, Thompson weaves together a story on raising his two independent, passionate sons while giving us an honest look at the underbelly...
Published: 06/15/18
What is Jen Waite, author of the memoir

What is Jen Waite, author of the memoir "A Beautiful, Terrible Thing," reading?

Jen Waite It is June. Romance and weddings are in the air, and with that comes the paperback release of A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal by Jen Waite, 33. The book, based on Waite’s heartbreaking wedding story, fi...
Published: 06/07/18
Review: Jake Tapper’s ‘Hellfire Club’ a fictional thriller sharpened with real 1950s politics

Review: Jake Tapper’s ‘Hellfire Club’ a fictional thriller sharpened with real 1950s politics

Washington, D.C., is a city in crisis, the operations of the federal government all but paralyzed by the conspiracy theories of a powerful politician who behaves as if the bounds of protocol and decency don’t apply to him. As he distracts the nation,...
Published: 06/06/18
What’s Helen Rappaport reading?

What’s Helen Rappaport reading?

Helen RappaportWhile delving into archives and researching her new book about the murder of the Russian imperial family 100 years ago, The Race to Save the Romanovs, Rappaport celebrated the digital age. "I am able to go back so far in time and look ...
Updated one month ago
Review: Lauren Groff’s ‘Florida’ explores a state beyond the boundaries

Review: Lauren Groff’s ‘Florida’ explores a state beyond the boundaries

In "Flower Hunters," one of the stories in Lauren Groff’s stunning new book Florida, a character gets a reader’s crush on 18th century explorer William Bartram, an early chronicler of the state’s flora and fauna: "She’s most d...
Updated one month ago
Notable: Books for the beach

Notable: Books for the beach

NotableBooks for the beachSuit up: It’s time for a few new books built for vacation reading.By Invitation Only (William Morrow) by Dorothea Benton Frank is the latest serving of Frank’s trademark warm humor and engaging characters, set around two wed...
Updated one month ago
Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

Judy Blundell brings on summertime on Long Island in ‘High Season’

NightstandJudy BlundellSince it’s Memorial Day weekend, we decided to touch base with Judy Blundell, whose new book is High Season. The novel’s protagonist is Ruthie Beamish, director of a small museum who, to make ends meet, rents out her seaside ho...
Updated one month ago

Events: Pulitzer winner Jack Davis to discuss ‘The Gulf’ at Oxford Exchange

Book TalkUniversity of Florida historian Jack E. Davis (The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea) will discuss and sign his Pulitzer Prize-winning book at 1 p.m. May 27 at the Oxford Exchange, 420 W Kennedy Blvd., Tampa. Admission $5, applicable towar...
Updated one month ago
Review: Family matters in David Sedaris’ ‘Calypso’

Review: Family matters in David Sedaris’ ‘Calypso’

David Sedaris gets right to the point in the opening of the first essay in his new book, Calypso: "Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll ac...
Updated one month ago