I just finished The Goldfinch and it was an excellent book. (Guardian)
In The Goldfinch, Tartt has dispensed with overt literary references. Theo does carry a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Wind, Sand and Stars, a gift, on a cross-country journey, but the book is a talisman of a genuine friendship instead of a substitution for one. Rather than have her narrator deliberately emulate fictional characters, Tartt has taken a fistful of Dickens novels, ground them into a fine powder and then blown the results all over her fictional world: Dickens permeates and perfumes The Goldfinch. So does Salinger, at least in the novel's New York passages, but as a flavouring rather than outright citation. The events in The Goldfinch, from the nebulously motivated terrorist bombing of the Metropolitan Museum, in which Theo loses his adored mother, to the devices by which he ends up in secret possession of the Carel Fabritius painting that gives the novel its title, to the climactic showdown with a bunch of international gangsters – all of this is as outlandish, as frankly and unashamedly fictional, as the bacchanal in The Secret History or the scene in The Little Friend where Harriet and Hely succeed in dropping an albino king cobra from a highway overpass into the sunroof of a moving car.A current favorite: Alan Furst is out with a new book. (NYTimes
Who’s your favorite novelist of all time?Can anyone compete with Amazon? (PW)
Years ago, I developed a grand passion for the novels of Anthony Powell. I tried, at a friend’s insistence, “A Dance to the Music of Time.” Couldn’t do it. Then I tried again, still couldn’t. But then, a year later, poking aimlessly about in my library, I paged through the books and came upon the “Autumn” section, Book 3, which includes the World War II novels: “The Valley of Bones,” “The Soldier’s Art” and “The Military Philosophers.” Now the hook set. Going back to the beginning after reading “Autumn,” it all made sense: the interwoven lives of cosmopolitan British men and women, tossed about by the times they lived through. Powell does everything a novelist can do, from flights of aesthetic passion to romance to comedy high and low. His dialogue is extraordinary; often terse, pedestrian and perfect, each character using three or four words. Anthony Powell taught me to write; he has such brilliant control of the mechanics of the novel. Somewhere in his autobiography, he remarks that a character, when asked a question by another character, need not answer it. I remember sitting there for a long time and letting the stylistic implications of this sink in.
Competing with Amazon, even to carve out a slice of the market, is a daunting task. The company has a number of obvious advantages: scale, resources, and a diverse product line that can let the company treat books as loss leaders. The company, as has been well documented, is also focused on driving prices as low as possible. The perception of Amazon as the cheapest place to buy books, enhanced by its combining books with high ticket items with free shipping, gives the company a tremendous advantage over both online and physical bookselling competitors, says Peter Hildick-Smith, CEO of the Codex Group.Newspaper ad revenue (CJR)
Hildick-Smith believes that if publishers want to help ensure a diverse marketplace, they need to move back to agency pricing on e-books once the court-order restrictions expire, and to return to windowing. Hildick-Smith believes publishers should follow the film industry's successful model of releasing new content in premium format first, followed by discount formats in later releases. Hildick-Smith has been a longtime supporter of windowing as a way to "give bricks-and-mortar stores a chance to do what they do best," noting that Amazon's own bestseller publishing program has struggled without physical-world retailer support. (One possible roadblock to windowing are reports that Amazon's contract prohibits the practice.)
It’s striking how much less dependent papers were on advertising before the 1980s than they were during and afterward. The rise of advertising was largely due to the decline of newspaper competition, which has fallen steadily since the late 1970s (the number of dailies is down about 22 percent in the last 35 years).
The last paper standing in a market could charge readers the same or less while corralling much of its former competitor’s advertising. While that was fun for a while, it undermined the long-term health of the industry. Newspapers became structurally dependent on sky-high advertising rates, ones that a true market couldn’t support.
In 1990, for instance, newspapers lost more than 6 percent of their ad lineage but also raised their ad rates by more than 6 percent. The New York Times, for instance, lost 38 percent of its advertising lineage from 1987 to 1992 but continued to raise rates.
Big doings in the Canadian copyright market (Quill & Quire)
As royalties continue to shrink, the situation is having a profound impact on the bottom line of publishers catering to both the K–12 and postsecondary sectors. OUP Canada eliminated three jobs as a result of the closure of its schools division. At Winnipeg-based scholarly press Fernwood Publishing (which focuses on the higher-education sector), Access Copyright royalties usually amount to the salary of one of its seven staffers. And at Broadview Press, Access Copyright payments total $50,000 per year. It’s clear that these royalties have a significant impact on publishers’ abilities to break even, pay their staff, and create new works.Plus more at my flipboard magazine.
Royalties from the schools market dried up when Access Copyright’s K–12 customers (which include provincial ministries and, in Ontario, individual school boards) walked away from their licences, a move that was prompted in part by the 2012 passing of the Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11). The postsecondary sector is also distancing itself from Access Copyright, with many of the country’s biggest universities opting out of collective licences. A year ago, the agency launched a lawsuit against York University to challenge its interpretation of Bill C-11’s “fair dealing” provision.
Some publishers have also begun to see declines in sales. “The loss of income is not limited to the loss of the Access Copyright fees,” says Broadview Press president Leslie Dema. “There are now many professors turning to coursepacks instead of anthologies for the first time – simply because the coursepacks are so much cheaper when there is no charge for copyright.”