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Simon and Schuster inks deal with Amazon: Publisher will control ebook prices

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Simon & Schuster has signed a new multiyear contract with Amazon that gives the publisher nearly full autonomy over ebook pricing. Both dealmakers appear to be pleased with the agreement, going into effect Jan. 1, 2015. S&S chief executive Carolyn Reidy said in a letter obtained by The New York Times that the deal “is economically advantageous for both Simon & Schuster and its authors and maintains the author’s share of income generated from eBook sales.” The publisher will gain control over determining the prices of its authors’ ebooks, “with some limited exceptions,” according to the letter. Amazon, for example, can still offer some discount deals.

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Tavi Gevinson conquers 'the hole of cyberspace' with Rookie's Yearbook Three

You can tell a lot about Tavi Gevinson by the way she wields her silver Sharpie. Her body rigidly bent over a long table, the 18-year-old media wunderkind signs copies of her website’s latest anthology, Rookie‘s Yearbook Three, with mechanized precision. As a preteen, she started her career with that same intentionality, drawing 30,000 daily readers to her fashion blog Style Rookie. Then there’s her signature—a looping heart, accompanied by her first name—on every book’s title page, which represents the Tavi who created the catchall web publication Rookie because she “hated that any girls could feel excluded” from the Internet “clubhouse.” And then there’s her banter.

On this September day, she’s holed up in a windowless room at her publisher’s New York office, signing 4,000 copies of Yearbook Three for an upcoming promotion. Barnes & Noble will distribute the special books on Black Friday, and the idea that people will line up before the sun rises for something she signed amuses Gevinson.

“I hope we can be the one that someone dies at, this year,” she says, pausing between Sharpie strokes and looking around the room. “Just kidding.” READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Tom Hanks pens short story for The New Yorker

- We know how much Tom Hanks loves typewriters—but since he co-wrote 2001’s Band of Brothers, the actor hasn’t had much original writing to show. Maybe he wiped the dust off his favorite typing device for “Alan Bean Plus Four,” a fictional story he penned for the new issue of The New Yorker.

The humorous story, about four buddies who journey to the moon in a capsule made from duct tape, is positively Hanksian. As an author, Hanks uses similar themes to the roles he has championed—limitless ambition, vivid detail, and emotional depth. Or maybe that could all stem from the 18-minute recording The New Yorker provided of Hanks reading the story himself. [The New Yorker]

- “Jimmy Fallon” may be a household name, but that wasn’t enough to convince his daughter, Winnie Rose, to devote her first words to him. Now the late-night host has concocted a board book to right this wrong. Aptly titled Your Baby’s First Word Will Be Dada, the book features illustrations by Miguel Ordóñez and will be available June 9, 2015. Says Fallon: “This is one of the few celebrity books that you can tell was actually written by a celebrity.” [People]

- New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has taken on another major topic, setting his sights on Amazon’s book-selling policies. In an article published today, Krugman argued that whether or not you use and enjoy the service—both of which he says he does—Amazon is on the wrong side of history. He pulls out some surprising parallels between Amazon’s monopolistic tendencies and those of Standard Oil over a hundred years ago. Here’s Krugman’s argument, in his own words:

Don’t tell me that Amazon is giving consumers what they want, or that it has earned its position. What matters is whether it has too much power, and is abusing that power. Well, it does, and it is. [The New York Times]

- Last week, the University of South Carolina claimed author Elmore Leonard’s archives. Now Princeton has claimed an even bigger literary prize: the papers of Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The author’s materials will not become part of the school’s permanent library collection. Morrison served on Princeton’s faculty for 17 years, and the development was announced on Friday at a conference named “Coming Back: Reconnecting Princeton’s Black Alumni.”

The 83-year-old Morrison has an impressive résumé: She has written 10 novels and received awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But the number to remember is 180. That’s the number of linear feet Morrison’s papers—which include manuscripts, drafts, and proofs—comprise. [Princeton University]

Margaret Atwood, others explore the short-story cycle

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On one hand, you have novels. On the other, you have short stories. But is the split that clear-cut? If the world of books has taught us anything lately, it’s that widely held boundaries—between self-publishing and the establishment, cliché and rejuvenation, even one genre and the next—have become blurred.

Granted, most of those things have overlapped to some degree in the past. Case in point: novels and short-story collections. In September, Margaret Atwood—celebrated author of The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddamn Trilogy (the latter of which is being adapted by director Darren Aronofsky for HBO)—saw the release of her latest short-story collection, Stone Mattress. It comprises nine stories that embody the quirky yet profound tone Atwood has been mastering for decades, full of fantastic situations grounded in poignancy, humor, and the entanglements of desire.

What’s especially interesting about Stone Mattress, though, is the book’s first three stories: “Alphinland,” “Revenant,” and “Dark Lady.” While listed on the table of contents as individual tales, the trio connects to form a single, if short, novel of roughly 100 pages. In those pages, a group of friends try to navigate the transgressions and regrets of their collective past. The linked tales also spotlight fictional works of literature that exist within the universe Atwood has created. Alphinland is the name of a spectacularly popular fantasy novel series written by one of the characters, C. W. Starr (a cheeky spoof of J. K. Rowling); the Dark Lady suite is a series of romantic poems written by Starr’s late husband, Gavin Putnam. The device is playfully meta, but it also underscores how storytelling often can’t—and often shouldn’t—be neatly tied up in discreet little parcels. READ FULL STORY

What We're Reading Now: 'Not That Kind of Girl' by Lena Dunham

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Another week, another handful of days spent pacing the halls and circling the conference rooms asking everyone if they were finished with their copy of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl. They all said variations of “no” and “stop asking” until Matt finally asked me a question I wasn’t really ready for: “Why don’t you go buy it at the store?”

No good answer there, so I went and picked one up.

Then, rather than tear into it, I just stared at it for days. I’d go over, grab it, sit down, read the dedication and then pull up Lena on Instagram, which would lead to scrolling through Jack Antonoff’s life, which would somehow result in being on Kendall Jenner’s page, and then it’d be time for bed. Or, I’d go over, read the quotes on the back cover and turn on HBOGo (and not watch Girls, which I had never actually seen prior to this week). READ FULL STORY

On the Books: Sherlock Holmes exhibit comes to London

Today the Museum of London opened an exhibition dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective. The exhibit, London’s first on the fictional favorite in over 60 years, showcases early editions, illustrations, photos and artifacts from the Victorian world in which Holmes and his creator lived. There’s also a wide assortment of props on display, from Holmes’ signature pipe and sidekick Dr. John Watson’s medical tools to the coat Benedict Cumberbatch wears to portray a modern day Sherlock on the popular BBC series. Here’s a photo gallery of some of the exhibit’s highlights. [The Telegraph]

A Texas native did wonders for the stereotype of the idiot American tourist by getting himself locked inside a London bookstore last night, live-documenting his ordeal on social media. Dallas native David Willis posted a photo from inside the dark Trafalgar Square Waterstones to Instragram just after 10 p.m. GMT last night, writing: “This is me locked inside a waterstones bookstore in London. I was upstairs for 15 minutes and came down to all the lights out and door locked. Been here over an hour now. Supposedly someone is on their way. #nofilter #london.” 45 minutes later, he tweeted, “Hi @Waterstones I’ve been locked inside of your Trafalgar Square bookstore for 2 hours now. Please let me out,” before announcing “I’m free” 90 minutes later. Later, Willis retweeted screenshots of his amusing text conversations with a friend during the incident.

Bestselling young adult fantasy writer Margaret Stohl is penning a novel starring Marvel Comics character the Black Widow. The co-author of the Caster Chronicles series—upon which last year’s supernatural romance film Beautiful Creatures was based—revealed the news at Warner Brothers’ NYC Comic-Con panel this week, “Women of Marvel.” Comics Beat reports that Stohl said the book, set to be published in 2015, is “the badassiest thing I’ve ever been asked to work on in my life.” She added that Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson in the Marvel film franchise, is “the very best hot mess I know.” [GalleyCat]

Independent publishing imprint McSweeney’s is officially becoming a nonprofit, announced founder and author Dave Eggers. “For 15 years now, it’s been a break-even operation,” Eggers, 44, told The New York Times, saying that McSweeney’s has placed its integrity over profit margins since its founding 16 years ago. “I’ve always been attracted to books and projects that we love and are passionate about, and it doesn’t always intersect with books that will sell a million copies.” Eggers said the change will enable the publisher to specialize in less commercialized genres like poetry and foreign translations. He plans to source funds from foundation grants, individual donations and crowd-funding. “Our goal is to exist and keep on publishing in whatever way is most viable, and for us that’s as a nonprofit.” [The New York Times]

'Twin Peaks' co-creator Mark Frost is penning a sequel novel

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The illusory mystery of Twin Peaks lives on… again. Following last week’s announcement of Showtime’s reboot of the cult-favorite series comes the news that co-creator Mark Frost is penning a novel that picks up where the show left off in 1991. According to a press release from publisher Flatiron Books, The Secret Lives of Twin Peaks “reveals what has happened to the people of that iconic fictional town since we last saw them 25 years ago and offers a deeper glimpse into the central mystery that was only touched on by the original series.”

The bestselling author’s book is set to hit shelves in late 2015—before Frost’s TV revival airs in 2016. Frost is reuniting with his original Twin Peaks co-creator and co-executive producer David Lynch to make a Showtime limited series sequel of the critically acclaimed show. It is not yet clear whether the plot of the novel and the sequel series will be the same, but Frost is unequivocally thrilled at the chance to novelize his creation. “This has long been a dream project of mine that will bring a whole other aspect of the world of Twin Peaks to life, for old fans and new,” Frost said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

On the Books: University claims Elmore Leonard's archives

- Even if you don’t know the late author Elmore Leonard’s name, you probably know some of his work. Leonard, who passed away in 2013 at age 87, wrote more than 45 novels, including the Get Shorty and Rum Punch (which Quentin Tarantino later adapted for the screen with the title Jackie Brown). Leonard also wrote the television drama Justified.

Many expected the University of Texas, Austin, to acquire Leonard’s archives, but on Wednesday the University of South Carolina surprised insiders, announcing the Leonard estate chose it instead.

Elmore’s son, Peter, explained that his father admired the university and appreciated that it housed some papers from one of his idols, Ernest Hemingway. [L.A. Times]

- This has been a big week for book awards news. Add another one to the list: Author and activist Naomi Klein has won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize—Canada’s richest non-fiction award—for her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Klein said she hopes the award will help This Changes Everything expand beyond its “lefty audience.” [Publishers Weekly]

- Executives plan to transform independent publishing house McSweeney’s into a nonprofit. Dave Eggers, who founded the company in 1998, explained the move to SFGate: “We’ve always been a hand-to-mouth operation, and every year it gets just a little harder to be an independent publisher. An independent literary title that might have sold 10,000 copies 10 years ago might sell 6,000 now, for example. Now there’s the opportunity to raise money around a certain project or to write a grant for it, or even crowd-fund for it.” [SFGate]

- Andre Dubus III, best known for writing House of Sand and Fog, has made his native New England a big part of both his fictional and autobiographical works (Dirty Love and Townie, respectively). In an interview with Reuters, Dubus shared some thoughts about writing, constructing a landscape, and his most important characters. “A place has rhythms, a flow like a river,” said Dubus of writing about where he grew up. “There is a depth of authority a writer has when writing about a place they know well.”

But don’t count on the author getting one of those nifty new iPhones anytime soon. “I find it really depressing how many of us stare at screens in our hands,” Dubus said. “It’s like you walk into a room and everybody’s stoned. I’m never going to have [a smartphone]. I think we need to reclaim our solitude and the voices in our heads.” [Reuters]

- Did you ever wonder how books get their different smells? Now there’s an infographic explaining the chemistry behind the scents. Check it out here, via Mediabistro.

Graphic novels look at illness and death with honesty and fantasy

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There’s a panel in John Porcellino’s new graphic novel, The Hospital Suite, where the author draws himself during a day at work in an Illinois grocery store. He’s just dealt with months of prolonged illness and hospitalization for an acute intestinal disorder as well as an agonizing inner-ear ailment. His treatments have encompassed everything from surgery to holistic medicine. At one point, he loses so much weight that he can barely walk.

On that day in the grocery store, he sees his own eyelashes fall out. At that point, he says, “in the midst of all this, I felt a strange peace. In a weird way, I looked forward with curiosity to what would come next. If it was my time today, then I was okay with it.” READ FULL STORY

John Grisham apologizes for controversial child-pornography comments

Author John Grisham has apologized after making controversial comments about child pornography to The Telegraph.

In an interview published Wednesday, Grisham claimed the U.S. judicial system had “gone crazy” over the last 30 years, citing what he saw as the unfair imprisonment of white-collar criminals, minor drug offenders, and viewers of child pornography. It was that last part that caused problems—especially after Grisham explained his logic.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age,” Grisham said. “Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child. But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham attributed his stance on child porn charges to something that happened to an old law school friend of his; Grisham said his friend struggled with alcoholism, foolishly poked around on a site advertising 16-year-old prostitutes, and served three years in prison as a consequence.

“He shouldn’t ‘a done it,” Grisham said. “It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.”

Grisham issued an apology and clarification through his publisher, Doubleday, on Thursday:

Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography—online or otherwise—should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.

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