Today in publishing and literature: It's tough to dislike Amazon Publishing if they're going to force the price of books to come down, Michael Bloomerg's taste in fiction as appraised by Harold Bloom, and Mein Kampf won't be published in Germany this week.
After reading Bloomberg Businessweek's new cover story about Larry Kirschbaum, the vice president and publisher of Amazon Publishing, it's easy to understand why publishers are outraged and terrified by the online retailer's new imprint. Reporter Brad Stone succinctly explains the fear factor: "Amazon could be an unstoppable competitor to big publishing houses...Even more awkwardly, for publishers, Amazon is their largest retailer, so they are now in the position of having to compete against an important business partner. On the West Coast people cheerfully call this kind of arrangement coopetition. On the East Coast it’s usually referred to as getting stabbed in the back." This all may be true, but as a reader, it's tough to accept that Amazon is a villain because their business practices are aimed at making books less expensive. For us, that trumps any breach of New York publishing world decorum and etiquette. [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
German magazine Zeitungszeugen won't be running excerpts from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf after a court in Bavaria ruled that publishing the passages would in fact be a copyright violation. The Bavarian government has held the copyright on the book since the end of World War II, and has consistently refused to let it be reprinted. Zeitungszeugen publisher Peter McGee said the magazine would instead just run the academic essays that were supposed to accompany the original text. [Political Bookworm]
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg: not a big fiction guy! Though he does enjoy the arid spy thrillers of John Le Carré, particularly The Honourable Schoolboy, which he appropriately endorsed yesterday in a room full of New York City schoolchildren. Declared Bloomberg: “It’s 600 pages, it’s mostly description, there is almost nothing that happens. But it’s fascinating!” According to The New York Times, "virtually the only other work of fiction" Bloomberg has publicly recommended is that staple of elementary school libraries, Johnny Tremain. Somewhat hilariously, The Times called Yale professor Harold Bloom and asked him to say something -- anything -- about the literary merits of the two books. Amazingly, Bloom responded that he had never heard of Johnny Tremain (it won the Newbery Medal in 1944!) and was only familiar with Le Carré's work in passing. He still managed to get off a haughty and somewhat confusing zinger at Bloomberg's expense. Said Bloom: “Is that as advanced as our great mayor’s taste gets, eh? Maybe his secret ambition is to succeed General Petraeus.” We're not sure what that last line means, but if Bloomberg does want to succeed David Petraeus as Director of the CIA, the fact that he prefers political histories and magazines to fiction will only be an asset. [The New York Times]
This pie chart about how much attention Haruki Murakami gives to his various thematic preoccupations is a gag, but it's probably only a matter of time before one of his ardent followers does this for real, and doesn't omit the time characters spend talking to prostitutes and reflecting on the past. [Paperback Girl via The Millions]
For the second straight year, researchers at Central Connecticut State University have named Washington, D.C. the country's "most literate" city. Meanwhile, Bakersfield, California earned the somewhat less coveted title of America's least literate cities, finishing last among 75 cities in "key indicators of literacy" like newspaper circulation and number of bookstores. [USA Today and CCSU]