Today in books: Buzz Bissinger's plan to do something nice for a Friday Night Lights character was derailed by Apple and Amazon, a Duke alum vows to expose the "toxic culture" of Wall Street, and Books-A-Million may be going private.
When Buzz Bissinger decided to write a 12,000 word e-book, After Friday Night Lights, for Byliner.com the idea was that one-third of the proceeds generated by sales of the $2.99 title would go to Boobie Miles, the running back whose college football dreams evaporated following a gruesome knee injury documented in Bissinger's original book. Then the vendors screwed it up. In the process, After Friday Night Lights also became much harder -- read: impossible -- for Kindle users to download. The problem, according to David Carr, started when Apple "decided to include e-books in a promotion that it does with Starbucks" and selected Bissinger's title "as a Pick of the Week, giving customers a code they could redeem online for the book." Things managed to get worse when Amazon somehow "interpreted the promotion as a price drop and lowered its price for After Friday Night Lights to exactly zero." This prompted Byliner to "withdraw the book from Amazon’s shelves, saying it did so to 'protect our authors’ interest.'" Byliner's been very careful not to suggest any real, human person at Amazon is to blame for the pricing snafu (Byliner cofounder Mark Bryant blames it on a presumably malfunctioning Amazon "price bot"), but it's a sign, Carr observers, of how Amazon's "tactical aggression lands hard on the people who supply it." Byliner doesn't want to offend Amazon, because they want to continue their working relationship. Bissinger doesn't want to rock the boat because he's got a real book, a big book -- Father's Day -- coming out in a few weeks and there's no upside in antagonizing your biggest vendor. [The New York Times]
It turns out you don't even need to have worked in a morally iffy investment bank to shop a book deal about the horrible corporate culture of a morally iffy investment bank. You just have to intern for one and be horrified -- horrified! -- by what you see. Like Laura Newland. She graduated from Duke in 2010 and is writing a book -- or would like to be writing a book -- about how investment banks confuse impressionable Dukies to "mistake our desire to win the race with a desire for what it is we’re chasing." She also says she "navigated a salacious recruiting process" (like the ancient mariner!) and adds that while she "landed a coveted offer, then turned it down because I had grown disillusioned by a toxic culture." Laura Newland: hero! Sample chapters of her book -- which really should be called Profiles in Courage, even if somebody else already wrote something with that title -- can be found on her personal website. [Deal Book]
The Andersen family, which controls 53 percent of Books-A-Million common stock, has made a proposal that would take America's second-largest brick-and-mortar bookstore chain private. To do this, the family would be "acquiring all outstanding shares for $3.05 a share," a 20% premium over where the stock closed on Friday. All told, the potential purchase would cost the Andersen family "about $23 million." After a year of looking to merge or sell the company, going private represents a fallback option. The company expanded late in 2011, taking over old retail space that formerly belonged to Borders, but sales of digital books have barely caused a ripple, totaling "about $14 million, about 3% of sales" last year. [Publishers Weekly]
On a wet, raw start to the month of May, you can either grumble about how it's supposed to be nicer out (technically correct, but of no help) or embrace the dampness that seems to have enveloped the entire eastern seaboard and listen to Christopher Walken reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." Walken's reading -- along with others by Jeff Buckley, Iggy Pop, and and Debbie Harry -- were commissioned in 1997 for an audio collection full of famous people reading Poe. If that doesn't scream instant best-seller -- remember, in the 1990s, people listened to CDs in their car on the way to work -- the performances find new life on YouTube during overcast, unseasonably chilly spring days. [Open Culture via @electricliterature]
It's not quite publishing or literature -- though it is based on a true-crime book by Nicholas Pileggi -- but the opening sequence of Casino, in which Robert De Niro's fussy bookmaker Sam Rothstein falls victim to a car bomb that sends him flying into the air before hovering over a smoldering Cadillac and much of the Las Vegas Strip, is an iconic film moment, particularly since it involves De Niro and director Martin Scorsese, two very big fans of symbolic hellfire. But there was no time to waste on free-falling De Niro: Saul and Elaine Bass were on-board to design the film's gaudy title sequence -- one of their last -- and sent Scorsese a memo suggesting he use the 2:35:1 aspect ratio, in oder to maximize the wide screen. Said the Basses:
Concerning Ace's body flying into frame after the explosion: Here's our recommendation for the scale of body-to-frame in 2:35. Suggest body be semi-silhouette.
Elaine and Saul
cc: Barbara De Fina
Thelma Schoonmaker Powell
From book to script to memo to film, here's the end result.