Today in books and publishing: Imprints shuffle at Simon & Schuster; Spider-Man musical debacle to be detailed in new book; Unitarians launch banned books club; Kindle lands in Japan.
Spider-Man musical author to write disaster book. Actually, Glen Berger's book deal Simon & Schuster is for a memoir about his experiences behind the scenes of the seemingly cursed Broadway production Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. But it might as well be a diaster novel, considering how this "most expensive show in Broadway history" spiralled out of control with high-profile firings, ongoing lawsuits, terrible reviews, and near-death cast injuries. The book's planned title, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History, promises to give the inside story on everything that went wrong. [The New York Times]
Simon & Schuster shuffles. A lot of consolidation is happening under Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy's direction. All of the publisher's adult imprints will be squeezed into four groups: Atria, Scribner, the Gallery, and Simon & Schuster. The Free Press imprint, now being absorbed into the Jonathan Karp-led Simon & Schuster Publishing Group, is undergoing the most high-profile downsizing, with publisher Martha Levin and editorial director Dominick Anfuso on the way out. The total number of lay-offs is believed to be under 10, according to Publishers Weekly. Reidy says the new combinations make sense, and "will lead to a sharper editorial focus for our imprints even as it takes consideration of the natural affinities among them." Religious publisher Howard Books is being absorbed by Atria, and Touchstone is merging with Scribner. [Publishers Weekly]
Unitarian church to teach banned books. When a school board in Fremont, California banned Dorothy Allison's novel Bastard Out of Carolina and Tony Kushner's play Angels in America, a local church decided to offer free copies of the books, as well as a space for students and community members to discuss them. Wait ... a church? Yeah, Unitarians are weird like that, the way they appreciate challenging literature and all. Teacher Teri Hu couldn't get the books added to the AP English reading list at her high school because administrators and parents found them "too graphic." "It's like they don't want our children to read modern, relevant books," she says. So Hu is setting up a banned book club with the help of Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation. "This is about educating the community about what's inside these books," says Rev. Jeremy Nickel, who hopes that the banned books club will "give these young people a chance to wrestle with the full spectrum of humanity in a safe environment." [Silicon Valley Mercury News]
Kindle's Japanese arrival. Amazon is showing up late to the Japanese e-reader party. Maybe they're hoping to make a fashionable entrance? Kobo and Google have already taken hold in Japan's e-reader market, and now they'll be facing competition from Kindle. Paperwhite, Fire, and Fire HD Kindle devices will be available to order online starting Thursday, and Paperwhites will soon hit the shelves of TSUTAYA bookstores. The forthcoming Kindle store in Japan sports over 50,000 Japanese-language e-books, including some exclusive titles by popular domestic authors like Yusuke Kishi. The devices will cost between ¥8,480 and ¥ 15,800 ($106 and $198). It still remains to be seen whether e-readers can take hold in Japan, where readers have long preferred to use cellphone screens for on-the-go reading. [paidContent]
Taschen's biggest flops. Publishers are usually tight-lipped about the profits brought in by each of their titles. No one wants to embarrass an author by revealing how much they made—or how much they lost. Cult art book publisher Benedikt Taschen doesn't seem to care, though. He was game to candidly reveal his biggest money-losing ventures to The Huffington Post. Apparently no one wants a book of Diego Rivera's complete murals? (This book lost Taschen a whopping $1.29 million.) Taschen says he's not sure why some books turn a profit while others drain money. "I am an optimistic guy, like Voltaire’s Candide, kind of sleepwalking through business and life, bumping every once in a while into a genius who makes me rich," he says of his business strategy. "As a friend of mine put it: the plan is, there is no plan." [Huffington Post]