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The Most Interesting Book News of the Week

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Amazon Picks Its Best Books of the Year So FarAmazon released its list of the best books of the year so far, including their #1 pick of the year, James by Percival Everett. This is confirms for me that James is the Book of the Year (so far), and I think likely to be the book of the year by the time we flip the calendar to 2026. It already had the most mentions in mid-year best of lists in my breakdown of ten lists that had already appeared. Everett had a lot of latent love from the kind of folks who care about literary fiction, and this particular book hits a lot of marks: it is readable, connected to an American classic, and, not for nothing, is selling well. I am delighted.

Publishing Industry Sales Were Hot in AprilWait, what the hell? There are some eye-popping numbers in the latest Publishers Weekly sales check-in. Overall sales for April are up 18.3% over 2023. And every category is up. Digital audiobooks are up more than 50% year-over-year. Wisely, PW does not speculate on reasons this is the case, though notes for a couple of categories that decreased returns were a factor. But why in the name of Johannes Gutenberg are ebook sales up 19%!?! I am glad to see it, but kinda speechless.

Barnes & Noble Just Bought a Beloved Indie Bookstore. Now What?

In a surprise (to me at least) move, Barnes & Noble has bought Tattered Cover, a local indie chain of bookstores in the Denver, Colorado area. Tattered Cover had been in business for more than 50-years, but a series of events, from COVID to bad PR to bad management, put the store, which regularly appears on lists of the best indie bookstores in the country, in financial distress. Barnes & Noble is only paying $1.8 million for the company, which includes current inventory, because things are pretty bad over there. Now, Tattered Cover’s fate is notable, especially to locals, but the real story to me is B&N buying an existing indie bookstore. [Continued]

Has the DEI Backlash Come for Publishing?Dan Sinykin and Richard Jean So have some fascinating data in The Atlantic. In looking at the racial breakdown of more than 1700 novels published by major publishers in the last five years (2019 – 2023), Sinykin and So found that the percentage by nonwhite writers doubled, from a meager 8% in 2019 to a better, though still well short of U.S. demographics, 16% in 2023. This is tremendous progress and, anecdotally, feels about right. The framing of the piece is in the context of Lisa Lucas’ firing from Pantheon, which is both relevant as the sharp rise roughly corresponds with the environment Lucas was hired in. And they are right, as is anyone, to mention that there is still work to be done. However, the scale of the increase makes me wonder if we are over-indexing on one or two notable, public names rather than the hundreds and hundreds of books by writers of color that just weren’t being published in the last five years. Do the firing of these editors portend a stagnation, or worse a regression, in these numbers? It’s possible. It is also possible that things really are different now, even as they should be more different still. I look forward to seeing these numbers again in five years…and that the pie is even more equitably sliced then.

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Wait, How Did This Woman “Accidentally” Buy a Bookstore?I got several tips about this TikTok where a woman named Jessica (I can’t find a last name at the moment) was basically handed the keys to a bookstore not too far from where I live in Portland. Apparently, she was a former employee of the Clackamas Book Exchange and the previous owner made her a deal–a deal which is a little hard to understand from the video. Apparently, if she made more than what the owner needed (don’t know what this means), the store would be hers. And now it is? If anyone out there knows more about this, would love to have you drop me an email at podcast at bookriot.com.

A Leaked Document Gives Glimpse of Amazon’s Bookselling MightEveryone knows that Amazon sells a ton of books. Most people, especially ones reading this newsletter, might even have the sense that Amazon sells the most books. But did you know that Amazon sells the majority of books, to the tune of more than 70% of all books (print, digital, and audio) sold in the U.S. At least according to a leaked, 25-page document that Business Insider got its hands on. Now, the data is incomplete, comes from 2022, and did I say again it was leaked? But it feels about right. For more detailed analysis, Publishers Lunch did a bang-up job breaking out all the pieces of what makes up Amazon’s “book category” sales. Sometimes it is hard to remember the many tentacles, from Goodreads to CreateSpace to Audible and beyond, that Amazon has.

Percival Everett’s James In Development for a Feature AdaptationI was just thinking about James’s movie prospects the other day. The tone will be the most difficult (dial the needle-threading serio-comedy of American Fictionand dial it to 11). Whoever gets the starring role will be nominated for an Oscar. Waititi, who is the director name mentioned here, is also attached to another big-selling literary title in the form of Klara & the Sun. I actually think he is better suited for James, which is at times extremely funny and satirical, than trying to match Ishiguro’s calm, eerie, and erudite tone. But big-time capital “L” literary adaptations are back, baby.

Source : BookRiot

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