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Book News: 'Big 5' Publishers Absent From Amazon's New E-Book Service

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The so-called Big Five publishers — Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster — don't appear to be participating in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's new e-book subscription service. Following the model of services such as Oyster and Scribd, Kindle Unlimited offers unlimited e-books for a fixed monthly fee. Searches through Kindle Unlimited's library of 600,000-plus titles turn up bestsellers from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, W.W. Norton, Scholastic and other publishers, but no titles from the five major houses. Amazon's recent dispute with Hachette has highlighted tensions between online retailer and traditional publishers. HarperCollins declined to comment, while Amazon and the other four publishers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Bill Hillmann, the author of a guide to not getting gored by bulls who recently got gored by a bull, writes an op-ed in The Washington Post explaining why he plans to run with the bulls again: "I will keep running for another chance to lead a Spanish fighting bull up the street. When that happens, I become one with the fiercest, most majestic animal on Earth. And in those moments, I am at peace." (Listen to his interview with NPR's Kelly McEvers here.)
  • David Orr is circumspect in reviewing James Franco's new poetry collection: "[T]he annoyance this collection will inspire is rooted in a deeper anxiety: The attention commanded by James Franco's poetry has everything to do with "James Franco" and almost nothing to do with poetry. And that cultural wealth is not transferable. Attention withheld from Franco's poems will not instantly devolve upon some worthy but obscure poet; it will go to another actor, or singer, or commercial nonfiction writer, or memoirist — or even to James Franco in his novel-writing incarnation. Poetry is the weak sister of its sibling arts, alternately ignored and swaddled like a 19th-century invalid, and that will change only by means of a long, tedious and possibly futile effort at persuasion. Perhaps it's a blessing to have James Franco on one's side in that struggle."
  • Valerie Macon — whose appointment as the Poet Laureate of North Carolina enraged even more poets than James Franco's book deal — resigned from the position late last week. Macon, a self-published poet and disability claims processor, was criticized for her relative lack of literary accolades. In her resignation letter, she wrote that she didn't want "negative attention" to distract from the laureateship, adding, "I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry. They do not need prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations — just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.

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