A Brief History of the Blurb; The World's Prettiest Bookstores

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Today in publishing and literature: Revisiting Barnes & Noble's decision not to carry Amazon Publishing titles in stores, new Debbie Reynolds memoir will correct the previous Debbie Reynolds memoir, and McGraw-Hill's textbook business may be up for sale.

Barnes & Noble's announcement yesterday that the company would not be stocking books from the new Amazon imprint in its 700 brick-and-mortar stores had the appearance of a legitimate shot across the bow, right up until the final paragraph of the company's statement, which noted that Amazon Publishing titles will still be available on the Barnes & Noble Web site. What's the difference between selling a hard copy in a store and selling it online? Plenty, it seems. By only selling Amazon's books online Barnes & Noble prevents their competitor from profiting off "the browsing effect," a nifty bit of publishing jargon we first heard in Sunday's New York Times profile of Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch, which holds that one-third of customers who walk out of a bookstore with a book did not walk in the door planning to buy something. These accidental customers have been one of the few advantages brick-and-mortar stores have enjoyed over Amazon over the last decade. In The Wall Street Journal, publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin predicts the policy-- which was revealed with lots of tough talk about how Amazon has "undermined the industry" -- wouldn't have "adverse consequences for Barnes & Noble" until Amazon Publishing bolsters its roster of authors. Meanwhile, in-store Barnes & Noble shoppers will just have to go elsewhere for their print copy of the upcoming books from Penny Marshall, Deepak Chopra, and James Franco.  [The Wall Street Journal]

Speaking of bookstores: FlavorWire has put together a very nice slideshow of the world's twenty most beautiful bookstores, not one of which is a Barnes & Noble. What's a bit more surprising is that the Strand in New York City and Powell's in Portland also didn't make the cut, though that's always going to be a possibility when you're competing against converted Dominican churches, like the Selexyz Bookstore in Maastricht, Holland. [Flavor Wire]

Recommended Reading

Alan Levinonitz, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, has written a terrific history/evisceration of book blurbs. In addition to being funny and informative, the essay finally coins words for that glossy page of blurbs that comes right after the cover of a paperback -- the blap -- along with the less-common but equally alarming "blover," in which a paper back has its cover width reduced for a second cover that's just one long prominent blurb. (For a look at the art of blover, note the paperback design of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.) [The Millions]

McGraw-Hill is reportedly going to explore the sale of its education division, which includes its mammoth textbook publishing business. Plans are already in the works to split off the education division and much financial services arm into separate publicly traded companies by the end of this year. Because they've already announced that plan, the company is apparently going to approach any sale cautiously, because they could potentially be hit with a large tax penalty based on the timing of the sale. Barron's estimates the education division could be worth as much $3 billion. [The Financial Times via The Bookseller]

Debbie Reynolds already wrote a memoir in 1988 called Debbie: My Life, but she's reached a deal with HarperCollins to write another one, due out in 2013. What's changed? Well, according to the publisher's press release, her second husband, the one she called "brave, loyal and loving" at the end of Debbie had "had his mistress stashed at the Stardust just down the street from Debbie’s own newly opened Las Vegas hotel" and also "embezzled all the proceeds from her business, in addition to many other betrayals." [GalleyCat]




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