Kindles Still a Loss Leader; Ai Weiwei Criticizes Mo Yan's Nobel Prize

Today in books and publishing: Bezos confirms Kindles are a loss-leader; critics and publishers respond to Yan's Nobel; Ferlinghetti turns down Hungarian prize; Rich Dad author bankrupt.

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Today in books and publishing: Bezos confirms Kindles are a loss-leader; critics and publishers respond to Yan's Nobel; Ferlinghetti turns down Hungarian prize; Rich Dad, bankrupt author.

Amazon makes nothing on Kindle devices. We've already heard plenty of speculation about the profit (or lack thereof) that Amazon makes on Kindle devices, but now we have it straight from the man himself. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has confirmed that Amazon makes no money on the devices, selling them at break-even prices to bolster sales of e-books and other online content. "We sell the hardware at our cost," Bezos said of the Kindle Fire HD and Paperwhite. The strategy helps them steer customers away from Apple, who sells more expensive e-reading devices at a profit. Amazon's loss-leader approach could turn out to be a better long-term strategy for retaining customers, and Bezos says the devices make readers hungrier for more books. "What we find is that when people buy a Kindle they read four times as much as they did before they bought the Kindle." [Forbes]

Yan, his critics, and publishers respond to Nobel win. This year's winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature Mo Yan has been criticized for being too cozy with party officials. Following the Nobel announcement, these complaints were voiced strongly by dissident artist Ai Weiwei, who said, "Giving the award to a writer like this is an insult to humanity and to literature ... He has been very clearly pursuing the party's line and in several cases he has shown no respect for the independence of intellectuals." Yan's acceptance speech didn't skirt politics entirely, though. He brought up one thorn in the side of Chinese authorities: 2010's Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, who remains imprisoned for his activism. "I hope he can achieve his freedom as soon as possible," Yan said, without aligning himself with Xiaobo politically. Amidst all this political rhetoric, the publishing industry also responded to the Yan's win with cheers. The author's publisher Shanghai Xinhua Media Co. grew 10 percent thanks to Yan's win. Financial analyst Zhao Yue says, "In the longer term, the country is pushing for an improvement in the cultural sphere, so the outlook for this industry is positive." [The Guardian]

Lawrence Ferlinghetti declines Hungarian prize. Even at 93, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti political edge hasn't softened one bit. The owner of San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore and the man responsible for publishing Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," Ferlinghetti declined to accept this year's Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize from the Hungarian division of PEN. The international PEN organization aims to support writers and promote freedom of the press, but Ferlinghetti says he can't accept this award due to the Hungarian government's problematic record on free speech and civil liberties. The government partially funds Hungarian PEN. Ferlinghetti writes, "since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept the Prize in the United States." [Los Angeles Times]

Rich Dad author files for bankruptcy. Robert Kiyosaki had a nice business going with his Rich Dad, Poor Dad books. The financial advice author multiplied income from his book sales by making plenty of speaking engagements and appearing on Oprah and PBS. But he failed to pay a cut to The Learning Annex, which helped him arrange these tour stops. Earlier this year a judge ruled that Kiyosaki must pay the company $24 million, and the decision has apparently broken the author's piggy bank. He has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with his corporate entity Rich Global. Still, Forbes estimates the author's worth at $80 million, and he owns ten other companies, so he should land on his feet just fine. But many of his critics are probably loving the schadenfreude of seeing him in financial trouble. Forbes' Helaine Olen has said that his advice "ran the gamut from ridiculous to illegal and downright hurtful." [Business Insider]

Uggie: My Story. All of you writers out there shopping book proposals to no avail won't want to hear this, but they're giving book deals to dogs now. That's right. Uggie from The Artist has a book deal with Simon & Schuster, and you still don't. [New York Daily News]

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