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Book News: German Minister Shows Support For Authors' Amazon Protest

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

  • Germany's culture and media minister is speaking out in support of a campaign by more than 1,000 German-speaking authors who have accused Amazon of manipulating bestseller lists and delaying deliveries. In a statement translated into English by the English-language paper The Local, Monika Grütters said she "welcomes and supports" the campaign, adding, "Market power and domination over central distribution channels should not endanger our cultural diversity." Amazon has been embroiled in a dispute with the German publisher Bonnier Group, a fight that in many ways resembles the retailer's standoff with Hachette Book Group in the U.S. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
  • Meanwhile, for Salon, Laura Miller argues that Amazon's problem may be a PR one: "Amazon much resembles a political party that hasn't figured out how to recalibrate its rhetoric to appeal to voters outside its base. Its pronouncements come in Amazonspeak, a language bred in a corporate echo chamber and the cheerleading threads of its self-publisher forums. ... The retailer is now up against a whole lot of people whose expertise is exactly that: communicating with the world. The real war between Amazon and Hachette, the economic one, remains up in the air, but the war of words is all over but the shouting."
  • Elusive Italian novelist Elena Ferrante gives a rare interview to Vogue: "The most difficult achievement is the capacity to see oneself, to name oneself, to imagine oneself. If in daily life we use ideologies, common sense, religion, even literature itself to disguise our experiences and make them presentable, in fiction it's possible to sweep away all the veils — in fact, perhaps, it's a duty."
  • For The Paris Review,Jonathan Guyer writes about Arabic noir: "The golden age of illicit crime fiction translation — from the 1890s through the 1960s --corresponds to the construction of the Egyptian nation, from colonial rule and monarchy to President Gamal Abdel Nasser's nationalization project."
  • For a feature on diversity in publishing, NPR's Lynn Neary talks to Ken Chen, director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop. She writes: "Too often, Chen says, publishing companies say they would publish more diverse books, but the market just isn't there for them. Chen doesn't buy that. 'Your ability to imagine that there is a market has to do with your ability to imagine that those people exist,' he says. 'And if [you] can't imagine that people of color actually exist and can buy books, then you can't imagine selling books to them. That's not just about a company corporate diversity policy; it's about actually knowing what's going on in communities of color.' " (See also: Junot Diaz's essay from a few months ago about the overwhelming whiteness of MFA programs.)
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    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.