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Book News: Deal To Buy Perseus May Boost Hachette's Hand In Amazon Fight

Visitors walk through the Hachette Book Group's exhibition in May at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention in New York.
Mark Lennihan
Visitors walk through the Hachette Book Group's exhibition in May at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention in New York.

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

  • Hachette Book Group has agreed to buy the Perseus Books Group, continuing a wave of consolidation in the publishing world that includes HarperCollins' acquisition of Harlequin earlier this year and the Penguin-Random House merger last year. Perseus' client services arm (that is, its distribution services for smaller presses) will be sold off to the distributor Ingram Content Group. Hachette's big sellers tend to be blockbuster fiction – recent hits include Robert Galbraith's The Silkworm and various James Patterson thrillers. Perseus, on the other hand, is a trade publisher with a strong nonfiction backlist and imprints including Basic Books, DaCapo and PublicAffairs. The New York Times reports that the sale will strengthen Hachette in its fight with Amazon, citing the publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin, who said it would make the company less dependent on those fiction best-sellers. Shatzkin notes: "The business they are best at is the highest-risk business, and this would give them a more stable and diverse base. In one fell swoop this broadens them enormously."
  • In Zoetrope, Lena Dunham writes about discovering Alice Munro: "I came to Alice Munro after her Nobel Prize win, like a girl discovering Maroon 5 circa 2014 and deciding they are an indie band. Because, new as I am to her, and sure as we all are that she is the queen of her form, I still feel that Alice Munro is mine."
  • "[T]he field of Yiddish linguistics is filled with an intensity that often leaves the tourist astonished." That's from Tablet, which reports on the "character assassinations, pseudonymous academic hits, accusations of lunacy, and denials of the existence of the Jewish people" that have come to populate the field.
  • Lambda Literary reports that Nancy Garden, trailblazing lesbian children's book author and free speech advocate, has died at the age of 76. Although she wrote dozens of books, Garden is best known for her lesbian coming-of-age novel Annie on My Mind, copies of which were burned by angry parents in a Kansas City school district. The book also was the subject of a First Amendment lawsuit after it was taken off school shelves. In an interview, Garden said she wrote it because "when I was in my teens and beginning to realize that I was gay, I hunted in vain for books that would help me understand who and what I was. The little I found was almost entirely negative. Encyclopedia articles said I was sick, evil, doomed to a lonely miserable life. There were no books for kids, and the few I found for adults were gloomy or tragic — lesbian characters committed suicide, were sent to mental institutions, died in car crashes, or turned straight."
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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.