paper trail

Ronan Farrow on “journalists under fire”; Alex Shephard looks at Amazon's bestseller book deals

Ronan Farrow

At the New Republic Alex Shephard looks at recent deals between Amazon.com and best-selling authors Dean Koontz and Patricia Cornwell. Shephard warns that this may be the beginning of a worrying trend for traditional book publishers, as Amazon bypasses the industry by acquiring, publishing, marketing, and retailing book all on their own terms. With Amazon-controlled companies like Audible, Kindle, and Amazon Prime Video also in the mix, the online giant can make an appealing pitch to lure big-name writers. Shephard argues that book publishers have grown complacent as the industry has been relatively healthy lately, divesting from the very areas that would help protect them from Amazon’s threat: “To a large extent, book publishers have themselves to blame. Despite arguing that they provided necessary intangibles to the book-publishing process, they have spent the last decade gutting their marketing and editorial departments. It is increasingly common for publishers to work with freelance editors, many of whom recently left or were pushed out of prestige imprints, on projects. The layoffs were a cost-cutting move as conglomerate publishers consolidated imprints, but it has inadvertently leveled the playing field.”

Two essential takes on the apocalyptic fires in Australia: Tim Flannery on the New York Review of Books blog and McKenzie Wark in Commune.

A new book by the late Anthony Bourdain will be published in October. Bourdain began writing World Travel: An Irreverent Guide before his death in 2018. His long-time collaborator Laurie Woolever has completed the book, supplementing it with essays by Bourdain’s friends and illustrations by Tony Millionaire.

In The Guardian: Newly opened archives reveal the doubts that the Nobel Prize committee had in granting Samuel Beckett the coveted award. The panel balked at the writer’s “bottomless contempt for the human condition,” “demonstratively negative or nihilistic nature,” and “artistically staged ghost poetry.” Beckett won out, but didn’t travel to Sweden to receive the prize in person.

Ronan Farrow’s first project with HBO will be an investigative report on threats to journalists. As Farrow explains, “Around the world, journalists are under fire. They’re being spied on using new surveillance technology, imprisoned, even murdered. And we’re seeing evolving tactics deployed against reporters in the United States, too, against the backdrop of a new era of misinformation campaigns and rhetoric that seeks to undermine the very idea of objective reporting.”