Today in books and publishing: Publishers are unsure what they can afford to give up to avoid going to court over alleged price collusion, the Clinton White House does not come off well in a former Secret Service agent's new memoir, and the National Book Critics Circle Awards are announced.
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Much to the chagrin of the Secret Service, a former agent named Dan Emmett has self-published Within Arm's Reach, a gossipy book about the Clinton White House, which, if you believe the author, was staffed almost exclusively by frosty, jerkish types. Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan explains tell-alls by former agents are frowned upon because they can "erode the trust that we have with our protectees.” This is a reasonable concern, though we'd suggest anyone who is important enough to be given Secret Service protection is resigned to the fact that someone, someday is going to write an unflattering book about them. Emmett takes it relatively easy on the Clintons -- though he does note the former First Lady rarely said thank you and, unlike her husband and daughter, was not particularly "cordial or outgoing" He's much tougher on various unnamed White House staffers, both for treating agents like "hired help," and because they did foolish, potentially dangerous things. One unidentified male staffer, for example, thought it wise to confront a former KGB agent during a 1993 presidential visit to Moscow "as if he were dealing with a Wackenhut security officer in Toledo." We don't know what that consists of precisely, but it's probably not the way you want to approach an ex-KGB type. [Washington Examiner via Political Bookworm]
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More details are emerging about the reported settlement negotiations including some, but not all, of the five publishers at the center of the Department of Justice investigation into whether the industry colluded to inflate e-book prices. Apparently all the participants are convinced the current agency pricing model must be retained, because selling e-books under the traditional wholesale model -- where retailers could buy titles for half the suggested retail price and sell them for whatever amount they wanted -- would allow Amazon to effectively price smaller competitors out of existence. Even those publishers that have participated in the settlement talks -- which apparently have been going on for months -- are divided on what, exactly, they can afford to give up. And according to the Financial Times, there's also been talk about the relative difficulty the government would face in actually proving collusion if they did end up going to trial. [The New York Times and Financial Times]
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The National Book Critics Circle Awards for 2011 were handed out last night in New York. Here is the list of winners:
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Fiction: Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman
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Non-fiction: Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff
Biography: George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
Autobiography: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Criticism: Otherwise Known as the Human Condition by Geoff Dyer
Poetry: Space, in Chains by Laura Kasischke
Today in big-money acquisitions of books with seemingly limited commercial appeal news: Bloomsbury has secured Sophia, a non-fiction title about Princess Sophia Duleep Singh -- one of the Suffragettes -- with a "large six-figure offer" that wasn't even the largest of the eight six-figure bids fielded by author Anita Anand. Bloomsbury editor-in-chief Alexandra Pringle raved about the title's potential, calling it "one of the most wonderful non-fiction projects I have come across in all my years in publishing." For that kind of money, you'd certainly hope so. [The Bookseller]