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Book News: Battle Rages On In Amazon Vs. Overstock Price War

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

  • A price war between Amazon.com and Overstock.com will stretch into a second week, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne told Publisher's Weekly. Overstock started it last week when it priced 360,000 books 10 percent lower than what Amazon was charging, and Amazon responded by dropping prices on many of its most popular books. As of Friday morning, for example, the hardcover edition of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl was $11.81 on Amazon and $10.63 on Overstock — a huge markdown from the list price of $25. The hardcover edition of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (list price $17.99) was only $7.43 on Overstock on Friday, and $9.24 on Amazon, though at one point last week it was even lower. Byrne told CNET that he's willing to race to the bottom: "If they go to 10 cents, I'll go to 9 cents." PW reports that Byrne "plans to keep up the pressure on Amazon by continuing the deep discounts through midnight August 7."
  • A school in Queens, N.Y., dropped Sherman Alexie's National Book Award-winning young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from its required reading list after parents complained that the book mentions masturbation. One mother told The New York Daily News, "It was like Fifty Shades of Grey for kids." The book is a semi-autobiographical novel about a kid growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation who leaves the reservation to attend a white school nearby. After his book was banned by an Oregon school in 2008, Alexie told The Bulletin newspaper, "Everything in the book is what every kid in that school is dealing with on a daily basis, whether it's masturbation or racism or sexism or the complications of being human."
  • Alexander Maksik tells The Atlantic how the E.E. Cummings poem "i sing of Olaf glad and big" made him want to become a writer: "In that classroom, at twelve years old, I was so angry, so sad on Olaf's behalf, so hypnotized by my pacing teacher. I wanted to do something about it. And if a short poem could make me feel this way, could show me something I'd never seen, well then what I wanted to do was write."
  • Author Orhan Pamuk spoke to Pankaj Mishra at The New Republic about Turkey and the future of the novel: "[T]he art of the novel has immense continuity, because it has elasticity. It can use anthropology, it can use essays, New Journalism, blogs, the Internet. You can make novels out of everything. Journalists call and say, 'Mr. Pamuk, the art of the novel is dying.' No, it's not. It's strong, everyone is writing them, everyone wants to read them. ... I think the form has immense possibilities."
  • The American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson bought a ring owned by Jane Austen last year for about $228,000, but British authorities have barred her from taking it out of the U.K. until the end of September in the hopes that a British person will buy the gold and turquoise ring. The British culture minister Ed Vaizey told several newspapers, "Jane Austen's modest lifestyle and her early death mean that objects associated with her of any kind are extremely rare, so I hope that a UK buyer comes forward so this simple but elegant ring can be saved for the nation." One wonders whether Greece will cite this incident next time they ask that their national treasures be returned from the British Museum.
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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.
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