A well-informed analysis of significant cultural change that should interest anyone who works in book publishing.

BOOK WARS

THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN PUBLISHING

A multifaceted portrait of the publishing industry and how it has been altered by digital technology.

British sociologist Thompson follows his study of trade publishers, Merchants of Culture (2010), with an authoritative examination of the effect of the digital revolution on Anglo-American book publishing. Drawing on nearly 200 interviews with senior publishing executives and other staff, hundreds of interviews he had conducted in researching Merchants, and considerable proprietary data, the author reveals the complexities of a transformation that, he asserts, in still underway. He recounts in detail early efforts to find content for digitalization, such as the Google Library Project, Project Gutenberg, and the HathiTrust Digital Library, which resulted in years of lawsuits by publishers who sought to maintain control over content. Publishers worried, as well, about the e-book, fearing that it would render the print-and-paper book obsolete. The release of Amazon’s Kindle in November 2007 seemed threatening, but Thompson discovered that after a surge in popularity, consumer interest in e-books has diminished. Furthermore, some content—e.g., cookbooks and illustrated books—never translated well into digital format. Nevertheless, digitalization has produced a “democratization of culture” that has allowed writers to reach readers without publishing houses as gatekeepers. Self-publishing opportunities and services, crowdfunding from sites such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and social media platforms such as Wattpad, where “readers and writers interact around the shared activity of writing and reading stories,” have opened up new access points for authors. Publishers have responded by becoming more reader-centric and looking for ways to create a diversified marketplace. Although optimistic about the future of the book, Thompson warns about Amazon’s unfettered domination. “Regulatory policies that were devised for an earlier era of capitalism,” he writes, “need to be reconsidered in a new era in which the accumulation and control of information have come to form a crucial basis of corporate power.”

A well-informed analysis of significant cultural change that should interest anyone who works in book publishing.

Pub Date: April 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5095-4678-7

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Polity

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

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PERSIST

The Massachusetts senator and financial reformer recounts several of her good fights over the years.

Famous for being chided for “persisting” on the Senate floor, Warren is nearly a byword for the application of an unbending, if usually polite, feminism to the corridors of power. Though she has a schoolmarm-ish air—and indeed taught school for much of her life—she gladly owns up to liking a beer or two and enjoying a good brawl, and she’s a scrapper with a long memory. In 2008, when she shopped a proposal to found a federal agency that “could act as a watchdog to make sure that consumers weren’t getting cheated by financial institutions,” she encountered a congressman who “laughed in my face.” She doesn’t reveal his name, but you can bet he crosses the hall when she’s coming the other way. Warren does name other names, especially Donald Trump, who, with Republicans on the Hill, accomplished only one thing, namely “a $2 trillion tax cut that mostly benefited rich people.” Now that the Democrats are in power, the author reckons that the time is ripe to shake off the Trump debacle and build “a nation that works, not just for the rich and powerful but for everyone.” She identifies numerous areas that need immediate attention, from financial reform to bringing more women into the workplace and mandating equal pay for equal work. Warren premises some of these changes on increased taxes on the rich, happily citing a billionaire well known for insider trading, who complained of her, “This is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.” The author reverts to form: “Oh dear. Did I hit a nerve?” Warren’s common-sensical proposals on housing, infrastructure development, and civil rights merit attention, and her book makes for a sometimes-funny, sometimes–sharp-tongued pleasure.

A lively and thoughtful memoir that, one hopes, will inspire readers to pursue activism in every realm of society.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-79924-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: yesterday

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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