Amazon Gets All Publish-y and Stuff

In its continual attempts to become the Wal-Mart of the literary world (there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one), Amazon, the strapping, young Fabio, has gone on a Quest for Fair Maidens: the trembling, nubile, romance writer.

This week, Amazon announced that it will be launching its own line of romance novels, called “Montlake Publishing.” Sounds vaguely knight-y and seductive, no?  The books will be available in all forms of media: on Amazon’s Kindle, traditional print, and audio. The line is scheduled to debut in the Fall.

Why would Amazon want to bother with getting into the direct publishing end of the business? Well, for several reasons. First, they are in a great position to sell to their customers. They can advertise on the site, of course, but they also have access to their customers’ buying habits and can recommend selections to them.

Why a romance line? That was probably a no-brainer. Romance novels are voraciously consumed by readers. Romance Writers of America reports that sales for 2009 topped 1.37 billion dollars.

In addition to romance novels, Montlake will also eventually offer science fiction, thrillers,  and mysteries. While the initial titles will likely be from relatively unknown authors, it seems plausible that bigger names will want to get in on Amazon’s mass audience.


Rolling in the Big Bucks! (Just Kidding) A Snapshot of Academic Salaries

Over the past several months, there has been much talk about how teachers make a heck of a lot of money. I read and listened to several of these reports as I waited for the water to boil for my ramen noodles.

This week, the Chronicle of Higher Education released data showing the average salaries of professors from hundreds of academic institutions across the nation—from tenured profs at private institutions that grant doctoral degrees, to adjuncts who teach at community colleges.

Not surprisingly, private universities like Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton offered the highest paying positions, averaging a nice $190k or so per year. Professors at the top levels of public universities earn about a third less than their private counterparts.

Of course, these positions are few and far between. Most professors work in lower tiered schools. The average for these colleges ranges from about $87k for a tenured professor to around $40k for a professor of “no rank” (adjuncts).

While the highest paying schools certainly provide a nice living for their professors, even they fall far below what those individuals might be earning in the non-academic world. In fact, that is probably true of an academic on any rung of the teaching ladder.

Where does your school fall in the salary range? Read the full report here. If you are considering teaching, does this information change your mind at all? While it’s true that no one goes into teaching for the money, the reality is quite eye-opening, to say the least.


National Book Critics Circle Award Finalists Announced

This past Saturday, the finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced.  Among the finalists are  Johnathan Franzen for Freedom and Siddhartha Mukharjee for The Emperor of All Maladies.

Along with the Pulitzer Prize (2010 winner, Tinkers by Paul Harding) and the Man Booker Prize (2010 winner, The Finkler Question by Harold Jacobson), the NBCC Award is among the most coveted of literary prizes.

The first NBCC award was given in 1974 at the historic Algonquin Hotel in New York City, where literature’s illuminati gathered in the 1920s. The goal of the NBCC is to extend that intimate conversation of the Round Table into a “national conversation.”

There are six categories for which the prize is awarded: autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The winners are selected by critics, of course. There is an additional award called the “Balakian” which “honors working critics.”

Here is a full list of 2010′s finalist nominees:

Fiction:

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (Knopf)
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (FSG)
To the End of the Land by David Grossman (Knopf)
Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson (FSG)
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (Faber & Faber)

Nonfiction:

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick (Random House)
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne (Scribner)
Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans (Random House)
The Emporer of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (Random House)

Autobiography:

Half A Life by Darin Strauss (McSweeneys)
Just Kids by Patti Smith (Ecco)
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate by Kai Bird (Scribner)
Autobiography of An Execution by David Dow (Hachette)
Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve)
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (Feminist Press)

Biography:

How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Questions and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell (Other Press)
The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography by Selina Hastings
Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History by Yuente Huang
The Killing of Crazy Horse by Thomas Powers
Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends by Tom Segev

Criticism:

The Posessed by Elif Batuman (FSG)
The Professor and Other Writings by Terry Castle (HarperCollins)
Lyric Poetry and Modern Politics: Russia, Poland, and the West by Clare Cavanagh (Yale)
The Cruel Radience: Photography and Political Violence by Susan Linfield (Univ. of Chicago)
Vanishing Point by Ander Monson (Graywolf)

Poetry:

One With Others by C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon)
Nox by Anne Carson (New Directions)
The Eternal City by Kathleen Graber (Princeton)
Lighthead by Terrance Hayes (Penguin)
The Best of It by Kay Ryan (Grove)


We Must Obarmate Against the Loss of Words…To Let Them Go Would be Venalia

Adopt a word. Save our language.

Why save a word? Well, as the website savethewords.org argues, “90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7,000 words,” yet there are “old words, wise words, [and] hard-working words…that once led meaningful lives [but] now lie, unused, unloved, and unwanted.”

The site draws you in with a clever cacophony of sounds and a modernist canvass of labels and signs, each in different fonts, colors, and sizes. Hover over a word and it pipes up with pleas like “Choose me!” while the word next to it demands, “Yo, pick me!”

Click on a word, and you are invited to “adopt” it.  If you make the commitment, you “hereby promise to use this word, in conversation and correspondence, as frequently as possible to the best of [your] ability.” Enter your username and password, and you are now the proud adoptive parent of a wayward word. After adopting, you are also encouraged to buy a t-shirt with your word of choice.

Savethewords.org is the brain-child of advertising executive Edward Ong. Ong’s agency, Young and Rubicam, based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, was hired by the Oxford English Dictionary to promote the print version of its dictionary. Both the OED and Young and Rubicam hope that interest in the obscure words, not found in the online version of the OED, will promote sales of its traditional print version.

In an interview with National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Ong confessed to host Robert Siegel that they have been shocked by the popularity of the site: “The site kept crashing,” he said, “and we wondering: What in the world? We found that a lot of people have adopted it, a lot of bloggers have used it, a lot of people are talking about it.”

So, what are you waiting for? A periantique word just might give you cause for some good blateration at your next cocktail party.


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