Nancy Pearl, the closest thing American libraries have to a celebrity, unleashed something of a shockwave through the book industry yesterday with the announcement that she is publishing a series of books with Amazon.
Apparently the NPR commentator and doyenne of public libraries and independent bookstores (who even has an action figure modeled on her) plans to publish about six books a year with Amazon, branded as Book Lust Rediscoveries. The titles will be Pearl's favorite out-of-print books from 1960-2000. It is to be assumed that all or most of the titles will be ones that she has recommended in her Book Lust recommended reading series of books - books that many would say were made popular by huge word of mouth enthusiasm from librarians and independent bookstores, who saw Pearl as one of their own.Amazon says that the books will be available "in print editions via Amazon.com and as audiobooks via Amazon.com and Audible.com, at bookstores, wholesalers and libraries nationwide and as eBooks in the Kindle Store." Each book will include an intro by Pearl and discussion questions.
Pearl, often referred to as "America's Favorite Librarian", is a former librarian and bookseller, and has long championed reading, libraries and independent bookstores. She plans to donate an unspecified amount of the proceeds to the Nancy Pearl Endowment for Public Librarianship at the University of Washington's Information School.
As it happens, Seattle is home to both Nancy Pearl and Amazon, so it's not surprising that the Seattle website, The Stranger, was one of the first to pick up rumors of the story last week. In a post last Friday, after failing to get Pearl to confirm the story, book editor Paul Constant wrote:
"If Pearl is bringing her recommendations to Amazon.com, many of the local librarians and independent booksellers who supported her and her Book Lust TV show and series of books will feel disappointed, and even betrayed, by the move. Many librarians distrust Amazon.com's spotty privacy issues and independent booksellers have a long history of issues with the Seattle-based online retailer."
What do you think? Is Pearl right to sign with Amazon, or should she have supported the independent bookstores that made her Book Lust series such a success in the first place?
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