International News Sampler
In Soviet Russia, books read YOU. Alternatively, they appear in British bookstores or are assigned by your despotic prime minister:
- Waterstones is opening a Russian mini-store within its London flagship location. Slova, Russian for “letters,” will stock around 5,000 Russian language titles and Russian books in translation. Aside from the fact that I can’t think of anything more glorious than an establishment dedicated to books and vodka—which absolutely must have been the store’s working name before they settled on Slova—the fact that HMV, Waterstones’ parent company, was acquired by Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s A&NN Capital Management in May 2011 probably has nothing whatsoever to do with this. At all.
- In an attempt to “preserve the dominance of Russian culture”—to those of us previously unaware of this key fact, apparently Russian culture is currently dominant—Vladimir Putin is compiling a list of 100 books that will constitute the definitive “Russian canon” and become mandatory reading for Russian schoolchildren if elections go his way. The idea of Vladimir Putin telling anyone, whether it be impressionable schoolchildren, chess masters, or hobos, what to read thoroughly creeps me out. Journalist Alexander Nazaryan feels the same.
- According to Lord Patten’s testimony at the Leveson Inquiry, media publishing mogul Rupert Murdoch dropped Patten’s memoir on his time as governor of Hong Kong from the HarperCollins list for fear that the book’s publication would endanger the expansion of the publishing house into China. However, the book was published in America with the sticker “the book Rupert Murdoch refused to publish,” which allegedly increased sales by tens of thousands. So a win for everyone, really.
- Greg Greeley, vice president of European retail for Amazon, had a sticky time of it at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich last Monday. When he spoke in defense of traditional companies struggling to survive in the digital age, tech journalist David Kirkpatrick, who hosted the panel, responded with “you mean the ones you’re rendering irrelevant.” Gotta love it when the gloves come off.
- Coinciding with Europe’s fanciest comic book festival, which opens this week in Angoulême, France, the Paris regional government’s book and writing “observatory,” Le MOTif, has released the third in a series of reports on comic book piracy. Although comic books constitute 10 to 14 percent of France’s global book market, there is a scarcity of comics available in ebook form, which has given rise to nearly 100 organized teams of pirates that have scanned anywhere from 30,000 to 35,000 comics so far.
- Italy’s RCS Mediagroup giant, owner of Rizzoli, Oxford University Press, Skira, and Flammarion, may be selling the last—even though the Flammarion group finished off 2011 in a “satisfactory” way, partially due to increased sales of Tintin books following the release of the Steven Spielberg film. Personally, I think the saddest thing about all this is that I typed “& Isles” after Rizzoli and almost kept it there because it looked so right.