January 12, 2012

Et tu, Nancy Pearl?


Amazon's newest publisher

Nancy Pearl, the reigning “Librarian of the Year” and widely acknowledged champion of all things library science, has done the unthinkable: partner with Amazon.

BusinessWire reports:

Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Rediscoveries series, a line of Pearl’s favorite, presently out-of-print books to share with readers hungry for her expert recommendations. Book Lust Rediscoveries will publish approximately six books a year and will be made available for sale 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.

Say it ain’t so…

Pearl’s opinions and commentary on literacy and the role of libraries (and literature) in society are some of the most respected in her field. She is recognized as the inventor of the very successful “One book, One City” literacy campaign and has one numerous awards. Her likeness has graced ALA posters and more recently she was immortalized in the form of a bobblehead.

So what is she doing partnering with a predatory company like Amazon?

As Paul Constant noted in a report for Seattle’s The Stranger, “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.” (Emphasis his.)

But Pearl doesn’t seem to mind or be aware of the business practices of her new partner. Or maybe she doesn’t care or see them as a threat. It appears that what she is certain about is what she will be providing:

“I’m thrilled that Book Lust Rediscoveries makes it possible to republish many of my all-time favorite novels, all of which have long been out of print,” said Nancy Pearl. “Helping these wonderful books find new readers is, for me, a joy and a delight. I was blown away by Amazon Publishing’s enthusiasm for the project and the extent to which they really understood what I wanted to do.”

I bet they did. Amazon’s private war on publishers has become a little more public recently, which is without a doubt tied to their own publishing interests. I suppose that’s not Nancy Pearl’s concern, though perhaps it should be. What ought to be her concern as a leader of library advocacy is the fact that Amazon’s future is driven by customer loyalty programs, ones like their book lending system, which if perfected may prove yet another opponent for the already beleaguered library system. And as everyone learns a little too late in the game, you don’t want to have Amazon as an opponent.


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.