It’s a move that has some betrayed bibliophiles asking, “Et tu, Nancy?”
Yes, rockstar librarian Nancy Pearl, of “Book Lust” fame, has signed a deal with Amazon. Earlier this month, the online behemoth bookseller announced “Book Lust Rediscoveries,” a series of Pearl’s favorite, out-of-print books that will be published and made available for sale via Amazon.com. Each of the books is personally selected by Pearl and will include an introduction, discussion questions, and list of recommended readings from her. The first two books to be published in the series are “A Gay and Melancholy Sound,” by Merle Miller, and “After Life,” by Rhian Ellis.
“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,” Nancy Pearl said in a statement with Amazon. “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.”
Pearl is among the most respected bibliophiles in the literary world, known for her fresh and fearless commentary on the role of literature, literacy, and libraries in American society. A frequent commentator on NPR, Pearl is the inventor of the successful “One book, One City,” literacy campaign and has won numerous awards for promoting books and reading. Heck, the woman even has a bobblehead named after her.
So, asks Paul Oliver of Melville House Books, “What is she doing partnering with a predatory company like Amazon?”
No doubt, it’s a move many of her supporters are questioning. Writes Paul Constant in a report for Seattle’s “The Stranger”: “[M]any 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.”
Adds Vladimir Verano of Third Place Press in a blog with the Seattle Weekly, "I kind of feel disappointed that Nancy's choice will have a sense of betrayal with a lot of librarians and independent booksellers across the country, not just Seattle."
Pearl says she isn’t surprised by the reaction.
“There's been pushback that I've gone over to the dark side and allied myself with these people who are destroying the book business as we know it," Pearl told NPR’s Lynn Neary.
But it turns out Pearl and her agent shopped the idea to many publishers and Amazon jumped at the chance to work with the respected librarian. “She had reservations about going with Amazon,” reports NPR, “but says she and her agent shopped the idea to other publishers who didn't pick it up. Pearl says she and her agent were impressed my Amazon's enthusiasm for ‘resurrecting books that never should have gone out of print in the first place.’”
We’re excited that these out-of-print books will be made available to public again and applaud Pearl for finding a way to make her “dream come true,” as she described it to 94.9 KUOW.
What do you think? Was Pearl’s move a betrayal or a blessing to her supporters?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.