Protests, restrictions, and the rise of AI helped shape the publishing story


New York (AP) - book publishing 2023 was a story of declining sales and increasing conflict, marked by legal action, protests, censorship, and the influence of forces beyond the industry.

Print book sales continued to decline after the pandemic-era surge, but thanks to young readers on BookTok, fiction remained strong. Colleen Hoover, one of BookTok's signature authors, continued her reign as the country's best-selling author in 2023, even without releasing a new book. Three of his novels tracked by Circana were among the top 10 sellers along with other popular releases including novellas. Two authors, Sarah J. By Maas and Rebecca Yaros, who is considered the leader of romanticism, a new branded genre that combines romance and fantasy.

Otherwise book news was shaped by courtrooms, boardrooms, palace gossip, technological advances, and growing divisions in America and abroad:

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The year was typified by the million-selling statements of celebrities separated from their families: Prince Harry's "spare" And Britney Spears's "The Woman in Me." Both were stories of imprisonment and repression, from palace life that Harry feared might force his wife — Meghan, Duchess of Sussex — to take her own life, to the conservatorship that cut off Spears' father from her finances. Gave him authority over everything, right up to his capacity. Have children. Harry presents his life as a kind of reckoning, beginning the book with William Faulkner's famous observation: “The past is never dead. It's not the past yet.” Spears looks back hopefully at the youthful promise she made to herself: “I can make my own way in life. I can make my dreams come true.”

ChatGPT is not yet a major force in the book market, but real-life authors are concerned enough to take legal steps to stop it or at least control it. Several lawsuits were filed in 2023, including one Class-action lawsuit brought B Other authors include the Authors Guild and George RR Martin and John Grisham. The plaintiffs allege that ChatGPT is a "huge commercial enterprise" that relies on "systematic piracy on a large scale."

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild, told the Associated Press that she thinks the industry is on the verge of an "explosion" of AI-generated books, which could well cut into the earnings of authors, most of whom already have their own. Earn very little from work.

“We have to put some money back into the system,” says Rasenberger, who advocates that authors be compensated for out-of-copyright books used in AI programs.

Simon & Schuster, home of Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and many others, which will turn 100 in 2024, is a kind of parable of a corporate-owned publisher being unable to control its own destiny.

Sold to Gulf & Western in 1975, Simon & Schuster has since been part of various leadership structures, most recently Paramount Global. The company had solid growth into 2023, but once Paramount decided it was "a non-core asset", its future was a matter of market calculations and antitrust law. After a federal judge blocked Penguin Random House's acquisition of its longtime rival, citing a potential lessening of competition, Paramount sold Simon & Schuster to private equity firm KKR.

Paramount's farewell statement had all the poetry of the quarterly balance sheet: "Simon & Schuster is well positioned for future growth, and the transaction itself represents significant value capture for Paramount and meaningfully furthers our de-leveraging plan." Increases."

Pressure from the publishing industry to offer more diverse books continued to clash with increasing restrictions and attempts to ban American Library Association report It has reached levels not seen in decades, with Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and John Green's "Looking for Alaska" being removed from shelves. In late 2023, Green was among the authors who signed the Penguin Random House lawsuit over Iowa's restrictions on depictions of sexual content and gender identity.

Even attempts to find a middle ground proved untenable. When Scholastic separated some of the miscellaneous books into a separate package that communities could pre-order for school fairs, authors became angry and The children's publisher apologized. It has since announced a new strategy that incorporates diverse books into the overall catalog while also allowing schools to "make their own local merchandising decisions, just like any bookshop or library, as He always has."

Netflix flak, Drew withdrawn

The Hollywood strikes did not only affect the film and television industries. Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos, whose company was a major player in the writers' strike, Decided not to attend PEN America event, Where he was to receive the Business Visionary Award. Drew Barrymore was eliminated As host of the National Book Awards he began taping his own talk show while its writers were still on strike. His replacement was actor and literacy advocate LeVar Burton.

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza divided the literary community in ways that mirrored other public debates.

Russian writer-activist Masha Gessen Resigned as PEN board vice president After the literary and human rights organization canceled the event which was scheduled to feature both Russian and Ukrainian panelists. (The Ukrainians objected to the Russians' involvement.) Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert declared She will postpone her novel "The Snow Forest" Because some Ukrainians objected to the story taking place in Russia. Gilbert called his decision "a corrective step."

Authorities at the Frankfurt fair canceled a tribute to Palestinian writer Adania Shibli, who was due to receive the prize for women writers from Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Arab world. Author-publisher-podcaster Zibby Owens, a sponsor of the National Book Awards, withdrew his support when he learned that some finalists would read a statement about the war. Owens feared that the writers would "unite en masse to use their speeches to promote a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel agenda," but the actual statement condemned Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian bias as well as anti-Semitism. done.

The 92nd Street Y in Manhattan canceled an event with Pulitzer winner Viet Thanh Nguyen because he had signed a petition protesting Israel's invasion of Gaza. With writers denouncing the decision and several staffers resigning, the Y halted its fall literary program. Meanwhile, Nguyen was invited to present at the independent bookstore McNally Jackson.

Nguyen later wrote on Instagram, "I talked about my book, yes, but also how art is silenced in times of war and division because some people want to see the world only as us versus them. Are." “And writing is the only way I know how to fight. And writing is the only way I know how to grieve.”

Copyright 2023 The associated Press, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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