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September 21, 2014

#englishontheside

Monday, July 7, 2014

Book wars

By Pablo Toledo
For the Herald
Anti-Amazon letter new bestseller?

Stephen King, Nora Roberts and Donna Tartt are among (*) the hundreds of authors who have added their names to an online letter criticizing Amazon.com for restricting access to works published by Hachette Book Group.

The letter, initiated by Hachette author Douglas Preston, urged (1) Amazon to resolve its standoff (2) with Hachette over e-book prices and other issues. Readers were asked to email Amazon CEO (3) Jeff Bezos and “tell him what you think.” Amazon has slowed delivery on books by Preston and other Hachette authors, limited discounts and removed pre-order tags for upcoming releases.

In a telephone interview Thursday, Preston said he was receiving so many emails of support that he felt like “a data entry clerk (4).” Known for such thrillers as Blasphemy and The Codex, Preston said he admired Amazon and appreciated how many of his books have sold through the online retailer. But he objected to Amazon’s “scorched earth (5) tactics.”

“Our focus for years has been to build a bookstore that benefits authors and readers alike,” read a statement issued Thursday by Amazon. “We take seriously and regret the impact it has when, however infrequently, a terms dispute with a publisher affects authors. We look forward to resolving this issue with Hachette as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, best-selling science fiction author Hugh Howey has written a petition addressed to readers that praises Amazon for offering low prices and for paying generous e-book royalties to authors published by Amazon. Howey, who has had great success selling e-books through Amazon, has been a leading defender of the Seattle-based company and an advocate (6) for self-publishing.

“You probably aren’t aware of this, but the majority of your favorite authors can’t make a living (7) off (*) their book sales alone,” reads the petition, which is supported by J.A. Konrath and other popular Amazon writers.

“Very few authors could when New York Publishing was in charge. That is changing now that Amazon and other online retailers are paying authors a fair wage.”

Adapted from a story by Hillel Italie, AP National Writer

To urge (1)
When you urge somebody to do something, you try very hard to persuade them to do that.

Standoff (2)
A standoff is a conflict which reaches a standstill or deadlock because the two sides cannot agree and are equally strong (or unwilling to give in). A Mexican standoff is a confrontation with only two opponents when neither side has an advantage in conceding or attacking first, so they just “point their gun” at each other waiting to see who acts first.

CEO (3)
CEO is an acronym for Chief Executive Officer, the most senior corporate officer (executive) or administrator in charge of managing an organization. Depending on the kind of organization and its country of origin, this position can also receive other names (Director, President, etc.).

Clerk (4)
A clerk is an employee who performs administrative or sales tasks. It is a kind of “white-collar worker” – people who work in offices/desks (and wear shirts with white collars, unlike “blue-collar workers” who work in factories or workshops and wear blue-collared overalls).

Scorched earth (5)
When armies retreated from a town, they used to scorch (burn) the earth behind them so that their enemies could not get food or any supplies from it. By extension, scorched earth refers to situations when you intentionally destroy something that is valuable and important to you so that others cannot have it.

Advocate (6)
An advocate for a cause is someone who supports it publicly and tries to convince others to do the same.

To make a living (7)
When you make a living, you earn enough money to support you and your family (similar to “make ends meet”: when you can make the end of your salary “meet” the end of the month).

* More fun with prepositions

One of the deep conceptual differences between English and Spanish is that English uses prepositions much more widely – just think of phrasal and prepositional verbs, or the thousands of phrases and constructions that get new or more specific meanings thanks to the strategic use of prepositions. It is no coincidence, then, that these are some of the trickiest things to master for learners!

In this story we have two great examples to learn from. In the phrase “among the hundreds of authors”, why use “among” instead of our old friend “between”? We use among to refer to three or more things, and between to, as a general rule, refer to only two people/objects. How tricky is that?

And “off” in “make a living off book sales” is not related to the spatial meaning (away from) or the extension of cancelled / inactive (turn off) – when you live off something, it is your main source of income or food, or the person from whom you get all of your money.

@destierrado

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