Sunday 19 November 2017

Richard Russo novel not for sale as e-book

Richard Russo with his newest work, 'Interventions,' in his home in Camden, Maine. A critic of e-books, Russo won't allow Interventions to be sold in electronic form. Photo: AP
Richard Russo with his newest work, 'Interventions,' in his home in Camden, Maine. A critic of e-books, Russo won't allow Interventions to be sold in electronic form. Photo: AP

Martin Chilton

RICHARD Russo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, says his latest novel, Interventions, "is a tribute to the printed book" and is not for sale in an electronic version.

His new book is intended to give readers a "book book" - as he calls printed books - experience.



Russo, 62, is the author of seven novels, including Bridge of Sighs, That Old Cape Magic and Empire Falls, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize and was made into an HBO mini-series starring Paul Newman. His novel Nobody's Fool was turned into a successful film starring Bruce Wilis.



Interventions is a collection of four separate volumes packaged in a slipcase, each with a postcard-sized colour print of a painting by Russo's daughter, Kate. The collection, three short stories and a novella, is published on high-quality sustainably harvested paper.



Russo, talking to the Associated Press from his home in Maine, said that the rapid rise of e-books and online sales of printed books pose threats to bookstores, the publishing industry and the rise of new authors.



He said: "I encourage the idea of buying locally. I think this particular book is part of that groundswell of people who are beginning to understand that buying all of your books through online booksellers is like buying everything from online sellers, whether it's flat-screen TVs or flowers or whatever. I think there's a groundswell of people who are beginning to understand the implications of that. And that's the only justification I have for saying print books are unlikely to disappear."



Interventions explores the minds of a real estate agent, a Belgian nun and a young professor as they obsess over a crisis in which a character has to step in and intervene. The final piece is a short memoir exploring Russo's relationship with the town he grew up in, Gloversville, New York, and its decline with the collapse of manufacturing.



Kate provided the paintings that serve as illustrations, and her husband Tom Butler designed the books, which were published by local Camden business Down East Books.



Russo wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times in December criticising Amazon's price-check App that allows shoppers to scan a product's bar code in a store to see how much they'd save by buying online. He's also critical of the way online booksellers seem to market their books. When people search for books by key words on websites, the results usually direct them toward popular, older and best-selling authors, he said. In independent bookstores, employees can steer customers toward books by less well known authors.



He doesn't want to be known solely as an Amazon or e-book basher and says that he reads books on his iPad when he's travelling. But he's keen on promoting the idea of diversity - of how books are published, how they're sold and how they're read.



"I'm fine with online booksellers," Russo added. "I just don't want them to control the world."

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