Writers Strike, Bookstores Tussle, Gigantic Book on the Road

Bookstr News: Hollywood writers go on strike, Oprah’s new Book Club pick, and a gigantic book on the move!

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writers strike 2023

Hello hello, welcome back to Bookstr News! In case you’re new to this space, Bookstr News is where we bring you the latest news from the book world. A lot has been happening lately, so let’s get straight to it! 

Utah Author Charged with Husband’s Murder

We’re beginning this segment with an unfortunate story with a shocking twist. A Utah woman who wrote a children’s book on coping with grief has been charged with the murder of her husband. Kouri Richins, 33, faces first-degree murder charges and is scheduled to appear in court on May 19.

On March 4, 2022, Richins found her husband, Eric Richins “cold to the touch” and not breathing, prompting her to call 911. The couple had been celebrating a new home they bought together, although documents from an investigation reveal that Eric told family members they were not buying the home.

A few weeks prior to his death, Eric told family and friends he had a suspicion that Kouri was trying to poison him. Kouri had unsuccessfully tried altering Eric’s life insurance policy, and Eric had Kouri removed from his will without her knowledge.

Almost exactly one year after Eric’s death, Kouri published a children’s book titled Are You With Me? to “create peace and comfort for children who have lost a loved one.” She and Eric have three sons together.

Taylor Swift Fans Accidentally Make Random Book A Bestseller

k-pop boy band BTS
K-Pop boy band BTS. | Image via BIGHIT.

Yes, you read that correctly. Taylor Swift fans (also known as “Swifties”) accidentally made a random book — initially titled “4C Untitled Flatiron Nonfiction Summer 2023” — a bestseller after assuming Taylor Swift was hinting at the release of her book.

The book was actually written by K-Pop superstars BTS, one of the most popular boy bands in the music industry. BTS, comprised of seven members, have written their memoir with journalist Myeongseok Kang. The book will be published on July 9 this year by Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan.

Swifties took certain numerology cues to jump to their conclusion. The book is 544 pages, and fans added together the digits to the sum of 13, which Taylor Swift once revealed as her lucky number. The second assumption fans made was based on the July 9 publication date, which is two days after the release of her album “Speak Now (Taylor’s Version).”

On the other hand, July 9 is a significant date for BTS fans, marking the 10-year anniversary of the fandom being founded. BTS supporters are known by the acronym ARMY, short for “Adorable Representative MC for Youth.”

“No Writers. No TV”

Writers Guild of America Goes on Strike 

Television and film writers in Hollywood went on strike Tuesday, May 2 to push for better pay and stable employment, among other concerns. The strike was against major Hollywood production studios Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBC-Universal, Paramount, Sont, and Discovery-Warner.  

The strike, supported by the Writers Guild of America, came just as an older contract was ending that did not put into place better working conditions for writers. The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers, which represents the studios, failed to reach an agreement with WGA, which prompted them to declare the strike. 

An estimated 11,500 writers went on strike in Los Angeles and New York chanting “No Writers. No TV”, with some actors joining them in solidarity. The last time writers went on strike was from November 2007 to February 2008, costing an estimated $2.1 billion lost to the local economy. 

This time around, the strike is estimated to last longer and have a greater impact, according to those knowledgeable about the industry’s inner workings. Negotiations began in March, with WGA asking for healthcare benefits and pensions, and to keep screenwriting a viable profession instead of turning it into a gig economy riddled with uncertainty. 

Simply put, studios are receiving the bulk of profit generated from streaming shows, while writers barely earn a fraction of that money. 

“Writers in Hollywood are basically gig workers with a union, constantly looking for their next job.”

Mandalit del Barco, NPR

One of the main issues is the expansion of “mini rooms,” where fewer writers are employed than in a traditional writing room. The downside of mini rooms is that writers are called in on a temporary basis, paid union minimum wage instead of their regular fees, and aren’t kept on the payroll for longer. 

Artificial Intelligence also poses a threat to the livelihood of writers. WGA wants to prevent studios from using AI to generate new scripts based on writers’ previous work or ask writers to rewrite AI-generated drafts. 

Bookstores and Publishers Under Scrutiny 

Barnes & Noble Called Out For Sale on Independent Bookstore Day

April 29 marks Independent Bookstore Day each year. The day is aimed at promoting online and in-store sales at independent bookstores, as well as allowing local bookstores to sell their merchandise and make an impact in their local community. 

This year, bookstore conglomerate Barnes & Noble offered a pre-order 25 percent off sale the weekend of Independent Bookstore Day, sparking backlash from readers.

Barnes & Noble bookseller

The biggest issue with chain bookstores is that it detracts sales from local bookstores which tend to have a more niche selection of books that have typically supported underrepresented authors. 

Local and independent bookstores are more than just a place to buy books; they are spaces for community gathering and political activism; they carry signed copies of books, host events with authors, and give back to the local economy. 

According to this viewpoint, Barnes & Noble is competing with independent bookstores rather than with Amazon and other major booksellers. 

The irony is that Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt used to be an independent bookseller before being recruited to save the dying book chain. 

Despite the growth of booksellers like Amazon, there are always ways to support local bookstores to keep them and the community thriving. 

Supreme Court Judges Did Not Recuse Themselves in Penguin Random House Cases

Two Supreme Court Justices, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch did not recuse themselves from cases brought forward by publishing giant Penguin Random House despite receiving huge sums of money from book deals with the publisher. 

Penguin Random House appealed to the Supreme Court for two separate cases of infringement, once in 2013 and later in 2019, which was appealed again in 2020. In both cases, the Supreme Court turned away the cases. Penguin Random House took the cases to a lower court and won both times. 

Supreme Court judges did not recuse from Penguin Random House infringement cases
Image via Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

Sotomayor, who joined the Supreme Court in 2009 and is the court’s senior liberal, declined to recuse herself in all three instances despite earning millions of dollars from the publisher for her books. Gorsuch joined in 2017 and declined to recuse himself from the 2019 case. He has also earned hundreds of thousands of dollars from his book “A Republic, If You Can Keep It.”

Judges are expected to recuse — or pardon themselves — from a case if they have a financial interest in the case or if the judge’s decision will be biased. 

The case of Sotomayor and Gorsuch, first reported by Fix the Court, is the latest in lapses surrounding a lack of transparency surrounding financial disclosures by judges. 

It’s Time to Celebrate These Books!

Oprah’s Book Club Pick: #101

Oprah’s Book Club has spanned a whopping 20 years with tens of thousands of members. Her latest Book Club pick marked her 101st bookThe Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese.

book cover The Covenant of Water
Image via Amazon

The book follows three generations of a close-knit family in South India, transporting readers to haunting tales across continents. 

“It is one of the best books I have read in my entire life, and I have been reading since I was 3!”  

Oprah Winfrey, Oprah’s Book Club

Verghese is a physician and Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School and Senior Associate Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. 

His novel, Cutting for Stone, was a New York Times bestseller for two years. In 2015, he was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama and has won several other awards for his work as well. 

And, finally…

World’s Largest Book is Touring Texas

If you see a gigantic book on the road, don’t worry, you’re not hallucinating. I Am Texas stands at 7 ft 2 inches and now holds the Guinness World Record for the largest published book in the world.

world’s largest book I Am Texas
Image via I Am Texas

The book holds stories, poetry, and artwork from more than one thousand students in Lone Star State from third to twelfth grade. Weighing in at a whopping 500 pounds, the book took two years to complete and has 400 pages. 

Phew, that’s all the news we have for you this week. We’ll be back with another news roundup soon and you can catch up on our last news episode, here: