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The Book Industry Turns A Page
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The Book Industry Turns A Page

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The Book Industry Turns A Page

The Book Industry Turns A Page
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Guests:

Peter Osnos, Founder of Public Affairs Books and Former Vice President at Random House
Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast
ZZ Packer, author of Drinking Coffee Elsewhere

The Kindle, the iPhone and other electronic book readers have changed the way many people read — and left some in the publishing industry desperate for new ways to make money. A new venture from the TheDailyBeast.com, will soon upend the traditional publishing model.

REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington.

You've waited years for the new book from your favorite author. It's finally out, but the hardcover is 35 bucks. So, you wait some more until the paperback comes out. Well, those days may be fading fast.

The Kindle, the iPhone and other electronic book readers changed the way many people read, and left some in the publishing industry desperate for new ways to make money selling books. Tina Brown, for one, plans a new venture she hopes will upend the traditional publishing model. Beast Books will rush books into production in months, not years. And these books will first be published not in bound copies but in eBook forms.

But will readers buy it? Publishers, booksellers, authors, how is the new book environment changing your business? Tell us your story. Our number here in Washington is 800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our Web site, go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION. Later this hour, a hilarious look at the way TV ads that try to woo women in all the wrong ways. Who really wears pearls to clean the bathroom?

But first, the future of books. And joining me now is Tina Brown. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of the Daily Beast and will oversee Beast Books. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. TINA BROWN (Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Daily Beast): I'm delighted to be here.

ROBERTS: Beast Books will move books through production much faster than the traditional publishing model. Why do you think that will be successful?

Ms. BROWN: Well, I have seen that there are certain books, not all books, by any means, but certain kinds of book which are part of the conversation or that should be part of the conversation. Books that hit some kind of a nerve in the culture at that time, a political discussion, a kind of response to something in the emotional undercurrent of the times. Sometimes, a narrative that has a kind of a lesser shelf-life, if you like, just seemed to be books that ought to be published faster than the current cycle demands.

There always going to be books I think that, you know, can do very well in that longer cycle, a big history of John Adams or a loving literary, you know, novel that is really about the commitment of the author to the page, which has nothing, you know, within the time cycle as it were of the subject matter. Those kinds of books, of course, they can take as long as they want in a sense to get published.

But there is that other kind of book out there. And I've seen - I have so many writer friends who have those kinds of books very often that just somehow have to wait and wait and wait and then they suddenly feel like a very old railway buffet sandwich by the time they actually come out, they've missed their moment in the culture.

ROBERTS: What a charming analogy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: So, if what we're talking about is topical books, then it's important not just to rush the publishing of it but the writing of it.

Ms. BROWN: Well, you know, very often writers write their books in far less time than it takes to publish. I think what frustrates a great many writers is that they write their books and then they wait, and they wait, and they wait, and they wait.

And, I mean, frequently, I mean, you know, for instance, I knew a writer who wrote a book about the whole issue of Guantanamo Bay. And, you know, just at the point when that whole kind of discussion was right in the headlines, his book was just a mere, you know, two months away. And, you know, he had to wait through that entire discussion which kind of dominated the papers for, you know, for sort of six weeks.

And finally, his book limped out and didn't get any attention at all, and was kind of buried. And he felt kind of upset and bitter and said to me, you know, this is such a pity. My book was just sitting there. And I've seen that again and again with writers. I also just think there are times when, you know, something comes along that just, if it's published at a certain time, it's going to do a lot better than if it isn't. And I think those are the books that really interests me for Beast Books.

And furthermore, you know, we do find on the Web site, obviously, that we are almost a laboratory for what interests people. So, we'll publish a piece, for instance, we published a very good piece by Kim Masters, who I think actually does quite a bit for NPR. The title of the piece was "My Father, The Real Inglorious Basterd" and it was about how her father was indeed one of those officers in World War II that had been portrayed in that movie by Quentin Tarantino that came out just sort of six or seven weeks ago. And it was a terrific piece about her father that frankly caught on on the site in a way that would never have caught on if it had been published at any other time before this particular movie was about to come out.

And, you know, if I'd had Beast Books at the time I would have loved to have done that book at that time and expanded it, because she had lot of very interesting emotional material there that really was a good read and could easily have gone much longer and deeper than we were able to do on the Web site. These are the kind of books, I think, that we could do very well on Beast Books.

ROBERTS: You told the New York Times that Beast Books is filling a gap left by magazines. What do you mean by that?

Ms. BROWN: Well, I see more and more, you know, I'm a great, sort of, obviously a big lover of narrative journalism at the New Yorker, which I edited and Vanity Fair, which I edited. You know, those were the pieces that really, I focused on, you know, big, long, juicy pieces that were telling long detailed stories which would take a long time to marinate.

But what I do see is that there is a different attention span now. And not only are most magazines anywhere that do those kind of narrative pieces in smaller and smaller supply, I mean, there really is at this point only really Vanity Fair, the New Yorker and the Atlantic, which can sort of afford to sustain in terms of page number and fee those kind of pieces.

But also, I just do see that the whole kind of life cycle has just accelerated to the point that people are in a very short attention span. And there is something very satisfying about having a piece that's just longer than you'd really want in a magazine, but not as big a commitment of time as a book. A, kind of what I think of as something you could read in a flight, you know, two and a half hour flight from, you know, Chicago to New York or a piece that will really just satisfy you as one sustained read that gives you more than just a magazine piece, but isn't as much as a book.

And I just think that's a great length today and a very satisfying length actually. I just read Philip Roth's new novel, as a matter of fact, that is exactly that kind of length. It's about 50,000 words. It's called "The Humbling." It's coming out very soon. And I just thought how satisfying it was to be able to begin this novel at the beginning of the flight and finish it by the end and feel that I had really had the most wonderful Philip Roth experience. But it wasn't a long book.

ROBERTS: Also, there in our New York bureau with Tina Brown is Peter Osnos. He's the founder and editor-at-large of Public Affairs Books and a former editor at Random House. Full disclosure, Public Affairs Books is an imprint of Perseus Books Group, which is also partnering with the Daily Beast's Beast Books but the two will be run totally separately. Peter Osnos, thanks for joining us.

Mr. PETER OSNOS (Founder and Editor-at-Large, Public Affairs Books): Well, thank you.

ROBERTS: Do you think the publishing industry is in trouble?

Mr. OSNOS: Well, I think the publishing industry, like the rest of the economy, has been through a recession. But I think actually publishing is poised for a very good period because after all we, unlike the rest of the world of information, don't have advertising. And we don't have subscribers. For us, technology is a real opportunity. Taking advantage of it, figuring out how to use it well, how to do the things that Tina is talking about, which is to move very quickly, I think they present a really terrific opportunity for us.

The biggest problem for books has always been the fact that people will say, you know, I can't find your book anywhere. And with the way technology is now going, with the on-demand delivery, with the eBook delivery, we can change the fact, and people will always know that if they want a book they can find it one way or another.

ROBERTS: On the another hand, one of the models of the publishing industry is big advances for books they think will do very well. And if each copy is making less because it's an e-copy instead of a big fancy hardcover, does that model become unsustainable?

Mr. OSNOS: Well, first of all, the notion of the big advance, you know, it's like ballplayers. Some people get a lot and a lot of people don't. The notion that the book industry is entirely dependent on overpaying for authors, I think is just wrong. One other thing we're seeing is that there are multiple options now. There is the long, the history, the book that takes a lot of time - look, the fact of the matter is I'm in the middle of Teddy Kennedy's book right now. What a wonderful, wonderful book, and it was a book based on 76 years of what is truly an extraordinary life. I'm actually listening to the book. I'm now halfway through it. I'm listening to it on a DVD in the car as I'm driving back and forth. That's an opportunity that I wouldn't have had a few years ago.

They might have been abridged. There would have been a whole lot of huffing and puffing. Now I could put it on my iPhone or my iPod and listen to it as a podcast.

There are a million - there are many new ways to access material, and the job of the publisher, the job of the publisher is to take advantage of those, find the reader and deliver it to where, when and how the reader wants it.

You know, I say that the motto should be good books, any way you want them, now.

ROBERTS: We are talking about the future of books with Tina Brown and Peter Osnos. You can join us at 800-989-8255, or send us email, talk@npr.org.

Let's hear from Jack in Cincinnati. Jack, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

JACK (Caller): Hi, thank you.

ROBERTS: Sure. Go ahead, Jack, you're on the air.

JACK: Oh, well, I am an author from an independent publishing company, and I had my book published about three years ago, and so it was about a year before this recession hit, but as soon as the recession hit, basically I stopped getting paid from my publisher because they're a very small company, and now they're just saving money to stay afloat, basically, and they're telling me, you know, you'll get paid as soon as we can make more money.

So I think the publishing industry really is in a bind, especially for very small publishers that might not have capital reserves built up to weather out this storm.

ROBERTS: Thanks for your call. Is that something, Peter Osnos, that you think - I mean, will we see a weeding out of smaller imprints?

Mr. OSNOS: Oh, I think there has always been a process in which publishing companies are founded, some flourish, some don't. You know, I've been in publishing now for 25 years and I have seen more companies bought and sold. I started Public Affairs in 1997. It was an independent publishing company. We were - this is our thirteenth year. I like to say we're no longer a start-up but not yet an antitrust case. We publish hundreds of books. We publish some books that are bestsellers. We publish books that we hope will endure, and I promise you that we pay our authors.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Well, Tina Brown, this model of sort of hope that people pay for the most expensive version first and then keep them interested with a less expensive version in the hardback-paperback model and ultimately eBook model, Beast Books is doing that kind of in reverse. If a reader can buy a $10 electronic version first, why publish a print version at all?

Ms. BROWN: Because I think there is always going to be an interest as well in having print books. It's really rather like what Peter said. I mean, there are going to be some people who will like to buy a book.

I mean, I must say that I love the physical nature of a book. I like the feel, touch and even the smell of a book. You know, I like new books. I like old books, but I also do like the kind of ease and speed of the eBook too, particularly for commuting and, you know, when you're really in a hurry and so on, and also the kind of wonderful ease of which you can download classics and stuff. It's actually wonderful to be able to do that. But I would still like to have my physical books, and I think there always will be.

Just as Peter said, there are people who like to read their books - listen to them, in the car. I think we're seeing a lot more of that. So I think it's just giving people the choice.

ROBERTS: We're talking about the future of books. How can publishers keep us reading and paying for what we read? Up next, the writer ZZ Packer joins us, and your calls.

Publishers, booksellers, authors, how is the new book environment changing your business? The number is 800-989-8255. You can also send us email. The address is talk@npr.org. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

ROBERTS: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Rebecca Roberts in Washington. Speaking of the future of books, there's news today that Google plans to start selling books. It will open an online store, Google Editions, to deliver eBooks to any device with a Web browser, so not just a book-reader like a Kindle. They'll have about half-a-million eBooks to start when it launches next year.

That's just the latest attempt to rethink the way we buy our books. We're talking today with Tina Brown, a long-time magazine editor, now founder and editor-in-chief of thedailybeast.com. They plan to launch Beast Books and condense the publishing process.

Also joining us is Peter Osnos, founder of Public Affairs Books, also on the front lines of this changing industry, and we want to hear from you, from publishers, from booksellers, from authors. How is the new book environment changing your business?

Tell us your story by calling 800-989-8255, or send us email, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation at our Web site if you go to npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Peter Osnos, what was your reaction to the Google news?

Mr. OSNOS: Well, I think Google has been very active in trying to shape the future of the digital book. As you know, they have been digitizing books from libraries by their millions and the book publishers actually sued, publishers and authors together sued because they said that Google was simply preempting the process and putting all these books in as digital books, and that that needed to be controlled, and what there is now in the works is a settlement whereby Google, in order to be able to have all those digital books, would pay royalties to the authors and to the publishers that created them.

That's actually a very healthy development. When the court finally figures out how to approve the settlement, what it will do, it'll set rules of the road for the digital distribution of books, the kind of thing that didn't happen with music and hasn't happened with news.

I mean, here's the publishers, the fusty old publishers and the fusty old authors who came up with a way of forcing Google to accept the terms that would provide over the future a way to be paid for the digital distribution of books.

ROBERTS: Let's hear from Pam in San Diego. Pam, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

PAM (Caller): Well, I am a freelancer. I write book indexes, and I want to know what happens with indexes with electronic books.

ROBERTS: You write indexes?

PAM: It seems to me like you end up with something that you get in Word, where you get just a concordance of lots of words, and nothing - you don't get - it's more difficult to do relevance searches.

Mr. OSNOS: I think that, if I could, the issue of indexes depends on the kind of book. A full digital book will always include an index, and that won't change. I have never seen an index or heard an index on an audio book. So I don't think that's going to change.

ROBERTS: I have to say, I didn't realize that an index writer was a separate person.

Ms. BROWN: Oh yeah, it's a very sort of highly specialized skill, and any author, as I am, who's written a big, you know, non-fiction book, we have a great respect and awe of the people who do the indexes.

ROBERTS: So when I've noticed in non-fiction books that don't have an index, do you think that's a financial decision to not pay an indexer?

Ms. BROWN: It is very often, yes, and I think it's a big mistake. I tend to feel that a non-fiction book that doesn't have an index is not a serious book.

Mr. OSNOS: I would just say that there are some authors who say don't index my book because what I'm afraid of, especially if it's a book about Washington, is all people will do is look in the index to see if they're there and not bother buying the book.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BROWN: That's an ephemeral way of looking at things.

Mr. OSNOS: But some authors have insisted: no index.

ROBERTS: And if the Beast Books model is, as you say, Tina Brown, to sort of jump on something that people are talking about or maybe expand a provocative article that has been popular online, do you think that there's a danger of those writers being overexposed or wearing out their welcome in some way?

Ms. BROWN: I tell you, I really don't. I'll tell you why. I mean, what I've learned, actually, is how long it takes to seed an idea through the culture, particularly at a time when there's so much noise out there, so much competition for attention.

You know, in the past, publishers would say to writers, you know, don't do, you know, don't talk about your book too soon before it comes out. You'll dissipate all the interest. I actually no longer feel that's true. It's almost like writers today have to regard themselves a bit like movies do when they're being trailed in the summer for a November release.

You have to somehow implant yourself, like a kind of silent persuader in the back of people's minds, thinking, I know what that is. I'm looking forward to it when I see it because it takes a lot these days to get any attention for anything. So you need all the help you can, all the exposure, all the word of mouth that you can.

There are plenty of people out there that are going to be left who have not read your book, and you know, the more they can hear about it from somebody who has, because it takes time to read a book, and it's one of the great problems with books, is that, you know, word of mouth takes a while to travel, because, you know, it takes people time to read the book and then talk about it.

So the more help you can give the book in having it exposed and getting itself a word of mouth, the better, and you know, we also are seeing more and more, actually, that there are many books nowadays that are hitting the bestseller list that have begun a life online, where they've developed a kind of groundswell of interest, a groundswell of readership so that when the book is actually published, that audience is ready seeded. The market is already waiting for it.

ROBERTS: Well, this brings up the question from Dave in St. Louis, Missouri, an email who says: What's the role of publishers in an eBook world? Do we need them? How does this compare to record labels in an MP3 world?

Mr. OSNOS: Well, I suppose you're addressing that to me as a publisher.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: Yes.

Mr. BROWN: Defend yourself.

ROBERTS: That's right. Are you a dinosaur?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OSNOS: Publishers are - you know, the good news about being a publisher is that we've been under siege almost since the codex was invented 500 years ago. I think that you do need gatekeepers. You do need editors. You do need packagers. You do need people to help shape both the book itself and the way it is presented to the world.

Having said that, there is a very flourishing market in self-publishing right now. People can publish their own books or cause them to be published through a printer, through an eBook apparatus of some kind, and if they really believe that they can do a better job, well, then they should do a better job, and there is, in fact, now I think - you know, they used to call it vanity publishing. I don't think it is vanity publishing anymore. You can publish yourself.

I still believe that for the - let's put it for the professional, it's probably a good idea to find yourself a good editor and a good publisher and a good publicist because reaching an audience requires a great deal of time and effort and a good deal of work.

ROBERTS: We are also joined on the line by ZZ Packer. She's the author of "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere." She has a new book coming out next year titled "The Thousands." She joins us now from member station KUT in Austin, Texas. Welcome.

Ms. ZZ PACKER (Author, "Drinking Coffee Elsewhere"): Thanks, Rebecca.

So you published your first book in 2003, before Kindle and Facebook and all these other digital tools, but your next book will be out next year. How is being an author changing?

Ms. PACKER: Well, I think one of the things that happens or has happened is that now the author is sort of expected in a way to sort of be, in a way, partly their own publicist, and you know, I guess a person or an author doesn't have to do that, but there are now more tools at their availability.

So there is Twitter. There's Facebook. Some authors, the New York Times just had a profile of an author who, you know, created this sort of YouTube video first and got - and generated a good deal of interest.

So now you're expected, in a way, to be present more as an author, and what you're expected to do is to kind of not just have a sort of shelf life for your book, but your book has to have also sort of this virtual life as well.

ROBERTS: And is that an asset or a burden?

Ms. PACKER: I think that it can be both. I mean, I think some of the advantages of the Internet and creating this Internet presence and presence for one's book is that so much of what Tina was saying in terms of you can now create this groundswell and have more of a sort of - instead of the top-down model of publicity, where it goes from the publishing house and then later through the newspapers and magazines, and eventually people hear about the book, you know, now authors can get on Facebook, get on a blog or create a blog and generate all of this interest beforehand and during the process and basically take a little more control, and so that is great and it provides a way for some books that wouldn't get heard or talked about or even reviewed in some of the major publications to be able to have this readership.

I know that Rebecca Wells' "Ya-Ya Sisterhood," you know, kind of began as this kind of cult - you know, she went from bookstore to bookstore and eventually just developed this cult following, and that eventually led her onto the New York Times bestseller list, and then you have the same with people like Lakoff in non-fiction with "Don't Think of An Elephant." So in a way it does provide a way to break that chain of, you know, only the sort of big names getting, you know, the big bucks and the big publicity. So now authors can kind of wrest control a little bit.

But the disadvantage would be that, you know, if you're not a natural performer, or if you're a person who, you know, you'd rather just sort of spend your time writing and not necessarily having to hit the pavement as much, then, you know, it becomes - it does take away time from writing to write a blog every day. And it does become very difficult to, you know, go out in front of, you know, book groups if that's not your forte.

ROBERTS: Let's take a call from Jenny in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jenny, welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. JENNY GARDINER (Caller): Hi. Thanks for having me. I love the subject matter because I talk about it a lot. My debut novel came out two years ago, "Sleeping With Ward Cleaver" and it won a national fiction contest, where I had to kind of be the precursor to what now all authors do. So I have a lot of experience with it. And I basically had to go online, month after month after month, to try to, you know, to generate interest in a book that didn't even exist at the time. I mean, it existed in my computer but that was it.

And now, that's what all authors are doing. When I did that, I kind of thought, hey, you know, this is going to be my one time - get my foot in the door and do it. But that's - now writing the book is five percent of the work and marketing and publicity is probably 95 percent of the work. And the thing about it is, is it's kind of a vicious cycle that you've got - New York houses are expecting sales figures to be high enough to justify another book out of you.

And if they're not high enough, even if a lot of people are reading your book, they have no other way to quantify it. And so, now what you're happening in New York now, as you are not getting mid-list authors anymore. You have debut authors who have to bust their butts to get as far as they get. And if they get far enough, good, they get another book deal. Or you have, you know, mega authors who are always - they could write the letter A on a roll of toilet paper a million times and sell it, you know what I mean?

ROBERTS: Yeah, but...

JENNY: So I have, I have a - I'm sorry.

ROBERTS: I just want to give our guests a chance to respond, Jenny.

Ms. BROWN: Well, I think that Jenny has a point about the onerous nature of all this self-proliferation. You know, it's - I wonder how Jane Austen would have fared. You know? I mean, it's not easy to be constantly thinking about how to put yourself about. I mean, you know, and of writers like a Philip Roth, for instance. He just, you know, it's anathema to him. I mean, he just doesn't want to spend his time that way, which I understand.

So I think it can be very draining at times, for an author. But I think, I also think that - I'm hopeful, nonetheless, that the Internet, you know, is really going to - and electronic books are, in fact, ultimately going to be liberating tools for the writer. Because I do think that publishing has become a very, very sort of hidebound industry. And many of the time when a really good book is published and too little is being done to put it out there.

I'm never quite sure why so many publishing houses seem to have such a kind of inert attitude towards publicity and marketing. Not, I have to say, the gentleman sitting with me in the studio, Peter Osnos, who's actually famous for his, you know, incredibly zealous pursuit of the last second of publicity and attention he can get for his authors, and he never gives up. But that is actually not the norm, really.

I mean, much more of a norm is kind of a very passive approach to a writer's book, where the writer, very often, feels quite orphaned by the experience. You know, puts a heck of a lot of work into it, and the publisher just sort of drops it into the ocean - or that's how it feels to the writer.

So, there is - I think, this, the Internet and the electronic book is going to become a good tool for the writer to at least have other avenues to pursue their audience and take the book to the readers sometimes. I mean, you know, you can't just wait today for the reader to come to you. You have to take the book to the reader, more and more. So I think it's - ultimately, it's positive, but I think, obviously, there is an onerous aspect to it.

Mr. OSNOS: And if I just could add that everybody listening to this program today is listening on, can you believe it, radio? I mean, after all...

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROBERTS: They might be listening online.

Mr. OSNOS: ...what is the most retro, old-fashioned, I mean, early 20th Century...

ROBERTS: This is you getting back from me calling you a dinosaur, isn't it?

Mr. OSNOS: Well, that's exactly right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. OSNOS: But there's a reason why they are all listening to radio. There's a reason why public radio has established itself in such a way, is because of the kind of interior it represents and the way it does and the energy puts behind it. And if publishers are going to do well, they're going to have to be responsive, they're going to have to be innovative, they're going to have to do the kinds of things Tina is talking about - the kinds of things I'd like to believe that we do.

And to any author out there who is interested in writing a book, do not be discouraged by the stories you hear from people who fail. Talk to a few people who succeed. A function of work that takes - sometimes you can do everything possible and still not achieve all your goals. But the truth of the matter is, writing a book and having it out there is immensely satisfying and very important in its way.

Ms. PACKER: Well, yeah, I sympathize with Jenny. I mean, I understand exactly how she feels in terms of the, you know, it feels as though you have to market, market, market. And then, you know, the book only is sort of five percent of your time and marketing is, you know, 95 percent of your time.

But I do feel as though there is a way in which the Internet provides this medium for people who ordinarily would not be able to, either be able to find the book, but they would not be able to find access to a wealth of information about, you know, this particular author. And so, then, what happens is, once they found out about this author, it sort of sets up enough of a, sort of readership, for the second book the writer comes out with, or the third book.

So I think that it becomes more of a sort of a tool to use and it's not necessarily just the medium in and of itself.

Ms. BROWN: Well, that certainly our view at Beast Books. I mean we're hoping to kind of grow, make a kind of transactional experience where we're growing our writers for the Web site at the same time we're promoting their books and vice versa. That you're seeding the market, as I say, for it, with interest and a following. And we've already seen that happening with some of our writers.

The first of our books is going to be by John Avlon, who's a terrific political writer who's been writing very successful pieces for us, about what he calls the rise of the wingnuts - the way that the Obama vision of the post-partisan world has sort of been hijacked by very, very partisan, aggressive at times, sort of lunatic fringes - both on the left and on the right. And it's a very, very interesting, sort of, way he goes about his subject matter. Every time he writes on it has been a big success on with us.

So we've commissioned a short book on that subject called "The Attack Of The Wingnuts." It's going to come out just before, you know, the anniversary of Obama - you know, of his first anniversary of his presidency. And I think it's going to enter the conversation, at that time, with a lot of thoughtful, additional relevance. And hopefully, we'll, you know, have an audience waiting for it.

ROBERTS: You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

We have an email from Lisa in San Mateo, who says: I'm a young adult author. I think publishing books sooner in paperback is a great idea. But I'm wary of the licensing agreement of Kindle and other eBooks. Additionally, I never get in my bath to read a Kindle for fear of dropping it - at least my books dry out.

Do you all own Kindles?

Mr. OSNOS: I do.

Ms. BROWN: Yeah. I...

ROBERTS: Yes? We're three for three?

Ms. BROWN: Yeah. I do.

Ms. PACKER: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, I've discovered - at first I thought I would hate it. I'm really one of those people, like Tina was talking about, I just love the smell of books. I love getting - oftentimes I'll get, you know, the paperback, the hardcover, you know, I'm kind of a book nut. But what I found is that I read differently on the Kindle and that I actually will get certain books on the Kindle that I would not necessarily get in, you know, hardbound or in print. But it has been wonderful to have it.

ROBERTS: We have to leave it there. That's author Z.Z. Packer, joining us from KUT in Austin. Her new book comes out next year. It's called "The Thousands" about buffalo soldiers. We're also joined in our New York bureau by Tina Brown, founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast; and Peter Osnos, founder of Public Affairs Books.

Thank you all so much for joining us.

Ms. BROWN: Thank you.

ROBERTS: And thank you to all of our callers. I'm sorry I didn't get to all of you.

Coming up, what's with the love triangles with mops and seductive sponges in commercials for cleaning products? Comedienne Sarah Haskins lampoons TV ads for wooing women in all the wrong way. She joins us in a moment. We'll also get a quick update on that boy who's missing in a hot air balloon.

Stay with us. I'm Rebecca Roberts. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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