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Amazon is destroying thousands of unsold books.


June 23, 2021, 1:00pm

ITV News has reported that Amazon is destroying millions of unsold items each year—books, TVs, laptops, drones, headphones, computers, thousands of packaged COVID face masks are all among the waste. Undercover footage of Amazon’s Dunfermline warehouse in the UK from ITV News shows these items sorted into boxes marked “Destroy,” inn order to minimize storage costs.

Said an anonymous ex-employee to ITV News, “From a Friday to a Friday our target was to generally destroy 130,000 items a week. I used to gasp. There’s no rhyme or reason to what gets destroyed . . . Overall, fifty percent of all items are unopened and still in their shrink wrap. The other half are returns and in good condition. Staff have just become numb to what they are being asked to do.” The employee said that in some weeks, as many as 200,000 items could be marked “destroy,” while only a fraction of that number would be marked “donate.” (One week in April showed over 124,000 items marked “destroy,” while just 28,000 were marked “donate.”)

Another employee came forward to corroborate the first employee’s account and confirmed the Dunfermline warehouse wasn’t the only warehouse producing waste at this scale: “We got rid of brand-new books, [brand-new iPhones, PlayStations.] In every single facility it happens, trust me, it does. I worked in one specific facility, but I knew other people who worked in others and they said exactly the same thing.”

Amazon has denied sending any products to landfills in the UK in statements to ITV and The Verge and claims the landfill ITV identified is a recycling site (despite the “destroy” labels). Said Amazon in the statement, “We are working toward a goal of zero product disposal and our priority is to resell, donate to charitable organizations or recycle any unsold products.” Amazon told The Verge less than one percent of its products are incinerated for energy generation.

Looking at the ITV News footage, it’s hard not to think of all who could benefit from those products marked “destroy.” Those books could bring joy to schools, hospitals, prisons; those laptops could help students in need who required laptops for remote learning this past year. Not to mention the environmental unsustainability. As Philip Dunne, chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, told ITV News: “[This] is a truly astonishing degree of waste of resources. And if true, it is a scandal that Amazon has got to address.”

[h/t ITV News]

Did you know that Daryl Hannah created best literary board game of all time?


June 23, 2021, 12:20pm

There’s not enough observational comedy based on the differences between poets and fiction writers, in my opinion. (True, the market for this kind of humor might be vanishingly small and generally obnoxious, but that’s never stopped us [poets] before!) Nowhere are these differences more obvious than a game night at an MFA program: fiction writers played games to win, and poet played them to get compliments on their creativity.

And in my experience, only one game brought these two factions together: Liebrary.

I don’t remember who ushered library into my life, but the person who brought it into the wider world was Daryl Hannah. Daryl Hannah of Splash and Kill Bill fame, who evidently has a sideline as a board game designer. (The internet tells me her co-designer, Hilary Shepard, is also an actor, known for her role as Divatox in Power Rangers Turbo.)

Remember 2009?

The game is similar to Dictionary, or its branded counterpart, Balderdash, in that it involves trying to trick your friends with words. It comes with a deck of cards, each of which lists the title and plot summary of a book on one side, and the book’s first line on the other. The players must try to craft the book’s first line without knowing the real one—the object of the game being to convince other players that yours is the true opener.

Of course, if you’re playing like a poet, you’ll just vote for the line you think is the most creatively interesting. (Did anyone really think the first line of Power Tools for Women was “Shrill? More like Drill!” No. But I still won that round.)

Having played both ways, I can honestly say that they’re both thoroughly delightful. (There’s also a board if you really want to be a stickler, but even the fiction writers I knew didn’t bother with that.) If you’re looking for a way to thwart post-pandemic social awkwardness—or you just want a healthy(ish) outlet for your literary competitiveness, I cannot recommend this game highly enough. And though its published seems to have gone bust, there’s always eBay. Or you could write to Daryl Hannah. She probably has a whole stockpile in her basement.

New works from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s archives will finally be published, starting next year.

Dan Sheehan

June 23, 2021, 11:21am

The publishing giant HarperCollins has reached an agreement with the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to acquire world publishing rights to the late Civil Rights leader’s entire archives—a collection which contains some of the “most historically important and vital literature in American history.”

As reported by Publishers Weekly earlier today, the mega-deal gives HarperCollins world rights “to publish new books from the archives across all formats, including children’s books, e-books, audiobooks, journals, and graphic novels in all languages.”

Given the significance of the books in question, it seems strange that a deal like this one wasn’t made sooner, but this is welcome news nonetheless.

More welcome still is HC’s assertion that it will hire a dedicated archivist to oversee the project, and “engage prominent Black scholars, actors, artists, performers, and social activists to help bring Dr. King’s works to life.”

Way back in 1958, HC’s predecessor company Harper & Brothers published Dr. King’s very first book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, which detailed the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott and described the conditions of African Americans living in Alabama during the era.

The first MLK titles to be published by HC are scheduled to drop in January 2022, to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Attention internet, J.D. Vance has Complaints about the Gossip Girl reboot.

Emily Temple

June 23, 2021, 10:28am

Actually . . . you don’t have to pay attention to this. But since you’re here, J.D. Vance, of Hillbilly Elegy fame, is upset that HBO is about to ruin Gossip Girl for him.

Okay. Setting aside the fact that there’s nothing ugly about this image (or um, the concept of rich teenagers having some awareness of their privilege in the context of the contemporary world), and despite the fact that I am admittedly perplexed by the film industry’s commitment to rebooting iconic teenage media (see The Craft, Heathers, etc.) instead of, you know . . . just writing new stories for new generations, there’s a simple solution to not being interested in the premise of a television show: don’t watch it. “Wokeness” (which has become meaningless anyway) cannot take your beloved OG Gossip Girl away from you, J.D. Vance. It will always be there, in all its filthy, amoral glory. And besides, it’s not like they’re making the characters poor. We all know how much you hate poor people.

Finally . . . it’s actually not “wokeness” that makes things boring and ugly, buddy. And here I have to credit Jason Bailey, one of my favorite film critics, for this perfect response:


Lessons of a self-published writer: independent bookstores are good, Amazon not so much.

Jonny Diamond

June 23, 2021, 10:23am

In 2019, self-published novelist Mason Engel set out to promote his novel by visiting 50 bookstores in 50 days, heading across America to spread the good word, filming it as he went. At that point, he’d still planned to just sell it on Amazon, which remains the most important place for self-published writers to make money from their work—but his trip changed everything.

As most of you reading this probably know, independent bookstores are very often delightful, idiosyncratic community spaces. They are filled not only with highly curated selections reflecting what booksellers actually like but also with the spirit of a neighborhood or town, that particular personality that shapes itself around thousands of quiet conversations about what matters in the world. This is what Mason Engel discovered on his trip, and what led him to leave Amazon.

Fast forward a year and Engel decided to go back on the road, this time with a purpose beyond his own work. Despite a pandemic, Engel—and his cameraman Brady—visited 30 bookstores between New Orleans and New York, asking booksellers why they did what they did, and why it’s important. The results are now here, in a second documentary called The Bookstour, which you can watch by making a donation to BINC, the wonderful nonprofit fundraising organization that supports booksellers in need. BINC has been an invaluable supporter over the last 18 months to a bookstore community in dire need of financial help.

The Bookstour – Trailer from Mason Engel on Vimeo.

This all seems like a pretty good deal: support booksellers while bathing in their wisdom, insight, and hopefulness… Thanks Mason Engel!

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