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Book News: Apple Vs. DOJ As Ebook Price-Fixing Trial Begins

An Apple store in Beijing, China opens.
Feng Li
Getty Images
An Apple store in Beijing, China opens.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • All eyes are on Apple as it heads to court Monday for the start of its ebook price-fixing trial. Last year, the Justice Department accused Apple of conspiring with five major publishing companies to set prices on digital books. The publishers — HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Hachette and Macmillan — have all settled. Things aren't looking good for Apple so far: The government has painted Apple as the leader of the group and is expected to produce as evidence an email from Steve Jobs to News Corp executive James Murdoch: "Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99." In a pretrial "tentative view," U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, hinted at her initial views of the case. She wrote, "I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that."
  • A Chilean judge has asked police "to make a portrait of and find" the man prosecutors say may have killed poet Pablo Neruda, according to The Associated Press. The body of Neruda, who was a friend and ally of ousted Chilean president Salvador Allende, was exhumed in April and is being examined for signs of poisoning. The AP notes that a description of a possible suspect given by Neruda's doctor matches Michael Townley, an American double agent who worked for both the CIA and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Townley is currently in the Witness Protection Program.
  • A project called Little Free Libraries is placing tiny boxes filled with free books around the country.
  • The prestigious Women's Prize for Fiction, formerly the Orange Prize, has a new sponsor: Bailey's, the cream liqueur brand. (The move seems a departure for a company that has promoted certain images of women, in ads like this and this). After the Orange company backed out, the prize was funded by private sponsors such as Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. This year's prize will be awarded Wednesday; the shortlist includes Zadie Smith and Hilary Mantel.
  • A new short story by Jhumpa Lahiri appears in The New Yorker. It's excerpted from her forthcoming novel, The Lowland: "In autumn, egrets arrived, their white feathers darkened by the city's soot, waiting motionless for their prey."
  • The Best Books Coming Out This Week:

  • Taipei, by Tao Lin, is a miserable tale. It follows Paul, a pseudo-Lin, as he wanders around New York feeling either drug-deadened or socially anxious to the point of physical illness. But it's also psychologically astute, often beautiful and completely unexpected.
  • Colum McCann's TransAtlantic describes three Irish journeys — the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic, a tour by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and Sen. George Mitchell's peacekeeping efforts in Northern Ireland. Rosecrans Baldwin writes for NPR that "McCann never lets go of the reader's attention. His sentences are simply too surprising, his observations too astute." (Joel Lovell's great profile of him in the Times Magazine is also worth reading.)
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.