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Westlake Legal Group > Books and Literature

With ‘Talking to Strangers,’ Malcolm Gladwell Goes Dark

In the weeks I spent listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, I learned that lobsters have serotonin, that Elvis Presley suffered from parapraxis and that Mr. Gladwell adheres to a firm life rule that he drink only five liquids: water, tea, red wine, espresso and milk.

On the afternoon I met the author and journalist, I had just listened to an episode in which he interviews an intimidating guest. His audio recorder malfunctions, and he has to sprint to Staples to get a replacement. “I was embarrassed,” Mr. Gladwell confides in the podcast. “I worried that he would think I was pathetic.” It sounded mortifying. And yet when I sat down to interview Mr. Gladwell, at the kitchen table of his Manhattan apartment, I went ahead and trusted my own recorder.

This is what Mr. Gladwell, in his new book, “Talking to Strangers,” calls “default to truth.” Human beings are by nature trusting — of people, technology, everything. Often, we’re too trusting, with tragic results. But if we didn’t suppress thoughts of worst-case scenarios, we’d never leave the house. We definitely wouldn’t go on dating apps or invest in stocks or let our kids take gymnastics.

“It would be impossible!” Mr. Gladwell said, throwing up his hands, almost giddy at imagining the social paralysis that would occur if we were a less trusting species. “Everyone would withdraw their money from banks,” he continued. “In fact, the whole internet exists because people default to truth. Nothing is secure! They are hacking into the cloud as we speak!”

The “default to truth” theory is Mr. Gladwell’s latest obsession and the theme of his first book in six years. Lots of readers will scoff. After his first two pop-science smash hits — “The Tipping Point” (2000) and “Blink” (2005) — Mr. Gladwell’s reviews have steadily worsened, with prominent critics savaging his anecdote-heavy methodology. I counted myself among the skeptics. I doubted the premise of “Talking to Strangers” and dismissed it as armchair psychology.

And then my audio recorder broke midinterview, and I became a believer.

This wasn’t just coincidence. It’s exactly what Mr. Gladwell’s towering success — his five best-selling books, his six-figure speaking fees, his top-rated podcast — rests on: the moment when the skeptic starts to think that maybe we’re wrong about everything and maybe, just maybe, this Mr. Gladwell guy is onto something.

Nearly 20 years and millions of sales after his nonfiction debut, Mr. Gladwell is at something of a professional tipping point. He elicits from readers the kind of polarized reactions usually reserved for talk-radio hosts. To one camp, he is a master storyteller, pithily translating business concepts and behavioral science to a lay audience. To others, he is a faux intellectual, dressing up ordinary truths (such as an “Outliers” argument that success results from a combination of hard work and opportunity) as counterintuitive genius. How “Talking to Strangers” is received could cement Mr. Gladwell in one of those camps for good.

The book is weightier than his previous titles. There are no romps through pop culture (“The Tipping Point”), no tinge of self-help about the power of first impressions (“Blink”). Rather, Mr. Gladwell asks readers to rethink grim topics like police misconduct, child sexual assault, suicide and campus rape, all through the prism of our often disastrous instinct to trust that the people we meet are telling us the truth.

The topic — and Mr. Gladwell’s message that we should all approach strangers “with caution and humility” — has fortuitous timing, given a political climate in which we can hardly stand to interact with people who watch a different cable network. But Mr. Gladwell recoils at the implication that “Talking to Strangers” has anything to do with President Trump.

“I first got the idea in the pre-Trump era of police violence,” Mr. Gladwell said. In 2014, after the fatal police shooting of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo., Mr. Gladwell started to think about a book that would explore these topics. A year later, Sandra Bland, a 28-year-old black woman in Texas, was found hanged in her jail cell after a traffic stop, and Mr. Gladwell’s idea crystallized.

“That was the case that made me realize: ‘Oh, this is what my book is about. This is the moral reason behind it,’” he said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159842979_677fbd26-fb72-4756-b11c-50307fbfd434-articleLarge With ‘Talking to Strangers,’ Malcolm Gladwell Goes Dark podcasts Gladwell, Malcolm Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Bland, Sandra (1987-2015)

Malcolm Gladwell begins and ends his latest book with the case of  Sandra Bland, who was found hanged in her Texas jail cell in 2015.CreditLittle, Brown and Company

“Talking to Strangers” includes a second-by-second assessment of what happened on July 10, 2015, when Trooper Brian Encinia — “white, short dark hair, thirty years old” — pulled over Ms. Bland near the campus of Prairie View A&M University.

“He was courteous — at least at first,” Mr. Gladwell writes, in his typical pared-down prose. “He told her that she had failed to signal a lane change. He asked her questions. She answered them. Then Bland lit a cigarette, and Encinia asked her to put it out.”

That is the moment when the interaction turned. Mr. Gladwell examines it not simply through a lens of race, but through the fact that they were strangers. People seemingly so different that they were destined to collide.

“If we were more thoughtful as a society — if we were willing to engage in some soul-searching about how we approach and make sense of strangers — she would not have ended up dead in a Texas jail cell,” Mr. Gladwell writes.

The Bland case opens and closes the book, and Mr. Gladwell said he could have devoted the entire volume to her. “If I was rewriting this book as a purely intellectual exercise and didn’t have to worry about reaching a wide audience, you could just do it on Sandra Bland,” he said.

But his publisher, and his fan base, have come to expect a sprawl of anecdotes. And so he applies the truth-default theory — which originated with a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Timothy R. Levine — to Jerry Sandusky, Amanda Knox, Brock Turner, Bernie Madoff. Sylvia Plath makes an appearance.

In many ways, “Talking to Strangers” is Mr. Gladwell’s bleakest work. “Each of my books has had moments or chapters of things that were consequential,” he said, “but this is a lot of them. There’s no happy, uplifting part.”

I ended the book thinking that we are all doomed to misunderstand one another forever.

Yeah, Mr. Gladwell said. “It’s a little bit like that.”

At 55, in clear-framed spectacles and a head of curls, Mr. Gladwell still has the spindly, featherweight look of someone who can break a five-minute mile on a casual weekend run. He lives in a two-story townhouse apartment in the West Village, brimming with books, vintage furniture and a set of eclectic paintings of the Ethiopian Army. We sat at a heavy wooden table as 90-degree August soup poured through the open windows.

He had just finished interviewing applicants for a job as his assistant. Mr. Gladwell, who early in his career wrote a memorable New Yorker takedown of the hiring practices of McKinsey & Company, recognized the irony.

“I told them, ‘You know I don’t believe in job interviews, or that you can learn anything meaningful about people in job interviews,’” he said.

Lately, there is a lot for an assistant to assist with. Mr. Gladwell continues to give paid speeches and is a favorite on the cerebral festival circuit. Last year, he started a podcasting company, Pushkin Industries, with his friend Jacob Weisberg, the former chairman and editor in chief of the Slate Group. Mr. Gladwell’s flagship show, “Revisionist History,” draws as many as three million listeners per episode — several times the audience that even a top-selling nonfiction title draws in a year.

Books take years to complete, but thanks to Pushkin, Mr. Gladwell’s typical reader — whom he has described as “a 45-year-old guy with three kids who’s an engineer at some company outside of Atlanta” — can partake in a virtuous cycle of Gladwell programming. The podcast teases interest in a souped-up “Talking to Strangers” audiobook, which builds an audience for more speeches, which stokes advertisers for the podcasts. Mr. Gladwell lends his voice, with its emo librarian timbre, to a varied list of sponsors, from home security to hair loss. (“Ten percent off your first month with discount code ‘GLADWELL.’”)

When I suggested that all of this constituted a vast and expanding Gladwell Industrial Complex, he cringed. “Ack!” he said. “Careful. No, I don’t have a media empire. I am part of a podcasting company.”

The way Mr. Gladwell sees it, despite his equity stake in Pushkin, all of his work is still journalism — a natural offshoot of the articles that made him famous, first at The Washington Post and then at The New Yorker. He’s just grown up, and gotten a little more entrepreneurial.

“You can’t be a reporter forever,” he said. True enough. But few reporters ever become discount codes.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_159893313_3a31aba7-fa22-4360-b9bd-d70c1d3c21ff-articleLarge With ‘Talking to Strangers,’ Malcolm Gladwell Goes Dark podcasts Gladwell, Malcolm Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Bland, Sandra (1987-2015)

Mr. Gladwell at the South by Southwest conference in March. His “Revisionist History” podcast draws as many as three million listeners.CreditSamantha Burkardt/Getty Images

Mr. Gladwell loves to remind people that he is Canadian — more specifically, “a short Canadian.” He says this all the time, starting sentences with “The Canadian in me …” and “Growing up in a small town in Canada …”

His parents — Mr. Gladwell is the son of a Jamaican mother and an English father — moved to Elmira, Ontario, “a small, conservative, Bible Belt town,” when he was a child. After graduating from Trinity College at the University of Toronto, he struck out for a job in advertising but ended up in journalism, writing for two conservative magazines.

Mr. Gladwell joined The Post as a health and business reporter in 1987 and became a staff writer at The New Yorker about a decade later. There, he produced a string of knockout articles that reshaped the conventional wisdom on subjects from ketchup to the “broken windows” theory of policing.

“He was never interested in the traditional profile of a C.E.O. or an investigative piece on the malfeasance of some bank or company,” David Remnick, the magazine’s editor, said. “He got intrigued by this combination of reporting, thinking, reading, storytelling, telling two stories at once that lead you to a revelatory conclusion.”

When “The Tipping Point” was published, it became such a part of marketing vernacular that M.B.A. programs made it assigned reading. The Roots named their 2004 album after the book. The founder of Starbucks publicly credited his chain’s success with “the tipping-point phenomenon.” Donald Rumsfeld even used the term to describe the teetering status of the war in Iraq.

Mr. Gladwell became synonymous with an emerging genre of wonky but readable nonfiction. “Everyone thinks I wrote ‘Freakonomics,’” he said. Readers were captivated by his artful repurposing of academic research, as he repeatedly launched ideas and phrases — “mavens” and “connectors” and “the 10,000-hour rule” — into the lexicon. Time magazine named him one of its 100 Most Influential People.

But as Mr. Gladwell’s sales soared — his third book drew a reported $6 million advance — critics didn’t just sour on his work. They started to rip it apart.

“The reasoning in ‘Outliers,’ which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle,” a Harvard professor wrote in 2009. In 2013, a Times columnist ended his review bluntly: “It’s time for Malcolm Gladwell to find a new shtick.”

Mr. Gladwell said he didn’t really get ruffled by his critics. “I’ve never had a particularly thin skin,” he said. His friends point out that journalists can be especially jealous when one of their own so wildly succeeds. But the assertion that Mr. Gladwell has a schtick — or even a brand — does seem to irk him.

“Does Michael Lewis worry if he has a new schtick or an old schtick? I just enjoy his literary company,” Mr. Gladwell said. (Incidentally, Mr. Lewis, the author of such megahits as “Moneyball” and “The Big Short,” hosts a top-rated Pushkin podcast.)

“Critics take a more meta position that isn’t reflective of the audience,” Mr. Gladwell said. Besides, he added, “the marketplace value of a review has fallen. They’re not the gatekeeper anymore.” Despite mixed reviews, “Outliers” debuted at No. 1 on the Times best-seller list. And the paperback version is still there — for the 287th week.

“I’ve never had a particularly thin skin,” Mr. Gladwell said.CreditBryan Derballa for The New York Times

Some reviewers and Twitter critics may be out for blood when it comes to Mr. Gladwell’s writing. But that’s not really the case in podcasting, a younger and friendlier medium in which he can explore his every whim and not get raked over the coals.

“People don’t listen to what they don’t like,” Mr. Weisberg said. “It’s the opposite of The Times or Slate, when people don’t read an article but say something nasty about the writer or the headline. It’s just a constant today. You put your armor on because people are just going to start feeding on you.”

At Slate, Mr. Weisberg had conceived several hit podcasts, and he persuaded Mr. Gladwell to think about starting an audio program. “Revisionist History” began in 2016, billed as a journey through “things misunderstood and overlooked,” such as Wilt Chamberlain’s refusal to shoot free throws underhand to improve his accuracy and the decline of McDonald’s french fries.

Mr. Gladwell’s smooth Canadian lilt worked perfectly in the sensitive-bro realm of podcasting, although his habit of narrative digressions — which worked so well in a magazine story — made for a potential mess in audio.

Julia Barton, Pushkin’s executive editor, would send him heavily edited transcripts. “It’s like saying, ‘You’re a master sand painter, but suddenly, for whatever reason, you have to sand paint at night when it’s dark, and you know what you’re doing but you don’t know,” Ms. Barton said.

Whereas “Talking to Strangers” is Mr. Gladwell at his most sky-is-falling serious, his podcast delivers the unexpected whimsy of his earlier writing. In one episode this season, he reframes the Boston Tea Party as the tea mafia trying to gain a market advantage. Another episode was sparked by a friend’s jog around the perimeter of the exclusive Brentwood Country Club in Los Angeles. Mr. Gladwell connects his disgust over the off-limits greenery to Bob Hope, Plutarch and the theory of spatiotemporal continuity.

For the past several months, Mr. Gladwell has used his podcasts to promote the “newfangled” audiobook for “Talking to Strangers” — the kind of cross-promotion most publishers can only dream about. The audiobook merges Mr. Gladwell’s narration with interviews with criminologists, scientists, actors reading court transcripts and a Janelle Monáe song. His publisher — Little, Brown — produced the audiobook with Pushkin, which has plans to invest in more of these immersive hybrid book-podcast experiences.

Book publishing has been slow to figure out how to get in on the podcast craze, and Mr. Gladwell’s latest will be a major test in an industry increasingly reliant on Audible. While e-book sales have fallen and print has remained stagnant, publishers’ revenues from downloaded audiobooks have nearly tripled in the last five years, according to data from the Association of American Publishers.

“Talking to Strangers” begins with an introduction about his father, Graham Gladwell, and an encounter with a celebrity at the chic Mercer Hotel in Manhattan. As the two men enjoyed a chat about gardening, people kept approaching for pictures and autographs. His father never got the celebrity’s name. The interaction still makes Mr. Gladwell smile.

“It had to be someone huge for anyone to bother them at the Mercer Hotel!” he said. Robert Redford? Mick Jagger? He’ll never know. His father died in 2017, but his genteel approach to allowing strangers to remain strangers informs the whole of Mr. Gladwell’s book.

The “Talking to Strangers” focus on misunderstanding one another raises the obvious question of whether Mr. Gladwell feels misunderstood himself. In our interview, he never said as much explicitly. But he gave the unmistakable impression of being an introverted, maybe even aloof, person who is uncomfortable with elements of his literary celebrity.

Mr. Gladwell returned often to the subject of Sandra Bland. When he was growing up in Elmira, he said, police officers weren’t just police officers — they were also neighbors, fellow shoppers at the grocery store, people speaking up at P.T.A. meetings.

“I can’t tell you how many times I was 16 or 17 in my hometown and was pulled over,” he said. “You knew the cop in five different ways.”

But to Ms. Bland, the state trooper who pulled her over had a single face: cop. “That happens in these divided times — your professional identity becomes your identity,” Mr. Gladwell said.

“On every level,” he added, “I feel like there is this weird disconnect between the way the world is presented to us in the media and the way it really is. The goal is simply to give people an opportunity to reflect on things they otherwise wouldn’t reflect on. What they do next is out of my control.”

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Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite

SAN FRANCISCO — In George Orwell’s “1984,” the classics of literature are rewritten into Newspeak, a revision and reduction of the language meant to make bad thoughts literally unthinkable. “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” one true believer exults.

Now some of the writer’s own words are getting reworked in Amazon’s vast virtual bookstore, a place where copyright laws hold remarkably little sway. Orwell’s reputation may be secure, but his sentences are not.

Over the last few weeks I got a close-up view of this process when I bought a dozen fake and illegitimate Orwell books from Amazon. Some of them were printed in India, where the writer is in the public domain, and sold to me in the United States, where he is under copyright.

Others were straightforward counterfeits, like the edition of his memoir “Down and Out in Paris and London” that was edited for high school students. The author’s estate said it did not give permission for the book, printed by Amazon’s self-publishing subsidiary. Some counterfeiters are going as far as to claim Orwell’s classics as their own property, copyrighting them with their own names.

What unites all these books is that none of them paid the author anything, which means they could compete with legal Orwell titles as a lower-cost alternative. After all, if you need a copy of “Animal Farm” or “1984” for school, you’re not going to think too much about who published it. Because all editions of “1984” are the same, right?

Not always, not on Amazon.

One reader discovered, to his surprise, that his new copy of “1984” had passages that were “worded slightly different.” Another offered photographic proof that her edition was near gibberish. A third said the word “faces” was replaced in his copy with “feces.” Getting Orwell books that skip a chunk of pages seemed to be a routine experience.

Even the titles changed. One edition of “Animal Farm: A Fairy Story” referred to itself on the back cover as “Animals Farm: A Fair Story.” The preface referred to another great Orwell work, “Homage to Catalonia,” as “Homepage to Catalonia.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 19AMAZON1984-articleLarge Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite Writing and Writers Orwell, George E-Commerce Counterfeit Merchandise Copyrights and Copyright Violations Consumer Reviews Computers and the Internet Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc 1984 (Book)

A reader offered a warning about a version of “1984” that was sold on Amazon.

I started browsing Orwell on Amazon after writing about the explosion in counterfeit books offered by the retailer. The fake books appeared to help Amazon by, for example, encouraging publishers to advertise their genuine books on the site. The company responded in a blog post that it prohibits counterfeit products and has invested in personnel and technology tools including machine learning to protect customers from fraud and abuse.

On Sunday, Amazon said in a statement that “there is no single source of truth” for the copyright status of every book in every country, and so it relied on authors and publishers to police its site. “This is a complex issue for all retailers,” it said. The company added that machine learning and artificial intelligence were ineffective when there is no single source of truth from which the model can learn.

Bookselling is an ancient and complicated profession, and fake editions of all sorts can turn up anywhere. But Amazon is the world’s biggest bookstore and the standards it sets have ripples everywhere.

How it treats Orwell is especially revelatory because their relationship has been fraught. In 2009, Amazon wiped counterfeit copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm” from customers’ Kindles, creeping out some readers who realized their libraries were no longer under their control.

Orwell resurfaced in 2014 during Amazon’s bare-knuckles fight with the publisher Hachette over e-book sales. Amazon tried to use a quotation by the author — renowned for his moral rectitude — to suggest he was a sleaze in favor of illegal collusion. It turned out the quote was very much out of context.

My newly acquired Orwell shelf was frankly dismal — typos galore, flap copy lifted directly from Wikipedia, covers that screamed “amateur.” Eleven of the books were sold directly by Amazon as new books and were shipped from an Amazon warehouse; one was sold as a new book by a third party. Prices ranged from $3 to $23.

The counterfeits and imports are generally the least expensive editions, and who can blame people for buying those? So they do. A $7.99 legitimate edition of “1984” was recently ranked at No. 72 among all Amazon books. A $5 Indian import was at No. 970, which suggested copies were selling at a steady clip.

A few of the books sold on Amazon wanted to improve Orwell, notably an unauthorized “high school edition” of his 1933 memoir, “Down and Out in Paris and London.”CreditDamien Maloney for The New York Times
An interior page of “Down and Out in Paris and London,” sold on Amazon, which lists a Moira Propreat as the editor.CreditDamien Maloney for The New York Times

Most of the distorted texts are likely due to ignorance and sloppiness but at their most radical the books try to improve Orwell, as with the unauthorized “high school edition” of his 1933 memoir. The editing was credited to a Moira Propreat. She could not be reached for comment; in fact, her existence could not be verified.

“Down and Out” is an unflinching look at brutal behavior among starving people, which makes Ms. Propreat’s self-appointed task of rendering the book “more palatable” rather quixotic. An example of her handiwork came when Charlie, a boastful rapist, described how he lured a young woman into his clutches:

“‘Come here, my chicken,’ I called to her.”

Ms. Propreat’s version:

“‘Come here,’ I called to her.”

It’s unlikely that Orwell, a finicky master of English prose, would have appreciated this editing — nor the fact that all the French in the book is rendered in capital letters, which makes it seem like the writer is shouting at the reader.

Until recently, improving Orwell was not a practical business proposition. Then Amazon blew the doors off the heavily curated literary world. No longer was access to the marketplace determined by publishers, booksellers or reviewers. Even the most marginal books were suddenly available to everyone everywhere.

Breaking down the doors, however, also let in people who did not appear to care about the quality of what they sell.

“Once a week a counterfeit pops up,” said Bill Hamilton, the agent for the Orwell estate. “When will a company like Amazon take responsibility for the curation of the products passing through their hands?”

My newly acquired Orwell shelf was frankly dismal — typos galore, flap copy lifted directly from Wikipedia, covers that screamed “amateur.”CreditDamien Maloney for The New York Times

If Amazon vetted each title the way physical bookstores do, it would need lots more employees. That would cost more, dragging profits down. I searched my Amazon account for a way to tell the retailer it was selling me counterfeits and came up with nothing. (Amazon suggested I use the blue “report incorrect product information” button on every page, or give them a call. If I returned the book, I could select a reason from some drop-down options provided.)

The Authors Guild said that in the last two years, the number of piracy and counterfeiting issues referred to its legal department has increased tenfold. Counterfeit editions are a blow against the authority of the book and accelerate a dangerous trend toward misinformation.

“During most of human existence, facts have been hard to pin down and most of knowledge was oral history, rumor and received wisdom,” said Scott Brown, a prominent California bookseller. “We have spent our whole lives in a fact-based world and while that seems how things ought to be, it may prove to have been a temporary aberration.”

Mr. Brown noted that the news was now mostly digital. “Who can really say what an article really said when it was published? There’s rarely a printed — and therefore hard-to-change — version to refer back to,” he said. “The past is becoming unmoored and unreliable.”

One of the Orwell books I bought was a copy of “Animal Farm” issued by Grapevine India. On the copyright page it declared, “The author respects all individuals, organizations & communities, and there is no intention in this novel to hurt any individual, organization [or] community.”

Orwell said no such thing, his estate confirmed. This was a 2019 sentiment tacked onto a 1945 story. But then, in this edition of “Animal Farm,” the author and the past barely exist. There was no copyright acknowledgment, no mention of the year 1945.

Fake and problematic editions of Orwell’s books that were bought on Amazon.CreditDamien Maloney for The New York Times

In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell wrote that “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” He would have found his point confirmed by another Indian edition of “Animal Farm” sold by Amazon, this one from Adarsh Books. One sentence in the introductory blurb goes like this: “When the animals, the so-called characters in the novel, are making their attempts to learn the alphabet in different ways, is definitely the scene that would be bringing some unexpected laughter to the reader.”

The Adarsh edition was seemingly created using an optical scanner, which often results in misspelled words. One well-known passage in “Animal Farm” tells how the seven commandments of the farm are written on the wall. No. 2 goes like this: “Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.”

Adarsh’s version goes on to note that the spelling of the commandments is correct “except that ‘friend’ was written ‘friend.’” If you’re confused, it’s because that second “friend” is supposed to be “freind.” One of Orwell’s signature passages was thus rendered incomprehensible.

Grapevine and Adarsh are free to publish these books in India. But after I asked Amazon about the Indian editions last week, it removed them from sale in the United States, including a digital “1984.” It also removed the counterfeits I asked about. An email to Adarsh’s address as printed on its edition of “Animal Farm” bounced back. Grapevine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even assuming Amazon customers care, it is difficult for them to know they are getting a legitimate edition. Amazon sometimes bundles all the reviews of a title together, regardless of which edition they were written for. That means an unauthorized edition of “Animal Farm” can have thousands of positive reviews, signaling to a customer it is a valid edition.

At the other extreme, reviews that expose a counterfeit edition will remain even if the edition itself disappears. A reader complained — and provided photos as proof — that his copy of “Animal Farm” had the words “Chapter IV” inserted into the text anytime there was a word with the letters “iv.” For example: “He was unChapterIVersally respected.”

“A literary nightmare,” the reader concluded.

This reader, who purchased “Animal Farm” from Amazon, wrote that the words “Chapter IV” were inserted into the text anytime there was a word with the letters “iv.”Credit

The large publishers, which have remained mostly mute since they were on the losing side of an antitrust clash with Amazon over e-reading, are now finding their voice again. Their trade group, the Association of American Publishers, just filed a heavily researched analysis with the Federal Trade Commission that is remarkably blunt.

“The marketplace of ideas is now at risk for serious if not irreparable damage because of the unprecedented dominance of a very small number of technology platforms,” the report concluded.

Meanwhile, the books are mutating. A reader recently tried to sound the alarm about a different dystopian classic he bought on Amazon.

“This is not the real Fahrenheit 451,” he wrote. “The wording is different, the first chapter is not properly titled, they used the first sentence of the chapter as the title in this book. There are typo’s and spacing issues. They need to advertise that this is not an authentic book.”

Read more about Amazon and counterfeit books.
What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues

Jun 23, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 23counterfeit1-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v4 Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite Writing and Writers Orwell, George E-Commerce Counterfeit Merchandise Copyrights and Copyright Violations Consumer Reviews Computers and the Internet Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc 1984 (Book)

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‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Monday again denied assaulting a columnist for Elle magazine in the dressing room of a high-end clothing store more than 20 years ago, countering her explosive accusation by asserting that he would not have assaulted her because “she’s not my type.”

Mr. Trump said that E. Jean Carroll, who wrote for years for Elle magazine, was “lying” when she said that he threw her up against a wall and forced himself on her in the mid-1990s, and he insisted that he did not know her.

“I’ll say it with great respect,” he said in an interview with The Hill, a Capitol Hill news organization. “No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, O.K.?”

Earlier Monday, Ms. Carroll spoke about an excerpt from her new book — “What Do We Need Men For?” — that was published in New York magazine. She said in an interview on CNN that Mr. Trump threw her up against a wall so hard that “I hit my head really hard: boom.” She said that she tried to fight back against Mr. Trump’s violent advances in a fitting room of Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan.

In the Hill interview, Mr. Trump said Ms. Carroll was making up the story. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her,” he said. “I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her. She is — it’s just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that.”

Mr. Trump in the past has rejected other sexual assault accusations by asserting that the women who accused him of taking advantage of them were not attractive enough to engage in such behavior.

“Believe me, she would not be my first choice, that I can tell you,” Trump told supporters at a campaign event in 2016 after a woman accused him of putting his hand up her skirt while on an airplane. “You don’t know. That would not be my first choice.” As the crowd laughed, he said, “Check out her Facebook, you’ll understand.”

The fitting room episode took place in late 1995 or early 1996, according to Ms. Carroll, who said Monday that Mr. Trump asked her to model lingerie that he was looking to purchase. At the time, Mr. Trump was married to Marla Maples.

“The minute he closed that door, I was banged up against the wall,” Ms. Carroll said during an appearance on “New Day” with Alisyn Camerota. “I want women to know that I did not stand there. I did not freeze. I was not paralyzed, which is a reaction I could have had because it was so shocking. No, I fought.”

Ms. Carroll said the release in October 2016 of the “Access Hollywood” video in which Mr. Trump boasted of sexual assault to the television host Billy Bush was validation for her. CNN played the 2005 clip during Ms. Carroll’s appearance on Monday.

“It knocked me back; I felt relief,” Ms. Carroll said. “We have to change this culture of sexual violence.”

More than a dozen women have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct that they said took place before he was elected president.

“It’s the same,” Ms. Carroll said. “He denies it. He turns it around. He attacks and then he threatens. I am sick of it. Think how many women have come forward. Nothing happens.”

Ms. Carroll, 75, stopped short of using the word “rape” on Monday to characterize the episode, which she said in the New York magazine excerpt that she disclosed to two friends at the time. One urged her to report it to the police, while a journalist friend warned her to keep quiet because Mr. Trump would “bury you.” The New York Times spoke to the two friends, who confirmed that Ms. Carroll had spoken about it with them but said they did not want to be identified.

“I have difficulty with the word,” Ms. Carroll, the author of “Ask E. Jean” in Elle, said Monday. “I see it as a fight. He pulled down my tights. It was over very quickly. It was against my will 100 percent.”

Ms. Carroll rejected the president’s contention that she was motivated by publicity for her book.

“Male authors never get this question,” Ms. Carroll said. “It was not about selling a book about Donald Trump.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156791481_19e78a40-d9e1-4cc5-aecb-fe286cd2bde7-articleLarge ‘She’s Not My Type’: Accused Again of Sexual Assault, Trump Resorts to Old Insult What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal (Book) Trump, Donald J Sex Crimes Carroll, E Jean Books and Literature #MeToo Movement

“What Do We Need Men For?” By E. Jean CarrollCreditMacmillan

In a statement on Friday, the president said he had never met Ms. Carroll, but the two were photographed together at a party in 1987 with Ms. Carroll’s former husband, John Johnson. Mr. Trump said on Saturday that the image was misleading.

“Standing with my coat on in a line?” Mr. Trump said. “Give me a break — with my back to the camera? I have no idea who she is.”

Peter Baker reported from Washington, and Neil Vigdor from New York.

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What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues

SPERRYVILLE, Va. — “The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy” is a medical handbook that recommends the right amount of the right drug for treating ailments from bacterial pneumonia to infected wounds. Lives depend on it.

It is not the sort of book a doctor should puzzle over, wondering, “Is that a ‘1’ or a ‘7’ in the recommended dosage?” But that is exactly the possibility that has haunted the guide’s publisher, Antimicrobial Therapy, for the past two years as it confronted a flood of counterfeits — many of which were poorly printed and hard to read — in Amazon’s vast bookstore.

“This threatens a bunch of patients — and our whole business,” said Scott Kelly, the publisher’s vice president.

Mr. Kelly’s problems arise directly from Amazon’s domination of the book business. The company sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.

But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyer complains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon.

The scope of counterfeiting across Amazon goes far beyond books. E-commerce has taken counterfeit goods from flea markets to the mainstream, and Amazon is by far the e-commerce heavyweight. But books offer a way to see the depths of the issue.

“Being a tech monopoly means you don’t have to care about quality,” said Bill Pollock, a San Francisco publisher who has dealt with fake versions of his firm’s computer books on Amazon.

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

“There is strong competition amongst booksellers, from major retailers to independent booksellers,” the spokeswoman added.

What happens after a tech giant dominates an industry is increasingly a question as lawmakers and regulators begin taking a harder look at technology companies, asking when dominance shades into a monopoly. This month, lawmakers in the House said they were scrutinizing the tech giants’ possible anticompetitive behavior. And the Federal Trade Commission is specifically examining Amazon.

In Amazon’s bookstore, the unruly behavior has been widespread, aided by print-on-demand technology. Booksellers that seem to have no verifiable existence outside Amazon offer $10 books for $100 or even $1,000 on the site, raising suspicions of algorithms run wild or even money-laundering. The problem of fake reviews is so bad that the F.T.C. has already gotten involved.

Those who write a popular book open themselves up to being “summarized” on Amazon. At least eight books purport to summarize “Bad Blood,” John Carreyrou’s best-selling account of fraud in Silicon Valley. The popular novel “Where the Crawdads Sing” has at least seven summaries. “Discover a beautiful coming-of-age story without all of the unnecessary information included in the actual novel!” says one that has 19 five-star reviews, all of which read as if they were fake.

And then there are the counterfeits.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_156262701_e1e0abbf-1144-4d3f-99ee-7ced13326664-articleLarge What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues Writing and Writers E-Commerce Counterfeit Merchandise Computers and the Internet Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Antitrust Laws and Competition Issues Amazon.com Inc

A counterfeit version of Danielle Trussoni’s acclaimed memoir, “Falling Through the Earth,” on Amazon misspelled the author’s name on the cover.

“It’s unacceptable and I’m furious,” the author Andrew Sean Greer tweeted after people complained last summer that fakes of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Less,” were being sold as the real thing. There was a counterfeit edition of Danielle Trussoni’s acclaimed memoir, “Falling Through the Earth,” on the site that misspelled her name on the cover. Lauren Groff tweeted that there was “an illegal paperback” of “Florida,” her National Book Award nominee, on Amazon.

Dead writers get hit, too. Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” was pirated. So was a volume of classic stories by Jorge Luis Borges. For 18 months Amazon has sold a counterfeit of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” despite warnings in reader reviews that it is a “monstrosity,” dispensing with such standard features as proofreading and paragraph indenting.

Technical books, which tend to be more expensive than fiction, are frequent victims. No Starch Press has tried to squelch fake editions of its computer manuals for three years. Mr. Pollock, No Starch’s founder, said Amazon had the same laid-back approach to bad actors on its platform as Facebook and YouTube.

“Amazon is the Wild Wild West,” he said.

Amazon has sold a counterfeit version of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” despite reader reviews warning that it is “maybe even a fake?”

This is not really negligence on Amazon’s part. It is the company’s business model. Amazon, which does not break out revenue or profit from bookselling or publishing, assumes that everyone on its platform operates in good faith until proven otherwise. “It is your responsibility to ensure that your content doesn’t violate laws or copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other rights,” it tells prospective publishers and sellers.

At Antimicrobial Therapy, the first warning that something was amiss with the Sanford Guide came with reviews on Amazon. “Several pages smudged and unable to read,” one buyer said in 2017, posting photos as proof. “Seems as the book was photocopied,” said a second. “Characters are smeared,” wrote a third.

The company, whose books were sold to Amazon by distributors, did test buys. It got some copies from Amazon and others from its third-party sellers, including UsedText4u, Robinhood Book Foundation and 24×7 Book. Of the 34 books that Mr. Kelly bought, at least 30 were counterfeit. None of the booksellers responded to requests for comment.

The first warning that there might be problems with copies of the Sanford Guide available on Amazon came in the form of customer reviews.

Mr. Kelly spent hours writing responses to customers who complained about their copies but didn’t realize they had counterfeits. He tried tracking down the source of the fakes and attempted to communicate with Amazon. Eventually he wrote to the retailer’s founder, Jeff Bezos, saying, “Amazon is knowingly and willfully fulfilling most orders for our title with counterfeits that may contain errors leading to injury or death of their patients.”

Mr. Kelly got a response two weeks later from “Raj,” a member of “the Amazon Seller Performance team.” Raj said that an unnamed third-party seller had been barred from selling the book but that the seller might now appeal directly to AMT, and that if the company wanted to retract the whole thing, here was what to do.

“They were very reluctant to actually engage with us about the problem,” Mr. Kelly said of Amazon.

The Authors Guild said it was also seeing “a massive rise” in counterfeit books. “Authors tell us, ‘I know I had more sales, but I don’t see them in my royalties.’” said Mary Rasenberger, the guild’s executive director. “Amazon owns the reseller platform, and we think that’s where these books are being sold.”

In February, Amazon included counterfeiting in its financial disclosures as a risk factor for the first time, saying it might not be able to prevent its merchants “from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated or stolen goods” or “selling goods in an unlawful or unethical manner.”

Yet the company has such a grip on books that counterfeits do not seem to harm it. They might even increase its business.

“A book takes a year or more to write,” said Andrew Hunt of the Pragmatic Bookshelf, a North Carolina publisher of computer books that had at least one of its titles stolen. “But to steal the book and upload it to Amazon takes only a minute. As the expression goes, there’s a low cost of entry.”

An original 2018 copy of “The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy,” left, and a counterfeit that was available on Amazon.CreditIsabelle Baldwin for The New York Times

And when someone buys a counterfeit, Mr. Hunt added, the real author may get cheated but Amazon still makes a sale. “You could ask, What’s their incentive to do something?” he said.

Amazon fulfilled Jamie Lendino’s dream of becoming an author.

A computer buff who delights in the digital past, Mr. Lendino, 45, wrote a book called “Breakout,” about the Atari machines of the 1980s that ushered in a new era of gaming. He self-published it two years ago through Amazon, which charged him nothing upfront but took a commission on the 1,223 paperback copies bought by devoted Atari fans.

Then Amazon fulfilled someone’s dream of becoming Jamie Lendino.

A fellow purportedly named Steve S. Thomas took Mr. Lendino’s book a year ago and remade it as his own. Mr. Thomas got rid of the title “Breakout” and converted the subtitle — “How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation” — into the title. He put on a new cover and substituted his name for Mr. Lendino’s, although he kept all of Mr. Lendino’s biographical details about being the editor of ExtremeTech.com and writing for PC Magazine and Popular Science.

It was the latest entry in Mr. Thomas’s substantial body of work. He also put his name on scholarly and expensive books like “Preharvest and Postharvest Food Safety” and “Real-World Electronic Voting: Design, Analysis and Deployment,” none of which he had actually written.

The original “Breakout: How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation,” by Jamie Lendino, and a counterfeit version credited to an author who probably does not exist.CreditKevin Savetz

Mr. Thomas’s plagiarism of Mr. Lendino brought his caper to a close. Kevin Savetz, another Atari buff, spotted “How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation.” He ordered it, although, as he noted, “the title seemed a little familiar.”

When Mr. Savetz got the book, he realized it was more than familiar and tweeted at Mr. Lendino, who was surprised someone was stealing from him.

“If you’re going to counterfeit a book, you’d pick something by Dan Brown or Neil Gaiman,” Mr. Lendino said. “You don’t pick a tech guy writing about a 40-year-old computer.”

Things got weirder. Allison Tartalia, Mr. Lendino’s wife, was browsing on Amazon as all this was happening when she saw that a 152-page biography of her husband had recently been published.

“I was like, ‘Honey? Someone apparently knows something about you that I don’t,’ ” Ms. Tartalia said.

She ordered a copy of the biography, which had been put together by two entrepreneurs using a rudimentary artificial intelligence program scraping material from the internet. So far, they seem to have produced 3,000 of them, including titles such as “Dick Hardt, Identity Guy at Amazon Web Services.” They sell for $15, though sales seem to be rare and satisfied customers even rarer.

A telltale message printed on blank pages of “How Atari 8-Bit Computers Defined a Generation,” a counterfeit.CreditKevin Savetz

After Mr. Lendino complained to Amazon about the counterfeit, the retailer wiped Mr. Thomas’s oeuvre from its store. Only the faintest traces of him remain. He could not be reached for comment because he probably does not exist. Amazon declined to comment.

Ms. Tartalia never received her biography of her husband. The book is listed as “currently unavailable.”

Mr. Lendino holds no grudges against Amazon. “It was truly amazing that I could publish a book without walking into a lot of bookstores and asking them to carry it, or printing a lot of inventory and having to run online web sales myself,” he said.

Last year, he used Amazon’s self-publishing platform to issue “Adventure,” about the Atari 2600.

Some counterfeit books, like Mr. Thomas’s, are wholly made on Amazon. Sometimes they come from elsewhere.

One example is “The Art of Assembly Language,” an older computer manual published by No Starch Press. It ended up counterfeited and on Amazon after a sequence of maneuvers that began last November.

That month, a counterfeiter sent 11 digital files — including “The Art of Assembly Language” — to IngramSpark, a print-on-demand publisher in Tennessee. Once the scammer was finished with the minimal paperwork, IngramSpark had 11 new books.

The titles became part of the distribution network of IngramSpark’s parent company, Ingram Content Group, which supplies thousands of retailers with physical books of all types. IngramSpark printed and sold 56 copies of “The Art of the Assembly Language” over the next three months. Amazon ordered many of them.

In January, a keen-eyed customer tipped off No Starch that the book did not look right. The counterfeits, listed for $48, were larger than the real thing, which put the cover noticeably out of alignment. Amazon featured the fakes in its product photo.

“Amazon has done it again,” Mr. Pollock tweeted.

In late 2016, No Starch had found a counterfeit of one of its books, “The Linux Command Line,” on Amazon. A few months later, it happened again with “Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming” and, the publisher said, at least three others.

Phil Ollila, chief content officer of Ingram Content Group, acknowledged that he had not told No Starch, the copyright owner, that its rights were violated. “That seems like the polite thing to do, doesn’t it?” he said.

That was just one of No Starch’s problems on Amazon.

No Starch publishes “Python Crash Course,” a how-to guide to the Python programming language. Anyone searching those three words recently on Amazon would have seen several self-published books, often “sponsored” — that is, advertised — so they would be perched at the top of the search page.

One book, also called “Python Crash Course,” is an entirely dubious effort. On its front cover is a distorted logo appropriated from the respected publisher McGraw Hill but subtly changed to “RcGraw Hill.”

“Python Crash Course” by Alexis Jordan, with a biography that included details stolen from the suspense thriller writer Dean Koontz.

The book features a biography of Alexis Jordan, its purported author, on the back cover that was stolen from the popular suspense writer Dean Koontz. (“His novels are broadly described as suspense thrillers,” etc.) Inside, there is a completely different biography plagiarized from Jürgen Scheible, a German media artist.

Mr. Scheible said he was dismayed to learn that his life had been stolen. “This has shaken my trust in Amazon and its future,” he wrote in an email. “Where are they going if they are so negligent that a thing like this book and other such books can happen for real?”

Amazon sells “Python Crash Course” for $7. The No Starch book goes for $28.

“Their book is a joke, but it will sucker some people into thinking they’re buying a cheaper version of my book,” Mr. Pollock said.

Bait-and-switch schemes are common in the Amazon bookstore. If someone wants to title a book of self-published poetry “To Kill a Mockingbird” — and someone did — Amazon will sell it next to Harper Lee’s classic novel. Some customers wrote in Amazon reviews that they felt tricked by the author of the verse “Mockingbird,” whose many other titles include “War and Peace” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

In February, Amazon introduced a plan called Project Zero. No longer would brands have to report counterfeits and wait for the retailer to investigate. Project Zero, Amazon said, would give brands “an unprecedented ability to directly control and remove listings.”

Mr. Pollock said Project Zero was a further insult. “Why should we be responsible for policing Amazon for fakes?” he said. “That’s their job.”

But No Starch still needs to keep its books ahead of the imitators and knockoffs. So in November, it began advertising on Amazon.

“It’s about $3,000 a month and rising,” Mr. Pollock said. “I need to keep my books on the first page of results.”

The Sanford antimicrobial guide has its roots in the work of Jay Sanford, the chief of infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas in the 1960s and later the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. There is now a digital version, but many doctors prefer the familiar printed format.

Antimicrobial Therapy is run today by Jeb Sanford, Jay’s son; his wife, Dianne; and Mr. Kelly, who is Dianne’s son and Jeb’s stepson. It is a small operation, only 13 employees working out of a large barnlike building in Sperryville, Va., on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Jeb Sanford, Antimicrobial Therapy’s co-chief executive officer, left, and his stepson, Scott D. Kelly, the publisher’s vice president. “There are versions of our text out in the world over which we had no control,” Mr. Kelly said.CreditIsabelle Baldwin for The New York Times

The company declined to disclose its annual revenue, but the Sanford Guide is its principal product. Sales of the book have drifted lower the past few years, with a downward spike in 2018.

In retrospect, this was probably a clue to the growing abundance of fakes. “My estimate is that approximately 15 to 25 percent of our sales were taken away by counterfeiting,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’re talking thousands of books.”

After the guide is printed, all copies go to Sperryville. They are then shipped to wholesalers, retailers and individual buyers. The wholesalers sell the book to Amazon. Third-party sellers on Amazon acquire their stock in several ways. One seller of a counterfeit copy told Mr. Kelly that she had bought the book from Amazon in one of its periodic sell-offs of damaged and returned books.

Sellers on Amazon can pool their goods with the same exact goods offered by Amazon itself, a practice known as commingling. This has advantages for sellers — less processing is needed, so it’s cheaper — but it also explains how Amazon can unknowingly ship counterfeits despite getting stock directly from the printer.

Some of the counterfeits appear to have been copied by scanning. That process can easily introduce numerical errors, especially with a typeface as small as the handbook’s. “There are versions of our text out in the world over which we had no control,” Mr. Kelly said.

The company filed complaints with Amazon about counterfeiting last fall. The bookseller ultimately removed many of the resellers, some of whom then went to Antimicrobial Therapy and complained that they were innocent. Amazon declined to comment on the publisher.

The communications impasse between Amazon and Antimicrobial Therapy was complicated by the fact that they did not have a direct relationship. So in December, AMT opened a vendor site on Amazon, with the bookseller getting a commission of about 20 percent on each copy sold. Under this arrangement, Amazon tells Antimicrobial Therapy where the customer lives, and the publisher ships the book from Sperryville.

As AMT was getting ready this spring to release the 2019 guide, it proposed an even deeper integration with Amazon.

“To eliminate the possibility of Amazon facilitating the sale of counterfeit books, we would like to offer Amazon the opportunity to serve as a wholesaler of our titles, cutting out the middle man,” Mr. Kelly wrote to the company.

It was, in essence, rewarding Amazon by surrendering to its dominance.

“We’d rather not be on Amazon,” Mr. Kelly said. “But we felt like we didn’t have a choice.”

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Barnes & Noble Is Sold to Hedge Fund After a Tumultuous Year

Westlake Legal Group 07BARNESNOBLE-facebookJumbo Barnes & Noble Is Sold to Hedge Fund After a Tumultuous Year Waterstones Booksellers Ltd Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures Books and Literature Book Trade and Publishing Barnes&Noble Inc

Barnes & Noble has been acquired by the hedge fund Elliott Advisors for $638 million.

The sale was announced Friday morning following months of speculation over the future of Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United States and a critical retail outlet for publishers and authors.

Elliott’s acquisition of Barnes & Noble follows its purchase of the British bookstore chain Waterstones in June 2018. James Daunt, the chief executive of Waterstones, will also act as Barnes & Noble’s C.E.O. and will be based in New York.

The sale, which was an all-cash transaction, valued Barnes & Noble stock at $6.50 a share, a premium of nearly 42 percent over the retailer’s stock price on Wednesday, before reports of an impending deal caused the price to surge on Thursday.

The sale was approved unanimously by Barnes & Noble’s board. Leonard Riggio, the company’s founder and chairman, who voted for the transaction, said in a news release: “In view of the success they have had in the bookselling marketplace, I believe they are uniquely suited to improve and grow our company for many years ahead.”

Mr. Daunt is well regarded in the publishing industry for rescuing Waterstones from near bankruptcy. In the announcement, he said he was confident that Barnes & Noble could flourish despite the challenges facing the industry.

“Physical bookstores the world over face fearsome challenges from online and digital,” he said. “We meet these with investment and with all the more confidence for being able to draw on the unrivaled bookselling skills of these two great companies. As a place in which to choose a book, and for the sheer pleasure of visiting, we know that a good bookstore has no equal.”

The Wall Street Journal had reported that Elliott Management was the favored buyer of Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble has struggled to make a profit and increase its foot traffic and sales in recent years. The company has closed more than 150 stores in the last decade or so, leaving it with 627 stores.

Waterstones has pursued a strategy that many analysts say is the only way to compete in a marketplace dominated by online sales, by allowing individual Waterstones booksellers to tailor each store to a community’s needs and interests. Mr. Daunt, who took over in 2011, has said that Waterstones operates more like a constellation of independent stores, rather than a homogeneous chain.

Elliott will own both chains, and while Barnes & Noble and Waterstones will operate independently, they will share a C.E.O. and “benefit from the sharing of best practices between the companies,” the news release said.

Mike Shatzkin, the chief executive of Idea Logical Company, a book-industry consulting firm, said a sale was probably the best outcome for Barnes & Noble’s future.

“Somebody else had to save Barnes & Noble; the present ownership succeeded in a completely different environment and was not ready to jump into the 21st century,” he said. Of Elliott, he added, “The fact that they own Waterstones certainly puts them in the right direction. Their ability to influence the publishing industry is going to be stronger being in both markets.”

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Tech We’re Using: Sliding Backward on Tech? There Are Benefits

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, discussed the tech she’s using.

About two years ago, you wrote an article about how you downgraded all your tech. How did you downgrade? What do you love about having done that?

It’s easier than you might think because you can pretty effectively downgrade merely by neglecting to upgrade. You just naturally find yourself sliding backward. In my case, this shift has been deliberate, but more about making a mental adjustment than about deactivating existing technology. (Though I did permanently jettison the electric toothbrush.)

There’s a prevailing assumption that just because there’s a new high-tech version of something previously handled in a low-tech way, one should adopt that technology. I come at it from a different angle, which is to start with the need or problem and ask myself: Will this new technology substantively help? And if the upside is speed or information, my next question is: What’s the trade-off? What do I lose along with this gain, and on balance, do the gains outweigh the losses? (Possibly the only thing I learned from Econ 111.)

Quite often, I find that it doesn’t. What lands in the loss column may have to do with process, and the process of doing something can be just as valuable as the end result. I read this book last year, “Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts.” I am in no way crafty, but this book had me yearning to thatch my own roof just to be in touch with the physical and attendant mental labor of putting something useful together. (That said, I haven’t lifted a finger.)

On the flip side, I find that many new technologies are actually far less efficient than the tools they attempt to replace. A Nook or a Kindle or iPad is, for my purposes, unequivocally worse than a printed book. You can’t flip back and forth to the photo inserts or skim easily through the index; you have no sense of page count (percentages, really?). You lose the design of the product, which is often beautiful, down to the weight of the paper and the choice of typeface. You’d have to pay me a very fancy salary to give up print for a year.

Ms. Paul prefers the printed page to e-books.CreditKrista Schlueter for The New York Times The vast majority of reviewers do, too, she said.CreditKrista Schlueter for The New York Times

Same thing with paper calendars; they’re just better. I get irrationally impatient with the slowness with which people tap meetings into their calendars on the phone. It is at least 30 seconds faster to write it in an old-timey agenda (Levenger here). My Google calendar will always play second fiddle to this far more detailed agenda, supplemented by Post-its and a Moleskine to-do list. I trace this obsession with efficiency to the children’s book “Cheaper by the Dozen,” about a couple of efficiency experts and their brood, which I took way too literally.

Given all this, what does your tech setup look like for doing your work?

My personal life, techwise, operates in sharp contrast to and in part as ballast against my professional life. Despite working on what one might consider the most low-tech of beats, we are in a tech-oriented workplace, and our content is delivered through high-tech platforms to tech-savvy readers.

That means doing everything I can while at work to understand, adopt and assess the same tools our newsroom colleagues and our readers are using, and figure out how they can materially enhance our journalism. We were actually the first desk to have a podcast (now in its 15th year) and are part of the pilot program for Alexa, which adapts our audio content for voice users. While at work, I have 12 windows and tabs open, toggling madly between laptop and phone like every other digital drone.

As an aside: I have the ugliest but best low-tech phone case for klutzes like me who drop their phones all the time. It costs 3 euros from Ale-Hop in Madrid, and you can order it online. You will look ridiculous carrying it around but triumphant picking it up.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_153082221_2849498f-2526-4839-ad37-75185b9a1e80-articleLarge Tech We’re Using: Sliding Backward on Tech? There Are Benefits Science and Technology New York Times DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) Computers and the Internet Books and Literature

Ale-Hop makes “the ugliest but best low-tech phone case for klutzes like me.”CreditKrista Schlueter for The New York Times

What’s your advice for others who want to downgrade their tech?

In general, when I hear the phrase “There’s an app for that,” my first question is, “Does there need to be?” The vast majority of new technologies are developed with a profit motive. So each new form of tech raises the question: Is this something I’m willing to pay for, whether the cost is in terms of dollars or privacy? Like many people, I chafe at the notion of my personal life being monetized.

How has the book industry’s shift toward digital publishing changed the way that The Times reviews books? And what hasn’t changed?

Strictly in terms of review process, our desk hasn’t changed much — because the vast majority of our editors and reviewers prefer to work in print.

It’s easier for an editor to assess a book without reading it in its entirety by dipping in and out. Reviewers like to mark up their galleys, which are early review copies.

That said, PDFs make fact-checking far easier and speed our process for embargoed books. We can also see early editions of visual books that aren’t available in galleys (the printing costs are too high) without having to wait for finished physical copies. And we can more readily get access to audiobooks digitally than we ever could with CDs.

“You’d have to pay me a very fancy salary to give up print for a year,” Ms. Paul said.CreditKrista Schlueter for The New York Times

Outside of work, what low-tech product are you currently obsessed with?

I am fairly confident that I’m the last DVD subscriber to what was once called Netflix and is now DVD.com, and my queue is maxed to the 500. I don’t subscribe to any streaming services, nor does our television have an antenna set up for network TV.

This makes my decision around what to watch really easy: There are only four choices. When I go somewhere with multiple streaming subscriptions, there’s actually nothing I want to watch. As Barry Schwartz wrote in his persuasive 2004 book, “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less,” we become easily overwhelmed and paralyzed when faced with too many possibilities (at least I do). It’s also easier to find old and foreign movies on DVD.

I do, however, like tech that narrows choice down. One app we recently used with much success was Happy Cow, which locates vegan dining options. It was seriously useful while traveling in Germany last summer with our 13-year-old vegan daughter.

I still regret uploading all my CDs at the behest of my husband, who is far techier than I am. Recently, I bought portable CD players for two of my kids. I think about digging out the vinyl again. Maybe I’ll pick up a “new” record player one of these days.

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