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The Independent Culture

Though she wasn't at the Guildhall on Tuesday, former Deutsch editor Diana Athill, who recently published her memoirs, was surely watching the Booker. So she'll have been touched to hear Margaret Atwood thank her for support during the winner's first dark days. And Athill will have missed the commercial break, when the two chiefs of Iceland (Booker's new owners) told guests that the company was the first to come out against GM foods. Mum may have gone to Iceland, as the ads said, but book-trade folk may well prefer Waitrose or Tesco Direct. Perhaps Iceland should work out a few of those famous "linked saves": The Bone People free with chump chops, Last Orders with a six-pack. The Blind Assassin would be more of a challenge, of course.

Though she wasn't at the Guildhall on Tuesday, former Deutsch editor Diana Athill, who recently published her memoirs, was surely watching the Booker. So she'll have been touched to hear Margaret Atwood thank her for support during the winner's first dark days. And Athill will have missed the commercial break, when the two chiefs of Iceland (Booker's new owners) told guests that the company was the first to come out against GM foods. Mum may have gone to Iceland, as the ads said, but book-trade folk may well prefer Waitrose or Tesco Direct. Perhaps Iceland should work out a few of those famous "linked saves": The Bone People free with chump chops, Last Orders with a six-pack. The Blind Assassin would be more of a challenge, of course.

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It's been a busy few weeks for Sir Paul McCartney, who this autumn "came out" as a painter. Now the former Beatle has signed with Faber for a collection of lyrics and poems, Blackbird Singing. Edited by his old friend, the poet Adrian Mitchell, the book (due next March) will comprise 75 per cent new material, much inspired by Sir Paul's late wife Linda, whose idea it was. McCartney was less concerned with money than that the book should go to a poetry publisher. Faber, where fellow rocker Pete Townsend was once an "editor", was top of the list.

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The Scots have scored a victory for independents: John Smith & Son, the Glasgow-based bookseller which next year celebrates 250 years of trade, has fought off predators. Willie Anderson, MD and a much-respected figure, has led a management buyout with company money and help from the Royal Bank of Scotland.

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The need for independent bookshops has been amply confirmed by Waterstone's. The floundering chain will now require a massive discount of 50 per cent from small publishers before carrying their stock - in effect, a tax on the little guys. In many author contracts, a swingeing cut in royalties kicks in at this level of discount. So Waterstone's will be grabbing money from the writers who need it most. Nice.

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