Between the covers: What’s really going on in the world of books

Unusually the 2014 Villain of the Year title was hotly contested, in this case by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who tried and failed to ban prisoners from receiving books in the post

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The Independent Culture

Congratulations once again to Amazon, which wins the title of 2014 Villain of the Year thanks to its dispute with one of the world’s biggest publishing groups, allegations that it doesn’t pay its staff a living wage, its amazing ability to get away with paying hardly any corporate tax in Britain while still happily using our infrastructure to run its business, and its stupendously unfestive plan to hunt down small publishers “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle”.

Amazon’s UK press office has been contacted several times with offers from Between the Covers to put their side of the story, but they don’t seem to want to comment. For all this, Amazon, we  award you the Millwall Prize: no one likes you, you don’t care.

Unusually the 2014 Villain of the Year title was hotly contested, in this case by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling (left), who banned prisoners from receiving books in the post. Fortunately, many heroes and heroines stepped forward to protest against the ban, including the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, who said that it would damage the “soul of the country”. This month, the High Court ruled that the ban is unlawful, and English PEN and the Howard League for Penal Reform are keeping up the pressure with a books for prisoners advent calendar. Go online to englishpen.org to see recommended books from the likes of Monica Ali, Esther Freud, and David Hare.

Thanks as ever to the Indy on Sunday’s ace team of reviewers, who battle with jiffy bags, deadlines, and embargo letters to bring you their views on all the books of the year. Some of them have also published books of their own in 2014, including, but not limited to: Christopher Fowler, author of our “Invisible Ink” column, with Nyctophobia, a psychological thriller set in rural Spain, published by Solaris; Doug Johnstone’s Edinburgh thriller The Dead Beat, Faber; Rachel Hore, A Week in Paris, Simon & Schuster; Philip Hensher, The Emperor Waltz, Fourth Estate; and Natasha Devon’s Fundamentals: A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Carers on Mental Health and Self-Esteem, to be published in January by John Blake. You will have to wait until 2016 for Daniel Hahn’s Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature.

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