Smart Bitch Interview: Hillel Italie, AP Reporter

If you take a look at the Yahoo: Books and Publishing News Page, you’ll see a particular byline frequently: that of Hillel Italie, who is the AP National Writer who covers All Things Book.

Some people stalk their favorite authors. Some people stalk Fabio. Me, I start wondering about the job responsibilities of AP book beat reporters. I was rather fascinated by the idea of a reporter whose responsibilities include publishing, books, bestsellers, news, gossip, events, and trends – I mean, dude. How cool is that? So, being the nosy woman I am, I asked Hillel if he’d be willing to be interviewed, and whether he’d tolerate a few nebby questions.

Behold, Sarah chases down an AP reporter and makes him answer questions instead of asking them. Whee!

Note: I asked Hillel for a photograph, and his response is included below. Enjoy.

U Has a TypoHow did you get started covering all things book? What is the scope of your responsibilities for the AP?

Hillel: Basically, I started covering books (around 15 years ago) because they were there, piles of them, begging to be written about. My scope is as big as the industry, and that is many, many piles of books.

What conventions or conferences do you look forward to? You coming to RWA National in San Fran this year? (If so, I shall buy you drinks. Many of them.)

I love attending BookExpo America, which – judging from the one that just ended – is apparently more fun for reporters than it is for publishers. I have never covered an RWA convention, although the AP has. But thanks to your generous offer, I will put in a request, for medicinal purposes only.

If RWA gives you a press pass and you go to San Fran, I will be so excited I will spin around and buy you martinis until you cannot stand up. Seriously, it would be a real treat to meet you and talk books and coverage.

This sounds like gushing. You promised no gushing.

What do you personally think of some of the more dire predictions at the BEA as pertains to booksales, ebooks, and the decrease of consumer spending on books? For example, I’d think that in a depressed economy, books become cheap entertainment. Instead of a $10 movie, a $7 paperback lasts longer. Hardbacks, understandably, are a luxe item but books across the board? What’s your call?

It wouldn’t be a booksellers convention without dire predictions, kind of like a political convention without balloons. But there is plenty to be worried about. Publishing has consolidated a lot over the past decade and isn’t nearly as “recession proof” as once believed. More books keep getting released, but more people are not buying them. The world accelerates, but reading doesn’t. And if, a real `if,’  e-books ever take off, anything is possible.

But there remains a deep, and wide, affection for books.  Millions of kids didn’t line up at midnight for “Harry Potter” because their parents, or some marketer, or their parents, told them to. The well-told story never goes out of fashion, and it works beautifully on paper.

What author do you want to stalk and go through their garbage until you get arrested? Anyone? Nobody? Ok, then, what authors do you really, really dig, but not in the going-through-the-trash sense?

I don’t have to stalk authors, thank goodness, I just request an interview. I don’t have to stalk authors, thank goodness, I just ask for an interview.  And since I don’t drive I find authors who do. So, thanks for the lift, Russell Banks, Joseph Ellis, Louise Erdrich, S.E. Hinton, Richard Wilbur ….

Are you exclusively a reporter of bookishness or do you also write fiction, longer prose, or, poetry or LOLCats?

I remain exclusively a reporter of bookishness, but I should pay more attention to LOLCats,  the great art form of the 21st century.

If you had an ebook reader (do you?) which book(s) would live on it permanently? And if you say Chicago Manual of Style or Struncks or the Times or something, I’ll bang my head on my desk.

I’ve seen, held, but never owned an e-book reader. There’s some talk among publishers about sending advance copies of books in digital form to journalists; that would interest me.

Thank you, Hillel, for answering my nebby questions. And yes, oh yes, if the publishers in the world wanted to send advance copies in digital form, I’d be so full of glee you’d hear me in Australia.


Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Barb Ferrer says:

    Sarah, shove over on the Geek Bench and make some room, wouldja?

    Because seriously, I’ll help you pick up the bar tab if Hillel makes it to RWA.  I have a special section labeled ‘Hillel Italie’ on my Google News page because I am honestly that big a geek.

  2. 2

    Oooh, good going Sarah! Nice interview, and thanks for offering Hillel an incentive to come out to RWA and drink on the Bitchery tab.  If that doesn’t motivate, I don’t know what will!

  3. 3

    Cool interview, thanks!

  4. 4
    J.C. Wilder says:

    Great interview. And I used to think I had the best job in the world…


  5. 5

    Okay, this guy goes on my list of ‘people to invite to the imaginary party JRW and I are throwing in the bomb shelter at the end of 2012’.

  6. 6

    Oh!  He’s ridden with S.E. Hinton…my inner pre-teen is going apesh*t.

    my word: way13


  7. 7

    I didn’t see his response to the picture request, am I blind? Or was the LOLcat his response?

  8. 8
    Esri Rose says:

    Ooh, geeky satisfaction!

    I also think e-books are going to be the salvation of publishing. Maybe I should actually buy a reader, huh?

  9. 9
    amy lane says:

    omg—it’s the job I always wanted and didn’t know I wanted!  How fab!  Keep dishing allthings literary, Hillel—it’s good to know it can be a living.

  10. 10
    Joy says:

    Ok, OK, I admit it.  I LOVE ebooks.  (I also love paperbacks and hardbacks and audioebooks and print ebooks so call me a book slut.) I check them out from my library, buy some and would buy more had I time away from actual reading to listen to them/read them.  There is no reason to think that ebooks will replace publishing.  Different animal altogether.  I like paper for portability, print ebooks for ease of bringing a tons of them with me on a trip, and audioebooks for the “acting” some of the readers bring to it and cause I’d rather listen to a book than a crying baby on a plane.

    I’ve loved some ebooks and wanted all of them as well as my print copies (Nora Roberts’ In Death series is fantastic both in print and audio).  Some audiobooks have been read in such a breathy, wimpy voice I would never pay a cent for another one read by that reader.  Some print ebooks are too hard to read broken into tiny segments on my screen.  I’m truely waiting for the reader that is the size of a paperback, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and allows me to use both audio and print ebooks.  Kindle, get your act together and I’ll scrap up the money.  Til then…multiple ways for different folks.

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