When dictators feel

21 July 2017

When dictators feel their support slipping among adults, it is not unusual for them to alter school textbooks in the hope of enlisting impressionable youths in their cause.

Samantha Power


Freedom To Publish: Kalem Agency Author Koray Çalışkan Under House Arrest in Turkey

21 July 2017

From Publishing Perspectives:

In her newsletter from Istanbul this week, Kalem Agency founder Nermin Mollaoğlu writes that one of the authors she represents, Koray Çalışkan, is being held under house arrest.

“Some of you met him during our [10th anniversary] Red Party at Frankfurt Book Fair” last year. “I am sure that you’ll remember him with his wit and humor.”

Kristenn Einarsson, chair of the International Publishers Association’s Freedom to Publish Committee, has issued this statement in response to Publishing Perspectives‘ inquiry:

“We are deeply worried about the situation for our colleagues in Turkey, and the Kalem Agency case shows that the harassment continues. We are equally impressed by how the Turkish Publishers Association stands up for the right to publish, as shown in their latest report on Freedom to Publish in Turkey 2016 and 2017.” (More follows in this article on that report.)

The situation to which Mollaoğlu is alluding began on July 10 when, as Daren Butler and Ece Toksabay wrote for Reuters, “Turkey issued arrest warrants for 72 university staff…Police have so far detained 42 of the staff from Istanbul’s prestigious Bogazici University and Medeniyet University…Eight of the 72 were from Bogazici, including well-known academic Koray Çalışkan, who worked in the past as a voluntary adviser to Kilicdaroglu, according to a CHP official.”

. . . .

“Before his detention,” she writes, “he posted a photo from the final rally of the ‘Justice March’ on July 9, which two million people attended in support of  peace, freedom, and democracy in Turkey, and he wrote ‘When you stand together you become full of hope, my beautiful country.’

“Koray Çalışkan is under house arrest now.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives


A Bookseller’s Elegy

21 July 2017

From The Millions:

“Do you have the book Hillbilly Elegy?”

“Yeah, we should have a copy on the front table; let me grab one for you.”

“Is it any good?”

“…It’s sold really well.”

“I hear it’s so powerful and important, especially now, since, well, you know…”

Working at an independent bookstore in the Greater Boston area, I find myself having some variation of this conversation a few times a week. To be fair, bookselling, like any retail or service job, comes with its fair share of repetitions. For example, the sales pitch for our loyalty program is so ingrained in me that it comes pouring out in a breathless flurry of words. Such things are largely innocuous, a necessary (if not occasionally tedious) part of the job. But when it comes to the above conversation concerning J.D. Vance’s bestselling memoir, there is something a bit more personal at stake, viz. my moral objection to the book that has become, for conservatives and liberals alike, a means of understanding the rise of “Trumpism.” And while it’s easy enough to take this moral high ground, it comes into direct conflict with that old chestnut about the customer always being right, to which even the most fiercely independent of bookstores largely adhere.

I don’t intend to review Elegy here. More capable pieces have already been written about the book’s “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” message, its condemnation of a supposed culture of poverty, its dismissal of the working class’s material reality as a determining factor in their lives, and its callous claim that the welfare state only reinforces a cycle of dependency.

. . . .

Despite the immeasurable good work independent bookstores and their staff do—from promoting children’s literacy to hosting readings and book clubs to being a vital part of local economies, and more—I’d hazard that the primary goal is always going to be customer satisfaction. So what can you do when a customer wants a book that you not only find objectionable but also believe actually dangerous in the lessons it portends amidst such a politically precarious time? If it helps, swap Elegy for any book that you find particularly insidious, whether it’s Atlas Shrugged, The Communist Manifesto, or The Bible. The question remains: without stooping to the level of crazed book-burning, does the bookseller’s role ever evolve past the capitalist exchange of money for paper and pulp? And are there meaningful ways to resist the continued sales of disastrous books?

Link to the rest at The Millions and thanks to Joni for the tip.

PG wonders what percentage of bookstore staff focus their working energies on judging their customers.

PG also wonders if any of the judgmental bookstore staff realize that quite a few of their customers sense they are being judged by some twerp who is supposed to be helping them have an enjoyable discovery and purchasing experience.

And decide they prefer a judgment-free zone like Amazon over meatspace retail with a side of attitude.



Forget George Eliot: now it’s male authors disguising their sex to sell more books

21 July 2017

From The Guardian:

Riley Sager is a debut author whose book, Final Girls, has received the ultimate endorsement. “If you liked Gone Girl, you’ll love this,” Stephen King has said. But unlike Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girls, Luckiest Girl Alive and others, Final Girls is written by a man – Todd Ritter. This detail is missing from Riley Sager’s website which, as the Wall Street Journal has pointed out, refers to the author only by name and without any gender-disclosing pronouns or photographs. (His Twitter avatar is Jamie Lee Curtis.)

Ritter is not the first man to deploy a gender-neutral pen name. JP Delaney (real name Tony Strong) is author of The Girl Before, SK Tremayne (Sean Thomas) wrote The Ice Twins and next year, The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (AKA Daniel Mallory) is published. Before all of these was SJ (AKA Steve) Watson, the author of 2011’s Before I Go to Sleep.

“Literally, every time I appear in print or public,” Watson says, someone asks about why he uses initials. It was his publisher’s decision to avoid an author photo and to render his biography non-gendered. He has never hidden, but when Before I Go to Sleep went on submission, editors emailed his agent and asked, “What is she like?” Watson found the mistake flattering. Withholding his full identity was a way “to reassure myself that the voice worked”, he says. In the world of romance novels, male authors have long disguised their gender. The Glaswegian author Iain Blair wrote 29 romances as Emma Blair. Jessica Blair is really Bill Spence, Alison Yorke is Christopher Nicole and Dean Koontz has written as Deanna Dwyer. As an undergraduate, Philip Larkin wrote erotic novellas under the name Brunette Coleman.

. . . .

The recent spate of men writing with gender-neutral names seems commercially driven. It is not a necessity for acceptance, as the Brontë sisters or George Eliot felt their pen names to be. However, there are earlier examples of men who wrote as women to give voice to “female” issues at a time when recourse to the females themselves proved elusive or unthinkable. In 1747, Benjamin Franklin published “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker”, and essayist Samuel Johnson presented himself as “Misella”, a sex worker, in 1751.

Link to the rest at The Guardian


Agatha Christie’s Fiery Letters Offer New Glimpse Into the Queen of Crime

21 July 2017

From Smithsonian Magazine:

In April of 1947, Agatha Christie penned a letter to her publisher Billy Collins about the cover for her forthcoming novel, The Labours of Hercules. An illustration of a Pekingese dog adorned the book’s jacket and, to put it mildly, Christie was not pleased.

“The wrapper design for Hercules has occasioned the most ribald and obscene remarks and suggestions from my family,” Christie quipped, according to Danuta Kean of the Guardian. “All I can say is – Try again!!”

This fiery note, along with other letters from the private correspondence between Christie and Collins, will be displayed starting today at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, England. The exhibition, titled “Agatha Christie and Collins: Rare Images and Documents from Her Life and Publishing Career,” will run until Sunday as part of a yearlong celebration marking the 200th anniversary of HarperCollins, Christie’s longtime publisher. Her letters—which are by turns funny, caustic, and vulnerable—offer a never-before-seen glimpse into the creative processes of the best-selling fiction author of all time. (“[O]utsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare” HarperCollins notes.)

. . . .

Wieman explains Christie’s books were all published right around Christmas time and so it became a tradition among her fans to give and receive the new Agatha Christie novel for the holiday.

. . . .

In 1967, for instance, Christie expressed her “fury” after being informed that without her knowledge, one of her books had been released early. “It’s usually [available] in November and then it comes in very handy for sending to friends at Xmas time – but one can hardly send it as that now?” she wrote, according to Kean. “I do think it’s treating your authors disgracefully.”

Link to the rest at Smithsonian Magazine


England Unveils New 10-Pound Note Featuring Jane Austen

20 July 2017

From The Telegraph:

The new, polymer £10 note is being unveiled by Bank of England governor Mark Carney on Tuesday. This marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, who features on the new bank note.

Austen will be the only woman – apart from the Queen – to be featured on an English bank note, following the withdrawal of the old £5 notes, which featured Elizabeth Fry, in May. Fry was replaced with a picture of Winston Churchill.

. . . .

The note has already attracted some criticism due to the fact that Austen’s portrait appears to be “airbrushed”. It shows her noticeably prettier and less drawn than she appears in the only contemporary painting of her which exists (and is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.)

As well as Austen’s portrait, the tenner will feature a quote from Pride and Prejudice when Miss Bingley exclaims: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment but reading!”

. . . .

Austen’s presence on the new £10 note was one of the first announcements made by Mr Carney after he took up his position as governor of the Bank of England.

He said: “Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes.

“Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal, and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature.

“As Austen joins Adam Smith, Boulton and Watt, and… Churchill, our notes will celebrate a diverse range of individuals who have contributed in a wide range of fields.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph


PG also saw a report that some Jane Austen fans are upset about the quote because the line is spoken by a deceitful character, Caroline Bingley – who has no interest in books and is trying to impress Mr Darcy.


Authors suffer from bargaining ‘imbalance’ says SoA

20 July 2017

From The Bookseller:

The Society of Authors has welcomed the Creative Freelancers report, issued this week by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), saying several of its recommendations will “chime very strongly” with members who are often “left out in the cold” in comparison with their publishing counterparts, despite being a “lynchpin” of the creative industries. However, the trade body called it “a real shame” that poor industry practices were not wholly addressed by the investigation.

The SoA praised the CIF’s call for better representation for freelancers at government level, its suggestion of a one-stop shop for support and advice for freelances, and its request for short-term relief grants for the self-employed. However, it was disappointed the recommendations didn’t go far enough to tackle issues such as late payment of freelancers, unpaid work or address “rights grabs”, where freelances are asked to sign over all their IP rights.

. . . .

“…Creative freelances suffer from lack of bargaining and negotiating power against those who use their services, often resulting in unequal deals. As well as legislation we would suggest encouragement of collective negotiations to provide codes of practice and minimum terms to protect all freelances and ensure that they are fairly rewarded, properly credited, that they can share in the success of their work and reclaim rights that are not being exploited.”

. . . .

She added she would like to see the department look at issues in the value chain because creators were not being “sufficiently rewarded” for their input.

“With average author earnings estimated at £12,500, we agree that a benefits system that is fit for freelancers is vital,” said Solomon. “Government urgently needs to find ways to adapt existing systems, such as Universal Credit, to work more sensitively for self-employed earners with uncertain incomes.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller


Amazon isn’t technically dominant, but it pervades our lives

20 July 2017

From The Seattle Times:

Amazon is already a huge part of many people’s lives. And its $13.7 billion deal for the organic grocer Whole Foods will likely bind its customers even more tightly.

“It kind of feels like they’re taking over so much commerce in our life,” said Erica McGivern, a Whole Foods and Amazon customer who lives in Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered. “It’s intimidating.”

The acquisition could easily hurt both Amazon’s existing rivals and future startups that might one day challenge it. Yet experts don’t believe U.S. antitrust regulators will oppose the deal. That’s largely because it doesn’t create anything resembling a traditional monopoly.

Instead, it merely extends Amazon’s long quest to make shopping so convenient that consumers won’t even think about stepping away from its embrace. The more successful that strategy, the more Amazon can monopolize the attention and shopping dollars of its customers — which, of course, is perfectly legal.

. . . .

Amazon is just one of several major tech companies — such as Google and Facebook — facing new scrutiny over their market power, which doesn’t map neatly onto traditional notions of monopoly.

When a company dominates a market, it typically pushes up prices to boost profits — something U.S. antitrust law is geared to prevent. Amazon, however, has a track record of keeping prices low and locking customers in to sell more stuff. For instance, the company typically sells gadgets like its tablets for little or no profit — but then pushes people to buy digital movies they can watch on the tablet.

“Amazon’s strategy has always been a volume strategy, not a profit strategy,” said Lauren Beitelspacher, a marketing professor at Babson College in Massachusetts.

In a traditional sense, Amazon still faces lots of competition. Walmart remains the leading retailer overall, with more than three times Amazon’s retail revenue. Even with Whole Foods, Amazon will have less than 3 percent of the U.S. market share in groceries, according to Kantar Retail. Walmart is the leader, with a 22 percent share last year.

And while Amazon is the clear leader in e-commerce, 90 percent of worldwide retail spending is still in brick-and-mortar stores, according to eMarketer.

Rather than dominate in market share, Amazon dominates “in reaching into customers’ lives,” Gartner retail analyst Robert Hetu said.

. . . .

The ease of Amazon deliveries may evoke goodwill among consumers, but it has hastened the decline of several brick-and-mortar retailers — in particular, bookstore chains.

Link to the rest at The Seattle Times

PG suggests that the OP’s observation that Amazon’s “market power . . . doesn’t map neatly onto traditional notions of monopoly” translates to “Amazon is not violating U.S. antitrust laws.”

Disappearing retailers are a feature (not a bug) of life in a competitive capitalist economy. Customers vote for their favorite retailers with their dollars, particularly online where geographic location is irrelevant.

Wikipedia has a helpful List of defunct retailers of the United States to provide some context about the history of declining and disappearing brick-and-mortar retailers. There are separate entries for List of defunct restaurants of the United States and List of defunct department stores of the United States respectively.




Best Excuses for not Returning Library Books on Time

20 July 2017

From Book Riot:

The best part about being a librarian is being able to help community members with their information needs. Patrons frequent their public libraries to check out new books, make prints, fax papers, apply for jobs or simply to visit their favorite librarian.

. . . .

So, I would be lying if I told you I did not like my job. The truth is, it is the most rewarding career I could imagine. Most patrons are so genuinely thankful for the assistance their librarians provide that they know they can always turn to them for help with the most difficult questions. However, when it comes to turning in books late and racking up fines, some patrons do not mess around. They hate racking up fines and hate it even more when they have to pay those fines.

. . . .

“I couldn’t find the keys to my car that day.” So I guess you could not find them every day after that either? I wonder how you got to work or dropped your kids off at school. Hmmmm.

“I didn’t know they were due that day. I never bring back my books late. I’m always on top of things like that.” ::Checks account, sees a long history of returning books late::

. . . .

“I’m a taxpayer and I shouldn’t have to pay fines.” What would this world come to if you weren’t held accountable for paying your late fees? Yes, you can speak to a commissioner or the mayor if you would like.

But my all-time favorite has to be: “It was just too hot that day to return my books.” Listen, I know it’s Texas and 110 degrees but “too hot outside” is not an excuse I can mark on your account. You have to give me something better than that.

Link to the rest at Book Riot


E-books sales to drop as bookshelf resurgence sparks ‘shelfie’ craze

20 July 2017

From The Telegraph:

Bookshelves are making a comeback in living rooms as a “shelfie” interior design craze is sweeping the UK.

Brit’s increasing desire to show off their personality and intellect through their book collections is boosting book sales, but will see sales of e-books fall for the first time ever, consumer analysts have predicted.

According to Mintel sales of physical books are forecast to rise by 6 per cent this year to £1.7 billion while sales of e-books are predicted to fall by 1 per cent to £337 million in 2017.

Experts said consumers’ growing tendency to invest in physical books was partly down to a trend for bookshelves, which they believe make them look more interesting to dinner party guests and on social media.

Over the next five years sales of print books are forecast to grow by 25 per cent to reach £2.1 billion, Mintel said, while e-books will see only marginal year-on-year increases to reach £383 million in 2022.

. . . .

Award-winning interior designer Russell Whitehead told the Daily Telegraph: ” If you’re going to enjoy a good book its nice to have the physical thing and we are definitely seeing an increase in requests for bookshelves.

“Bookmakers are cottoning onto this trend and these days they are putting more effort into making books look beautiful. We are also seeing the rise of the social media ‘shelfie’ as proud collectors are posting pictures of their book collections on Instagram.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

PG says don’t forget the Books by the Foot solution to the shelfie challenge.

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