Noir From a Poet Of Love and Violence

26 May 2016

Not exactly about books, but PG has a weakness for noir. Speaking of which, he may have to conduct another festival of Raymond Chandler quotes soon.

From The Wall Street Journal:

There is no noir more profoundly sad than Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” (1950), which unfolds with dark lyricism against a backdrop of violence, cynicism and suspicion. One of Ray’s most indelible stories involving characters who lash out in pointless fury—and one of his most personal films—it incorporates melodrama, echoes of Shakespeare, and heart-stopping performances by Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame.

François Truffaut called Ray “the poet of nightfall.” Eric Rohmer wrote, “Just as he is the poet of violence, Nicholas Ray is perhaps the only poet of love; it is the fascination peculiar to both feelings that obsesses him, more than the study of their origins and their close or distant repercussions.” And yet, “In a Lonely Place,” now available in a new release on DVD and Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, continues to grow in stature, distilling as it does the essence of emotion.

Ray’s film is loosely based on Dorothy B. Hughes’s hypnotic 1947 novel about a psychopathic killer in Los Angeles, Dix Steele. Much was changed in the film, but paranoia and misogyny seep into its more tragic story as if from poisoned soil. A washed-up screenwriter who is accused of murder, Bogart’s Dix is prone to violent outbursts suggesting that he, too, could be dangerous to women.

. . . .

Dix invites Mildred (Martha Stewart), a checkroom girl, home with him to synopsize a trashy novel his friend and agent Mel ( Art Smith) has encouraged him to adapt. The next morning she is found strangled.

“Oh, I didn’t say I was a gentleman. I said I was tired,” Dix snaps, when asked by the police why he didn’t call for a taxi for Mildred.

The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)


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Judy Blume on why US indie booksellers are thriving

26 May 2016

From the Guardian:

She might be a beloved and bestselling author of classic children’s books from Forever to Blubber, but Judy Blume says she wakes up every day “and I look to the sky, and I say, ‘whoever’s up there, I thank you for not having to write today’.”

Blume doesn’t have to write because, at 78, she has embarked on a new career: she’s an independent bookseller. Together with her husband, George Cooper, she has opened a small, nonprofit bookshop in Key West, Florida, where she’s working almost every day. And she’s loving it. She had planned “to take a gap year” after she finished writing and promoting her last novel, In the Unlikely Event. “I was going to relax and read and have this whole time with no pressure. And then bingo – the chance comes along to open a bookshop, and there you go. I guess I like that in my life … To learn something new like this, at 78, makes it all the more exciting.”

Blume and Cooper had been urging Mitchell Kaplan, founder of independent book chain Books & Books, to open a bookshop in Key West for years. He told them that if they could find a space, he would partner with them.

. . . .

Customers, she says, “sometimes” recognise her – an author who has sold more than 80m books around the world – “and they’re completely taken aback, especially if I’m sitting there dusting the shelves. I’m pretty good at recommendations – I’m good in the kids’ department for sure. I read all the picture books when they come in. And I can lead people to what they want, although I’ve not read as many of our books as some of our volunteers [the store has two paid employees, as well as Cooper, Blume and a series of volunteers]. I’m trying really hard to keep up. It’s like Christmas every day, working here.”

Business for independent bookstores in America in general, is “going well”, Blume believes. “I just think people are so hungry for a real bookstore again. So many people live in places where there isn’t one … It’s not just us doing well. A lot of independent booksellers are.”

. . . .

“Five years ago in the American book business, there was a widespread panic that somehow digital reading was going to replace physical books and they would be a relic of some other time and place. Fast forward to today, and I think digital reading has levelled off and calmed down slightly. It’s going to be a piece of our business, but print books aren’t going away. We’re living in a hybrid world,” says Teicher.

Link to the rest at the Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The biggest risk

25 May 2016

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.

Mark Zuckerberg

Read between the lines of the e-book debate

25 May 2016

From The Globe and Mail:

People in publishing are wielding statistics against each other, in the perennial e-book versus print debate, and nobody seems quite sure of what they all mean. All the publishers I know assert that sales of e-books have plateaued and everyone is investing in print again.

In U.S. and British media, much has been made of the fact that recent stats show e-book sales slipping and print book sales slightly advancing or at the very least holding their own. Sony is no longer selling an e-reader. Amazon is opening physical bookshops. This has led to much gleeful crowing by opinion columnists who grew up reading paper books and are thrilled that the promised bookpocalypse never happened. They are saying, See? People were never going to turn away from the ancient sensual pleasures of paper after all; of course it is more pleasant and natural to hold a non-electronic object. Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, fumed, “Virtual books, like virtual holidays or virtual relationships, are not real. People want a break from another damned screen.”

There is a great deal of ideological bias at work here. Some people just really want e-books to fail. They just don’t like them. Ugly as “virtual books” sounds, it is obviously absurd to say that reading on a screen is “not real.” Nothing about words is real: They are all just words whether on a phone or on a wall and they can be equally powerful.

. . . .

What is not reported in the statistics is all the outsider writing: all the thousands of self-published novels and memoirs and self-help guides that are published, quickly and cheaply, in electronic form. Their success only continues to grow. And sellers such as Amazon are doing their best to provide these works directly to consumers, bypassing publishers altogether.

This is really an astounding truth, and it is more interesting and significant, I think, than questions of physical format. Personally, I don’t feel too emotional about the paper/screen schism: I am happy to read in any form and both are convenient for different reasons. Self-publishing is on a constant rise in both formats.

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail

Harvard Loses Copyright Infringment Case Against Steve Elmo

25 May 2016

From Free Nampeyo:

The first entry in the Free Nampeyo blog discussed Harvard’s copyright infringement claims against Steve Elmore’s book In Search of Nampeyo: The Early Years 1875 – 1892.

. . . .

The subject of Harvard’s complaint was whether color illustrations of designs on old Hopi pottery held in the Keam collection at Harvard’s Peabody Museum violated the copyright to their black and white photographs of this pottery.  Mr. Elmore filed a motion for partial summary judgement against this claim, asking the judge to consider the law and the facts and make a ruling.  Harvard also filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgement concerning a photograph of a Kayenta or Tusayan jar that appeared on its website and also in Mr. Elmore’s book.  Both claims were decided by Judge Robert C. Brack of the United States District Court in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Judge Brack’s ruling “Grants Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgement (Doc.92); and Denies Plaintiff’s Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgement that Elmore is liable for Copyright Infringement (Doc. 109). ”

. . . .

Determining whether copyright infringement has occurred can be a complex matter.  The decision depends on two basic factors.  The first is whether the underlying work is copyrightable at all and, if so, which elements of the work are subject to copyright.  The second is whether the work accused of infringing on the protected aspects of the underlying work in fact does infringe.

. . . .

Below is the photograph of the Kayenta or Tusayan jar that was the subject of Harvard’s cross-motion for partial summary judgement.  Judge Brack’s Opinion is that this is not a copyrightable photograph.


Quoting from the Compendium of U. S. Copyright Practices, third edition “as with all copyrighted works, a photograph must have a sufficient amount of creative expression to be eligible for registration”.  A photograph should not be registered “if it is clear the the photographer merely used the camera to copy the source work without adding any creative expression to the photo”.   Judge Brack argues that this photograph is just such a case.  It was not taken as a study in photography or crafted by the photographer with carefully chosen lighting and background, but rather was a “conservation image” taken as part of a “condition assessment” while the jar rested on a surface with a bunch of other stuff visible behind it.

The second part of the Opinion is more complex.  It involves 41 illustrations created from designs visible in the black and white photographs of pottery that were published in the book Historic Hopi Ceramics (HHC). Below is a comparison of two of the black and white photographs and the illustrations created from them.


First Judge Brack determined that, unlike the photograph of the Tusayan or Kayenta jar discussed above that is not copyrightable, the black and white photographs in HHC show “a minimal degree of creativity–if only a humble spark”.  Decisions were made to photograph each ceramic in the same way and to strip the backgrounds from each of the individual photographs “to emphasize the impact of the collection as a whole rather than the intricacies of each individual piece.”  However, just because a photograph is copyrightable does not mean that “every element of the work is protected….the less original the plaintiff’s work, the more the defendant must copy to infringe on the plaintiff’s copyright.”

Importantly. Judge Brack finds that the Native American designs on the pottery and the form of the pottery are not copyrightable elements of Harvard’s photographs: “Here the copyright of Historic Hopi Ceramics does not protect against copying the most prominent features in the works: the intricate pottery designs and forms achieved by a Hopi potter, perhaps Nampeyo.” (emphasis added).

Judge Brack notes that the protection of the HHC photographs is “incredibly limited” and only a verbatim copy would violate a copyright with such a small amount of creative input from the photographer.  He observes that Mr. Elmore’s illustrations highlight the designs, which are non-copyrightable elements, and switch the emphasis from the condition of the pots as a whole collection to these design elements.  The illustrations use line art and are in color.  They clean up and bring out elements of the designs, while eliminating aspects of the pottery itself, such as fire clouds.  Judge Brack writes: “Considering only the  protected elements in the Historic Hopi Ceramics photographs and Mr. Elmore’s images, reasonable minds could not find substantial similarity between the two.”

He also notes that Mr. Elmore picked individual ceramics to use in his illustrations and did his own arrangements of them, in order to emphasize comparison of the designs.  Mr. Elmore’s use of these ceramics to establish a novel thesis would give his work protection under the fair use doctrine.

Link to the rest at Free Nampeyo

PG says most judges see very few copyright infringement cases and sometimes the way such cases are handled feels a little loose. In this matter, however, in PG’s effervescently humble opinion, the judge seems to be doing a good job.

PG hopes that Harvard becomes increasingly humiliated if it continues this bizarre litigation. It was a terrible idea to bring the suit in the first place and, having so thoroughly lost the first round, the Peabody Museum should quit misspending its endowment by trying to interfere with Mr. Elmo’s labor of love in spreading knowledge of a little-known Hopi artist to a wider audience.

Audiobook Sales Jumped Over 20% In 2015, And More Than 35,500 Titles Were Published

25 May 2016

From Voice-Over Extra:

The preference to hear books spoken continues to soar, according to the latest annual sales survey of the Audio Publishers Association (APA), which finds a 20.7% jump in sales over 2014, to an estimated $1.77 billion.

. . . .

Unit sales were up by 24.1% over the previous year, the survey finds. And the APA notes that this marks the second consecutive year in which unit sales increased by more than 20%.

The sales growth corresponds to a jump in number of audiobook titles published in 2015, the survey adds. Last year, 9,630 more titles were published than in 2014,  bringing the total number of audiobook titles published in 2015 to 35,574.

By contrast, in 2011, the number of published audiobook titles was 7,237.

. . . .

“Sales of digital downloads continue to rise – showing an increase of over 34% in both dollars and units sold from the previous year.”

Link to the rest at Voice-Over Extra

Science Explains Why People Who Love Writing Are Smarter

25 May 2016


It isn’t often you discover, as a writer, that what you do professionally has intelligence-boosting benefits. Everyone assumes that folks in STEM professions are smart; those of us who trend more towards arts and humanities don’t receive the same treatment by a long shot.

. . . .

Writers are highly motivated, empathetic, capable of self-regulation, highly self-aware and have superior social skills: all hallmarks of people who are highly emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence exploded onto the scene as a much more accurate indicator of overall intelligence than IQ in the mid-nineties.

. . . .

A study of unemployed engineers showed that of three groups of engineers, those who were told to write about their experiences and feelings of financial instability and economic inadequacy were more likely to be employed eight months after the study, by over twice as much (53% versus 24%). The theory is that writing gives a sense of closure around the feelings associated with job loss and unemployment, making the prospect of job-hunting less daunting and more manageable.

. . . .

Writing gives a framework within which a person can organize their minds and help them think more clearly and process more efficiently and analytically. Almost every writer is familiar with the problem of the story in their head looking nothing like the story they’re writing, and how many frustrating drafts it takes before they start really resembling each other. This constant editing and processing of information over and over gives writers specifically the incredible ability not just to thoughtfully sort and organize information, but also to use that information most effectively.

Link to the rest at and thanks to Cora for the tip.

The new digital model that treats books like magazines

24 May 2016

From The Bookseller:

The digital revolution has been something of an asteroid for the whole publishing industry, but it has presented particularly gnarly challenges to libraries, colleges and schools.

How to transfer collections from the stacks to the screen? How does digital lending work, both practically and financially? Which texts would publishers be willing to digitise, and which would languish in analogue ignominy on the shelves?

As institutions have rushed to evolve their offerings, it has become increasingly obvious that e-books are not always the solution – especially when it comes to specialist texts.

“Complicated books need to be digitised exactly as they are,” explains Adam Hodgkin, co-founder of Exact Editions, a digital platform for magazine publishers that was launched in 2005.  “Many books, especially those that are highly designed or heavily illustrated, are not being sold effectively to institutions, mainly because the e-book file format does not work for precisely laid out pages.”

. . . .

Having spent the past decade turning complex consumer magazines into their precise digital doppelgangers, the Exact Editions team is now hoping to do the same for books.

. . . .

Although Exact Editions digital books will look exactly like their print counterparts, they also feature advanced search technology, smart linking capabilities and institutional functionality. They can be read across web, iOS and Android native apps using IP authenticated network access, and when purchased, the institution receives the book as a perpetual access acquisition, including no usage limits and instant availability for all users.

. . . .

“Because book publishers have hitherto been thinking about supplying digital books to universities as analogous to making a print sale, it appears rather illogical or even unfair to charge much more than would be charged for the printed book,” Hodgkin says. “But this mindset ignores the value that comes from granting and delivering campus wide, multiuser, perpetual access to a digital resource.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders if the people who opposed Google Books will have anything to say about this plan.

I don’t have any bad habits

24 May 2016

I don’t have any bad habits. They might be bad habits for other people, but they’re all right for me.

Eubie Blake Announces the Most Well-Read Cities in America

24 May 2016

From the Amazon Media Room: revealed their annual list of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities across the U.S., just in time for summer reading season. The ranking is determined by a compilation of sales data from cities with more than 500,000 residents on a per capita basis and includes purchases of all books, magazines and newspapers in both Kindle and print format from April 2015 to April 2016.

The Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are:

1. Seattle, Wash.

2. Portland, Ore.

3. Washington, D.C.

4. San Francisco, Calif.

5. Austin, Texas

6. Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Tucson, Ariz.

8. Denver, Colo.

9. Albuquerque, N.M.

10. San Diego, Calif.

11. Baltimore, Md.

12. Charlotte, N.C.

13. Louisville, Ky.

14. San Jose, Calif.

15. Houston, Texas

16. Nashville, Tenn.

17. Chicago, Ill.

18. Indianapolis, Ind.

19. Dallas, Texas

20. San Antonio, Texas

. . . .

  • Seattle, Wash., the home of Amazon’s headquarters, kept its title as the Most Well-Read City for the second year in a row with the most purchases of all books, magazines and newspapers in both Kindle and print formats.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was the top-selling Kindle and print title in five of the top 10 cities: Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Tucson, Ariz.;Albuquerque, N.M.; San Diego, Calif.
  • Readers in four of the top 10 cities cleaned up their act this year, with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing as the most sold print title in Seattle, Wash.; San Francisco, Calif.; Tucson, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.

. . . .

  •  Denver, Colo., Las Vegas, Nev., San Diego, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M. all channeled their inner child this year, with adult coloring books being among the top-selling print titles in each of the cities.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

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