Books in General

I suppose we should talk about the elephant in the room…

18 September 2014

From author  Naomi Clark:

So UNDERTOW has been out a few weeks now and it’s picking up some awesome reviews (thank you, awesome reviewers!). And if you read those reviews, and the ones over on Amazon, you might notice a common theme occurring. People are talking about the series. As in, is UNDERTOW a standalone, the first in a series, or part of an existing series?

. . . .

But yes, there are other Ethan Banning stories. And no, I don’t actively promote them anymore. They are available for sale on Amazon and wherever else you can buy ebooks (I think), but you won’t find links to them here. Why?

Because they are published by Damnation Books and I, as well as other authors have concerns about, problems with, and in some cases legal rulings against Damnation Books and its sister company, Eternal Press. By and large, I’d decided to keep quiet and not rock the boat, because I’m not a fan of confrontation and I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to messy online/legal battles.

. . . .

However, having been told in no uncertain terms by Kim Gilchrist of DB that she has no interest in renewing my contracts with them because A) I don’t promote my work with them and B) I said a mean thing about them on Twitter, I kinda feel like, “well, why not?” Why not add my voice to the others? After all, somehow, DB is still in business and acquiring authors, and I feel like those authors should have all the facts available to them before they sign their books away.

. . . .

A) I don’t promote my DB books. Well, no, not anymore. When I first signed with them in 2009 however, I promoted like a crazy person.

. . . .

And I didn’t reap any benefits for it. My royalty checks from DB have always been on time and they have always been poor. Initially, I received an actual check from them each quarter, and frankly they were not worth the cost of cashing them. After I’d travelled to my bank, paid the fees for having the money converted from dollars to pounds, and gone home again, I had no money left. I switched to getting payments via Paypal as soon as I could, and I’m delighted to say that once a quarter I am able to treat myself to a fancy chai latte from Starbucks with my DB royalties.

And that’s royalties across four titles, plus a handful of novels and novellas I edited for them. So it’s not just that my books don’t sell. Those books I edited don’t sell either, and I know how hard those authors worked to promote them too.

So yes, over time I became disillusioned with how little return I was seeing for my effort and I did stop promoting so hard.

At the same time, I was signing contracts with Evernight Publishing, and for various reasons I wasn’t able to scream from the rooftops about my titles with them either. And yet my royalties with Evernight have grown every quarter and my books with them have consistently been ARe bestsellers, as well as cracking some bestseller lists on Amazon for their genres.

. . . .

I could tell you more, about my experiences as an editor, but out of respect for the authors I worked with, I won’t. I will say that I see, quarter after quarter, books that have sold zero copies, books that deserve to be selling lots of copies, books that I and the authors worked extremely hard on.

I once contacted Kim regarding low sales, asking her opinion on why sales were so low and asking what I and Damnation Books could do to raise the profile of my titles. I got back a snippy email (which I regret I didn’t keep) placing the blame entirely on me.

Link to the rest at Begin in the Dark and thanks to Tez for the tip.

Cherokee language now available in Braille

17 September 2014

From Anadisgoi:

The Cherokee Nation now has its written language, the Cherokee syllabary, available in Braille.

“All Cherokees, regardless of any physical impairment, should be able to read and understand documents and signage in their native language,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Our language programs keep evolving to meet every Cherokee’s needs, whether they are an elder, a young person or someone who is visually or otherwise impaired.”

The tribe’s fluent Cherokee speakers in the Cherokee Language Program partnered with the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative earlier this year to develop a Cherokee version of Braille. Dot patterns were derived from the 86-character Cherokee syllabary.

“It’s exciting that our Cherokee citizens who are visually impaired can now read stories in their first language,” said Roy Boney, language program manager.

. . . .

The Cherokee writing system has been in use since its invention by Sequoyah in 1821. Every major technology since then, ranging from the printing press, typewriter and word processor to fonts on the latest computers and smart phones, has adopted Cherokee.

Link to the rest at Anadisgoi and thanks to Shelton for the tip.

Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress

16 September 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn’t to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn’t make it through a book anymore.

. . . .

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the “slow-food” way or knitting by hand.

. . . .

A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others’ mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships.

. . . .

Diana La Counte of Orange County, Calif., set up what she called a virtual slow-reading group a few years ago, with members discussing the group’s book selection online, mostly on Facebook. “When I realized I read Twitter more than a book, I knew it was time for action,” she says.

. . . .

Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Elmore Leonard’s Rocky Road to Fame and Fortune

14 September 2014

From The Daily Beast:

Before he hit the best-seller list for the first time with Glitz in 1985, Elmore Leonard spent more than 30 years writing pulp crime novels and westerns that sold in paperback racks in drug stores and bus stations. After Glitz, he’d keep writing for 28 more years, until he died last summer at 87. He became a mainstay on the best-seller list, praised by critics for his lean prose and colorful, propulsive stories, and above all for his mastery of the rhythm and melody of American speech. But well before he became our most famous crime novelist, Leonard was doing all the things for which he would later be celebrated. It just took people a while to catch on to how good he really was.

Now Leonard is being canonized by The Library of America, which is collecting his novels in what will eventually be a 3-volume set.

. . . .

The best Elmore Leonard character might be Elmore Leonard. Check it out: Twenty years ago, he’s packed it in as a full-time novelist. His big writing numbers in the early ’60s are these classics—soon to undergo the wonders of colorization—from Encyclopedia Britannica Films: Settlement of the Mississippi Valley, Boys of Spain, Frontier Boy, and the ever popular Julius Caesar. Thousand bucks a movie, seventeen informative minutes in length. Leonard knocks these babies off when he isn’t free-lancing ad copy for Hurst gear shifters. Hurst shifters? You bet. He says that if you had a hot rod in Detroit in 1963, you had to have a Hurst shifter or you were nowhere. Which is where Leonard was: western novelist at a time when the market was all dried up, little more than halfway through his first marriage, and an alcoholic who thought you weren’t an alcoholic unless you ended up in a skid-row gutter.

“The years 1961 to 1966 were the low point, definitely,” he says. “I had probably resigned myself to writing again sometime, but never full time.”

Now, at the age of sixty-one, Elmore Leonard is an overnight success.

He reads another review where somebody asks the question, “Where has Elmore Leonard been?” And says, “Where have I been? Most of the time, it’s where has he been. Like, I’ve been hiding?”

Link to the rest at The Daily Beast and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Publishers Gave Away 122,951,031 Books During World War II And, in the process, they created a nation of readers

10 September 2014

From The Atlantic:

In 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, America’s book publishers took an audacious gamble. They decided to sell the armed forces cheap paperbacks, shipped to units scattered around the globe. Instead of printing only the books soldiers and sailors actually wanted to read, though, publishers decided to send them the best they had to offer. Over the next four years, publishers gave away 122,951,031 copies of their most valuable titles.

“Some of the publishers think that their business is going to be ruined,” the prominent broadcaster H. V. Kaltenborn told his audience in 1944. “But I make this prediction. America’s publishers have cooperated in an experiment that will for the first time make us a nation of book readers.” He was absolutely right. From small Pacific islands to sprawling European depots, soldiers discovered the addictive delights of good books. By giving away the best it had to offer, the publishing industry created a vastly larger market for its wares. More importantly, it also democratized the pleasures of reading, making literature, poetry, and history available to all.

Serious books were hard to find before the war. An industry study in 1931highlighted the book trade’s limited audience. Nineteen out of every 20 books sold by the major publishing houses cost more than two dollars, a luxury even before the Depression. Those who could afford them often struggled to find them. Two out of three counties in America lacked any bookstore, or even so much as a department store, drugstore, or other retailer selling enough books to have an account with a publishing house. In rural areas, small towns, and even mid-sized cities, dedicated customers bought their books the way they bought other household goods, picking the titles out of mail-order catalogs. Most did not bother.

. . . .

Old-line publishers had good reason to be scared. They were in the business of selling a premium product to an affluent audience. The sudden flood of paperbacks threatened to swamp their refined trade and erode its prestige. The cheap, disposable format seemed best suited to works of little lasting value. That Penguin and Pocket Books included some distinguished titles on their lists threatened the stability of these categories, even as their sales still tilted heavily toward the lower end of the spectrum. Paperbacks were expanding the market for books, but that market remained divided.

Then, war intervened. The key actors in the book trade organized themselves into the Council on Books in Wartime, hoping to use books to advance the war effort. In February of 1943, they circulated an audacious proposal. They proposed to print and sell millions of books to the army, for just six cents a volume.

Hardcover books could not possibly be produced so cheaply. But magazines could. So the Council decided to use magazine presses, printing two copies on each page, and then slicing the book in half perpendicular to the binding. The result was a book wider than it was tall, featuring two columns of text for easier reading in low light. The real innovation, though, was less technological than ideological. The publishers proposed to take books available only in hardcover form, and produce them in this disposable format.

. . . .

The army and the navy endorsed the program, and in July of 1943, began shipping the books around the world. The Council aimed to produce one box of books for every 150 soldiers and sailors, and also sent boxes to smaller, isolated detachments. By the spring of 1945, the program shipped 155,000 crates of these Armed Services Editions each month, with 40 new books packed into each box. Wherever they arrived, soldiers tore them open, and began to read.

“Dog-eared and moldy and limp from the humidity those books go up the line,”wrote a war reporter from the southwest Pacific. “Because they are what they are, because they can be packed in a hip pocket or snuck into a shoulder pack, men are reading where men have never read before.” A lieutenant in the Marshall Islands wrote of seeing men devour books “by a dim flashlight under a shelter half, even after the air-raid siren has already blown and they should be in a foxhole.” Another soldier reported that “the books are read until they fall apart.”

. . . .

In this, publishers mixed high-minded idealism with enlightened self-interest. Stranded in overseas bases, fighting off boredom, many readers picked up books they might not otherwise have touched, grateful to have anything to read at all. Some were annoyed to be stuck with histories, poetry, or literary novels. Many more, though, found their first exposure to serious books addictive.

One GI with an unusual vantage point was Joe Allen, who went from the Council directly into the ranks as a private soldier, and had a chance to see its impact first hand. “You are instilling in them, whether you are aware of it or not, a taste for good reading that will surely persist come victory,” he reported . “I have seen many a man who never before had the patience or inclination to read a book, pick up one of the Council’s and become absorbed and ask for more.” Soldiers are “acquiring a new habit, that of reading,” concurred a lieutenant in the Pacific, writing that it would “result in additional book sales in the future.”

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Reading Insecurity

10 September 2014

From Slate:

Slate is an online magazine, which means you are almost certainly reading this on a screen. It is more likely to be morning than evening. You are perhaps at work, chasing a piece of information rather than seeking to immerse yourself in a contemplative experience. You probably have other tabs open—you will flick to one if I go on too long. Your eyes may feel fatigued from the glow of the monitor, the strain of adjusting to Slate’s typeface, which differs slightly from where you just were. You should take a 20-second screen break if you’ve been gazing into your computer, smart phone, iPad, or e-reader for more than a half hour. I’ll wait. It’s OK if you don’t come back—we both know by now that most people won’t finish this article. If you do return, though, I’d like to bring up something that has been bothering me: reading insecurity.

It is becoming a cliché of conversations between twentysomethings (especially to the right of 25) that if you talk about books or articles or strung-together words long enough, someone will eventually wail plaintively: “I just can’t reeeeeaaad anymore.” The person will explain that the Internet has shot her attention span. She will tell you about how, when she was small, she could lose herself in a novel for hours, and now, all she can do is watch the tweets swim by like glittery fish in the river of time-she-will-never-get-back. You will begin to chafe at what sounds like a humblebrag—I was precocious and remain an intellectual at heart or I feel oppressed by my active participation in the cultural conversation—but then you will realize, with an ache of recognition, that you are in the same predicament. “Yes,” you will gush, overcome by possibly invented memories of afternoons whiled away under a tree with Robertson Davies. “What happened to me? How do I fight it? Where did my concentration—oooh, cheese.”

Reading insecurity. It is the subjective experience of thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to. It is setting aside an hour for that new book about mass hysteria in a high school and spending it instead on Facebook (scrolling dumbly through photos of people you barely remember from your high school). It is deploring your attention span and missing the flow, the trance, of entering a narrative world without bringing the real one along. It is realizing that if Virginia Woolf was correct to call heaven “one continuous unexhausted reading,” then goodbye, you have been kicked out of paradise.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Laura for the tip.

Get Your 1,000 ISBNs Before The Price Changes!

6 September 2014

From Bowker:

After October 1, 2014 the price for 1,000 ISBNs will increase from $1,000 to $1,500.

Link to the rest at Bowker and thanks to JA for the tip.

So, all of a sudden, an ISBN number became 50% more valuable?

Margaret Atwood’s new work will remain unseen for a century

5 September 2014

From The Guardian:

Depending on perspective, it is an author’s dream – or nightmare:Margaret Atwood will never know what readers think of the piece of fictionshe is currently working on, because the unpublished, unread manuscript from the Man Booker prize-winning novelist will be locked away for the next 100 years.

Atwood has just been named as the first contributor to an astonishing new public artwork. The Future Library project, conceived by the award-winning young Scottish artist Katie Paterson, began, quietly, this summer, with the planting of a forest of 1,000 trees in Nordmarka, just outside Oslo. It will slowly unfold over the next century. Every year until 2114, one writer will be invited to contribute a new text to the collection, and in 2114, the trees will be cut down to provide the paper for the texts to be printed – and, finally, read.

. . . .

She predicted that the readers of 2114 might need “a paleo-anthropologist to translate some of it for them”, because “language of course will have changed over those 100 years. Maybe not so much as it changed between say 1400 and now, but it will have changed somewhat”.

. . . .

Each year, the Future Library trust, made up of literary experts – and Paterson, while she’s alive – will name another “outstanding” writer who will be contributing to the artwork. The trust is also responsible for the maintenance of the forest, and for ensuring the books are printed in a century’s time. A printing press will be placed in the library to make sure those in charge in 2114 have the capability of printing books on paper.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Nick for the tip.

In one hundred years, no one will be reading paper books except archivists. PG votes to let the trees live.

10 Things That Happen When You Can’t Put Down A Good Book

4 September 2014

From Buzzfeed:

1. You lose track of time. Day turns to night; you don’t budge.

. . . .

4. Then you miss your stop because it just got SO GOOD.

5. But you can’t put it down – the book has become a permanent appendage.

. . . .

7. Household chores begin to fall by the wayside.

Link to the rest, with illustrations, at Buzzfeed 

An Anatomy of Endings

3 September 2014

From  The New Yorker:

The current kerfuffle about the intended ending of “The Sopranos” —was Tony about to get whacked or wasn’t he, and, if he wasn’t, why did David Chase make us think that he was? —has sparked a few larger thoughts about the nature and variety of what happens last, in movies and books as much as in television. So let us try to set down some of the anatomy of endings right now.

As biology divides into the two great kingdoms of plants and animals, so endings divide into the Closer, which seeks for some chorale-like finality, reuniting characters set apart and recapitulating, in a new key, themes already fully stated, and the Clincher, which surprises us by tying story-strings together in an unexpected way, or else throwing a new, ironic light on the whole recent past. Within these kingdoms lie all the smaller, dependent species: the Cop-out, the Letdown, the Tie-up, the Wrap-up, the Aha!, and the Huh?, not to mention the two kinds of landings, Soft and Hard.

Those two large kinds, though symmetric now, stand in evolutionary relation. The Closer is essentially classical, the Clincher a later invention. Shakespeare’s last scenes, for instance, can be memorable, but his last lines and exchanges tend to be Closers, of the “You this way, we that way” or “ Wasn’t what just happened terrible?” variety—neat wrap-ups, doleful or delighted.

. . . .

Everyone remembers the first line of “Pride and Prejudice”—that “It is a truth universally acknowledged” business—but who recalls the last line of “Pride and Prejudice”? Indeed, it is rather flat and fatuous, a classically minded Closer: “And they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.”

But, thirty years later, the Romantics are in the saddle, and everyone can recall both the beginning and the ending of “Jane Eyre”—reader, she married him. Dickens, in the course of his lifetime, passed from the comic-classical end of “The Pickwick Papers,” where we are simply told that everyone we met will now be together forever, to the ideal symmetry of “A Tale of Two Cities,” with its great first line and even more memorable last line, uttered, as we forget, from the grave itself —a far, far better way of ending a novel.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

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