Marotta launches NHS colouring download

From The Bookseller:

Pavilion-published children’s illustrator Millie Marotta has launched an initiative to get the nation colouring while supporting the NHS.

The Animal Kingdom (Batsford) author has launched a Love NHS illustration to combat stress and anxiety during the coronavirus crisis.

Designed to show a heart with the NHS logo underneath, it will be made available as a download.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Sovereign immunity

From The Legal Information Institute:

The sovereign immunity refers to the fact that the government cannot be sued without its consent. 

. . . .

Sovereign immunity was derived from British common law doctrine based on the idea that the King could do no wrong. In the United States, sovereign immunity typically applies to the federal government and state government, but not to municipalities. Federal and state governments, however, have the ability to waive their sovereign immunity. The federal government did this when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waived federal immunity for numerous types of torts claims. 

. . . .

When determining whether a citizen may sue a state actor (someone acting on behalf of the state: i.e. a state worker), courts will typically use one (1) of four (4) tests:

  1. Governmental v proprietary function test (Was the actor functioning in a governmental fashion or a proprietary fashion?)
    1. If the actor was performing a proprietary function (i.e. acting for financial gain for itself or its citizens; doing something that is not historically a governmental function; doing something that can be performed by a private corporation/contractor), then the actor is subject to liability
    2. If the actor was performing a governmental function (i.e. acting for the general public; doing something ordained by legislature; performing a historic gov function), then the actor is not subject to liability
  2. Ministerial/operational v. discretionary functions/acts test (Was the actor performing a ministerial/operational task or a discretionary task?) 
    1. If the actor is performing a ministerial/operational action, then there is not immunity. 
    2. If the actor is performing a discretionary action, then there is immunity.
  3. Planning v implementational (Was the actor planning an action or implementing an action?)
    1. If the actor’s planning of policy results in harm, then there is immunity
    2. If the harm happens due to the government’s implementation of the plan, then there is not immunity  
  4. Non-justiciable v. justiciable
    1. If the action is justiciable under regular tort principles, then there is no immunity. If the issue is not justiciable under regular tort principles, then there is immunity.

Link to the rest at The Legal Information Institute

And, since you were curious about what justiciabile means:

Justiciability refers to the types of matters that a court can adjudicate.  If a case is “nonjusticiable,” then the court cannot hear it. Typically to be justiciable, the court must not be offering an advisory opinion, the plaintiff must have standing, and the issues must be ripe but neither moot nor violative of the political question doctrine. Typically, these issues are all up to the discreion of the court which is adjudicating the issue. 

More about justiciability at The Legal Information Institute

States Are Immune from Copyright Suits

From The Authors Guild:

On Monday, March 23, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states are immune from copyright liability. This is troubling because it means that state universities and libraries can abuse copyright as much as they want without liability to publishers or authors. The Court’s decision in Allen v. Cooper invalidated a 1990 amendment to the Copyright Act which had allowed copyright holders to sue states for copyright infringement.

In Allen v. Cooper, plaintiff Allen and his production company were photographers with exclusive rights to document the exploration of the pirate Blackbeard’s shipwrecked vessel, but the state of North Carolina used Allen’s photographs and videos without his consent. Although the parties entered into a settlement agreement requiring the state to compensate Allen, Allen found out that the state had continued to use the copyrighted works after the date of the settlement agreement. The Supreme Court dubbed the alleged copyright infringement “a modern form of piracy.”

. . . .

While it found that states are immune (again) from copyright infringement actions, the Supreme Court nevertheless left a legislative door open: “That conclusion, however, need not prevent Congress from passing a valid copyright abrogation law in the future.” The Court recognized the need to protect the interests of copyright holders—even from the states—saying “That kind of tailored statute can effectively stop States from behaving as copyright pirates. Even while respecting constitutional limits, it can bring digital Blackbeards to justice.”

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future

From The New York Times:

In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.

As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity.

“There’s no question we’re going to see a drop in sales,” said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. “It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell.”

. . . .

The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. Many in the industry are worried that independent bookstores will be devastated as local and state officials mandate social distancing and order some businesses to temporarily close.

. . . .

Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said sales have fallen at the company’s stores and cafes, and author appearances have been canceled.

“The irony of all this is that what makes bookstores so potent, our ability to be community gathering places, has become our biggest liability,” he said.

. . . .

Some independent booksellers, including Powell’s, have already begun cutting staff. On Monday, Powell’s announced to employees that it will begin involuntary layoffs after determining the minimum number of employees it needs to keep the online store functioning. A representative of the local union that represents 400 Powell’s workers said that about 85 percent of them had already been affected by temporary layoffs, and that the company has signaled that permanent layoffs are likely to follow.

McNally Jackson, an independent chain in New York, let a substantial number of its employees go after deciding to shutter its stores for the time being. On Twitter, the company said it had temporarily laid off many of its staffers while “facing down a massive, unprecedented loss in revenue,” and added that “we intend to hire back our employees as soon as we can.” A note on the company’s website said that it is still accepting phone and online orders while the stores are closed, and offering delivery.

. . . .

The American Booksellers Association said it has been lobbying publishers to support independent stores by offering discounts, free shipping to customers and a removal of the cap on returns of unsold titles, among other measures. Other groups have been raising money to donate to hard-hit independent stores. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which gives financial support to independent stores, released a statement offering potential assistance to stores that have been impacted by the epidemic and are unable to pay their rent or utilities bills as a result of lost sales.

Still, many in the industry worry that financial losses stemming from the outbreak will cripple a significant number of stores and cause them to close permanently. Others fear that the lockdowns and government guidelines mandating social distancing will give an even greater advantage to Amazon as more homebound customers turn to internet shopping.

. . . .

The art critic Jerry Saltz was scheduled to launch his new book, “How to Be An Artist,” at the Strand in New York on Tuesday, but will instead appear in a livestream conversation broadcast on the store’s Instagram account, which has 225,000 followers.

Some stores see virtual events as the best alternative for the foreseeable future, and perhaps the only way to stay connected with readers and their communities as more physical spaces are forced to close.

Politics and Prose, in Washington, is aiming to turn all of its scheduled author appearances into virtual events, with writers hosting a conversation about their books remotely by web video through the platform Crowdcast. “Authors are self-isolating along with the rest of us,” said Liz Hottel, the director of events and marketing at Politics and Prose. “I’m sure they are as starved for meaningful dialogue as readers are.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

PG notes that there is nothing that prevents indie authors from using web video to promote their books in the same manner as described in the OP.

Women Authors Lead Literary Fiction Books Sales in the U.S.

From Yahoo Finance:

According to global information company The NPD Group, 67 percent of unit sales in the top 100 literary fiction books in 2019 came from books written by female authors. The top fiction title of the year was “Where the Crawdad’s Sing,” by Delia Owens, selling more than 1.2 million print copies.

“March is Women’s History Month, which makes it the perfect time to review the many contributions of women authors to the U.S. publishing industry,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD. “Women have increased their share of bestsellers in the last decade, particularly when it comes to fiction.”

Women authors’ influence in publishing varies by category

Women authors were responsible for 42 percent of unit sales for the top 100 books in the overall print book market in 2019—up from 30 percent in 2010. Last year 39 of the top 100 bestselling authors were women, up from 33 in 2010. In fact, over the 16 years NPD BookScan has been tracking the U.S. publishing market, the bestselling author is a woman. Total sales of all of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series exceeded 55 million copies, across more than 300 editions of her many titles for children and adults.

Combined unit sales of books with a focus on subjects about, and of interest to, women have enjoyed seven consecutive years of growth; and women-related subcategories have been responsible for overall growth of a wide variety of publishing areas. Women-related subcategories in comics and graphic novels, drama, history, poetry, and political and social science collectively increased 7 percent in 2019 over the previous year.

Link to the rest at Yahoo Finance

Video game makers free to use NBA stars’ tattoos

From World Intellectual Property Review:

Depicting sports stars’ tattoos in video games does not infringe copyright owned by the tattoo artist or their licensee, a US federal court has ruled.

In the first written judgment on tattoo copyright in the US, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday, March 26, ruled that video game developer and publisher Take-Two Interactive was free to reproduce the designs featured in the real-life tattoos of basketball players like LeBron James in its “NBA 2K” series.

Take-Two, and its subsidiary 2K, had been facing copyright infringement claims brought by Solid Oak Sketches, a tattoo licensing firm which purchased the copyright for James’ tattoos, as well as other basketball players Eric Bledsoe and Kenyon Martin.

. . . .

According to the court, when artists tattoo someone, they grant an implied, nonexclusive licence to their work where it can be reasonably expected to become part of a person’s likeness.

In the case of the basketball players, the artists would have known that they were well-known figures and likely to appear in public, on TV, and in the media.

“Defendants’ right to use the tattoos in depicting the players derives from these implied licenses, which predate the licenses that plaintiff obtained from the tattooists,” judge Laura Swain wrote.

. . . .

Irrespective of the implied licence, the reproduction of the tattoos in the “NBA 2K” games qualified as de minimis use, and did not require the consent of any copyright owner, the court concluded.

Judge Swain wrote that “no reasonable trier of fact could find the tattoos as they appear in ‘NBA 2K’ to be substantially similar to the tattoo designs licensed to Solid Oak,” as they cannot be identified or observed during gameplay.

The court found that the tattoos appear only fleetingly and are obscured by the rapid motions of the in-game players. 

Link to the rest at World Intellectual Property Review

When Should Writers Incorporate or Create an LLC?

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or CPA. So I’m not in a position to give individualized and specific legal or tax advice. This article is meant to give general guidance on considerations. However, it would make sense to consult a lawyer and CPA before acting on this general guidance, because benefits and drawbacks will change from state to state.

With that out of the way, this is one of those questions I receive every so often from writers. In most cases, the writers are not earning a significant income from their writing yet, but I get it. I’m a writer too, and I feel like writers are especially gifted at dreaming up possibilities—both good and bad.

. . . .

Reasons I’ve heard writers give for incorporating or forming an LLC usually have to do with protection. Some people have heard that incorporating as an S Corp or creating an LLC will protect them from lawsuits and provide tax benefits.

. . . .

One reason writers give for considering incorporating or creating an LLC is to put a wall between their freelance business and personal assets. On its surface, it sounds like a good reason. However, the most common liability for writers is different than other businesses that have employees, investments in production, and other business costs.

The most common liabilities for writers are tied to possible lawsuits for defamation, privacy, or infringement. In all those cases, plaintiffs would likely file suits against both the company and the writer. This is why most publishing contracts have language to cover them against the actions of their writers.

The good news is that you’re not completely helpless if this is a concern for you. Writers can look into Business Liability and/or Media Liability insurance policies. If you go this route, be sure that your policy covers defamation, privacy, and infringement claims.

Link to the rest at Writers Digest

PG will provide a bullet point response:

  • Get tax advice from a CPA or qualified tax accountant, not another writer. Some writers won’t gain any tax benefit from a corporation or LLC (Limited Liability Companies – they are definitely not the same when it comes to taxes) while other writers will.
    • Is the writer married? Does the spouse have an income?
    • Does either the writer or the spouse own assets not related to writing?
    • Does the author live in a community property state?
    • Are inheritance or estate taxes going to be involved if the author dies while married? Unmarried?
  • Get legal advice from a lawyer, not another writer.
    • Laws relating to defamation, privacy, or infringement claims vary, sometimes substantially, from state to state.
    • There are very good reasons that many corporations, including most very large corporations, incorporate in Delaware rather than the state in which most of the corporation’s assets exist. (About two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies are Delaware corporations.)
    • There are very good reasons why many LLCs (and an increasing number of closely-held corporations) are formed in Nevada even though the parties creating them and the assets of these entities are outside of Nevada.
    • Laws relating to the types of third-party claims from which an LLC or corporation may shield a shareholder of a corporation or owner of an LLC interest vary from state to state.
    • More than one lawsuit has been avoided or won because of legal speed bumps lying between the claimant and an award of damages.
      • As an example, if a plaintiff lives in Illinois and the defendant/author contends a Nevada LLC owns the copyright to the book involved and the LLC files a proceeding in Nevada against the plaintiff claiming improper actions on the part of the Illinois plaintiff and that Nevada, not Illinois, is the only proper place to pursue the litigation of the claims of the LLC, at a minimum, it is almost certain the plaintiff will need to hire a Nevada attorney to respond.
      • There are many, many other potential speed bumps between a complaint and cash in the plaintiff’s pocket that a determined author and competent counsel can place create. This is one reason why many litigation attorneys require a substantial up-front payment from an individual plaintiff and will not take a case on a contingency fee basis unless there is an insurance company or some other deep pocket who will pay if the judgment goes against them. You can assume that 99.999% of the attorneys who advertise on television fall into that category.

Finally, PG notes that he is a member of The State Bar of California and claims no legal or professional expertise with respect to the tax laws of any government entity nor the laws of Illinois, Delaware or Nevada. If you wish to understand tax laws, you need to hire a competent accountant or tax attorney and if you wish to understand the laws, including the corporation and LLC laws and the laws and court rules relating to litigation in a state, you need to hire a competent attorney who is admitted to practice law in that state.

UPDATE: PG didn’t mention the suggestion in the OP that an author consider acquiring Business Liability and/or Media Liability insurance. PG will note that such policies are very complex documents that include provisions that limit the policy’s coverage in various ways and will almost certainly include provisions for a large deductible that the author must pay.

PG is not opposed to appropriate insurance (and has the lawyer’s version of such insurance himself), it may not be easy for most authors to understand the protection that the policy provides and what potential losses the policy will cover and what it will not cover. Additionally, such insurance will be in force for a set period of time and renewal will require payment of another premium, even if the author does not plan to write any additional books. Maintaining the existence of a corporation or LLC may well be less expensive than premiums on such insurance. Note that nothing precludes an author from doing both – corporation/LLC plus liability insurance.

PG will also note that liability coverage connected to insurance on real estate or automobiles you may own will not cover claims made against an author relating to the author’s literary works.

India’s Juggernaut Opens #ReadInstead, a Campaign and Literature Fest

From Publishing Perspectives:

Known in the industry as one of world publishing’s most resourceful thinkers, New Delhi’s Chiki Sarkar has alerted Publishing Perspectives this morning (March 26) to her sure-footed adaptation to the COVID-19 crisis.

“As you know,” she says, “the coronavirus has closed down print business–so that part of our business is making zero money, as it is for all Indian publishers.”

Indeed, as Jeffrey Gettleman and Kai Schultz have reported at The New York Times, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi gave his nation just four hours’ notice before locking down all 11.3 billion people for three full weeks, “the biggest and most severe action undertaken anywhere to stop the spread of the coronavirus.”

. . . .

So it is that in announcing the shuttering of India on Tuesday night, Modi said, “There will be a total ban on coming out of your homes … Every state, every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown.”

Sarkar, whose Juggernaut publishing company is two years old and presents more than 5,000 titles by some 2,000 authors, is, fortunately, a publisher whose grasp of digital marketing capabilities has defined her success. Supported by her CEO Simran Khara and a strong editorial staff, she’s been carefully watched for her understanding that making books less intimidating to many in her culture has meant also making Internet retail and development less intimidating in a tradition-bound industry.

You see how she puts across an aggressive appeal to readers on her site. The first banner in her slider at the top is a massive ad for a book offering the World Health Organization’s guidelines on safety in the pandemic. And after a single line of “Readers Club New Releases,” she’s showing potential customers an entire “COVID-19 Reading List.”

This is the sort of adaptive, social response she uses to reach into consumer interests, and as her enormous market’s physical retail channels went dark on Wednesday morning—and with some foresight—Sarkar was positioned to take advantage of her online fluency.

“Last week,” as the contagion’s approach grew, she tells us, “we initiated a massive #ReadInstead campaign.

“We made our app go free, which has been huge for us. Our installs doubled and our ebook downloads have grown four times. The campaign is also being extremely well received on social media.

. . . .

With the #ReadInstead campaign moving, she says, “We launched a massive online literature festival with Scroll.in“–the news and entertainment site that registers a reported 12 million unique users’ visits daily.

. . . .

The festival opens Friday (March 27), and Sarkar says, “We’ll run it for a month, and most of India’s top writers are taking part. The festival has talks, dialogues, and writing workshops, and some of India’s most respected actors are doing readings.”

She’s not kidding about the level. Author Amish Tripathi—who can pull seven-figure advances for his work based in Indian mythology—leads an impressive array of authors whose headshots have gone up in advance of a timed announcement coordinated with Scroll.in.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG noted the statement that ebook downloads have increased four-fold.

Given the lack of perceptible marketing (and marketing talent) in American publishing, particularly now, it was nice to see some innovative promotion and marketing on the part of an Indian publisher in the face of difficult business conditions. Not all publishing minds are sheltering in place.

Lady in Waiting: Self-Portrait of a Lady

From The Wall Street Journal:

Lady Anne Glenconner, the 87-year-old daughter of the Earl of Leicester, came from a generation and a class that were not brought up to express emotion. “There were no heart-to-hearts” and no self-pity was allowed, she writes in “Lady in Waiting: My Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown.” You didn’t “dwell.” You kept the proverbial stiff upper lip. And, as her stalwart and disarmingly honest book testifies, that is what she did. Nevertheless, emotion resonates through this delightful memoir, which offers a candid, humorous look inside the royal family and the daft world of the British aristocracy.

Born Anne Veronica Coke, she grew up in one of Britain’s greatest manor houses, Holkham Hall, a North Norfolk estate she couldn’t inherit because she was female. (It went to a cousin.) Her father, she writes, “was not affectionate or sentimental, and did not share his emotions. No one did, not even my mother.” In 1939, at the outbreak of war, he was posted to Egypt with the Scots Guards. Anne and her younger sister, Carey, were sent to live with their cousins in Scotland. They didn’t see their parents for three years. Her mother never knew that Anne’s governess bound her hands to the back of the bed every night (the woman was eventually sacked, not for child abuse but because she was a Roman Catholic).

At Holkham Hall, Anne began a close friendship with Princess Margaret when, as children, they would jump out from behind the curtains to scare the footmen. Reunited at Anne’s coming-out dance in 1950, they chatted until the sun rose over the front portico. Three years later, Anne was picked to be one of six maids of honor at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, a ceremony Anne describes with starry-eyed detail (ivory silk dresses with gold piping). The archbishop of Canterbury offered them brandy during a recess and, later, the queen sat down on a red sofa, her skirt billowing, “and when she kicked up her legs for total joy, we did the same. It was the happiest of moments.”

Anne then fell “madly in love” with the charming Johnnie Althorp, but she made the mistake of introducing him to her friend Lady Fermoy, who, like a character out of Trollope, snapped him up for her own daughter. He vanished without telling her that the engagement was off. (Later he would become the father of Diana, Princess of Wales.) On the rebound, Anne married Colin Tennant, eventually Lord Glenconner, a millionaire with a castle in Scotland whose family fortune had come from the invention of bleach powder in 1798. Her father disapproved: Tennant was “nouveau riche.” On a Holkham pheasant-shooting weekend, where guns were “placed by rank,” an enraged Tennant was made to follow behind the lords, dukes and marquesses, walking with the beaters, the men who flush out the birds with sticks.

. . . .

[D]uring their 54 years of marriage Tennant was to lose his temper many times, often lying on the ground in a fetal position and howling. Nevertheless, Anne insists, he was “never boring.” When she asked him why he kept screaming at people, he answered: “I like making them squirm. I like making them frightened.” Why did he marry her? He said he knew she would never give up.

. . . .

In 1958 Tennant bought the island of Mustique in the Caribbean for £45,000 and developed it into a playground for millionaires and aristocrats. As a wedding present, he gave Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones a piece of land where she built a villa, Les Jolies Eaux. After Margaret’s marriage broke down, she created a scandal by staying there with her young lover, Roddy Llewellyn.

Anne was made lady in waiting in 1971, a role she held for nearly 30 years. She was devoted to the princess, whom she feels was much maligned. Margaret was rude when she was bored, but she was also capable of great kindness. Anne saw to all her needs, accompanying her on royal tours and even living with her for a year in Kensington Palace, where one of Anne’s duties was to turn the garden hose on the cats of their neighbor Princess Michael of Kent.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Author Anna James launches virtual bookclub

From The Bookseller:

Pages & Co author Anna James hash created an online and interactive middle-grade book club called The Bookwanderers Club, supported by her publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books.

The book club will be made up of a weekly programme of interviews with some of the biggest stars and upcoming authors of the middle-grade world chaired by James and streamed live on her YouTube Channel.

James said: “So many authors are keen to help support readers, parents and teacher who are at home, and the idea for the Bookwanderers Club came out of trying to create a centralised, regular place to provide fun, inspiring content around children’s books, and also help support authors and independent bookshops during uncertain times.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

China Bestsellers February 2020: A Market Stilled by Contagion

From Publishing Perspectives:

With Italy the new world epicenter of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak—and World Health Organization specialists saying that New York City is the next likely epicenter (as reported by Adam Bienkov at Business Insider)—it can be difficult at times to remember that for more than two months, businesses have been closed and workers have been displaced in China.

Most physical bookstores—a major feature of China’s book retail system—have had to remain closed. And our associates at Beijing OpenBook tell us that while online retail in books is a robust force, shipping logistics have been disrupted, making the digital alternative to a bookshop trip far less efficient than usual.

“In our February data,” OpenBook’s Rainy Liu tells us, “we’ve also seen the effects of weak marketing campaigns, but we look forward to more new content after we overcome the outbreak.”

. . . .

OpenBook’s researchers believe that they’ve seen increased reading time engaging some of the Chinese population during the struggle, but the most striking effect they can detect in February’s analysis is a significant drop in the release of new titles.

No new book entered the overall charts in February, and key sales went to two types of books: classics (including international work such as Albert Camus’ The Stranger but apparently not The Plague), and popular novels which likely were welcome for filling slow time out of work. A heavy contemporary tradition of reading classics in China these days is driven by school assignments, and once those were accomplished, even more popular work seems to have come into play.

. . . .

Titles related to epidemics and plagues also have found new footing on the charts in China, with Gabriel García Márquez ‘s Love in the Time of Cholera at No. 11. Its popularity is in part thanks to promotional schemes around Valentine’s Day, when news media focused on issues of affection amid infection and romance in isolation.

In nonfiction, as in fiction, no new titles appeared on the charts in February, although eight titles made a return. Chen Lei’s hugely popular “30 Minutes” books remain big sellers, with as many as 10 featured on the list in February. 30 Minutes of Chinese History in Cartoon is perpetually in the lead among these books from Chen.

Wang Xiaobo’s Silent Majority has found readers during the outbreak, as has the late Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

My Failed Attempts to Hoard Anything at All

From The New Yorker:

It used to be that nobody ever called me. I’d get lonely notices on my phone, reading, “Last week you had one minute and twelve seconds of screen time.” Now, though, with the coronavirus pandemic, I’m Mr. Popular. The first person I usually hear from is my sister Lisa, who will start with an update from her local Costco, in Winston-Salem. “They announced a new delivery of toilet paper, but it was gone by the time Bob and I got there.”

In New York, my sister Amy came for dinner and showed me a Rolling Stone photo essay on shoppers hoarding at superstores. Because everything’s sold in such great quantities, the carts look miniature.

“Gun sales have gone up, as well,” Hugh said.

Amy put her phone away. “So people can protect their toilet paper.”

Our friend Cristina was at the table, too, and we told her how bad we are at hoarding. “You have to understand, I grew up shopping with my father,” Amy said. “With a professional.”

I remembered him during the oil crisis of 1973, heading to the Shell station with empty cans and getting in line at 4 a.m. All our cars had full tanks, but he needed the next guy’s ration, as well. I didn’t even drive, but, still, he taught me how to siphon. I remember the shock of a mouthful of gasoline, spitting it onto the street and thinking, Someone could have used that.

“Can you imagine dad twenty years younger?” I said to Amy. “He’d be out there every day, buying pallets of fruit cocktail. And toilet paper—he’d have a forest’s worth under the tarp in the back yard. If rats chewed holes in the plastic and it got rained on, he’d stick the rolls in the oven, or go at them with a hair dryer.”

How can we—his children—be so bad at the kind of shopping he prided himself on? I tried to hoard at Whole Foods the other day, and came away with two steaks and a pouch of dried coconut.

. . . .

That night, at Morton-Williams, I tried again, and returned home with a package of Ball Park hot dogs, a pint of buttermilk, and some taco shells.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Still Sheltering in Place

Absent Mrs. PG’s influence, PG would not be a very conscientious shelterer. The past few days, he has read each issue of The Wall Street Journal (electronic version) more thoroughly than usual. Fortunately, he has some client work, but, for anything that involves New York City, the book business appears to be firmly closed down.

PG sends best wishes to fellow-shelterers around the world. May no virus darken your door.

A Retail Reality Check: Our Bookstores and What’s ‘Essential’

From Publishing Perspectives:

As the worldwide coronavirus emergency deepens into life-and-death gravity for so many in the world, a situation in the United Kingdom has reflected a concern that may play out in many other world markets for books.

At this writing The New York Times‘ tallies show Earth to have more than 341,500 people sickened by the virus and at least 15,187 dead with COVID-19. The Johns Hopkins Resource Center database, for comparison, shows 351,731 cases and 15,374 deaths. Sadly, by the time you read this, those numbers will have made more of their relentless jumps: more illness, more loss of life, more risk and exhaustion for medical and other responders; more economic devastation; more fear and confusion.

And while the people of publishing are right in understanding that the genius of literature has much to offer a world in such radical peril, we all—including those of us who cover the business as journalists—can do well to remember that no book is worth a human life and no blessing of publishing is worth endangering its people. Romantic notions of books’ importance are no match for life and health.

On the other hand, we can be sure that no one who had a hand in the outcry that came to a head this weekend in the UK got up one morning determined to make some questionable decisions about employee and consumer safety. We all need to put aside any kneejerk tendency to look for blame so that we can confirm what’s important: protecting people from the dangers of the contagion.

. . . .

Publishing everywhere is having to adjust, along with the rest of society and business, to a fortunately rare and lethal context. And there are times when this industry’s allegiance to many traditions and rich experience may, in fact, not always inform it well.

. . . .

And the concern in this case led to Sunday’s (March 22) late-day announcements by the UK’s Waterstones and Blackwell’s. Both bookstore chains announced that they are closing their physical points of sale temporarily amid the coronavirus crisis.

. . . .

Josh Halliday at The Guardian reported on Sunday that closing Waterstones’ 280 UK branches came after extensive employee complaint about how “senior head office staff, including Daunt, were working from home while booksellers, often those earning the least, were required to go into stores.”

. . . .

By Sunday, the Retail Gazette‘s Elias Johnson was reporting a fast-lengthening list of store chains that were closing across the UK amid the outbreak, including IKEA, John Lewis, the H&M Group, Selfridges, Harrods, Michael Kors, Gap, Lego, Abercrombie & Fitch, Apple, Calvin Klein, and more. But not bookstores.

Tweets have made it clear that some of the Waterstones workforce and customers indeed were concerned and spoke of it being unsafe to keep the bookstores open.

. . . .

Some commentary posted apparently by the Waterstones leadership has referred to the value of books in troubled times: “We all know that books provide solace, inspiration, education, and the other mental supports to periods of isolation, and the fact of our exceptionally busy sales over the last week demonstrates this is recognized by our customers.”

But of course, today’s strong television and film production, like music and other art forms, can provide sustenance, as well, and—like books, games, puzzles, and other valuable products in bookstores—these can be bought and sold online and by phone without risking physical commerce.

While many of us might argue that the intellectual and emotional support of good storytelling and informative nonfiction are important, books are not the only source of such aid and they’re not in the same class as food sold at grocers and medicines provided by pharmacies.

It’s a good moment for people who rightly prize the value of their industry to get a grip on what genuinely is essential.

You can’t live without food and certain medicines. You can live without books.

. . . .

As primeval a threat as the virus seems, maybe it’s time for story lovers to gather around digital fireplaces and start telling each other tales.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

While most regulars on TPV will already know this, the “Daunt” mentioned in the OP is James Daunt, the CEO of Waterstones book stores in the UK and the anointed savior of Barnes & Noble in the US.

PG wonders about Mr. Daunt’s business judgment in forcing Watersone’s store employees to keep working while he was not in his office and, apparently, had chosen to work from the safety of his home.

Regarding Barnes & Noble, the company seems to have fired its PR staff since Daunt’s appointment. PG was able to find one recent news item, however.

From Retail Touchpoints:

Barnes & Noble has disclosed plans for a potential layoff strategy as the retailer prepares for pandemic-related store closures, according to an internal memo seen by VICE. Staff at affected locations will first be able to use their time off, with employees who have been with the company for at least a year eligible for “up to” two weeks of pay. Employees with less than six months of time will be temporarily laid off upon the closing of the store.

“With the closure of stores, we are obliged to make the hardest of choices,” said James Daunt, CEO of Barnes & Noble in the memo. “The truth is that we cannot close our doors and continue to pay our employees in the manner of Apple, Nike, Patagonia and REI. They can do this because they have the resources necessary; we, and most retailers of our sort, do not.”

In a separate note, Daunt predicted that the crisis could cause an “unprecedented” sales drop, and that the company would likely need to “cut costs” to “weather this storm.” However, Daunt also stated that he would rehire workers after the stores are permitted to reopen to preserve their jobs — though he did not specify a timeline for the reopenings.

“No one knows by how much our sales will decline, nor for how long,” said Daunt in the second note. “We do know, however, that the drop will be unprecedented and that we must assume this will be measured over a period of many weeks, and possibly of months.”

Link to the rest at Retail Touchpoints

PG suspects that anyone who has been laid off from Barnes & Noble will be looking almost anywhere else for a new job and a great many Barnes & Noble people won’t be available when/if the stores reopen.

Big Tech Could Emerge From Coronavirus Crisis Stronger Than Ever

From The New York Times:

Amazon is hiring aggressively to meet customer demand. Traffic has soared on Facebook and YouTube. And cloud computing has become essential to home workers.

Amazon said it was hiring 100,000 warehouse workers to meet surging demand. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said traffic for video calling and messaging had exploded. Microsoft said the numbers using its software for online collaboration had climbed nearly 40 percent in a week.

With people told to work from home and stay away from others, the pandemic has deepened reliance on services from the technology industry’s biggest companies while accelerating trends that were already benefiting them.

Amazon has muscled in on brick-and-mortar retailers for years, but shoppers now reluctant to go to the store are turning to the e-commerce giant for a wider variety of goods, like groceries and over-the-counter drugs.

Streaming services like Netflix have dampened box office sales for movies in recent years. Now, as movie theaters close under government orders, Netflix and YouTube are gaining a new audience.

Companies were already dumping their own data centers to rent computing from Amazon, Microsoft and Google. That shift is likely to speed up as millions of employees are forced to work from home, putting a strain on corporate technology infrastructures.

Even Apple, which once appeared to be among the American companies most at risk from the coronavirus because of its dependence on Chinese factories and consumers, appears to be on good footing. Many of Apple’s factories are nearly back to normal, people are spending more time and money on its digital services, and on Wednesday it even released new gadgets.

“The largest tech companies could emerge on the other side of this much stronger,” said Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities.

. . . .

[W]hen the economy does eventually improve, Big Tech could benefit from changes in consumer habits. And despite more than 18 months of criticism from lawmakers, regulators and competitors before the pandemic hit the United States, the biggest companies are likely to finish the year stronger than ever.

. . . .

Michael Crowe of Charlotte, N.C., ordered groceries from Amazon for the first time a few days ago because he didn’t want to risk going to a supermarket, he said.

“I could see myself doing it longer term when this is over,” said Mr. Crowe, 36, who works for the home improvement retailer Lowe’s.

As more customers try different Amazon services, they may create permanent shifts in buying habits, said Guru Hariharan, a former Amazon employee and the founder of CommerceIQ, a company whose automation software is used by major brands like Kellogg’s and Kimberly-Clark.

In a blog post last week, Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said it was adding the new jobs at its U.S. warehouses and delivery network because “our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year.”

One reason for Amazon’s increase in demand is that shoppers are buying a broader variety of goods. From Feb. 20 to March 15, over-the-counter cold medicine sales rose ninefold on Amazon in the United States from a year earlier. Dog food orders increased 13-fold, and paper towels and toilet paper sales tripled, according to CommerceIQ.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Distillers Turn Whiskey and Gin Into Hand Sanitizer

Absolutely nothing to do with books or publishing and not something PG thinks is a good idea for you to try yourself, but he was impressed that distillers want to do their part to fight the coronavirus pandemic (besides helping harried medical personnel unwind after a long day).

From The Wall Street Journal:

Distillers around the country are using their alcohol supply to churn out hand sanitizer as Americans scramble to find the cleaner, a tool in fighting the coronavirus.

U.S. consumer demand for hand sanitizer outpaced supply weeks ago, as Americans raced to stock up and the biggest U.S. brand—Gojo Industries Inc.’s Purell—focused its supply on hospitals and other establishments.

“We have the processing equipment, and we know the skill sets, and we have the people,” said Chad Butters, chief executive of Eight Oaks Farm Distillery in New Tripoli, Pa. “Let’s get to work making this. We are just going to push it out.”

Eight Oaks recently turned its production line from whiskey and vodka to hand sanitizer. The company is giving out its hand sanitizer to local nonprofits and community members for a donation.

The distillery joins a growing number that have set up sanitizer-making operations, either using excess alcohol or temporarily halting production of their spirits. Companies in towns from Portland, Ore., to Durham, N.C., are churning out sanitizer.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration regulates production of sanitizer and generally requires the product be inspected before it is sold to the public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hand sanitizer contain at least 60% alcohol, a far greater concentration than liquor sold to consumers.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has exempted spirits companies from getting authorization typically required to manufacture hand sanitizer. The FDA said last week that it wouldn’t take action against any company that produces alcohol-based hand sanitizers for use by consumers or health-care personnel.

Distillers had been finding ways to work around restrictions, including donating rather than selling sanitizer, or calling it something other than hand sanitizer.

For instance, Los Angeles spirits maker Amass was selling “alcohol-based hand wash” on its website, alongside dry gin and Copenhagen Vodka. The company will now call the product hand sanitizer.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

Coronavirus Sparks Hiring Spree for Nearly 500,000 Jobs at Biggest Retailers

From The Wall Street Journal:

Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and CVS Health Corp. are among about a dozen large companies looking to hire nearly 500,000 Americans in coming weeks, a spree that would mark a major shift of the U.S. workforce from smaller businesses and others that have cut staff to survive the coronavirus.

The companies are managing a surge in demand for food and other household products that have taxed their stores and warehouses. At the same time, they are seeking to lure hourly workers to front-line or logistics jobs where they face risks of being near co-workers or consumers who could have been exposed to the deadly respiratory virus.

“There are too many customers for our staffing to handle most of the time,” said Cody Clark, who works at Brookshire’s Food & Pharmacy in Tyler, Texas. Ms. Clark, 22 years old, said she has been nervous about going to the store. “Customers come in and get frustrated whenever we don’t have something. They don’t understand we’re putting ourselves out there.”

. . . .

Many of the big chains have started offering enhanced benefits, such as paid sick time and child-care services, even for temporary or part-time workers. They have also temporarily boosted their hourly wages or promised cash bonuses for the people who run cash registers, unload trucks or work in e-commerce warehouses.

Separately, Instacart Inc., a grocery-delivery company, said Monday it plans to add 300,000 workers over the next three months, more than doubling the size of its current workforce of about 200,000. As part of the effort, the closely held company is looking to bring on 54,000 workers in California and 27,000 in New York. Instacart shoppers, who fill grocery orders for customers, are independent contractors who get paid per delivery.

In recent weeks, Instacart’s number of orders has more than doubled, and the size of its orders from the year prior has increased by 15%. The company also started offering up to 14 days of pay for its shoppers affected by Covid-19 or placed in mandatory quarantine.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

PG notes the link to the WSJ story was posted late on Monday night and there was no permalink available (as is normal with WSJ articles), so the link may change before some visitors to TPV have a chance to read the OP.

Amazon Deprioritizes Book Sales Amid Coronavirus Crisis

From Publishers Weekly:

As it works to meet the surge in demand for “household staples, medical supplies, and other high demand products,” Amazon has told other suppliers, including publishers, that they will likely see reduced orders and longer delivery time at least April 5, according to both a letter PW has obtained that was sent to independent publishers earlier today and an article Amazon posted on its Amazon Seller Central website.

In the letter, sent from Amazon Vendor Central to a wide range of its suppliers including most publishers, the online retailer said that due to a surge in online orders, it is “temporarily prioritizing household staples, medical supplies, and other high demand products” in order to restock those items. As a result, the letter said, from now through April 5, suppliers of products that are a lower priority should expect both reduced purchase orders and extended delivery windows for existing purchase orders.

We have temporarily paused ordering for products that are not household staples, medical supplies, or other high demand products,” the letter said. “We have extended the shipment/delivery windows for some existing purchase orders to give you more time to fulfill the order. Please ship your products toward the end of the extended window.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG suspects Mrs. PG is not the only author to see Amazon ebooks are selling quite briskly.

Sales soar 2,000% for Little Princess picture book on handwashing

From The Guardian:

Parents desperate to persuade their children to keep washing their hands have been turning to Tony Ross’s anarchic creation the Little Princess for help, with sales of the picture book I Don’t Want to Wash My Hands! booming by more than 2,000% over the last month, following new hygiene advice related to the coronavirus outbreak.

First published in 2001, the children’s book follows the Little Princess as she’s asked to wash her hands repeatedly, after playing outside, playing with her dog, going on her potty and sneezing. “‘WHY?’ said the Little Princess. ‘Because of germs and nasties,’ said the Maid.”

Publisher Andersen Press said that it had seen “unprecedented demand” for the book, with sales increasing more than 2,000% from February to March 2020. It has placed an “immediate hasty reprint” of the title.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About

PG apologizes for not posting anything earlier. No contagion around Casa PG, however.

From The New Yorker:

When the plague came to London in 1665, Londoners lost their wits. They consulted astrologers, quacks, the Bible. They searched their bodies for signs, tokens of the disease: lumps, blisters, black spots. They begged for prophecies; they paid for predictions; they prayed; they yowled. They closed their eyes; they covered their ears. They wept in the street. They read alarming almanacs: “Certain it is, books frighted them terribly.” The government, keen to contain the panic, attempted “to suppress the Printing of such Books as terrify’d the People,” according to Daniel Defoe, in “A Journal of the Plague Year,” a history that he wrote in tandem with an advice manual called “Due Preparations for the Plague,” in 1722, a year when people feared that the disease might leap across the English Channel again, after having journeyed from the Middle East to Marseille and points north on a merchant ship. Defoe hoped that his books would be useful “both to us and to posterity, though we should be spared from that portion of this bitter cup.” That bitter cup has come out of its cupboard.

In 1665, the skittish fled to the country, and alike the wise, and those who tarried had reason for remorse: by the time they decided to leave, “there was hardly a Horse to be bought or hired in the whole City,” Defoe recounted, and, in the event, the gates had been shut, and all were trapped. Everyone behaved badly, though the rich behaved the worst: having failed to heed warnings to provision, they sent their poor servants out for supplies. “This Necessity of going out of our Houses to buy Provisions, was in a great Measure the Ruin of the whole City,” Defoe wrote. One in five Londoners died, notwithstanding the precautions taken by merchants. The butcher refused to hand the cook a cut of meat; she had to take it off the hook herself. And he wouldn’t touch her money; she had to drop her coins into a bucket of vinegar. Bear that in mind when you run out of Purell.

“Sorrow and sadness sat upon every Face,” Defoe wrote. The government’s stricture on the publication of terrifying books proved pointless, there being plenty of terror to be read on the streets. You could read the weekly bills of mortality, or count the bodies as they piled up in the lanes. You could read the orders published by the mayor: “If any Person shall have visited any Man known to be infected of the Plague, or entered willingly into any known infected House, being not allowed: The House wherein he inhabiteth shall be shut up.” And you could read the signs on the doors of those infected houses, guarded by watchmen, each door marked by a foot-long red cross, above which was to be printed, in letters big enough to be read at a distance, “Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us.”

Reading is an infection, a burrowing into the brain: books contaminate, metaphorically, and even microbiologically. In the eighteenth century, ships’ captains arriving at port pledged that they had disinfected their ships by swearing on Bibles that had been dipped in seawater. During tuberculosis scares, public libraries fumigated books by sealing them in steel vats filled with formaldehyde gas. These days, you can find out how to disinfect books on a librarians’ thread on Reddit. Your best bet appears to be either denatured-alcohol swipes or kitchen disinfectant in a mist-spray bottle, although if you stick books in a little oven and heat them to a hundred and sixty degrees Fahrenheit there’s a bonus: you also kill bedbugs. (“Doesn’t harm the books!”) Or, as has happened during the coronavirus closures, libraries can shut their doors, and bookstores, too.

But, of course, books are also a salve and a consolation. In the long centuries during which the plague ravaged Europe, the quarantined, if they were lucky enough to have books, read them. If not, and if they were well enough, they told stories. In Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron, from the fourteenth century, seven women and three men take turns telling stories for ten days while hiding from the Black Death—that “last Pestilentiall mortality universally hurtfull to all that beheld it”—a plague so infamous that Boccaccio begged his readers not to put down his book as too hideous to hold: “I desire it may not be so dreadfull to you, to hinder your further proceeding in reading.”

The literature of contagion is vile. A plague is like a lobotomy. It cuts away the higher realms, the loftiest capacities of humanity, and leaves only the animal. “Farewell to the giant powers of man,” Mary Shelley wrote in “The Last Man,” in 1826, after a disease has ravaged the world. “Farewell to the arts,—to eloquence.” Every story of epidemic is a story of illiteracy, language made powerless, man made brute.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Collins makes hundreds of books and resources available for free

From The Bookseller:

Collins has made hundreds of books and learning resources free for teachers and families as schools close over the coronavirus.

The firm is giving free access to its online learning platform, Collins Connect, for the length of the school closures. The platform is for both primary and secondary schools and is home to learning and teaching resources for a range of subjects including English, maths and science at all levels, as well as international curricula.

On collins.co.uk it will also be providing free resources and support to parents who have children at home. It includes more than 300 e-books from its Big Cat reading programme, activity sheets, a times tables practice tool, revision and PDF downloads of many of its titles. Collins is adding resources daily to the site.

In addition, Collins will be enabling free access to textbooks in e-book format for schools that are already using its titles in the classroom so that pupils can continue their learning at home.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Justice Dept. files its first coronavirus takedown: a bogus vaccine website

From TechCrunch:

U.S. federal prosecutors have filed and won a temporary restraining order against a website offering a fraudulent coronavirus vaccine, which the Justice Department said is its first enforcement action related to the pandemic.

In a statement, the Justice Dept. said the action was taken against a website, said to be engaging in a wire fraud scheme, seeking “to profit from the confusion and widespread fear” surrounding COVID-19.

The website, seen by TechCrunch, claims the World Health Organization is “giving away vaccine kits” to unsuspecting victims who pay a small fee for shipping. The website asks for a victim’s credit card information.

“In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine,” the Justice Department’s statement said.

A federal judge issued the temporary restraining order against the website’s owners, whose names are not known. The order also demanded that Namecheap, the site’s domain host, pull the site offline.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

In PG’s personal observation, the COVID-19 problem has brought out a huge number of scams, both online and telephone-based. When PG checked Amazon last, the company seemed to be having problems keeping up with the wide variety of dodgy products and sellers that have sprung up.

See, for example, What You Need To Know About The CoronaVirus: Coloring Book

As Brits treat social distancing as a game, UK’s Waterstones opts to close stores nationwide just days after Daunt asked for books to be given special status

From The New Publishing Standard:

Sometimes it can be embarrassing to be British. First we had Brexit. Then the coronavirus arrived and our government looked the other way. Now the coronavirus is firmly established in the UK, spiralling out of control, and the Prime Minister is sending out mixed messages about social distancing, one second telling everyone it’s fine to go out to the park, the next telling them he will impose stricter controls if people go out to the park.

Against such a background businesses like Waterstones are forced to juggle the well-being of staff and business against the sad reality that, absent legal enforcement, social distancing and other virus containment measures are next to meaningless.

While the governments of Italy, Spain and France among many have acted swiftly to reduce the social mobility that spreads disease, Boris Johnson has chosen a more populist path, like a weak teacher appealing to a class to behave, knowing full well a handful of selfish pupils will do no such thing so long as they have the option.

As the week ended James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, the UK’s biggest national bookstore chain, spoke of unprecedented demand for books as the majority of the British public tried to stay at home more, and picked up more books during their occasional forays out.

Daunt went so far as to call on the government to exempt books from the inevitable retail closures that Boris Johnson must, at some stage, when things get so bad it’s too late, impose upon the nation.

. . . .

But just this weekend, as it became apparent a substantial minority of the British public were treating Johnson’s government guidelines as a joke, James Daunt has taken a bold decision to not even bother waiting for Johnson to do the right thing, but to close all the Waterstones stores nationwide.

To help prevent spread of the Coronavirus, and to protect the wellbeing of our customers and staff, sadly Waterstones will temporarily close its doors by the close of trade Monday 23 March until further notice.

It gives consumers one full shopping day to make their final book purchases before Waterstones shuts shop for the foreseeable future, because neither the Prime Minister nor certain of the British public can be relied upon to do the right thing.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Morocco’s National Library goes digital as country locked down

From The New Publishing Standard:

Morocco is among the many countries closing libraries to help contain the Coronavirus threat, and as elsewhere, it is turning to digital to ensure services are not halted.

The National Library of Morocco in Rabat (BNRM) is among numerous Moroccan public institutions shifting to a work-from-home policy and a commitment to providing digital content in lieu of physical products.

Morocco’s schools closed a week ago, in stark contrast to the UK, which only closed schools this weekend, and the USA, where the government continues to send out mixed messages, leaving governors and mayors to take the lead and protect lives.

But like many countries across the Middle East and North Africa, the belated realisation of the value of digital means the transition from physical, in-class education and social support to online is a slow and cumbersome process.

Morocco World News reports that the BNRM says it will,

offer online administrative services to its subscribers, and access to electronic documents including legal deposits, manuscripts, magazines, books, and more.

The library will adopt a work system that doesn’t require its employees’ physical presence, opting instead for video chats to carry out administrative meetings.

Remote educational activities will replace lessons and classes, allowing students to stay at home and continue studies.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Cruise of Conjuring

From The Los Angeles Review of Books:

After the publication of Whiskey Tales in 1925, things were looking up for Jean Ray. This debut collection earned him recognition from, among others, Maurice Renard, who called Ray “the Belgian Poe.” Sadly, Ray’s bright literary future darkened all too soon: on March 8, 1926, he was arrested and incarcerated.  Contrary to the legend, which Ray himself helped perpetuate, he was charged not with smuggling alcohol but “misappropriation of funds” concerning his literary journal. His publisher promptly cut Les Contes du whisky from its catalog and canceled two subsequent collections. Ray, aged 38, found himself in a cell in Ghent’s De Nieuwe Wandeling prison, where he would spend three years.

De Nieuwe Wandeling (“The New Promenade”), which first housed inmates in 1862, was inspired by the 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s design for the most efficient institutional building. A rotunda with an observation post at its center, Bentham christened his ingeniously baleful brainchild “the panopticon” (from the Greek word for “all seeing”). The devilishly clever detail is that the central observation post is installed with blinds, preventing the prisoners in the surrounding cells from knowing when (or if) they are being observed. As Bentham puts it in Panopticon, or the Inspection-House (1791), inmates constantly face “the apparent omnipresence of the inspector […] combined with the extreme facility of his real presence.

Bentham’s italicized phrases help bring into focus the eerie atmosphere of the tales in Ray’s second collection, Cruise of Shadows: Haunted Stories of Land and Sea (1931) — all written during his incarceration. In almost every story, a narrator finds himself confronted by an “apparent omnipresence” of malevolent intent — sometimes from physical objects themselves — only to discover a real (if inscrutable) “presence” that means him no good. It is as though Ray channeled into his fiction the isolation, gloom, and, most of all, the unobservable presence of watchful eyes he endured within the quaintly named “New Promenade” panopticon. Imprisonment even marked Ray’s language: as translator Scott Nicolay points out, the three most frequently used words in the book are tumulteclameur, and gifle ­— the last rendered as “smack” or “slap,” the sound of a bare foot hitting the cold stone floor of a cell. In the opening story, “The Horrifying Presence,” the unfortunate gold prospector, distinguished (to borrow Nabokov’s phrase) by being “ideally bald,” thus describes first hearing the “presence” outside his hut: “Footsteps on the ground outside, quite clear, like sharp little smacks [gifles].” He calls the invisible stalking entity simply “the thing.” Here, the bald prospector is — like many of Ray’s characters — telling others about his fearful encounter with the Unknown [l’Inconnu].

The Unknown, however, pervades Ray’s work not only because it is (or can be) terrifying, but also because it acts as shorthand for the way the stories repeatedly stage his characters’ groping for the words needed to capture what cannot be firmly grasped: the mystery shaping what is said. In “Dürer, the Idiot,” the narrator, another unfortunate soul who has had to confront the incomprehensible, reflects: “Our intellect demands a prelude for every event. It has a horror of the instantaneous and expends three quarters of its power in an effort to anticipate. It wants to come at all things by a gentle slope.”

This kind of ruminative aside, in the face of that which does not abide rumination, is typical of Ray’s style. During their walk along “a narrow street of the old town, a street of dark gables,” the narrator sees his companion, Dürer, suddenly make “the most peculiar gesture, as if he meant to grab my arm,” and then dash through the open door of a “little pink and green house” — never to be heard from again. This little house magnetizes the narrator, causing him to dream strange dreams. Toward the end of the story, when he watches a door open on its own inside the selfsame house, his intellect is floundering: “I turned my eyes once more to that straw of common sense adrift upon the lonely ocean of my terror.” This response is understandable, given that even the furniture prompted him earlier to say: “I stared with suspicion at lifeless objects like armoires and chairs[.] […] Has it ever struck you, the hostile attitude of some piece of furniture, familiar and inert among the others?”

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Review of Books

Following are a couple of examples of panopticon prisons.

The Terrible Ripple Effect of Canceled Book Tours

From Publishers Weekly:

The coronavirus outbreak is punishing the economy, but as a debut author, I never imagined the release of my forthcoming anthology would illustrate the impact of economic ripple effects.

In 2017, I published a call for submissions asking women to send their stories of how they’ve been affected by Donald Trump and his policies. I received over 200 essays, spent nine months winnowing that number down to 38, then prepared a proposal for the collection, entitled Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences During the Trump Era.

I celebrated when Pact Press, an imprint of Regal House Publishing, offered me and my coeditor a publishing contract. I celebrated again when I received the ARC by mail, and again when the first glowing review came out. On March 24, I was scheduled to begin a 22-city book tour, complete with voter registration tables at events in swing states and interviews with women for a later podcast. Contributors to the anthology were to join me at various stops along the tour. Then Covid-19 hit.

After learning about what it takes to “flatten the curve” of contagion, I decided I couldn’t in good conscience travel from city to city hosting large gatherings. Nor could I then return home and possibly infect my husband, who falls into a high-risk category. So, with equal parts conviction and despondency, I emailed the bookstores on the tour and asked to reschedule.

. . . .

Personally, I never expected to get rich off book sales. The time and toil I put into Fury was always about political activism and documentation. My financial goals were to earn enough royalties to fund the tour, pay contributors an honorarium, and offset my $925-per-month health insurance premium for the remainder of the year. It looks like even these modest goals may have been too ambitious.

. . . .

For Regal House Publishing, a North Carolina–based, woman-operated indie press, event cancellations mean a high influx of book returns from retailers. These come at significant cost to the press’s bottom line.

Jaynie Royal, publisher and editor-in-chief of Regal House, said the company is already feeling the pinch of the coronavirus. “Print runs for Fury and our other spring catalogue titles were determined by retail preorders in the fall of 2019, long before coronavirus was on anyone’s radar,” Royal explains, “and, like all trade publishers, Regal House relies upon bookstore events to drive buzz and ultimately revenue to recoup invested production and printing costs.”

. . . .

Politics and Prose events coordinator Beth Wang initially offered me assurances that the Washington, D.C., store was taking extra precautions—including rigorously sanitizing all event areas, making hand sanitizer available, placing chairs further apart, announcing to attendees that no physical contact with the author should be initiated, and offering authors latex gloves or a presigning (instead of a signing line) to minimize physical contact with the audience.

Even with assurances like these, however, authors canceled their in-store events due to fear of contracting the virus, a sense of moral obligation, and/or because they anticipated a low turnout. Given the fluid circumstances, Politics and Prose now offers authors a digital option.

. . . .

Finally, there is the book industry as a whole, for which book tours are a fading tradition. Since the Great Recession, publishers have tightened their collective belts and have all but eliminated book tours for debut authors, let alone for anthology editors like myself. Nevertheless, publisher tours for celebrity authors and those with established audiences, whose books are guaranteed to sell well, contribute to propping up an industry with wafer-thin margins.

“The absence of book tour events at independent bookstores will have a profound impact on the industry,” says Jamie Fiocco, president of the ABA and owner of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG is leagues outside of the target audience for this book, but he expects the attitudes of those within the book’s audience to recent events and the President’s response to various critics of the Administration have not transformed the feelings of those who don’t like him.

PG also has to say that the cover of the book looks a bit down-market to him, the photo and, especially, the typography (generic and doesn’t really do much to make the book feel like a quality title).

PG thinks that even his amateur Photoshop talents could have improved the look of the photo – gray overcast skies are the bane of good photographs and mid-day images typically don’t show the subjects – people, buildings, mountains – at their best, but there are easy ways to punch things up a bit. Does the dull gray sky behind the title and sub-title communicate anything useful or make the book stand out on a bookstore shelf?

With respect to basic Photoshop talents, what’s that little piece of something above the roof of the building on the right? And what do flying bird-specks add to the cover’s message? Those are ten-second photoshop fixes.

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