Dog-Eared and Dispatched
Happy Sunday, literary citizens! For many of you students out there, this weekend marks the start of Spring Break; all of us at Late Night Library wish you a remarkable week of rejuvenation. Ditto to the rest of our readers as well! Let us help all of you start the week off right with a recap of the wild work of book culture.
In this edition of Dog-Eared and Dispatched, we examine The Independent‘s decision to forego reviewing gender-specific books and the Let Books Be Books campaign that the company was inspired by. Next, we investigate the controversy surrounding one of this year’s Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards finalists: Rush Limbaugh. Finally, we look into Pope Francis’s four-year plan to digitize the Vatican Library.
And, as always, don’t forget to read your footnotes! There, you’ll find information on the ABA’s 2014 award finalists, the latest copyright lawsuit settlements from Google and Open Road Media, the weight loss program that adds ten years (in prison), and more!
The Independent, one of the United Kingdom’s youngest national daily newspapers, has banished gender-specific books from their review column. Katy Guest, literary editor of The Independent on Sunday, further emphasized the company’s intentions by stating, “I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys. Nor will The Independent’s books section. And nor will the children’s books blog at Independent.co.uk. Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys.” Guest linked The Independent‘s decision to the success of Let Books Be Books, an online petition launched by the nonprofit organization Let Toys be Toys which seeks to end the promotion of literature specifically labeled “for boys” or “for girls.” At the time of Guest’s editorial, Parragon (publisher of Disney, Barbie, and Sesame Street titles, to name a only few, and the largest illustrated non-fiction press in the world) and Usborne (the 2014 Independent Publisher of the Year) had both added their names to the campaign. Now, barely a week later, Let Books Be Books has gained national attention via the support of Waterstones (Britain’s largest specialist bookseller) and a plethora of authors, including Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials), Ros Asquith (The Great Big Book of Families), Mary Hoffman (Amazing Grace), Eileen Browne (Handa’s Hen), Pippa Goodhart (You Choose), Laura Dockrill (Mistakes in the Background), James Dawson (Hollow Pike), Harriet Evans (Rules for Dating a Romantic Hero), and the former children’s laureate, Anne Fine (Goggle-Eyes). “Children are listening and take seriously the messages they receive from books, from toys, from marketing and the adults around them,” Let Toys Be Toys stated in their March 5 blog post announcing the petition. “Do we really want them to believe that certain things are off-limits for them because of their gender? They’re not ‘getting it wrong’ if a girl likes robots, or if a boy wants to doodle flowers. These artificial boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.” [The Independent, Let Toys Be Toys, The Daily Beast, The Guardian]
Gender isn’t the only hot topic on the docket for children’s books this week, with the finalists of the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards inciting some controversy within the literary community. Announced on March 13 by the Children’s Book Council (CBC), this year’s list of finalists includes conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who is currently among the nominees for Author of the Year for his novel Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans (Simon & Schuster/Threshold, 2013). The onslaught of questions and concerns posed to the CBC regarding Limbaugh’s appearance on the list were so great that the organization drafted a letter of explanation to the public, stating, “The Author of the Year and Illustrator of the Year finalists are determined solely based on titles’ performances on the bestseller lists—all titles in those categories are listed as a result of this protocol. Some of you have voiced concerns over the selection of finalists from bestseller lists, which you feel are potentially-manipulable indications of the success of a title. We can take this into consideration going forward, but cannot change our procedure for selecting finalists after the fact.” The CBC went on to clarify that “ultimately, kids and teens (over one million of them if as many vote this year as did last year) will decide who wins in all 6 Children’s Choice Book Awards categories.” Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims has been on the New York Times bestsellers’ list for 20 weeks now, sitting at no. 4 on the children’s middle-grade category (behind Disney’s Frozen at no. 3, R.J. Palacio’s Wonder at no. 2, and Limbaugh’s second book, Rush Revere and The First Patriots, at no. 1). The sentiments of many have perhaps been best expressed by HuffPost Media’s deputy editor, Katherine Fung, whose March 22 headline reads, “We Live In A World Where Rush Limbaugh Might Win A Children’s Book Award.” [Publishers Weekly, Children’s Book Council, Huffington Post]
Pope Francis is certainly adding to his reputation as “the chillest pope that the Vatican has ever seen” this week with the announcement that the Vatican Apostolic Library will begin to digitize its 82,000 print artifacts over the course of the next four years. Founded in 1451, the Vatican Library is among the foremost research stations in the world; converting its 41 million pages from print to digital format will allow many of these tomes of history to be accessible to the public for the first time ever. Such conversion is no small task, however, and Vatican librarians will partner with the Japanese technology group NTT Data to complete the process. For now, the two groups hope to digitally archive approximately 1.5 million pages within the four-year timeframe, with the NTT donating both its equipment and workforce (estimated at a cost of $25.04 million) to the Vatican. [Gawker, The Telegraph, Reuters]
1. The American Booksellers Association has announced the finalists for the 2014 Indies Choice Book Award and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award, with the winners to be determined on April 17 and honored at BookExpo America in New York City on May 29.
2. Publishers Weekly explores how the Google vs. Viacom copyright settlement may have a greater impact on book culture than it seems at first glance. The Association of American Publishers appears to be of the same mindset, placing copyright issues high on their agenda of important upcoming discussions during their annual meeting on Wednesday, March 19.
3. Alongside gender, the issue of diversity in children’s books—particularly as it pertains to race—has also been at the forefront of this week’s literary discussion. Melville House editor Kirsten Reach has all the details.
4. Following the publication of their e-book edition of Julie of the Wolves (a 1973 bestselling children’s book by Jean Craighead George), Open Road faces up to $150,000 in penalties for copyright infringement. Meanwhile, George’s children prepare to publish her final, once-incomplete novel, Ice Whale.
5. The weight loss scam ‘he’ didn’t want you to know about: The Guardian investigates how a series of diet books has landed bestselling author Kevin Trudeau up to ten years in prison.
6. Both Books-A-Million and Scholastic witness a drop in quarter earnings but remain outwardly optimistic nonetheless.