Dog-Eared and Dispatched: July 20, 2014
It’s been quite the week this week, and the literary world keeps on spinning. In this week’s rundown of book culture, we look back on the life of Nadine Gordimer; we also consider the Apple and the Amazon, and how the two relate to ebooks. There are plenty of footnotes to round things out, with perhaps slightly more whimsy than usual. Don’t spill your coffee, okay. All right. Get ready …set …READ.
Sad news. On Sunday, July 13, 2014, Nobel-prize winning author Nadine Gordimer died. From an interview at The Paris Review: “I think writers must be careful now not to overdo the use of travel as a metaphor for tremendous internal changes. ‘The journey’ now is by air, and think of how many writers use this—in my own books it appears in The Conservationist and in Guest of Honour. And indeed, in Burger’s Daughter, Rosa Burger takes her first trip out of South Africa; I had to resist the temptation to talk about the journey. […] I would always hope to find the one right way to tackle whatever subject I’m dealing with. To me, that’s the real problem, and the challenge of writing. There’s no such feeling as a general achievement. You cannot say that because I have managed to say what I wanted to say in one book, that it is now inside me for the next, because the next one is going to have a different demand. And until I find out how to write it, I can’t tackle it.” [NY Times, Paris Review]
Apple has agreed to settle in its price-fixing case, though everything is still very much up in the air:”If Cote’s decision is upheld by the Second Circuit, Apple has agreed to pay $400 million to consumers. If the case is remanded for further proceedings, Apple will pay $50 million to settle the case. And if the Second Circuit reverses Cote, Apple will pay nothing. If the decision is upheld, Apple will also pay the 33 states $20 million to resolve claims for ‘costs, fees, and civil penalties’. Consumers, however, shouldn’t expect to see refunds quickly.” There is certainly increasing sympathy for Apple’s view that it was trying to find “entry into a market dominated by a single company, through admittedly vertical and lawful distribution agreements, to launch an enterprise that the court admitted benefited consumers and competition, where the company did not desire higher prices and the agreements did not specify prices to be charged, and which resulted in more competition, lower market prices, and increased market output” – that is, that it was trying to tackle an organization with existing monopolistic practices and dubious respect for the law. We’ll keep an ear out for the Second Circuit Court’s decision. [NY Attorney General, Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!]
So it’s official, then. Amazon is entering the ebook subscription market with Kindle Unlimited. It seems that “the service will give access to 600,000 Kindle e-books, as well as over 2,000 audiobooks, for $9.99 a month. Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial for the service, along with a free three-month Audible membership, which will indicate what titles are included in it with Kindle Unlimited logos on the e-tailer’s website. Titles included in the program will have a button ‘Read for Free,’ through which Kindle Unlimited members can access the content. Subscribers can have access to up to 10 books at one time.” Considering we already pay taxes to support our local library (or libraries), this seems a bit rich – but perhaps we should expect Amazon to start reaching out to libraries? It’s hard to say. The other subscription services put a brave face on it: as Oyster CEO Eric Stromberg notes: Amazon “really paved the way in ebooks, and it’s exciting to see them embrace the market we created as the future of books.” If “exciting” is a euphemism, we have to agree. (We also wonder if Amazon really is talking to Simon & Schuster about anything.) [Publishers Weekly, Galleycat, MobyLives!]
- Have we finally reached an era of global literature? “If, then, when nations were forming, writers began to address their work to a national audience, wouldn’t it be logical that now, in a period of intense globalisation, they might think of their books from the start as being destined to travel beyond national borders?”
- Comics and graphic novels are doing well.
- Did California do as well as expected? Is Nielsen BookScan full of hooey?
- Notions of privacy, especially as they apply to Virginia Woolf (but see also).
- Not everyone has a novel in them; some of us must be content with bloggering.
- Speaking of novels, acquisitions activity is picking up.
- “But more complicated still—and, in some ways, more rewarding still—is the attempt to read a book through someone else’s eyes. Your thoughts triangulate. You wonder, What did person X feel when he read Y’s book?”
- Charles Darwin’s library from his voyage aboard the “Beagle” has been digitized; you probably didn’t have anything better to do on a Sunday anyway.
- Your weekly infographic: The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People.
- And of course you will want to see the video for “Word Crimes” if you have not done so already.