Dog-Eared and Dispatched: March 15, 2015
In this week’s rundown of book culture, we consider whether ebooks are books (Europe doesn’t think so) and have gathered a collection of footnotes from Calvin & Hobbes to Sappho. We also remember the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett. Ready? Set? Read!
British fantasy novelist Sir Terry Pratchett died this week at age 66. There are many remembrances circling the internet, and Neil Gaiman wrote a moving piece back in September. The Paris Review has an excerpt from an essay Pratchett wrote on how to write successful fantasy:
Fantasy works best when you take it seriously […] G. K. Chesterton summed up fantasy as the art of taking that which is humdrum and everyday (and therefore unseen) and picking it up and showing it to us from an unfamiliar direction, so that we see it anew, with fresh eyes … the genre offers all the palettes of the other genres, and new colors besides. They should be used with care. It only takes a tweak to make the whole world new.
Despite opposition from some of its member states, notably France and Luxembourg (where Amazon has its EU headquarters), the European Commission recently ruled that VAT on ebooks should not be aligned with the VAT on paper books, but with other digital products – raising the taxation rate on ebooks from ~3% to 20%. Although the member states are planning to comply with this ruling, the French Culture Minister told the Wall Street Journal: “We think that a 20% VAT rate may stifle innovation for e-books. France will continue, together with other countries, to ask for a revision of the VAT Directive which sets out these exceptions.” As a response to the EU ruling, French publishers have launched a social media campaign using the hashtags #thatisabook/#thatisnotabook to draw attention to the role books play in everyday life. [Wall Street Journal, MobyLives!, Italy Says no to Ebook Discrimination, Future Book]
- Thinking about Sappho.
- “An entrepreneur and a publisher, James Laughlin was the scion of a steel-fortune family in Pittsburgh. He also wrote poetry, a lot of it.”
- There’s a new interview with Bill Watterson: “Cartooning was what you did to avoid classes. And it’s funny: Although I’m certainly glad cartoons are finally getting some respect as an art, I’m fairly ambivalent to see cartooning as a legitimate academic offering.”
- Harper Lee’s literary agent doesn’t like that the State of Alabama is investigating potential elder abuse in the publication of her novel Go Set a Watchman.
- Armored tank converted into a mobile library AKA a weapon of mass instruction.