Dog-Eared and Dispatched: September 22, 2013The wild world of book culture experienced the start of some exciting innovations this week. San Antonio led the way by opening the first all-digital library. With the weight of the digital world in mind, American author James Patterson announced his plan to donate 1 million dollars to indie bookstores. In the wake of their shortlist announcement last week, the Man Booker Prize Foundation has unveiled new eligibility criteria. Lastly, Amazon faces a few ongoing public relations crises this week, losing their partnership with Staples and RadioShack and facing several lawsuits and strikes from employees at home and abroad.
On Saturday, September 15, San Antonio made book culture history by opening the first all-digital library in Bexar County. Nicknamed BiblioTech, this $2.4. million, 4,000-square-foot building is designed in the style of an internet café, equipped with 48 iMac computer stations, 10 Macbook laptops, and 40 iPads. Patrons browse the library’s e-book selection via touchscreen catalog. From there, individuals can download their desired publications onto their personal e-readers using the 3M Cloud Library App or by borrowing one of the library’s 600 e-readers. Currently, BiblioTech is offering 10,000 e-book choices with a check-out period of two weeks. A similar but less extensive “printless” library wing was attempted by the Tucson-Pima Public Library system in 2002. The failure of that branch in combination with the number of books currently available in digital format has increased the level of public skepticism regarding BiblioTech’s chances for success. And yet there are many others, like American Library Association President Maureen Sullivan, who sense the changing atmosphere of the public library: “The library is no longer the place where you walk in and the thing you pay most attention to is the book collection. It’s now a place where when you walk in, you’re immediately attuned to the variety of ways that people are making use of that space.” [Digital Trends, Time U.S., InvestorPlace, The Wall Street Journal]
In a CBS interview on Monday, September 16, American author James Patterson announced that he will be giving 1 million dollars to independent bookstores across the nation over the next 12 months. The donation is part of Patterson’s reading campaign, through which the author hopes to promote books and education, particularly among children. For this reason, Patterson only has one requirement for those that hope to gain his funding: the store must contain a children’s book section. Patterson began his campaign in early September when the author purchased ad space in several publications, posing the question, “Who will save our books, our bookstores, our libraries?” He outlined his donation plan in greater detail during an interview with ShelfAwareness on Wednesday, September 18, stating, “We’re going to help as many stores as possible, and to do so as fairly as possible. I’d also like to prioritize stores that sell—or mean to sell—children’s books. Because, of course, that’s so often where the reading habit is forged, and where lives can really be saved.” Bookstores interested in receiving the “Patterson pledge” can find out more information here. [CBS, GalleyCat, ShelfAwareness, The Huffington Post]
The Man Booker Prize announced the global expansion of their submission criteria this past Wednesday, making any novel “originally written in English and published in the UK” eligible for consideration. Previously open only to authors from the U.K., Ireland, and the Commonwealth, the contest will now allow American authors to submit their work. As one might expect, this decision has sparked some controversy among literary citizens, with one of this year’s shortlisted authors, Jim Crace, pondering the impact this change will have on the tone of the contest: “If you open the Booker prize to all people writing in the English language, it would be a fantastic overview of English language literature, but it would lose a focus. I’m very fond of the sense of the Commonwealth. There’s something in there that you would lose if you open it up to American authors.” In his press release detailing the new rules of the contest and the reasoning behind them, Booker Prize Foundation chair Jonathan Taylor likened the previous exclusion of American writers to the Chinese being prohibited from the Olympics, going on to state, “We are embracing the freedom of English in its versatility, in its vigour, in its vitality, and in its glory, wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries.” In addition to this adaptation, the number of works that publishers can submit has been modified. Starting with next year’s contest, each publishing imprint will be allowed only one entry. This new ruling isn’t as cut and dry as it may initially seem, however: the Man Booker Foundation has agreed to allow extra entries according to the number of longlisted novels a particular publisher has had within the previously five years. Thus, if a publisher has accumulated five longlistings within the past five years, they will be allowed an additional four entries. [Shelf Awareness, GalleyCat, The Man Booker Prize, Publisher’s Weekly]
After a year of acting as delivery sites for goods purchased by Amazon customers, Staples and RadioShack are giving their “Amazon lockers” the boot. The initial choice to partner with Amazon was met with some confusion by critics, as Amazon was and remains a major competitor of both companies. However, as Edward Jones & Co. retail analyst Brian Yarbrough explained, “What [Staples and RadioShack] were hoping for was that when customers would come in to pick up stuff from the locker, they would pick up additional items.” Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to have been the case, with Staples reporting that the test “didn’t meet the criteria we set up together.” In addition to the loss of this partnership, Amazon is facing four lawsuits from warehouse employees who say they have repeatedly been shorted on their pay during the company’s frequent security checks. Workers state that these screenings for stolen goods and contraband account for at least 40 minutes of unpaid work time each week. Meanwhile, Amazon’s trouble abroad continues as 600 German employees stage short-term strikes in Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld. [Bloomberg, Huffington Post, Associated Press, Shelf Awareness]