Critical Linking: April 9th, 2013
Our daily round-up of bookish links. Tastes great with coffee.
“I feel because we started writing novels really before men on the whole, they don’t want us to even be good at that.”
Is it sexist to dispute the factuality of the first part of that sentence?
When it comes to book recommendations, retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet — they’ll just recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I hope this changes over time.
“The soul of a spreadsheet.” That is too good.
Among stores surveyed by DBW, Books, Inc., in the Bay Area, has sold 300-400 e-books as well as 200 e-readers at its dozen stores; Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. has sold “a couple hundred” e-books; Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., has sold about 100. At the bottom of the range is Alexander Book Co., San Francisco, which has sold no e-books (despite selling more than a dozen e-readers).
Gah. A 5% margin on 500 ebooks is probably only around 250-300 bucks.
The point is not that these young women’s messages are equal, but that they are both relevant enough to be highly valued in the global discussion that is the book industry. In the past few years, there have been decent battles about whether male writers are valued more than women (when evaluating book deals, bestseller lists, and critical reviews), and here we have two young women in extraordinarily different circumstances that are being primed to be compared to each other (both in timing of publication and in contract deals).
Why do we freak out the way we do? It seems like every week, we are all agog about something or another. Why do we have Chicken Little tendencies toward every little change in the book field?
I think it comes from fear, and not wholly a fear of change, but what that change represents.
What I find interesting is that book people freak out about changes, but if you step over the fence, music people don’t. Not quite to the same extent. I look at music a lot when thinking about the book world, because I think they’ve had to face a lot of the problems the book world is facing now, and they faced them a while earlier. They’re a little ahead of us when dealing with technologies. Also in the book world, we talk about the problem at great length. I think that might make it worse. We talk ourselves into frenzies. We are a field built on words, and occasionally, we just talk too damn much.
E.L. James to Publishing Writing Guide: A GIF Response
In today’s episode of Things That Are Too Horrifying To Respond To With Words Like a Normal Person, Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James will be publishing a writing guide. A guide…to writing. A writing guide. A…I’ll stop. Let’s just move on to the GIFs, using Fox News’ articleto guide us (because if you’re gonna talk about ridiculous, go all the way):
The next book from E L James will be a how-to guide on one of life’s most enduring passions: writing.
Vintage Books announced Monday that James has collaborated with the publisher on “Fifty Shades of Grey: Inner Goddess (A Journal).”
It combines professional advice from the million-selling author and lined pages for readers to set down their own ideas, or “inner goddess.”
But will readers really want to learn how to write from the author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”?
Sure, James’ erotic trilogy has sold more than 70 million copies worldwide, but according to most reviews of the series, James may not exactly be an expert on how to write.
In Aug. 2011, the Tribune Express’ book reviewer, Norman Ansari, had few kind things to say about James’ writing chops. “’Fifty Shades of Grey’ is poorly written, and that too to a surprising degree. Twice, I stopped reading to check if I had been duped in my purchase or whether I was reading an authentic eBook,” he wrote. Similarly, The New York Times’ Sunday Review writer wrote back in May that “James writes like a Brontë devoid of talent.”
So will her fans trust the “Fifty Shades” author to teach them how to write? Apparently Vintage— who also published James’ other novels— thinks so.
Vintage says the journal will have a soft leather cover, “bonded.” The “Inner Goddess” journal will be published May 1.
What if you never had to endure the buyer’s remorse of abandoning a book and wishing you could get back the dollars you spent on a disappointing read? What if, instead, you only had to pay for the pages you actually read?
Total BooX, a publishing startup out of Tel Aviv, is attempting to give you the option. The company, set to launch later this month, offers users free access to all the ebooks in their digital warehouse (the collection currently exceeds 10,000) and charges proportionally. If you only read 10% of the book, you pay 10% of the list price.
How Should I Spend My Book Dollars?
[a selection from 5 Bookish Conversations We Want to Have]
Jeff O’Neal: There is a lot of public moralizing about shopping at independent bookstores and not at Amazon. The general theory is that independent bookstores are better for books and reading than Amazon is, though the dots aren’t always connected. I know indie booksellers are great advocates for books; we have several writing for us here at Book Riot, and they are truly fantastic folks.
But here’s the thing: most people don’t have an unlimited book budget and your book-buying dollar goes further if you buy online/discount/digital. That is, you can get more titles for the same money. The same number of book dollars go into the ecosystem. Is this better or worse for what we want from publishing? If my $1000 a year in books goes to 100 rather than 50 authors/publishers, does that make any difference at all? It seems to me a higher percentage of my book dollars goes to authors/publishers, even if the number per purchase is lower. Or, I could be totally wildly off-base here. That’s why I want the conversation.
My goals for my book dollars are these: to get the most titles (legally) for my money AND to spend money in a way that makes sure there are a diverse array of titles available for me and others. Those two might be in tension with each other, but I feel like I don’t have the information I need to make a decision I am comfortable with.
Does that make sense?
Rebecca Joines Schinsky: It makes total sense, and I wish I knew more about it, too. I want the same things out of my book dollars–in the way of maximizing title availability and diversity–and I also want to keep my favorite book recommenders in business. So, yes–money to authors and publishers, but also to bookstores. I’m not a 100% digital reader yet, and I want to be able to walk into the shops I love and be handsold by booksellers who are able to make a living doing what they do so well. But damn, I wish I knew how exactly to strike the balance.
Books set you free
In June it was announced that Brazilian prisoners could shave four days off their sentences by simply reading a book. The Redemption Through Reading programme encouraged inmates to pick up a work of literature or philosophy. Why? “A person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world,” said Sao Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisons. “Without doubt they will leave a better person.” Prisoners could read up to 12 books in the scheme. That’s 48 days of freedom, bought by reading. Sadly they couldn’t confirm whether the prisoners could read such jail-breaking classics as Papillon orThe Count of Monte Cristo.
More of the Best Untold Book Stories of 2012