Monthly Archives: December 2011

  •    Boris Kachka from New York Magazine on How E-books Have Become a New Literary Form:
    The great hidden virtue of e-books—hidden beneath the chatter about their effect on the bottom line—is that they allow stories to be exactly as long as we want them to be. It turns out that many of them work best between 10,000 and 35,000 words long—the makings of a whole new nonfiction genre occupying the virgin territory between articles and hardcovers.
    (Thx, Johnnypat) #
  •    Amazon offers two-day ‘Christmas season’ shipping for Kindle products. I recommend the Kindle 4, not the Touch, and certainly not the Fire (not the first version, at any rate). Merry Christmas! #
  •    Seth Godin on How much should an ebook cost?:
    This is the wrong question. The right question is: How much will an ebook cost? Because the answer isn’t up to one author or one publisher or even a price-fixing cartel. It’s up to the market, which is a far more complicated entity. There are no shoulds in the market, just reality.
    He makes an interesting argument for dynamic pricing: that unknown authors should release their ebooks for free, and then scale the prices up. #

What We Have To Learn From Fashion’s Free Culture

This is a rather old video (mid-2010 according to’s timestamp) but it’s made me think rather hard about copyright, books, and the publishing industry:

The gist of the talk is in this graph:

Gross Sales Of Goods IP

(Point: that whole industries do just fine without Intellectual Property protection.)

Now, I do question one of the assumptions behind this: while it is true that fashion, food and furniture cannot be copyrighted, and that these industries are still highly innovative, we should also remember that they are more necessary than music, films, and books. Gross sales is an oversimplification of the effects of copyright: certainly more people would buy clothes than they would books!

But, that said, her primary example holds true. High fashion is indeed still very lucrative (and creative!) without IP protection. Would publishing be in a similar environment if books were not copyrightable? It doesn’t take much to imagine a world in which fan-fiction is sanctioned, where riffing on the books you love is a norm.

So here’s a thought experiment: if for one year all copyright were to be revoked (or demoted to a Creative Commons-like attribution-only license) would innovation increase worldwide, or would the opposite happen? Would this be good for society?

Writers like Nicholas Carr have argued that our digital culture values mashups over source material. I disagree with that (I believe both are equally valued, and equally valuable, though we should perhaps leave that argument for another day); I suspect that the world would benefit as the rate of innovation increases in response to these freedoms.

What I’m not certain about is how this would affect the creators. Would they benefit, if at all? Or would the benefits only show themselves after the industry has had to make do without copyright, like how the fashion industry has had to do?

I will admit, though: a future where Pride and Prejudice and Zombies can then be combined with Twilight and Buffy The Vampire Slayer sounds like a very fun world indeed.

  •    Slate Magazine has a nice best books of 2011 roundup. #
  •    The Content Wrangler has a nice infographic on the recent Aptara ebook-publisher survey. #
  •    How Darcie Chan Became a Best-Selling Author:
    Ms. Liss says that the offers from U.S. publishers so far don’t improve much on what Ms. Chan is making on her own. She’s made around $130,000 before taxes—substantially more than a standard advance for the average debut novelist—and she’s getting a steady stream of royalties every month. “I told Darcie, at this point you’re printing money. They’re not. Go with God, we’ll sell the second book,” Ms. Liss says.
    Nothing new here, but it’s a nice article from the Wall Street Journal about our little corner of the publishing world. #
  •    Cory Doctorow has a beautiful excerpt on why writing YA matters, really matters to the kids who read it:
    Genre YA fiction has an army of promoters outside of the field: teachers, librarians, and specialist booksellers are keenly aware of the difference the right book can make to the right kid at the right time, and they spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to convince kids to try out a book. Kids are naturals for this, since they really use books as markers of their social identity, so that good books sweep through their social circles like chickenpox epidemics, infecting their language and outlook on life. That’s one of the most wonderful things about writing for younger audiences—it matters. We all read for entertainment, no matter how old we are, but kids also read to find out how the world works.
    So, so true. #

Date A Girl Who Reads

I’ve been rather late on this, but a lovely little essay has been making rounds on the Internet, apparently in response to Charles Warnke’s You Should Date An Illiterate Girl. Rosemarie Urquico writes:

You should date a girl who reads.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

You may find Rosemarie Urquico, a writer from the Philippines, over at Goodreads, and on Facebook. Here’s the full story of how she came to write this piece.