Tuesday News: Harper Lee’s estate, “Moneyball” for books, and more book art
Harper Lee’s Estate’s First Order Of Business: Kill Off The Cheap Version Of To Kill A Mockingbird – If you were one of the people who was suspicious of the circumstances under which Lee’s Go Set A Watchman was published, this will likely raise your other eyebrow: according to this Techdirt article, Harper Lee’s estate is moving rapidly toward two goals: (1) have the details of her will sealed and (2) stop publishing the mass market paperback version of To Kill a Mockingbird, making sure that the only new versions of the book that will be available will be the noticeably more expensive trade paperbacks. The utterly enraging horribleness here is almost too great to contemplate or articulate, and the damage to Lee’s legacy seems inevitable. One of the reasons that TKAM remains popular and profitable is because so many mass market paperback copies are sold to schools and students every year. And sealing the details of Lee’s will?! Why would that be necessary?! And is there no one to stop this train from going off the tracks?!?!?!?!?!
And the most damning of all in this is that when Lee published the book back in 1960, she knewthat the absolute longest the book would be under copyright would be 56 years — or, right up until this year. Yes, the incentive to Lee to write the book was such that it was perfectly fine for her knowing that on January 1st, 2017, the book would go into the public domain. Unfortunately, thanks to the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, it’ll be many, many decades before the book actually goes into the public domain, if it ever does (if my calculations are correct, the book should hit the public domain in 2056 under current law).
And here we now see the clear market distortion of copyright. It’s obvious that Lee did not need these additional four decades of copyright protection because, after all, she wrote the book having no clue that copyright would be extended in that manner. So there was no additional “incentive” necessary here. And yet, rather than going into the public domain in 9 months, allowing the book to be distributed freely on the internet or in a wide variety of super inexpensive mass market paperbacks (like other public domain material), instead, such versions of the book are being liquidated, and the only new copies available will be much more expensive. The gap between what the book should cost as a public domain book and what it will cost now as only a trade paperback — for the next forty years — is a blatant tax on the public created entirely by copyright law. – Techdirt
Moneyball for Book Publishers: A Detailed Look at How We Read – Well, this has probably been inevitable. A “reader analytics company” called Jellybooks is using a method similar to the one used by Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane, but in this case it’s being used to study the way readers consume books. In addition to the privacy concerns for readers and the possible effect on publishing decisions, is the reality that more than half of the books already tracked were never finished by most readers. A mere 5% of the books studied were finished by more than 75% of readers. Personally, I don’t think publishers will ever be able to consistently predict reader tastes, but it doesn’t mean they won’t continue to try.
Here is how it works: the company gives free e-books to a group of readers, often before publication. Rather than asking readers to write a review, it tells them to click on a link embedded in the e-book that will upload all the information that the device has recorded. The information shows Jellybooks when people read and for how long, how far they get in a book and how quickly they read, among other details. It resembles how Amazon and Apple, by looking at data stored in e-reading devices and apps, can see how often books are opened and how far into a book readers get.
Jellybooks has run tests on nearly 200 books for seven publishers, one major American publisher, three British publishers and three German houses. Most of the publishers did not want to be identified, to avoid alarming their authors. The company typically gathers reading data from groups of 200 to 600 readers. – New York Times
Artist never judges a book by its cover – Los Angeles artist Mike Stilkey collects books that libraries are getting ready to throw away, stacks them up, glues them together, and uses the resulting surface as a canvas for his paintings (anywhere from 100 to 3,000 books make up each three-dimensional canvas). His work favors animals and human faces (the article linked above has several photos of his work). Information on his current Southern California exhibition can be found here.
When he started painting books 10 years ago, instead of the bindings he focused on the insides. He would paint over the text because he never liked painting on white paper, he said.
“I’m giving these books a second life and painting these stories on them,” Stilkey said. “I love the idea of a narrative over a narrative. I love that somebody wrote this book, so there’s a story there. Then, there’s the story of the person who had the book, and then that book goes to a thrift store or library. Then it comes to me, and I put this story on top of that story. It’s just kind of fascinating to me.” – Los Angeles Times