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crime fiction

Friday News: Controversial new Spider Woman cover, Canadian copyright’s unintended consequences, Arab Noir fiction, and Gretna Green’s marriage business

Friday News: Controversial new Spider Woman cover, Canadian copyright’s unintended consequences,...

“But while diversity on the page has improved, diversity behind the pens really hasn’t,” said Sneddon. “There still just aren’t enough women breaking into the superhero comics industry, and covers like these help illustrate why – they put up a very big ‘no women welcome’ sign, which puts off not only women readers, but the many women creators working on a great variety of other comics.” –The Guardian

I think this is a really tough situation, because in the US, for example, textbook prices are insane, and many students, especially those at community colleges and state public institutions simply cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices that are charged, especially for textbooks that become more and more expensive with each new edition, as compared to older editions with many less expensive, used copies available. There needs to be some kind of balance between compensating rights holders and upholding the spirit of fair use for educational purposes, which helps to facilitate new scholarship and research, as well as a strong foundation for educational access and learning.

Roanie Levy, the executive director of Access Copyright, explained that in educational institutions’ interpretation of the law, “it is fair for them to use up to 10% of a work or a chapter of a book. And they believe it is fair to copy a chapter, put it on a course management website, and share it with a class of 10 students or a class of 150 students…. It would be fair to take chapters from multiple publications, journal articles, and 10% of a book, compile it all into a course pack, and use that as the readings for a given class, without paying any of the rights holders.”
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That impact is perhaps most apparent in the revenues lost when educational institutions decided not to renew collective licensing agreements administrated by Access Copyright. Under those agreements, universities pay C$26 per student and colleges pay C$10 per student as a flat fee for the reproduction of copyrighted material, and Access Copyright distributes royalties to the appropriate publishers and creators. According to figures provided by the organization, the drop-off in licensing renewals in 2013 resulted in a C$4.9 million decline in Access Copyright’s payments to publishers and creators last year. They lost another C$13.5 million in 2013 because provincial education ministries also stopped paying licensing fees for the K–12 sector in public schools. –Publishers Weekly

These translated thrillers captivated Egyptian readers in part because they shined a torch on the contested legal system of colonialism. The plots would be familiar to those who watch The Wire—inefficient courts, bumbling officers, the law’s futility in the face of crime. A classic example is Tawfik Al-Hakim’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor, a 1947 novel that’s part biographical, part hard-boiled, with a dash of bitters thrown in. The prosecutor waxes cynical about the legal institutions of British colonialism. In a satirical courthouse scene, Al-Hakim demonstrates the law’s worthlessness in the Nile Delta, where rural Egyptians are “required to submit to a modern legal system imported from abroad.” As in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, the law here can be fudged; the real disputes are settled outside of court.

“These novels form a tradition of legal muckraking,” writes Elliott Colla, chair of Georgetown’s Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the author of a new thriller, Baghdad Central. “Writing fiction about impolite or contentious social issues became an alternative way of addressing problems normally resolved through legal deliberation and action.” The stories of prosecutors and shamuses portrayed the ambiguity of law and order. All crime novels are political. –The Paris Review

But despite the whittling away of the legal distinction that made Gretna a marriage capital, it retains a romantic allure. “Running away to Gretna Green” remains a commonly used phrase. And couples still come. –BBC News

Monday News: FutureBookHack UK Hackathon, Tribune spinning off newspapers, bookstore literally dumps books, and women writing crime fiction

Monday News: FutureBookHack UK Hackathon, Tribune spinning off newspapers, bookstore literally...

FutureBookHack Category Winners revealed – Almost 100 hackers gathered at the University College London for the first FutureBookHack. Organized by The Bookseller and intended to address challenges set by publishers, the event spanned this past weekend and yielded a number of projects for both print and digital publishing. An overall prize of £5,000 will be awarded on Thursday, June 19th.

In the category of best use of print assets, the winner was “Black Book”, described as an adult pop-up book which puts the digital into the physical world.

Highly commended were projects “6 Degrees”, which traces the books the authors you like choose to read, and the links between them; “Tinder for Books”, which offers snippets of text to tempt you before showing you the book jacket, so you judge it on its inside merits rather than its superficial good looks; “Mood Nights”, which enables children’s stories to be read in different ways according to whether they want to be amused or frightened; and “Book Signal”, which enables people to read books together or to one another online. –The Bookseller

Tribune Publishing to borrow $350 million – Although the focus of this story is on the Tribune’s plans to borrow $350 million $25 million more than anticipated, the underlying transactions may be most significant, namely the plan to spin off the Tribune’s newspapers to current shareholders (forming Tribune Publishing) following a failed sale attempt last year. Apparently $275 million of the loan will be used for a dividend to the parent company as part of the deal. One of the company’s primary owners is currently attempting to get out of its investment in the Tribune Co. None of this strikes me as good news for the newspapers.

Tribune last year attempted to sell the newspaper group, which includes the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun, but abandoned those efforts and opted instead to spin off the publishing entity to its existing shareholders and list shares of the new company on the New York Stock Exchange. Tribune is keeping the broadcast operations, where prospects for profit increases are better than in the declining newspaper industry, and some of the other more lucrative assets, such as the real estate holdings. –Crain’s Chicago Business

Derry bookshop’s huge bankrupt stock left in skip – The Bookworm bookshop in Derry (aka Londonberry) declared bankruptcy in 2012, but its stock was just recently unloaded — literally unloaded into a dumpster in front of the shop, 100,000 books in total. In many ways a very sad situation, although the fact that people were so anxious to pick up books did at least indicate that print books still hold significance for people, if not sufficient value.

The news comes after figures in February from the BooksellersAssociation revealed that the number of independent bookshops in the UK had fallen below 1,000, and that there are now 987 on the country’s high streets, down from 1,028 in February 2013. In 2005, there were 1,535 independent bookshops in the UK, according to the Bookseller. –The Guardian

Sometimes the Toughest Guy in the Room Is a Dame . . . (Part One) – Part one of a two-part article on women in noir and hardboiled crime writing — a very interesting look at how women compare to their male counterparts, how their books have been received and characterized, and how so many stereotypes about how women write crumble when you examine what women are actually writing. Definitely worth reading.

Contemporary women working in the noir and hardboiled tradition use many of the same literary techniques as their male counterparts — adopting the central character’s point of view, often in the form of a first person narrative, and often writing the story as if dictated by the protagonist; they can be as brutal as the boys but generally approach their material from the perspective of a female protagonist, substituting psychological menace for the physical brutality used by their male counterparts. –Pulp Hack Confessions