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Thursday News: Diversity in publishing, Litrate wants to take on Goodreads, Teju Cole on James Baldwin, and 86-year-old debut Romance novelist

Thursday News: Diversity in publishing, Litrate wants to take on Goodreads,...

Educating others in the business is just part of the job for Davis, but it might not be so necessary if there were more people of color in the industry. She believes that a company like Simon & Schuster is trying, but she says it’s not easy to attract young people. Starting salaries are so low, few can afford to take a job in publishing. –NPR

LitRate is our dream for a new website for the literary community. It will essentially be our version of Goodreads—but better. We’ve seen all your ideas, all your complaints, and all your dreams of new features. We’re here and ready to implement them in a new site that we can build together! –Litrate

If Leukerbad was his mountain pulpit, the United States was his audience. The remote village gave him a sharper view of what things looked like back home. He was a stranger in Leukerbad, Baldwin wrote, but there was no possibility for blacks to be strangers in the United States, nor for whites to achieve the fantasy of an all-white America purged of blacks. This fantasy about the disposability of black life is a constant in American history. It takes a while to understand that this disposability continues. It takes whites a while to understand it; it takes non-black people of color a while to understand it; and it takes some blacks, whether they’ve always lived in the U.S. or are latecomers like myself, weaned elsewhere on other struggles, a while to understand it. American racism has many moving parts, and has had enough centuries in which to evolve an impressive camouflage. It can hoard its malice in great stillness for a long time, all the while pretending to look the other way. Like misogyny, it is atmospheric. You don’t see it at first. But understanding comes. –The New Yorker

While she’s proud of the buzz her steamy story has generated, she never dreamed of being a writer and had only taken one creative writing class when she was younger. Gorringe, a fan of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” has no plans for a second novel. For now, she’s just enjoying the spotlight. –ABC/Yahoo

Monday News: Amazon v. Hachette redux, historians editing Wikipedia, YouTube and crowdfunding, pseudonymity and creativity

Monday News: Amazon v. Hachette redux, historians editing Wikipedia, YouTube and...

The Real Story Behind The Amazon v Hachette Fight – So here’s a pretty impersonal take on the Amazon v. Hachette battle, which is mighty difficult to find online right now. This whole thing reminds me of the battle over so-called agency pricing (and remember how awful Barnes and Noble was not so way back when???), except that I’m kind of surprised at how, despite all the changes that have happened in self-publishing over the past few years, a lot of the same dynamics seem to be playing out. For example, I was surprised by Lilith St. Crow’s unqualified defense of Hachette; as a pretty seasoned author who says she has published in every venue, her response to people who pointed out that Hachette is not blameless took me aback. Anyway, I’m not personally endorsing the Forbes piece, but I’m glad to see a de-personalized approach to the conflict, especially because I think it’s important to remember that neither publishers nor distributors care about readers and authors in any sentimental capacity.

The real economic story behind that lovely fight that’s going on between Amazon and Hachette that is. What we’re really seeing is a battle between the people who make the product and the people who distribute it as to who should be getting the economic surplus that the consumer is willing to hand over. Like all such fights it’s both brutal and petty. Amazon is apparently delaying shipment of Hachette produced books, insisting that some upcoming ones won’t be available and so on. Hachette is complaining very loudly about what Amazon is doing, entirely naturally. The bigger question is what should we do, if anything, about it? To which the answer is almost certainly let them fight it out and see who wins. –Forbes

Improving Wikipedia: Notes from an Informed Skeptic – A really interesting piece by historian Stephen Campbell on some of the challenges and opportunities that Wikipedia represents. We all know that one of the biggest problems with Wikipedia is that anyone can contribute to the resource, which can give the weight of authority to things that are flat-out incorrect or misrepresented/misinterpreted. On the other hand, as Campbell points out, Wikipedia does have guidelines that are meant to weed out uninformed opinion, and because the resource belongs to the public domain, it remains a living, evolving resource that can provide good supplementary information (and should never be used as the only or primary source of research).

Perhaps no other issue has proved more controversial than Wikipedia’s foundational pillar of neutrality. Skeptics wonder if this goal is even possible or desirable.3 In describing its policy, which dovetails with the interlocking emphases on “verifiability” and “no original research,” Wikipedia states that it aims to describe debates, but not engage in them. Here is where historians balk. The moment we select a research topic and array certain facts together in a particular order, we have unwittingly engaged in a debate. In addition, facts themselves are never truly neutral since they are always understood within a larger ideological context.4

What is most surprising among Wikipedia’s policies, however, is how the site takes a sophisticated approach to many of these philosophical issues. Wikipedia editors emphasize that neutrality is not the same as objectivity. The site eschews pseudoscience, avoids false equivalency and upholds the standards of peer review, and in assessing the validity of competing ­arguments, it considers the argument’s prevalence in scholarly sources, not among the general public. Wikipedia’s policy even recognizes that we cannot take neutrality to its fullest possible extent because attempts to eliminate bias completely may sacrifice meaning.5 These are all standards that academics should applaud. Wikipedia’s editors eventually responded positively to Messer-Kruse’s complaints, and while it may never adequately incorporate the latest, cutting-edge research known among scholarly circles, the beauty of the site is that it contains the tools for its own improvement. –Perspectives on History (AHA)

YouTube wants to take a page from Kickstarter with crowdfunding tools for video producers – Oh, look, here’s a surprise: YouTube is getting in on the crowd funding craze. And it’s likely to provide details at VidCon. Yippee.

YouTube made the announcement on Friday with a blog post and video that also previewed a few other creator-focused initiatives, including crowdsourced captioning and a mobile analytics app. –Gigaom

WHAT’S IN A PEN NAME? – An amusing, insightful, and provocative look at why an author might adopt a pseudonym for writing fiction. His rationale is creative rather than practical, which came across as “pretentious” to one commenter, but also raises interesting points about how writing is performative and appropriative by nature. How appropriative, and to what ends are not considered in the essay, but they’re certainly present as broader implications.

Much as I might agree, my own case strikes me as having more in common with that of Toby Forward, the Anglican vicar who, in the nineteen-eighties, wrote a series of stories posing as a teenage girl by the name of Rahila Khan. Defending his motives in the scandal that eventually resulted—his stories had been published in a series specifically intended as a platform for young immigrant voices in Thatcher-era England—Forward insisted that the Khan stories had not been meant as a hoax, declaring that his pseudonym “released me from the obligation of being what I seem to be so that I can write as I really am.” I differ from the good vicar on a few minor points (I don’t think anyone writes as they “really are,” for example, since all style is either learned or invented), but I agree about the “release from obligation.” That’s as close as I can come to my own reason for having chosen to write as John Wray, and for continuing to do so, in spite of the obvious drawbacks. I’ve discovered that working under a name other than the one in my passport—while an undeniable hassle in airports, hotels, and banks—is a marvelous way to dodge my inhibitions. It doesn’t say much for human psychology, I suppose, that such a simple-headed trick should work so well, but I’m in no position to be fussy. Writing is hard enough without the sin of pride. –The New Yorker