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Tuesday News: Pinkmeth lawsuit, Nadine Gordimer dies, Worldreader brings Kindles to Ghana, and fascinating article on Virginia Woolf and privacy of self

Tuesday News: Pinkmeth lawsuit, Nadine Gordimer dies, Worldreader brings Kindles to...

Tor Project sued for $1 million in revenge porn case – Pinkmeth, a particularly horrible revenge porn site is being sued, and for a while, TOR was being sued right along with it. Although the action against TOR was quickly dropped,I wanted to start at the beginning of this drama, in part because it’s instructive of how difficult it is to negotiate the relationships between a site like Pinkmeth and a service like TOR. Techdirt has a lengthy analysis of why they think this is a completely baseless suit, and while I agree this is a CDA Section 230 (safe harbor) issue, I think this post at Naked Security on how the suit is now only directed at Pinkmeth is actually a more thoughtful analysis (and The Verge post is pretty good, as well). The lawsuit is aimed at completely eliminating Pink Meth’s entire Internet presence:

“A failure by this court to enter an all-encompassing order designed specifically to cripple PinkMeth will accomplish nothing other than to require the Plantiff to file a new lawsuit once PinkMeth finds a new company willing to host their illegal activities.” –Daily Dot

Nadine Gordimer, Novelist Who Took On Apartheid, Is Dead at 90 – Nadine Gordimer, whose novels about South Africa won her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991, died in Johannesburg on Sunday at 90. Despite claiming that she was not intrinsically a political writer, her books were intensely political, as was her own life in South Africa during Apartheid, where a number of her books were banned. Despite criticism from almost every faction in South Africa, Gordimer continued to write, and her books wove the country’s political history with the author’s own personal history in interesting ways.

When the Nobel committee awarded Ms. Gordimer the literature prize in 1991, it took note of her political activism but observed, “She does not permit this to encroach on her writings.”

That sentiment was one she said she clung to throughout her career. In 1975, she wrote in the introduction to her “Selected Stories”: “The tension between standing apart and being fully involved; that is what makes a writer. That is where we begin.”

In later interviews, she said that no one could live in a society like South Africa’s and stay isolated from politics. Looking back, she told an interviewer in 1994, “The fact that my books were perceived as being so political was because I lived my life in this society that was so much changed by conflict, by political conflict, which of course in practical terms is human conflict.” –New York Times

Ebooks for all: Building digital libraries in Ghana with Worldreader – Purely by coincidence, I had this story on a digital literacy project in Ghana (in West Africa, more than 3,000 miles from South Africa) teed up for today. Although not focused on the same issues that occupied Gordimer’s fiction, it’s an interesting narrative about (largely white and male) USians equipping Africans with technology aimed at increasing literary rates. Lots of complicated politics, racial and otherwise.

Of course, Kindles and Christianity are different beasts. But the fundamental posturing can feel eerily close. Those of us who work in technology tend to take religious-like stances over its ability to change the world, always for the better. My trickster-paranoia comes from an inherent suspicion towards technology, and an even deeper suspicion of presuming to know better. It’s too easy to fall into the first-world trope of “all the poor need is a little sprinkling of silicon and then everything will be fine.” It’s never that simple. Technology is, at best, the tip of the iceberg. A very tiny component of the work that needs to be done in the greater whole of reforming or impacting or increasing accessibility to education, first-world and third-world alike. Technology deployed without infrastructure, without understanding, without administrative or community support, without proper curriculum is nearly worthless. Worse than worthless, even?—?for it can be destructive, the time and budget spent on the technology eating into more fundamental, more meaningful points of badly needed reform. –Medium

VIRGINIA WOOLF’S IDEA OF PRIVACY – A very, very compelling article on what Joshua Rothman characterizes as “inner privacy,” which is aligned with a sense of inner self that is connected partly to the structures of Modernist prose, but also to an idea that interiority is most acutely recognized when it’s being defended against being seen or accessed without permission. The piece is pretty sprawling in its analysis and very difficult to summarize, so I’ll just suggest that you read it in full.

Woolf’s abstract, inner sense of privacy bears the stamp, of course, of a very particular time and place (not to mention Woolf’s very particular biography—she had an unusually rich hidden life). It’s indebted to feminism, and to the realization that men, but not women, have long been granted a right to solitude. It also flows from the particularly modernist idea that there is a coherent, hidden, inner self from which art springs. Today, we may be more likely to see art as a collaborative process—the product of a scene, rather than a person. We are also, I suspect, especially aware of how much we rely upon on social networks to help us know ourselves. In recent years, philosophers have argued that other people may know us better than we do.

To me, though, Woolf’s sense of privacy still feels relevant; when I keep it in mind, I see it everywhere. Adelle Waldman’s novel “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.” is, among many other things, a gender-reversed retelling of the love story at the center of “Mrs. Dalloway”: like Clarissa, Nate chooses the lover who can’t know him over the lover who’s determined to. (He does this, in part, so that he can continue to surprise himself—that is, continue to create.) Meanwhile, on Tumblr and Facebook, we seek out the same private sociality that Woolf described. Usually, we think of social media as a forum for exhibitionism. But, inevitably, the extroverted cataloguing of everyday minutiae—meals, workouts, thoughts about politics, books, and music—reaches its own limits; it ends up emphasizing what can’t be shared. Talking so freely about your life helps you to know the weight of those feelings which are too vague, or too spiritual, to express—left unspoken and unexplored, they throw your own private existence into relief. “Sharing” is, in fact, the opposite of what we do: like one of Woolf’s hostesses, we rehearse a limited openness so that we can feel the solidity of our own private selves. –The New Yorker

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital publishing, a South African street book reviewer, and Amanda Palmer on voluntary exchange

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital...

Christina Brashear Returns as Samhain Publisher – This is pretty interesting. Brashear, who went from Publisher to President of Samhain in 2012, is back as Publisher, with a promise to “return” Samhain “to its roots.” Lindsey Faber is not only stepping down as Publisher, but leaving Samhain entirely (there’s something about her serving as a consultant to the company. Hmm.). If you remember, there were recently some apparent issues with contract terms for Samhain authors. Brashear claims the following deals are in process:

17-audiobook deal with feminist icon Susie Bright at Audible
4-audiobook deal with Insatiable
Front-list Samhain titles will now be available on the industry review site NetGalley
A newly revamped and designed website will launch this summer
Samhain will sponsor the Horror Writers of America/Bram Stoker Awards in 2015
The company will embark on aggressive mainstream commercial advertising, starting with the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine

Says Brashear, “As part of this reorganization, Samhain will be returning to its roots of finding and publishing best-selling romance writers. The careers of New York Times best-selling authors like Maya Banks and Lorelei James started at Samhain nearly a decade ago. Now that I’m back at the helm, I’ll continue to nurture and support our current authors while looking to find that next generation of best-selling writers to take their work to the next level and continue to do what Samhain does best.” –PR Web

I Was a Digital Best Seller! – Tony Horwitz chronicles his foray into digital publishing. These stories tend to trigger all sorts of defensive rebuttals from self and digital publishing gurus and other advocates, but I think they serve as a very real, and very true reminder that a) the market is heavily impacted with self-published and digitally published authors, b) authors are doing more and more marketing of their own books, and if they serve as publisher as well as author, they’re likely doing most to all of it, and c) the term “bestseller” doesn’t necessarily translate to tens or hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, note the unsavory reference to “gaming the system” via friends and family reviews. *sigh*

Eager to know how many copies this represented, I asked Byliner for sales figures. It took them a while to respond — because, I imagined, they needed the time to tally the dizzying numbers pouring in from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers. In fact, the total was such that Byliner could offer only a “guesstimate.” In its first month “Boom” had sold “somewhere between 700 and 800 copies,” the email read, adding, “these things can take time to build, and this is the kind of story with a potentially very long tail.”

It was also the kind of story that could bankrupt a writer. I’d now devoted five months to writing and peddling “Boom” and wasn’t even halfway to earning out my $2,000 advance (less than the overrun on my travel). The cruelest joke, though, was that 700 to 800 copies made “Boom” a top-rated seller. What did that mean for all the titles lower down the list? Were they selling at all? –New York Times

The Unlikely Story of The Pavement Bookworm – Tebogo Malope, a South Africa cinematographer, recently filmed an interview with Philani, a 24-year old homeless man from Johannesburg who raises money through his love of books and his own literary literacy. The poignancy of this story hits on multiple levels, from its own social justice foundations to the personal inspiration Philani represents in a country (and within a continent) where basic literacy is still such a concern.

Philani is a bookworm who has chosen to review and sell books rather than resort to begging. He shows up on different streets of Johannesburg with a pile of books, and on request he will review the books, the authors, the publishers.

“He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read,” says Tebogo. “He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends. I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life.

“He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.” –South Africa People

Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking and the Shared Dignity of Giving and Receiving – In the wake of Tesla’s announcement that it was basically dumping its patents and throwing in with open source technology, I was thinking about the unremitting cries of piracy in the reading communities, and the equally persistent claims that readers somehow have a responsibility to make sure authors have food to put on the table, take care of their children, dogs, etc., etc. Which got me thinking about this interesting TED talk from musician Amanda Palmer, who, among other things, left her own music label and crowd sourced her next album. While her technique is pretty extreme, I think her philosophy is both sound and inspiring.

Palmer talks extensively about the concept of fair exchange between artists and their fans, and she does it in a way that emphasizes the difference between entitlement (on either side) and voluntary exchange. By focusing on the second, she reinforces what many have asserted about all the anti-piracy measures and talk, namely that it often gets in the way of what is a more “natural” circumstance — specifically that people *want* to pay for creative products, and when given the opportunity outside an environment of suspicion, demand, and control, that they will do so generously and voluntarily.

“I don’t see these things as risks — I see them as trust. … But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but, more importantly, to ask without shame. … When we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’ –Brain Pickings