Wednesday News: Ebook settlement rebates, a reunited Hindu epic, Lego – from band to movie, and a profile on Leila Aboulela

Wednesday News: Ebook settlement rebates, a reunited Hindu epic, Lego –...

Amazon Customers Win Big In Ebook Settlement – So many of you may have noticed refunds from the great ebook settlement, at least from Amazon and Apple. Barnes & Noble, along with smaller online retailers, do not appear to have released their customer rebates yet. However, this is good timing, considering the fact that many of us are paying our taxes within the next month. Also, as this article pointed out, Amazon really ended up ahead of other publishers here, because not being a party to the investigation and legal case means that they won’t face the kind of pricing scrutiny Apple and the Big 5 likely will.

Now that all five publishers have settled, it’s good news for Amazon Kindle shoppers. If you got an Amazon credit today, there’s no need to take any action. It’s already been added to your account, so all you need to do is spend it. The credit will only be available on purchases of Kindle or print books (not other items available through Amazon) through any publisher. –ReadWrite

Making a digital masterpiece: British Library gathers antique Ramayana into one virtual location – In light of the story yesterday about the Vatican Library digitizing its archives, here’s another interesting digital project, this time related to one sprawling work that, until now, has been split among multiple locations, from Mumbai to London. This seven-book version of Ramayana was commissioned in the mid-17th century by Maharana Jagat Singh I, ruler of Mewar, who died before the work was completed (it only took four years, which given the size, scope, and intricacy of the text, seems amazingly rapid to me). The Hindu epic, in which a prince must rescue his wife from a demon king, took three years to bring back together, almost as much time as it took to create the folios more than 350 years ago.

“What makes this version of the Ramayana so special is that it’s the most heavily illustrated,” she explains. “There are more than 450 paintings in this manuscript, so Jagat Singh had three artists [one of whom, Sahibdin, was a Muslim] and every episode in the book has a pictorial representation. “The Sanskrit text was important, but it was there as an accompaniment – it was the paintings which told the story. So you don’t have to know any Sanskrit to enjoy the Ramayana.”

The digital Ramayana is much more than a lavish online picture book – Chellini has overseen clickable data, interpretive text and audio related to each page. She’s particularly happy with the English narration, performed by Sudha Bhuchar of Tamasha theatre company. “The Book of War, for example, is told with great fervour,” she says. “There are other places where the Ramayana is quite funny – for example, Lakshmana is hit by an arrow and asks the monkey Hanuman to go and find some magic herbs on the Himalayas. But Hanuman doesn’t know which herbs to take – so he rips off the whole mountain peak and is depicted carrying it back to Lakshmana! So I hope we’ve got across that this is a very rich, very human book. It’s a religious text, but there’s great fun to be had with it, too. –The National

Lego Goes to Hollywood – This is a pretty interesting story about how a toy brand was able to transform itself into an incredibly successful and well-reviewed film. Even titling the movie “The Lego Movie” seems like an obvious brand ploy, and yet, as many reviewers pointed out, the film built on the architectural creativity and intelligence that Legos represent and appealed to a large and diverse audience.

At a time when Hollywood filmmakers are increasingly reliant on money from overseas audiences for survival, a movie based on a toy with such broad, cross-cultural appeal would seem like a no-brainer. “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me now and say, ‘Oh, a Lego movie? No duh. It’s so obvious,’” says Lin, whose job it was to persuade Lego to seize this opportunity. “It was absolutely not obvious five years ago.” –Business Week

One Foot in Each of Two Worlds, and a Pen at Home in Both – As I read this article, I had in the back of my mind the discussion on Tuesday’s news post about how to define fiction that isn’t historically accurate, but is still focused on a different historical era. In genre fiction, especially, we like the clarity that (ostensibly) comes with categorization, and yet, so many books defy our attempts to universally define them. Leila Aboulela is an author who shares this, well, dilemma or opportunity, depending on how you’re looking at it. A really interesting contemplation on the complexity of personal identity and artistic expression, especially when viewed through the lens of culture and nationality. In fact, her first book is aptly titled The Translator.

Born in Egypt to a Sudanese father and an Egyptian mother, Ms. Aboulela was raised in Sudan, where she attended the Khartoum American School and Sisters School, a Catholic girls’ school, as a child. She grew up reading many Western classics. “I was very much into the diary of Anne Frank, which was unusual for an Arab at that time,” she said in an interview at the book fair. But instead of studying literature, she pursued economics at the University of Khartoum.

Ms. Aboulela, 49, now lives in Britain and her background makes it difficult to categorize her fiction: does she write primarily as an African, Arab or British writer who is Muslim? The compound modifier that many readers and critics have settled on to describe Ms. Aboulela’s work is Sudanese-British, which leaves plenty of room for criticism in a world of relentless categorization. “Sudan is not Arab enough for Arabs and not African enough for Africans,” she said, laughing at the thought. –The New York Times