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Thursday News: B&N disses desktop downloads, new Kindles to ponder, breakthrough digital textbook for visually impaired students, and interview with Alison Bechdel

Thursday News: B&N disses desktop downloads, new Kindles to ponder, breakthrough...

In the meantime, Mac users can install this older app, and PC users can install this older app.

It’s not as thin as a sheet of paper, but it’s the slimmest Kindle so far at less than 3/10 of a inch thick (7.6mm) and 6.3 ounces. There are software enhancements under the hood as well, including a “Word Wise” feature that shows word definitions and explanations over text, deeper integration with the Amazon-owned Goodreads service, and chapter-by-chapter book synopses in X-Ray that may eliminate the need for Cliffs Notes entirely. –Wired

Traditionally, the abundance of charts, graphs and data visualizations has made it challenging to bring math and science to visually impaired students. And their teachers struggle to transition from printed textbooks to digital instructional materials. With accessibility directly embedded into Reach for the Stars, every student in the classroom can use the same book. Educators don’t have to convert the content to special formats for students with disabilities. –Yahoo Finance

What are your inspirations? You’ve talked a lot about Harriet the Spy — what does she mean to you?

Oh, god, Harriet the Spy! I read that book easily twenty times as a kid. At the time I just thought she was cool, bravely peeping through peoples’ windows and creeping into their dumbwaiters and spying on what they were up to. But as an adult, I realized that she wasn’t so much a spy as a writer, this archetypal writer taking notes on everything around her. When her friends find her, they’re devastated and so is she. As a memoirist, I identify intensely with her peculiar dedication. –NPR

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