Tuesday News: Limits of Kindle Unlimited, the future of the book, Jacqueline Woodson on the watermelon joke, and Booklist’s top ten 2014 romances
Speaking of watching, while looking into this story I noted what looks like the beginning of a worrisome trend. There are authors whose works weren’t in KU who are reporting that their incomes had dipped since it launched, almost as if readers were spending so much time reading the ebooks in KU that they stopped buying ebooks. With 750,000 titles, KU could be displacing ebook sales.–The Digital Reader
THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK — Catching up on some older stories, this piece from The Economist is actually pretty good (yes, that’s surprise you “hear”). The piece traces the history of books and reading and uses it as a reflection for today’s changing reality, and does so in a way that treats self-publishing, traditional publishing, and the rise of digital books with equanimity.
Publishers realise that they have to change. “Publishers will only be relevant if they can give authors evidence that they can connect their works to more readers than anybody else,” admits Markus Dohle, who runs Penguin Random House, the world’s largest consumer-book publisher.
Such connection is crucial, because the same technology that is making it easier for people to publish their own books is also making it easier for them to explore new ways of finding, sharing, discussing and indeed emulating the books of others. (Ms James’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” started off as fan-fiction based on the characters of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling “Twilight” books.) From online reviews to the world’s numerous literary festivals to all sorts of social media, writers are ever more aware of and available to their audiences. Ms Orlean says she was used to “writing into the void”, but now posts regularly about what she is working on. For her and others the contact seems like an opportunity. Others find it irksome. Most, probably, see it as a bit of both. But it is not going away. And it is not entirely new. — The Economist
The Pain of the Watermelon Joke — It took me a few days to get this post together because I wanted to find a good essay on US postracialism, which is one of the things Woodson is talking about in her very poignant response to Daniel Handler’s racist joke. It had to have been difficult to write this post about a friend, but Woodson does not shy away from the offense of Handler’s words. The value of a book like Brown Girl Dreaming is even more relevant in an environment where people believe that racism is no longer so prevalent, a belief we often see among college-age students who may not have strong historical training in the history of race and race relations in the US. Rinku Sen, publisher of ColorLines, has a great essay on postracialism (the original site is no longer there, so this is a cached version) in which she distinguishes between interpersonal racism and structural racism, and talks about how structural racism has grown, even as interpersonal racism seems to be diminishing, creating the false impression that we have moved beyond race as a divisive category. It’s that phenomenon I think Woodson is referring to here:
In a few short words, the audience and I were asked to take a step back from everything I’ve ever written, a step back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award, lest we forget, lest I forget, where I came from. By making light of that deep and troubled history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh about it all. His historical context, unlike my own, came from a place of ignorance. — The New York Times
Top 10 Romance Fiction: 2014 — Booklist, the American Library Association’s review site, posted its list of the top ten Romance novels for 2014. Notice any themes in that list? — Booklist