Books are Back: Romanticism Lives!

by Cynthia W. Moore

I Love Books

Photo from: https://brewingthoughts.quora.com/E-Books-vs-Printed-Books-The-Dilemma

Digital Book World published an article on their blog entitled “Who Cares How You Read? Just Read.”  Writer Laura Brady wrote that “There has been a lot of press lately about data that looks like it’s pointing to declining book sales and surging print sales.”  Well, if third quarter data counts as data, she is, indeed, correct.  Publisher’s Weekly recently posted that third quarter eBook sales were “down” at HarperCollins and “weak” at Penguin Random House.  Is the ever-climbing eBook sales graph line headed to the long tail?  Perish the thought!

The digital publishing industry is just hitting puberty and suitors of all kinds are lining up at the door.  Brady writes that, although she is now an eBook developer, she “loves books [and] started working in publishing because of a romantic idea of what books and the people who publish them are all about.”  She even admits that she doesn’t “apply the same romanticism to the business she works in now.”  Ah, there’s the rub.  People really do have an attachment to their books.  Reading books digitally is utilitarian.  You can’t really cuddle up to an e-reader, but you can get your work done.

Even playground bully Amazon has weighed in on the disruptive mess it has created by changing its status to brick-and-mortar bookstore owner as well.  Many “Like” the move and the comments are overwhelmingly favorable.

Laura Brady, though, is really addressing publishers and doing some much-needed PR for eBooks:

“I think there are certainly a lot of misconceptions about ebooks—that they can’t be nicely-designed, that they are worth less than print, that reading them is a “less-than” experience. None of these things are true. But they will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if publishers believe them and put little to no energy or creative attention into their digital publishing programs. Just like mass market paperbacks upended a staid publishing culture in the ‘30s, ebooks aren’t going anywhere and need to be a critical part of the publishing planning process.”

Brady goes on to say that “Some of us are working constantly to make future-proof ebooks that are nice to look at and easy to consume despite the confusing proliferation of specs and devices.”  Apparently it is up to publishers to save eBooks’ fourth quarter sales and thereby the industry overall.  Sometimes, though, I like rooting for the underdog and unlike Brady, I do “get jazzed by the smell of paper” in a newly purchased book.

Sources:

http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2015/who-cares-how-you-read-just-read/

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/index.html

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/financial-reporting/article/68440-bestsellers-offset-weak-e-book-sales-at-penguin-random-house.html

http://publishingtrendsetter.com/industryinsight/long-tail-publishing/

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/its-time-to-turn-your-back-on-amazon/Content?oid=19708679

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/11/03/454250311/amazon-opens-a-real-bookstore-in-seattle

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Cynthia Moore is a writer and former educator who joined the M.P.S. in Publishing program at The George Washington University to gain cutting edge industry know-how to launch her own publishing venture.

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The Editor’s Role in Cultural Integrity: ‘Best in American Poetry’ Publishes Poem By Caucasian Poet Pretending to Be Asian

Written by Rebecca Nichloson 

www.latimes.com

In the latest edition of The Best in American Poetry; a widely known anthology of poems, a dynamic poem titled, “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve,” was published; supposedly written by an Asian American poet named Yi-Fen Chou, according to The New Yorker. Except the poet in question is not Asian American at all, he’s a middle-aged Caucasian man by the name of Michael Derrick Hudson, a former teacher in Illinois masquerading as a fictional Chinese American writer. Hudson cited multiple rejections of poems written under his own name as motivation for developing the borderline offensive, if not entirely offensive, persona. Upon using the name “Yi-Fen Chou,” Hudson’s poetry submissions gained more favorable responses from publishers, with the aforementioned poem appearing in a well-respected anthology.

As news of this case of purposefully mistaken identity spread, criticism has been directed towards Sherman Alexie, editor of the 2015 Best in American Poetry series, for his decision to allow the poem (which he says was published prior to knowing the author’s true identity) to remain in the anthology. On a blog for the series, Mr. Alexie makes an attempt to explain his reasons for keeping Hudson’s poem, stating that it was Mr. Hudson’s “Chinese name,” and his own desire to expand the literary canon to include more women and poets of color, that motivated him to give the poem deeper consideration.

“When I first read it, I’d briefly wondered about the life story of a Chinese American poet who would be compelled to write a poem with such overt and affectionate European classical and Christian imagery,” Alexie told The New Yorker. Adding, “I marveled at how interesting many of us are in our cross-cultural lives, and then I tossed the poem on the ‘maybe’ pile that eventually became a ‘yes’ pile.”

Hudson’s decision to use an ‘Asian-sounding’ pen name, for the sole purpose of getting published, and Alexie; a Native American editor with a desire to publish works by women and minorities, raises it’s own questions concerning culture, race, and the kinds of literature supported by publishing firms. However, it also gives rise to questions about the responsibilities of editors in this ever-changing industry.

Many of the arguments against Alexie’s decision to keep the poem in the anthology, lay in the fact that there are numerous Asian and Asian American poets writing, sincerely, about their cultural experiences in this country and beyond, who are not simply assuming supposedly ‘ethnic-sounding’ names for personal gain. The decision to publish work by an author such as Hudson devalues; not only Asian American poets, but the other writers in the anthology who earned their place in the publication without resorting to dishonesty.

Still the question remains: what is the role of the editor when it comes to ensuring cultural and artistic integrity of written works? In today’s publishing arena, both publishers and writers are faced with unique challenges, and although self-publishing options have decreased the number of ‘gate keepers,’ most writers still look to publishing companies and editors to bring their poems, novels, and nonfiction to the reading public. The ‘editor,’ is then faced with the daunting task of reading hundreds of pages of literature written by creative hopefuls—many of them toiling away in adjunct positions, working as bartenders and waitresses, or making a living by other, arguably, uninspired means— all with the knowledge that only a select few will be chosen for publication, and even then the road ahead is arduous at best.

As our society grows more culturally diverse, how we read and what we read will change, and when that occurs the demand for diverse artists and writers with the ability to look at facets of life from more than a westernized lens, will continue to grow and evolve. What’s deserving of, perhaps, more examination with regard to Hudson’s deception, isn’t just that he wrote a poem under a faux name—which some are calling an example of “yellow face”—but that his poem was still published, even after the fact. In other words, Hudson achieved what he set out to do.

What precedence does this set for other non-writers of color? Will other writers also take on faux personas, names they deem ‘African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or Asian,’ under the assumption that doing so will increase their chances of getting published? Only time will tell. But let’s hope that, in end, truthfulness of expression reigns; not just ‘displays’ of truth.

Rebecca Nichloson, M.F.A Columbia University School of the Arts, M.A English Literature, Mercy College, M.S Publishing Studies (Distance), George Washington University (Candidate). B.A Liberal Arts/Business Administration. Editor/Writer at Black Enterprise magazine. Freelance journalist, editor, and creative writer. www.rebeccanichloson.com

A Place For Coloring Books

A new trend in publishing is making BIG news this holiday season!

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Adults everywhere are tapping into their younger selves and enjoying a sense of relaxation by purchasing adult coloring books. Coloring allows anyone to be creative. Consumers don’t have to be amazing artists to color; the designs are already there, waiting to be filled with vibrant colors, which add to the appeal of the books.

The Article, Colouring books: Publishers everywhere ditching chapter and verse in favour of black outlines, written by Simone Usborne in The Independent (Novemeber 1st), states “Colouring books are leading a big trend for interactive books … For publishers they have become an unexpectedly lucrative sales hit, and part of a broader “Peter Pan” market for nostalgia.”

Most of the popular coloring books available today seem to follow a theme. For example, Johanna Basford’s Lost Ocean is filled with creatures of the deep. Or the ever-popular Mandala designs. More designs are being created everyday, resulting in more coloring book publications. Book clubs and local libraries are also taking advantage of these new books by including coloring nights to their monthly calendar’s to attract those who find enjoyment in the activity.

The amount of time it takes to sit down and color one of these pages is just long enough for buyers to get out of their own heads, and escape reality for awhile. These books are taking people back to a time when the most important thing in the world was to make sure you stayed in-between the lines.

“Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom, published by Batsford, has sold more than 320,000 copies in the UK alone since January…”, the article continues. “Publishers are racing to add colouring titles to big franchises.”

To Read More Follow This Link

**The Independent is a British Newspaper** > colouring [UK spelling] vs. coloring [US spelling]

The New Yorker also posted an article relating to this topic back in July: Why Adults Are Buying Coloring Books (for Themselves), written by Adrienne Raphel.

The article discusses the success of Basford’s coloring book series, and how they have created a booming market, along with the importance of social media and its major role in the trend’s popularity. “….colorists post their elaborate creations on Facebook and Pinterest garnering fans and offering pro tips on things like Prismacolor versus gel pens, or how to make that tricky owl in the corner pop.”

To read more on this article (which also includes information on adult summer camps & a link about National Coloring Book Day) – click here
By: Stevie Davall

The Amazon Books Experience

Amazon opened it’s first brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle on Nov. 3, 2015. Located in University Village, an outdoor shopping center across the street from the University of Washington, the location has been described by reviewers as both “unimpressive” and “bizarre.” Amazon has built it’s brand on being the “go to” location for anything and everything consumers could ever want— an unending, virtual megastore, but the first physical location of an Amazon store seems to be anything but. Rob Salkowitz of Forbes referred to the small bookstore as “more Waldenbooks than Barnes & Noble.” The first reviews are reporting that the store, which claims it has hired professional, qualified booksellers to “curate” it’s shelves, is lacking in selection and offers a strange variety of what appears to be excess stock.

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Even stranger still is the way customers are made to shop in the store. There are no prices listed for any of the books or merchandise; the customer must scan a bar code using the Amazon app on their smartphone (if they don’t have the Amazon app or a smartphone, a bookseller will scan it for you). All the shelf tags contain the star ratings and snippets of reviews that you would see when shopping online, but absolutely no pricing information. When asked why the process of browsing for books is made so difficult for the customer, Amazon explains that its prices may fluctuate and they want to ensure that they are offering the same price to every customer, the one that is listed on Amazon.com.

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In his review of the bookstore Salkowitz asks a question that I’m sure most Amazon Books shoppers were left asking themselves: If you’re going to open a physical location of an already massive online bookstore, why open such a crappy one? His answer hits the nail on the head… Amazon Books doesn’t care about selling books. Instead of titling this post “The Amazon Books Experience” perhaps “The Amazon Books Experiment” would have been more appropriate.

By requiring shoppers to price scan using their Amazon app anytime they’re interested in a book, the customer is unwittingly sending Amazon their shopping habit information, preferences, and history, along with all their personal information. All this data is being tracked by Amazon’s massive cloud data service. So maybe Salkowitz is right, maybe this tiny brick and mortar bookstore born from it’s megaparent, Amazon.com, isn’t really a bookstore after all, but the physical location of Amazon’s experiment in blending physical and digital commerce. Very sneaky, Amazon, very sneaky. Let’s hope this isn’t the future of all of our retail shopping experiences— where our movements, histories, and data are tracked at every turn. Let’s hope that Amazon retires back to the web where it belongs soon, and that another monopoly on the way we shop hasn’t just been born.

Check out Salkowitz’s article here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2015/11/04/amazons-retail-store-has-nothing-to-do-with-selling-books/

***Heather Hickox earned a Bachelor’s in English at Middle Tennessee State University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Professional Studies in Publishing at the George Washington University. Her writing has been published in several editions of Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression and VSA TN’s 40 Days Around the World. Heather is a Writing Facilitator for The Carnegie Writers, Inc. in Nashville, TN.

Textbooks and Open Educational Resources

Professor Alain Bourget of California State University-Fullerton is defending his action of choosing a cheaper option textbook for his students instead of the $180 one imposed by his department. He says the $75 book he choose, supplemented with free online resources, is just as effective as the department-chosen book.

According to a writer for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik, the case is “being closely watched by advocates of open educational resources (free online materials, commonly called OER) who see the dispute as a sign they need to challenge not only traditional textbooks but traditional methods of selecting textbooks.”

Nicole Allen, director of open education at SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) says this case shows how the marketplace often evolves faster than current campus practices. She says, “Ten years ago long-term departmental adoptions were considered good for affordability since it allows a strong local used-book market to develop. Now it can work against students by perpetuating the traditional publishing industry’s stranglehold on the market, which keeps new innovations like OER out.”

I would think that if a department considers the professor qualified enough to teach the course, then that professor should also be qualified enough to choose the book from which to teach. Professor Bourget says he is frustrated by constant releases of new editions, making it difficult for his students to buy used books. He simply wants to help his students, who “aren’t rich” he says, get the same level of education at a more affordable price.

There are ethical questions in play here besides price, though. The authors of the $180 book are also the chair and vice-chair of the mathematics department at the university. While the school has said that the authors did not participate in the decision to use the book, it still seems odd that they would choose this book instead of an identified cheaper option for their students.

David Wiley, leader of the Open Education Group at BYU who works with schools and colleges on using OER states that failure to use less expensive options “when department leaders are benefiting financially from the status quo, raises ethical questions.”

This may just be another sign that the status quo of educational publishing (and selection) needs to be revised to be as flexible as the current age.

By: Briana Farr

http://publishingperspectives.com/2015/11/high-priced-textbook-adoption-spurs-debate-in-california/#.Vj0sKberS72

The Rising Costs of College Textbooks

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by Kelly Fleshman

Almost every college student is aware of, and burdened by, the high costs of textbooks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, textbook prices have seen an increase of 1,041% since 1977. As we learned in our Week 4 Learning Unit (Publishing Audiences), students are captive customers and have limited options.

In attempts to avoid the higher costs of textbooks, some students are renting their textbooks from companies such as Chegg or Barnes and Noble, using e-book versions for the lower cost, or not buying the required textbooks at all. Using these methods may be more cost effective, but students have a more difficult time being able to highlight and take margin notes or are missing out on assigned readings completely.

Perhaps, all of this is about to change for the better. In October, a bill to potentially reduce the costs for college textbooks was reintroduced to the US Senate (the Affordable College Textbook Act). The bill would establish a grant program that would support the open use of college textbooks and students would have free access to those materials.

The bill would also potentially force publishers to rethink their textbook pricing structure and requirements for educational materials, which could be a possible game-changer for academic publishers.

Gene Yuan Lang Puts the Pep in Your Step for NaNoWriMo!

by Maddie Lowman

November 1 is the beginning of National Novel Writing Month (AKA NaNoWriMo, or NaNo as it is affectionately called by its writers).  The mission: to write 50,000 words in a month, logging 1,667 words a day.  There is quite a bit of backstory to the month, but one thing always remains the same: 50,000 words is quite the intimidating number.

Not to fear!  One of the best features of the NaNo website is the community.  With message boards, local groups, and more, a writer is not really alone in their struggle, even when they are sequestered in their room, fueled by protein bars and energy drinks, trying to pound out the last 10,000 words in the meager three hours before November ends.  But, of course, NaNo hopes you won’t have to do that.

This is where authors like Gene Yuan Lang step in.  Throughout the month of November, NaNo has famous authors give tips and tricks, or “pep talks” to try to nudge each new or seasoned wrimo along their way.  The very first talk to kick off the month is by the well known author and artist of “American Born Chinese,” as well as other titles.

In his talk, Yang begins by assuring wrimos that what they are doing is an important act, no matter what other people in their family or friends circle may say.  Because NaNo is so time consuming, many wrimos face opposition in the form of friends and family who feel rejected or neglected because their wrimo is so focused in on their work.  Not to worry, this is normal!  Don’t let them discourage you; they just don’t understand.

Yang then gives a few tips for how to get through the month relatively unscathed, coming out the other side of the tunnel with a fully-finished pieced-together rough draft that you have an entire year to edit into something not hacked out in a mere thirty days.  These tips are anywhere from how to power through writer’s block to write like a well-oiled machine, where to find inspiration in things happening beyond your tiny square of a desk, and to keep in touch with the community, so they can lend you strength to fight your demons.

I won’t go into more detail, because it’s a short and entirely worthy read (Once again, it can be found here), but I will say this one thing: I completely agree with Yang when he says, “Just so you know, when it’s you versus demons, I put my money on you every time.”  Happy writing, Wrimos!