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Joanna’s Best Books of 2014
December 16, 2014 | 4:25 pm

best books of 2014It's that time of year again! There are still two weeks left in the year, and that's time enough to find another great book, I guess. But there was so much I loved about my 2014 reading year! I managed just over 50 books, and they covered a range of genres and styles. What were my top reads of the year? In no particular order, my best books of 2014. [easyazon-link asin="1439102775" locale="us"]The Storyteller[/easyazon-link] by Jodi Picoult: The first of my 'read more Jewish books' project, this book was a can't-put-down, in spite of some minor flaws. I found the modern-day character...

BookCon to showcase diversity in books
December 16, 2014 | 2:25 pm

bookcon2015BookCon is showcasing diversity in its 2015 event in a partnership with We Need Diverse Books. BookCon will take place May 30-31 at the Javits Center in New York City. We Need Diverse Books will hold two panels, the first of which includes Hugo Award winners Kameron Hurley (The Mirror Empire) and Ken Liu (The Paper Menagerie), World Fantasy Award winner Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death), Daniel Jose Older (Shadowshaper) and Joe Monti (Executive Editor of Saga Press). Their panel will be a “moderated conversation about the role diversity plays in the genre, their works and their influences,” according to ReedPOP. The...

Connor Cochran rebuts Internet troll’s allegations over Conlan Press product delays
December 8, 2014 | 10:13 pm

connorUpdate: Cochran has determined the responsible party is not his former employee after all; said employee has contacted Cochran in such a way as to convince Cochran it wasn't him, and apologized for his prior behavior. Cochran reports that more evidence has emerged about who the responsible party actually is, and he has provided that information to his lawyers and instructed them to "go after him to the fullest extent of the law. It’s never easy to have to deal with trolls, and Connor Cochran, publisher of Conlan Press, best known for publishing works of Peter S. Beagle including The Last...

I’m a lover – AND a reader
November 30, 2014 | 2:25 pm

KindlesBibliophiles looking to get plain old phile can draw comfort from apparent scientific proof of how good their reading habits can be for their love lives. A recent article in Elite Daily summarizes this, although it also claims that: "readers, like voicemail leavers and card writers, are now a dying breed, their numbers decreasing with every GIF list and online tabloid. The worst part about this looming extinction is that readers are proven to be nicer and smarter than the average human, and maybe the only people worth falling in love with on this shallow hell on earth." Kindle sales figures and...

Zelig and the art of winning a Pulitzer: Q&A with J. Ross Baughman, photojournalist
November 30, 2014 | 12:25 pm

nazisphotographedbyjrossbaughmanImagine you’re with the Secret Service. A young Ohioan calls up and says he’ll be joining the Nazi Party. “I wanted you to know.” Wait---the story gets even better. The Ohio man already has been within shooting range of presidential candidates. J. Ross Baughman isn’t a real Nazi, however. Instead he is a photojournalist for my old newspaper, and he is about to infiltrate the National Socialist movement. My friend is merely trying to keep his name off the Secret Service’s watch list so he can continue his campaign coverage. A letter co-signed by his editor does the trick. The Nazis think...

The wonderful book-loving graphics of Tom Gauld
November 28, 2014 | 12:25 pm

Tom Gauld formatsProbably many of you will have noticed these bibliophilic graphics in passing, without realizing that they all came from the same source. So now it's time to pay due tribute to Tom Gauld, who has produced some of the most fun, insightful, and reverential short book-related strips, magazine cover illustrations, and other graphic art around. He lives and works out of London, but features on the cover of The New Yorker and elsewhere worldwide - plus of course, on the internet and social media, where he's almost become a meme creator of choice. As well as the hilarious Formats of the...

Shakespeare first folio surfaces in France
November 28, 2014 | 10:25 am

shakespeare.jpgA rare first folio edition of the plays of William Shakespeare has been rediscovered in the Library of Saint-Omer in France. Described in the local newspaper that first broke the news as "an incredible discovery," and "one of the two most celebrated books in the world," the first folio of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, one of just 228 still known to be in existence, went uncatalogued in the intervening centuries apparently because its title pages and opening material were missing, but the full complement of 36 of Shakespeare's plays are apparently all present. Rediscovered in the autumn...

Why Customer Service is Even More Important in the Digital Age
November 26, 2014 | 11:25 am

customer serviceI had a bad customer service experience this past week, and it soured me on a vendor I have sunk a lot of money into over the years. And it also highlighted for me the reason why customer service is even more important than ever in the digital age---because the rise of social media has given the customer places to vent on other than your inbox! Satisfy the customer yourself, or they will go elsewhere looking for the satisfaction. And that elsewhere will be public, prominent and outside your control. I'll withhold the name of the vendor, because they did make...

Medieval manuscripts show the beauty of drawing with words
November 20, 2014 | 8:25 pm

The very wonderful Medieval Books blog from Erik Kwakkel, book historian at Leiden University, has just run a great feature on the medieval art of drawing with words: in other ... ahem ... words, where "decoration is created by words, which were meant to be read. This intriguing scenario blurs the divide between text and illustration: it challenges how we define both." The customary kind of manuscript illumination is obviously the more accepted form of this, as in works like the Lindisfarne Gospels with their incredible decorative pages - probably the closest that the Western tradition has ever come to the Islamic school of...

More on ‘finishing every book you read’
November 14, 2014 | 12:25 pm

bookI wrote yesterday on an article that has been making the blog rounds, about the value (or not) of finishing every book you read. I fell into the 'life is too short' camp; I have no guilt at all abandoning a book that isn't working for me. Many times, I will 'respect art,' as the article suggests, by devoting that time to another book. But I do have other hobbies to spend time on, and people I care about who need me. I just can't spend the time on a book which is a slog. I was delighted to see some...

Reassurance from Franz Kafka: Reading will not turn you into a giant cockroach
November 10, 2014 | 6:25 pm

KafkaFranz Kafka's famous and frightful novelette Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) has spawned almost as many interpretations as any cockroach, but one angle that most of them agree on is that the protagonist Gregor Samsa, very closely identified with Kafka himself, is being judged or somehow weighed and found wanting, through his transformation into a giant insectoid specimen of vermin, and that the fault or sin he has been condemned for is some sort of failure to live or to fully measure up to what it means to be human. And one of the failings often cited is Kafka's own experience of...

Amazon to experiment with brick-and-mortar store in New York City
October 9, 2014 | 5:16 pm

Remember when Apple opened its first retail store and everyone thought they were crazy? It’s déjà vu all over again. The Wall Street Journal (article paywalled; google the headline to read) cites the ubiquitous “people familiar with” the matter to reveal that Amazon is opening its first brick-and-mortar store at 7 West 34th St. in New York City, across from the Empire State Building and just a block away from Macy’s at Herald Square, just in time for the holiday season. The store space could be used for same-day delivery in New York City, returns and exchanges, order...

HarperCollins offers authors higher royalties for direct sales
October 2, 2014 | 6:17 pm

harper-collinsOne of the rallying cries of author advocates and Amazon adversaries alike has been that publishers should start selling their books direct to the public instead of letting middle-man Amazon have so much power. Another rallying cry is that publishers should pay authors bigger royalties. Well, Publishers Weekly reports that HarperCollins is combining those two suggestions, in a way—it’s offering authors an additional 10% royalty rate if they use an affiliate link on their web site to sell their book, e-book, or audiobook from HC’s direct sale site. (The PW article isn’t clear on the math; I’m assuming this means...

Why library e-book posters should go on the walls of check cashing stores
September 22, 2014 | 2:26 pm

What if the walls of check cashing stores and other establishments serving poor people did not just carry the usual commercial ballyhoo? Suppose colorful posters also promoted cell phones as a way for the poor to find books to read themselves---or read to their children....

Are Books Really Like Any Other Consumer Good?
September 16, 2014 | 10:25 am

booksIn today's Morning Links, I highlighted a GigaOM writeup on the latest Authors United tomfoolery: a letter to Amazon where they assert, among other things, that while Amazon does have the perfect right to refuse to stock or carry any 'commercial good' they want, they should not exercise this right on books because books are a special snowflake and not just a regular consumer good. Their letter says this: "Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler. We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. But books are not...

Facebook reveals the top 100 books that have stayed with users
September 12, 2014 | 10:25 am

10523932_10152689349753415_6678921836677731688_nIf you logged onto Facebook recently, you may have noticed some of your friends talking about 10 books that stayed with them in some way. They then tagged someone in turn – maybe you – to continue the list. Facebook has brought all the data together from these status updates to show what books have “stayed with” Facebook users. Facebook gathered the data from the last two weeks of August. Here are some of demographics for the people’s whose content was aggregated: The demographics of those posting were as follows: 63.7% were in the US, followed by 9.3%in India, and 6.3% in...

How cell phone book clubs could help get young people reading and change their lives
September 10, 2014 | 2:25 pm

BertelKingNote: Although David Rothman posted the article, he says the author is really Bertel King, Jr., SF/fantasy novelist and a journalist. Read about Bertel at the end of his cogent essay. Go here to learn how to start your own cell phone book club. Also check out related essays here and here. In 2008, I graduated from Southampton High School, which did an admirable job of preparing me for college. I say “admirable” because at the time I had no idea just how disadvantaged my county was compared to the wealthy suburban schools of Northern Virginia and Richmond that populate most...

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