Ursula K. Le Guin’s Blog
62. A Much-Needed Literary Award
I first learned about the Sartre Prize from “NB,” the reliably enjoyable last page of the London Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast. As J.C. wrote in the November 23, 2012 issue, “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre.” He adds with modest pride, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused.”
Newly shortlisted for the Sartre Prize is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who turned down a 50,000-Euro poetry award offered by the Hungarian division of PEN. The award is funded in part by the repressive Hungarian Government. Ferlinghetti politely suggested that they use the prize money to set up a fund for “the publication of Hungarian authors whose writings support total freedom of speech.”
I couldn’t help thinking how cool it would have been if Mo Yan had used some of his Nobel Prize money to set up a fund for the publication of Chinese authors whose writings support total freedom of speech. But this seems unlikely.
Sartre’s reason for refusal was consistent with his refusal to join the Legion of Honor and other such organizations and characteristic of the gnarly and counter-suggestible Existentialist. He said, “It isn’t the same thing if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre or if I sign Jean-Paul Sartre, Nobel Prize winner. A writer must refuse to let himself be turned into an institution.” He was, of course, already an “institution,” but he valued his personal autonomy. (How he reconciled that value with Maoism is not clear to me.) He didn’t let institutions own him, but he did join uprisings, and was arrested for civil disobedience in the street demos supporting the strikes of May 1968. President De Gaulle quickly pardoned him, with the magnificently Gallic observation that “you don’t arrest Voltaire.”
I wish the Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal could have been called the Boris Pasternak Prize for one of my true heroes. But it wouldn’t be appropriate, since Pasternak didn’t exactly choose to refuse his 1958 Nobel. He had to. If he’d tried to go accept it, the Soviet Government would have promptly, enthusiastically arrested him and sent him to eternal silence in a gulag in Siberia.
I refused a prize once. My reasons were mingier than Sartre’s, though not entirely unrelated. It was in the coldest, insanest days of the Cold War, when even the little planet Esseff was politically divided against itself. My novelette “The Diary of the Rose” was awarded the Nebula Prize by the Science Fiction Writers of America. At about the same time, the same organization deprived the Polish novelist Stanislaw Lem of his honorary membership. There was a sizeable contingent of Cold Warrior members who felt that a man who lived behind the Iron Curtain and was rude about American science fiction must be a Commie rat who had no business in the SFWA. They invoked a technicality to deprive him of his membership and insisted on applying it. Lem was a difficult, arrogant, sometimes insufferable man, but a courageous one and a first-rate author, writing with more independence of mind than would seem possible in Poland under the Soviet regime. I was very angry at the injustice of the crass and petty insult offered him by the SFWA. I dropped my membership, and feeling it would be shameless to accept an award for a story about political intolerance from a group that had just displayed political intolerance, took my entry out of Nebula competition shortly before the winners were to be announced. The SFWA called me to plead with me not to withdraw it, since it had, in fact, won. I couldn’t do that. So — with the perfect irony that awaits anybody who strikes a noble pose on high moral ground — my award went to the runner-up: Isaac Asimov, the old chieftain of the Cold Warriors.
What relates my small refusal to Sartre’s big one is the sense that to accept an award from an institution is to be co-opted by, embodied as, the institution. Sartre refused this on general principle, while I acted in specific protest. But I do have sympathy for his distrust of allowing himself to be identified as something other than himself. He felt that the huge label “Success” that the Nobel sticks on an author’s forehead would, as it were, hide his face. His becoming a “Nobelist” would adulterate his authority as Sartre.
Which is, of course, precisely what the commercial machinery of bestsellerdom and prizedom wants: the name as product. The guaranteed imprint of salable Success. Nobel Prize Winner Soandso. Best-Selling Author Thusandsuch. Thirty Weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List Whozit. Jane D. Wonthepulitzer… John Q. MacArthurgenius….
It isn’t what the people who established the awards want them to do or to mean, but it’s how they’re used. As a way to honor a writer, an award has genuine value, but the use of prizes as a marketing ploy by corporate capitalism, and sometimes as a political gimmick by the awarders, has compromised their value. And the more prestigious and valued the prize the more compromised it is.
Still, I’m glad that José Saramago, a much tougher Marxist nut than Sartre, saw fit not to refuse the Nobel prize. He knew nothing, not even Success, could compromise him, and no institution could turn him into itself. His face was his own face to the end. And despite the committee’s many bizarre selections and omissions, the Nobel Prize for Literature retains considerable value, precisely because it is identified with such writers as Pasternak, or Szymborska, or Saramago. It bears at least a glimmer reflected from their faces.
All the same, I think the Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal should be recognised as a valuable and timely award, and what’s more, one pretty safe to remain untainted by exploitation. I wish somebody really contemptible would award me a prize so I could be in the running for a Sartre.
You know those poor orphans starving in the snow on your doorstep that Google wants to put to work for Corpocracy Inc? Well, the Brits are after them too. Parliament is considering an “enterprise regulatory reform” bill containing extremely permissive provisions concerning “orphan works.”
What is an “orphan work’? The definition is pretty clear: a copyrighted work (most often a book, story, or photograph) for which the “parent” — the author or copyright holder — cannot be located.
Finding a copyright is easy: the Copyright Office has it on file. Finding copyright holders (heirs who don’t know they’re heirs, etc.) can take time. It’s not always quick and easy to identify an orphan as such.
And here’s where the definition is vulnerable to deliberate manipulation and obfuscation. (I like that word, obfuscation — “making dark.”)
The operative term is cannot be located— which does not mean “hasn’t been found,” or “nobody bothered to look for.”
Increasingly often books are called “orphans” just because nobody is bothering to locate the copyright holder, or even make a copyright search. If stringent requirements for identification aren’t upheld, anyone who wants to exploit the rights to an older work can, after the most cursory search for the copyright holder or no search at all, just declare the book, the story, the photograph “orphaned.”
And if this practice isn’t questioned, they can go ahead without concern for copyright, reproducing and exploiting the so-called “orphan.”
It’s not an orphan at all. It’s been kidnapped.
By now kidnapped works probably far outnumber genuinely orphaned ones. The Google Book Settlement allowed Google to declare books orphaned with little or no pretense of search and then reproduce them busily, steadily, and no doubt profitably. The Internet makes it incredibly easy to do so. The U.S. Copyright Office has generally failed or refused to interfere, leaving the entire onus of proof that the work is protected by copyright to the individual author.
Now the Brits are trying to legalize this injustice — a dangerous precedent for decisions yet to be made in the U.S. And worse yet, if Parliament passes the bill, many American works published on both sides of the Atlantic will be misidentified as “orphaned,” scanned and put online by British libraries and others without the permission of the digital rights holder.
Once that happens, you might as well kiss your copyright goodbye. Your book has not only been kidnapped, but handed over to the pirates. As Parliament lurches along hand in hand with Blind Pugh and Long John Silver, somebody else will be burying your treasure. Arr, arr. Isn’t that funny?
At this point, most of the organized opposition in the U.K. is coming from photographers, photo licensing agencies, distributors of news photographs. This also happened in the U.S. in 2008, when photographers got together and stopped “orphan works” legislation in Congress.
It’s hard to understand why writers, who are just as directly affected, are hard to stir up on this issue. Maybe we’ve had copyright so long that we thought it was genetic, or something?
What’s happening is that the Corpocracy — first Disney, then Google, to be followed by Amazon and the rest — has been working for over ten years now to dismantle copyright in practice and destroy it in principle — and to get government sanction for doing so.
Copyright Office seems to be paralyzed; the Department of Justice is looking away; the present Congress is hardly likely to protect art or artists against corporate greed. It’s up to us, the artists, the photographers, the writers, to defend our rights.
At this point, I don’t know any organization working to co-ordinate us into an effective movement except the National Writers Union. However you feel about unions in general, if you’re a writer of any kind, you might look into this one. It’s small, it’s active, and it’s on our side. Nobody much else is.
Here are some useful links:
Two British resistance websites —
Authors: Authors Rights
Encouraging information here:
In the U.S., the National Writers Union statement opposing the British legislation is at:
And here is the NWU’s warning about what the British bill can do to American properties. It ain’t pretty.
64. The Trouble
Cat in Bed
I’ve never had a cat before who directly challenged me. I don’t look for much obedience from a cat; the relationship isn’t based on rank or a dominance hierarchy as with dogs, and cats have no guilt and very little shame. I expect a cat to steal food left out on the counter knowing perfectly well that that he’ll be swotted if caught. Greed, and possibly the joy of theft, overrides the slight fear. Stupid human me to leave food out on the counter. I expect a cat who has been scolded or swotted for getting up on the dining table to get up on the dining table and leave little footprints all over it, because he sees no reason to refrain from doing so, when I’m not in the room. When found later, the evidence of the little footprints will have passed the statute of limitations. To make any sense to a cat, retaliation for wrongdoing must be immediate. The cat knows that as well as I do, which is why I expect him to do wrong while I’m not in the room, and don’t expect him to do wrong while I am.
To do wrong under my very eyes strains our relationship. It demands scolding, swotting, shouting, flight, pursuit, commotion. It is a challenge, a deliberate invitation to trouble. And this is where Pard is different from the many and various cats who have companioned me. They were all like me — they wanted to avoid trouble.
Pard wants to make it.
Cats in Bed
He isn’t a troublesome cat. His hygiene is impeccable. He is gentle. He never steals food. (To be sure, this is only because he doesn’t recognise anything but certain brands of kibbled catfood and crunchy cat-treats as food. I can leave the pork cutlets on the counter while he’s waiting hungrily for his quarter-cup of dinner kibbles, and he won’t even get up to sniff them. I could put a piece of bacon on top of the kibbles and he would eat them and leave it. I could lay a filet of sole down on him and he would shake it off with contempt and go away.)
He challenges me by doing what he’s forbidden to do. And I guess there really aren’t a lot of things he’s forbidden, besides jumping up on the mantel and knocking off the kachinas.
He isn’t allowed to get on the dining table, but there’s nothing to do there but leave footprints. The mantel, which is a really big jump even for Pard, is the only unprotected display place left in the house for small ornamental things; all the others have found safe havens unreachable even by airborne cats. So jumping up onto the mantel has become his goal, his challenge.
But only if I am in the room.
Lord of All He Surveys
He’ll spend all day in the living room and never look at the fireplace, until I come in. A while after we’ve both been there, Pard begins to glance at the mantelpiece. His eyes get rounder and blacker. He wanders carelessly about on a chair-arm (allowed) or side-table (allowed) near the fireplace. He stands up on his hind legs to sniff a lampshade or the top of the firescreen very thoroughly with enormous interest, always a little closer to the mantelpiece. Till, usually when I’m not looking but not quite not looking, he’s airborne, and up on the mantel knocking something off. Then scolding, shouting, flight, pursuit, etc. — Trouble! Mission accomplished.
Recently, there is an added element: the squirt bottle. As soon as he looks at the mantel I pick up the squirt bottle. The first couple of times, when he made ready to jump onto the mantel and I squirted him, he was totally taken aback. He didn’t even associate the squirt with the bottle. He does now. But it merely adds a new flavor, a new spice, to the Trouble. It doesn’t keep him off the mantel.
The Cat with the Handle
I gave in a couple of days ago and moved all the little kachinas to a haven, leaving only the two big ones and some outstanding rocks. But this morning, while I was doing Downward Dog with my back turned, Pard jumped up onto the mantel and knocked off the lump of Tibetan turquoise, taking a chip out of it when it hit the hearth.
The ensuing Trouble was pretty intense, although I never could get anywhere near close enough to swot him. He knew I was mad. He has been terribly polite ever since, and inclined to fall over and wave his paws in an innocently endearing manner. He’ll go on that way till we’re all in the living room this evening and the need for Trouble arises in him again.
This little cat so deeply shaped by human expectation, the tamest cat I ever had, has a flame of absolute, wilful wildness.
I’m sure some of it’s the boredom factor — a young cat with old people, an indoors cat… But Pard doesn’t have to be an indoor cat. He chooses to.
The catflap is opened for him all through daylight, at his request or at our suggestion. Sometimes he goes out onto the deck, looks down into the garden, birdwatches for a few minutes, and comes back. Or he may go out and turn right around and come back. Or he may say oh, no, thanks, it’s very large out there, and quite cold this time of year, so I think I’ll stand here halfway out the catflap for a while and then back back in. What he doesn’t do is stay out. When the weather warms up and we’re outside too, he will, but not enthusiastically. He’ll go out and go down and eat some of the kind of grass that makes him throw up and come back indoors and throw it up on the rug. That isn’t Trouble-making, it’s just Cat-being.
There is no moral to this story, and no conclusion. Wish me luck with the squirt bottle.
Writing is so exhausting
65. Accidental Discovery
The argument for real books against virtual books is often based on the thingness of the real book — the beauty of the binding, the pleasure of handsome design and typesetting, the sensuality of turning a paper page, the pride of ownership. I sympathize with that, but I’m a reader, not a collector — I love my books (and I have lots of them) for what’s in them. Except for a few dear, battered kid’s books that both my mother and I read as children, the physical individuality of a book is pretty secondary to me.
And so, given this priority of the contents, I’ve defended the e-book and e-reading devices as an extension of, not an attack on, The Book — as augmentation, not loss or destruction.
But this piece is about one way e-books do involve a real limitation, a loss. If this appears somewhat inconsistent, consider: what is life without incompatible realities?
It all began (like many novels) with a letter. I hide from fan email and the social media because email for business and with close friends is all or more than I can handle. Sometimes my PO mail is more than I can handle, too, though I always hope to respond. Anyhow, the letter Orion Elenzil wrote me was handwritten on paper, and it was a very nice letter of appreciation. But there was a PS or afterthought that I was particularly struck with. Orion says it’s OK to quote him:
…About traditional paper books compared to E-books… There’s an aspect to traditional books which is lost in even the best electronic reader, which is Accidental Discovery: i’m reading this or that, and leave it laying about the house, and you visit and see it, or you’re perusing my book-shelves to see what i’m up to, and find something which interests you. I’m a technologist, and i worry that this casual, accidental, and as you mention, social means of discovering by talking about books is threatened by devices which need to be explicitly searched in order to find out what they hold.
I answered him right away (by email — he did say he’s a technologist!) I said:
Your ‘minor point’ about books on paper as opposed to ebooks, the quality of Accidental Discovery, seems to me actually a pretty major issue. What it made me think of first was library card catalogues…. The electronic library catalogue has all kinds of uses and virtues, but (at least as far as I can manage to use it) it absolutely lacks Accidental Discovery. Maybe it has a little Planned Discovery, via subject search, but it just can’t provide what the card catalogue did by way of serendipitous blundering into related or totally unrelated books and authors via the drawer of cards you happened to be looking at.
Then of course the library shelf multiplies Accidental Discovery enormously.... My “research method” was to go to the largest library accessible to me, get into the stack where some books about whatever it was were, and blunder around in those shelves pulling off books until I found the ones I needed. I mean, how much can you know from the title? One book on Ancient Roman Sewers will be useless and the one next to it will be a revelation. But riffling through to establish such judgments seems immensely easier to do with an actual bound book than with the page-by-page limitation of a reading device. (Not sure of that, since I still don’t own one, though I’ve played with them — maybe I just don’t know how to e-riffle.)
To this Orion answered,
I think you’ve hit a nail on the head with the process of browsing the stacks of a library, or of a bookstore. I often head into a bookstore without a specific author or type of book in mind, and just walk around looking at titles and covers, or trying out a couple pages in the middle until something catches my eye. or not.
(Of course, of course! — and this activity, browsing, is so important, and so impossible anywhere but in an actual, physical bookstore — the bookstores we’ve lost, because we’ve let ourselves be lured into the pathless jungles of the Amazone…. )
I hold some hope that this organic and somewhat undirected discovery of books may eventually find an analogue in the digital age. I never would have predicted the amazing ways of sharing online we currently have, so I can’t profess to imagine what the e-reader may become in another ten or twenty years. But I absolutely agree with you that the current modes lack the accidental discovery which artifact books have so wonderfully. Altho I confess I’m also criticizing e-readers without having used them.
(Me too — have played with several kinds of e-reader, but haven’t yet felt a need to own one.
(Orion goes on: )
Another minor aspect I enjoy of traditional books which is currently meaningless with their digital offspring is that each book is its own artifact, complete with a small history and story. Many book-lovers would condemn me, but I’m an inveterate marker-of-pages and notes-in-the-margin maker. And it may be a small hubris, but in books I feel a particular connection with, I generally add my own name beneath the author’s on the title page — not as a mark of ownership, but of history. And now that I say it out loud, I realize that perhaps that agrees with your notion that “Reading is a collaboration”.
In any event, I’m positive that reading will remain healthy, and I’m hopeful that e-reading may discover ways to provide these things we enjoy in traditional reading.
I hadn’t even thought about writing-in-books. It’s a subject naturally loathesome to the librarian. And to the kind of collector who encases an unread book in plastic to preserve its virginity. But Orion is right, it’s important.
Underlining whole passages as I used to do, or even worse covering them with neon hiliter, is a lazy student habit that severely defaces a book. But the pencilled exclamation point or question mark, and the “Bullshit!” or “Wow!” or more subtle or cryptic comments in the margin, are only mildly intrusive, and can be enjoyable, adding a lively sense of connection to an earlier reader. A previous owner’s name on the flyleaf or title page gives this same sense of continuity. An old book bought secondhand may have the names of several people who owned the book, and sometimes dates – 1895, 1922, 1944…. This always touches me. I like to add my name and the year, respectfully, to the list.
My beloved friend Roussel Sargent recently gave me a copy of Ovid’s Metamorphoses printed in 1596 and rebound in vellum in 1604 — a very small, very thick volume, pocket-size, the letterpress still black and clear, imprinted on linen paper that weighs nothing and has worn like iron. For all my lack of the collector’s instinct, I handle that little book with reverence. It is the oldest book I have ever touched, by far. And touch does mean a good deal. So does time.
I know what the contents are, but reading Ovid in this edition would be even slower work for me than reading Latin always is. When I look into it, I’m far more likely to try to puzzle out the writing-in-the-book than the printed text. The margins are full of comments and the close-printed lines are interlineated with translations (mostly into German, or with another Latin word) in various colors of ink, some very faded, and many different handwritings, all tiny and mostly illegible to me. This book has been a scholar’s treasure and perhaps a schoolboy’s torment, it’s been bought and sold and given, lost and found, it’s been jammed into the pockets of greatcoats, thumped about in rucksacks, pored over in student lodgings, it has gathered dust in attics, crossed many waters, and changed hands a hundred times; it contains four hundred years of obscure human histories right along with the two-thousand-year-old words of the poet. Would I prefer it virginal, encased in plastic? Are you crazy?
But the question I can’t answer has to do with content. It’s this: To what extent is the Metamorphoses in e-book form the same book as the one I’ve been describing?
I don’t know.
But thinking about it has made it clearer to me that what there is to a physical book beside its text may be quite important. And it appears that these aspects, these qualities, these intellectual and social accidents, are at present inaccessible to electronic technology: irreproducible.
I hope my generous correspondent Orion is right that we may figure out how to restore human connectivity to the e-book, so that it does not, like so much of what we do on our electronic devices, isolate us more and more deeply, even as we are busier and busier communicating.
25 March 2013
66. The Rehearsal
Sitting in on a rehearsal is a strange experience for the author of the book the play is based on. Words you heard in your mind’s ear forty years ago in a small attic room in the silence of the night are suddenly said aloud by living voices in a bright-lit, chaotic studio. People you thought you’d made up, invented, imagined are there, not imaginary at all — solid, living, breathing. And they speak to each other. Not to you. Not any more.
What exists now is the reality those people build up between them, the stage-reality that is as ungraspable and fleeting as all experience, but more charged than most experience with intense presence, with passion....
...until suddenly it’s over. The scene changes. The play ends.
Or in a rehearsal, the director says, “That was great. Let’s just take it again from where Genly comes in.”
And they do: the reality that vanished appears again, they build it up between them, the doubts, the trust, the misunderstanding, the passion, the pain...
Actors are magicians.
All stage people are magicians, the whole crew, on stage and behind it, working the lights and painting the set and all the rest. They collaborate methodically (ritual must be methodical, because it must be complete) in working magic. And they can do it with remarkably unlikely stuff. No cloaks, no magic wands or eyes of newt or bubbling alembics.
Essentially they do it by limiting space, and moving and speaking within that space to establish and maintain a Secondary Creation.
Watching a rehearsal makes that especially clear. At this point, some weeks before first night, the actors wear jeans and t-shirts. Their ritual space is marked out with strips and bits of tape on the floor. No set; their only props are a couple of ratty benches and plastic bowls. Harsh lights glare steadily down on them. Five feet away from them, people are moving around quietly, eating salad out of a plastic tub, checking a computer screen, scribbling notes. But there, in that limited space, the magic is being worked. It takes place. There another world comes into being. Its name is Winter, or Gethen.
And look! The King is pregnant.
22 April 2013
Julie Hammond, Liz Hayden, Allison Tigard, with choreographer Noel Plemmons
Liz Hayden, Julie Hammond
Damian Thompson and Allison Tigard
Director Jonathan Walters with Lorraine Bahr, Jason Rouse, Jeb Pearson
Candid photos by Brian Weaver
Portland Playhouse & Hand2Mouth Theater present a new stage version of UKL’s The Left Hand of Darkness, 2 May – 9 June 2013.
67. La Guantanamera
After the Boston Marathon bombing people kept talking about Americans standing together, standing tall. I didn’t understand.
Americans grieving together, bowing down in sorrow together — I could understand that. We needed to mourn together for a celebration of joyful bodily health and strength that ended in horror, mutilation, and death. But standing together? Against what?
There is no enemy. This isn’t a replay of 9/11, an attack that did indeed draw us to stand together, briefly, before we cowered down in the quickly-built bunkers of terror-of-terrorism.
This is much more like a replay of the ever more frequent shooting sprees in colleges, malls, schools by sick men with powerful weapons out to hurt and kill at random. They always have their reasons — wretchedness and hatred disguised as personal, religious, or political reasoning, the circular, self-centered, meaningless “reasons” of insanity.
A nation can stand together against a conspiracy of intelligent fanatics like Al-Qaeda, but against a pair of wretched psychopaths? Us, against two sick kids? The United States, against them?
I know a lot of people can only stand together if they have an enemy to stand against — if they are at war. At the moment, a lot of such people here want that enemy to be Islam. As they have counterparts in Islam who are ready to oblige them, they may well get their wish.
It is not my wish. I have a question, instead. My question is: What do we stand together for?
And here I come up against something that really scares me.
How can I stand with my fellow Americans, “stand tall” as we are exhorted to do, what is the America I am standing up for — when I see our government abandon the principles of its Constitution, the moral consensus of mankind, and our national self-respect, by encouraging and prolonging deliberately cruel treatment of prisoners who have not stood trial and are not allowed to stand trial or seek release?
The Congress and the President are directly, immediately, daily responsible for an ongoing outrage of decency, a travesty of justice, the prison at Guantánamo. The responsibility and the shame for dodging it weigh most heavily on President Obama. He promised to deal with it, and has not done so.
On the contrary, he has embraced the Bush policy of “indefinite detention” of “suspects” — the emprisonment of arbitrarily designated “enemies of the government” without trial. War is always the excuse for this policy, as in the mass internment of our Japanese citizens in the 1940’s. Its use is very dangerous to the health of a democracy, and its prolongation could be fatal.
So I am not standing tall as an American, these days. I am sitting alone with my head bowed down, fighting an awful sadness.
I keep listening to an old song. I don’t know if it helps the sadness or makes it worse. Lots of American kids learned it at summer camp, a song as peaceable as “Kumbayya,” a familiar, yearning tune. But the irony of it now...And the sweetness of the words, their generous spirit, make that irony even harder to bear.
Yo soy un hombre sincero
Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera
Con los pobres de la tierra
I am an honest man
Girl of Guantánamo, country girl of Guantánamo
With the poor of the earth
The words of La Guantanamera are by the great Cuban poet José Martí; José Fernandez Diaz put them to the tune. You can hear old, old Pete Seeger singing it, here; or young Joan Baez; or dozens of other voices, Cuban, American....
Sung by Pete Seeger:
Sung by Joan Baez:
Other relevant links:
68. Why Your Library May Not Have the E-Book You Want
While most small presses sell all their books freely and happily to libraries, the “Big Five” publishers continue to be terrified by the idea of letting public libraries have their e-books, and to punish libraries for even trying to get their e-books to customers.
The corporations’ confused and panic-driven search for an “acceptable business model” for the library e-book has led to some truly grotesque solutions:
Perhaps we should be glad that this experiment is being carried out only in parts of New York City.
People in New York City are tough. They will not mind being followed home from the library by a person in a purple cloak and grey tights, known as S&SMan, who will move into their apartment and stay there as long as the book checked out, watching closely to be sure that nobody else in the family reads it or is even looking over the borrower’s shoulder….
And here are some truly remarkable figures:
In October, 2012, a certain best-selling book sold in print for $15.51.
If you bought the e-book on Amazon, the price was $9.99.
If your public library bought the e-book, they paid $84.00 for it.
So, dear reader, if your library doesn’t have the e-book you’d like to read, please don’t complain to your librarian. Complain to your publisher. Tell him to wake up and get real.
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