Friday pandemiversary news

Well, it’s officially Year Two of the pandemic, and while we’re using less end-of-the-world imagery, it’s still kind of sucky out there, so take solace in the fact that you are accumulating a tiny fraction of the stories and cred your WWI and WWII / depression / Spanish flu / nuclear war fearing grandparents built up in their lifetime, so you may one day toothlessly afflict these upon your descendants as you fail to notice their eyerolling through your milky cataracts.

Wednewsday pickmeup

Why does this week feel like it’s a year? Let’s try to focus on fun things. It is, after all, one of the several days a year we gleefully stereotype an entire people (in this case, a pack of drunken, violent, emotional Irish), so let’s lean into it. Toppa the marnin to yeh, eejit. Some fun youtubz below.

On the joys, as opposed to horrors, of the book tour

This guy gives some perspective on something lots of author profess to hate. I love a book tour. For me, it’s my once-every-3-or-4-years chance to see friends in person. I drink too much and eat only foods from the “Golden/Fried” branch of the Canadian Food Guide (it’s in the fine print, people), and occasionally I stay out late, forget I’m middle-aged, and dance with some young people.

Sadly, it’s highly doubtful I’ll be travelling this year when my Selected comes out in September. I’m already booked virtually at a few festivals and such, but the idea of traipsing about the continent to read in tight spaces to groups of people who may or may not have been vaccinated sort of weirds the Howard Hughes part of me out.

Too bad I won’t get my quota of hugging people I would normally never hug. But in a weird way, it also takes the pressure off. Getting dressed? Pfft. Forget it. Finding out my hot-guy shirts don’t fit me anymore? Put that off for another year. Watching people on TV fight over storage lockers in lonely hotel rooms? Well… yeah, that I’ll miss.

Now to convince the publisher to sink the money they’d have spent on plane tickets and such into some sort of e-thing or i-whosie that does the electro-commerce through the googles and u-tubez or whatever.

Okay, maybe nobody throws their panties onstage, and any publicity trek is admittedly fatiguing and economically barren, except for the hypothetical casting of bread upon the waters. But in my experience book tours aren’t that bad, and can even be fun — at least the kind I do. Mind, as a solidly “mid-range author,” I have never been called on to make the twenty cities in twenty days, sandwiched between Charlie Rose and Oprah, kind of glitz-blitz. Maybe those marathons really are as awful as the gripers make out. Yet taking a new book out into the world is not only a rare chance to air and share that which you’ve worked damned hard to create, but also to interact as a social creature in the complex ecology of bookselling after many months of solitary labor. At a long-ago awards banquet, Barry Lopez spoke of “the community of readers and writers.” I’ve never forgotten that lovely term, and I would add librarians and booksellers to this charmed assemblage. The book tour is the ecotone where all these mutually dependent organisms commingle: the magic terrain where the habitats of scribbler, peddler, and reader meet.

Amazon vs libraries

There’s an ebook struggle going on. Amazon is making it difficult for libraries to get a hold of ebooks because, obviously, they want you to buy them instead. That said, some governments are starting to step in on behalf of the people. Let’s hope more and more follow suit. We are in a strange place here in this version of reality: plenty of non-infinity-stoned corporate supervillains, but no superheroes so far. So we’re left with government. It’s very Canadian.

First introduced in January, the bill (HB518 in the House of Delegates and SB0432 in the Senate) would require “a publisher who offers to license an electronic literary product to the public to also offer to license the product to public libraries in the State on reasonable terms that would enable public libraries to provide library users with access to the electronic literary product.”

If signed by Governor Larry Hogan—and it is hard to see how a governor would have grounds to veto a bill that passed unanimously in both chambers—the bill would take effect on July 1 of this year.

Two more states (New York and Rhode Island) have also introduced similar legislation to ensure libraries have the ability to license digital content offered to the general public under reasonable terms.

As of 2014, most publishers make their full catalogs available to libraries in some form—though whether or not that access is “reasonable” is an ongoing debate.

Amazon, however, is a different story, and the Maryland law comes as the pressure ramps up on Amazon to make its exclusive digital content available to libraries. Libraries have long complained about Amazon’s refusal to license its digital content to them but last month a public advocacy campaign was launched on the issue, and this week Washington Post reporter Geoffrey Fowler also weighed in in favor of libraries.

Friday news roundup

Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead this weekend, ninjas. We’re closing in on spring, when everything will be renewed and we’ll no longer have to breathe the stuffy air of a home sealed against the weather and pandemic… yes, we’ll be able to open windows while locked in. Glorious.

Book cancelling through a media studies lens

BookRiot gets serious for a moment with this piece by a media studies type on whether books are being “cancelled” and why.

From a Media Studies perspective, the behavior of publishers that led up to this fracas is troubling as well. Every big publisher has a conservative imprint for Fox News hosts, self-described thought leaders, and former and current politicians to publish their books. The old guard of publishing (meaning most of the people in senior executive roles) believe they should publish a variety of voices.

But why write a book? It’s a product to sell. Why is a book different from any other commodity? It holds power, and who will publish your book proves how much power the knowledge you’re trying to convey in your book has. Books are still seen as important units of learning and knowledge collection — that’s why so many antiracist reading lists came out over the summer. A book published by a big publisher is seen as having a robust argument and valuable knowledge to contribute to your brain. The big publishers are valuable and the publishers confer value onto the authors they choose. Accumulating capital through power over knowledge is just as important to publishers as profit because their reputation allows them to position their books as necessary commodities.