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From Infodocket, news of the passing of Michael Hart, creator of Project Gutenberg.
Here are two passages from an obituary written by Greg Newby:
Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world. The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.
In July 2011, Michael wrote these words, which summarize his goals and his lasting legacy: “One thing about eBooks that most people haven’t thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we’re all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job.”
From the New York Times article entitled "Of Bugs and Books", author Ann Patchett (State of Wonder) speaks about books, ebooks, bookstores, best-sellers, reading habits, author appearances, cicadas (the bug part) and so on:
"Everything cycles back around. Things I didn’t think could ever make a comeback — Newt Gingrich and platform shoes — proved capable of startling resurgence. Now when someone tells me a trend is dead, I think, no, probably just dormant.
Take bookstores, for example. With the demise of the Borders chain and the shaky footing of Barnes and Noble, one might be tempted to write off the whole business. But as one who spent her summer on a book tour, I would like to offer this firsthand report from the front lines: Americans are still reading books. Night after night after night I showed up in a different bookstore and people were there with their hardbacks. Sure, I signed a couple of iPad covers, Kindle covers. I’ve got no problem with that. But just because some people like their e-readers doesn’t mean we should sweep all the remaining paperbacks in a pile and strike a match. Maybe bookstores are no longer 30,000 square feet, but they are selling books. "
Patchett and her business partner, Karen Hayes, and will open the doors to Parnassus Books in her hometown of Nashville in October.
Are books dead, and can authors survive?
At the Edinburgh international book festival this weekend, Ewan Morrison set out his bleak vision of a publishing industry in terminal decline. Here's a shortened version of his argument
There is a piece on NPR about Penn Jillette's new book God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales
Excerpt from NPR piece that mentions libraries:
His discussion of libertarianism is similar: He doesn't believe government has the right to do anything you wouldn't enforce at gunpoint, so (for instance) stopping crime is a legitimate government function, but public libraries are not, since he wouldn't hold a gun on anyone and force them to create a library. Again, some will agree and some won't, but his commitment to this principle is at least something he's prepared to defend.
An employee of the Mark Twain House and Museum in West Hartford, Conn., has admitted in court to embezzling $1 million from the organization that maintains the author's historic home. The Mark Twain House, like the homes of some of America's other best-known writers, has faced financial difficulties. Most, however, were not systematically plundered. Report from LA Times Jacket Copy.
Longtime (and now former) staffer Donna Gregory regularly raided the organization's coffers for eight years; she pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and filing a false tax return, Reuters reports.
According to court documents, Gregory submitted false information over the Internet to the Mark Twain House payroll vendor between 2002 and 2010. The misinformation allowed additional pay to which she was not entitled to be deposited into her bank account, classified as payroll advances.
She then adjusted the ledgers to cover up the advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance and similar items. She also falsified the Mark Twain House's bank statements to hide the advances, authorities said. Gregory used the Mark Twain House's check-writing system to write checks payable to herself and forged her supervisor's signatures on those checks, authorities said.
Scorn in Toronto, acclaim in Hamilton
Literary icon Margaret Atwood has accepted an invitation from Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina to tour the city’s newly renovated central library. The invitation is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the Rob Ford administration’s refusal to take closing libraries off Toronto’s list of potential cost-cutters.
Fiscal Woe Haunting Baltimore Poe House
For a second year city leaders have chosen not to subsidize a museum in the tiny house where the impoverished Poe lived from around 1833 to 1835, a decision that means it may have to close soon.
Since the city cut off its $85,000 in annual support last year, the house has been operating on reserve funds, which are expected to run out as early as next summer.
Funny Comic: Snacks of the Great Scribblers:
"When I sit down to work, I keep a small bowl of garlic croutons on my desk. These are little rewards for good ideas and strong lines, Pavlovian pellets to keep my spirits up. Recently, I began to wonder what fuel writers have relied on, and the answers turned out to be all over the culinary map. Walt Whitman began the day with oysters and meat, while Gustave Flaubert started off with what passed for a light breakfast in his day: eggs, vegetables, cheese or fruit, and a cup of cold chocolate. The novelist Vendela Vida told me she swears by pistachios, and Mark Kurlansky, the author of “Salt” and “Cod,” likes to write under the influence of espresso, “as black as possible.” For some writers, less is more. Lord Byron, a pioneer in fad diets as well as poetry, sipped vinegar to keep his weight down. Julia Scheeres, the author of the memoir “Jesus Land,” aims for more temporary deprivation. “When in the thick of writing I minimize food intake as much as possible,” she told me. “I find I work better when I’m a little starved.”"
So, why aren’t books dead yet? It helps that e-books are booming. Kindle and Nook have begun to refashion the economics of the medieval publishing industry: no trucks, no paper, no returns or remainders.
But that does not explain why writers write them. Writers write them for reasons that usually have a little to do with money and not as much to do with masochism as you might think. There is real satisfaction in a story deeply told, a case richly argued, a puzzle meticulously untangled. (Note the tense. When people say they love writing, they usually mean they love having written.) And it is still a credential, a trophy, a pathway to “Charlie Rose” and “Morning Joe,” to conferences and panels that Build Your Brand, to speaking fees and writing assignments.