Pink Fire Pointer March 2011

The Death of Lendle

News hit yesterday about Amazon revoking Lendle’s (and apparently other eBook lending sites) API access, effectively shutting them down. They received an email from a no-reply Amazon address stating that Lendle did not “…serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.”

The shut down highlights yet another debate in eBook world, reminding me of the recent announcement by Harper Collins to limit the circulation of new titles they’ve licensed to libraries before the license expires. Lendle had only been in operation for around 6 weeks now and many of my friends had signed up and started sharing based on Lendle’s philosophy of “You can’t borrow if you don’t lend, and you can’t lend if you don’t buy.” In their open letter, they emphasized their commitment to supporting the purchase of eBooks by only allowing people on the site to borrow books once they’ve purchased other lendable books and shared them. While I mostly fall on the side of Lendle, this situation reminds me of peer-to-peer file sharing sites, which haven’t been so successful when trying to argue legality. While I can definitely understand a publisher or author’s concern of mass illegal sharing and downloading of “bootleg” books, sites like Lendle seem to only be facilitating what Amazon themselves now allow kindle users to do on a larger scale. Is that illegal?

This whole eBook lending situation brings up an interesting question I get asked a lot. People always want to know if I have a Kindle (yes) and if I love it (not really). I get a lot of confused looks at this point, because why wouldn’t a person who never leaves the house without at least 2 books in her purse not be totally in love with a device that can hold around 1500 books? Well, call me old-fashioned, but I really love the feel and smell of real books. I go to bookstores sometimes just feather out different books' pages to sniff them. Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a little obsessed with book design. Books themselves can be little works of art. A gorgeous cover, beautiful binding, the choice and weight of paper, it’s all part of the experience. When explaining, I always try to make the analogy to audiophiles; I consume music by downloading songs from iTunes and listening to them on my iPod at work. I’m not concerned about cover art or sound quality; I just want to listen to the song. But there are also the music geeks who will scour record stores and flea markets for rare or beautiful vinyl, because part of the experience of listening to music is the visual design of the cover, maybe the tactile feel of holding the album and the kind of sound the music has when played on a record player with good audio equipment. This isn’t to say that people who use kindles don’t appreciate these things or have bad taste in books, because hey, I do read books on my kindle now and then for the convenience. But for me, I usually need the whole thing. I’ve even noticed that I read a lot faster with real books than eBooks because I can see the progress I’m making every time I pick up the book and there is just something so satisfying for me psychologically when I physically turn a page.

Added to the whatever psychological and physical personal preferences I have is the whole Lendle issue. Basically, when you buy an eBook, you’re committing to the specific device only format, and by limiting your ability to lend/give away/re-sell the eBook, effectively, you don’t really “own” it. I can’t resell at a used book store if I hated it, I can’t give it to a friend after I’m done, and I can only lend it for a few weeks at a time.

One big thing I’d love to see is some kind of price break for people who want to bundle an eBook with a regular physical book purchase. I will never stop buying real books, but I would love to use my e-reader more. I usually want to buy the physical book to have for my book shelf (book trophies!) but if I’m going on a trip or the book is really long, I’d love to get an eBook version of it but I can stomach the idea of paying $11.50 for a real book on Amazon, and $9.99 for the eBook as well. I wish there was some kind of price break I could get when purchasing both books, because I’d gladly pay $11.50 for the real book and an extra $2 for an eBook version (kind of like how a lot of bands will include a free MP3 download of an album if you purchase the vinyl). However, not knowing the business model and costs and drawbacks behind the pricing decisions made by publishers and big booksellers like Amazon, I have no idea if that’s realistic.

I’d really like to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the Lendle situation, since I’m no legal expert. I know a lot of you are die hard Kindle/Nook fans (and let me repeat, there’s bupkiss wrong with that) and I’m curious to know if you have any concerns about this, or how often you buy regular books now that you have your e-reader. Also, I know a few of my friends are in publishing and I’d really love to know the decisions and realities that drive pricing and restriction policies because I can only see this from my own personal consumer perspective. Thoughts?

Southern Gothic

The other day I was chatting with my boyfriend about Flannery O’Connor and though he’ll probably be embarrassed I’m mentioning it here, he admitted that he didn’t know much about her or her writing. I was shocked (SHOCKED!) because she’s one of my absolute favorite authors and a huge influence in one of my favorite literary genres. Sometimes I feel like I must have spent a former life somewhere in Savannah or Louisiana because Southern Gothic just feels so comfortable. Decaying houses, hot sticky country towns, sinister and grotesque characters, these are a few of my favorite things. Not to mention the wider underlying themes of social class conflict, racism, and the flawed human condition.

To celebrate my love of Southern Gothic and Flannery O’Connor, here is a selection of some of my all time favorite book covers, all illustrated by Canadian artist Roxanna Bickadoroff. She did a great little interview with The Caustic Cover Critic a few years ago that explains the inspiration behind her book covers and thoughts on being an illustrator. Also check out a free online copy of O’Connor’s most famous short story A Good Man is Hard to Find.

If you’re looking for more Southern Gothic, I highly recommend these books as a good jumping off point, some of which you’ve probably read or seen the movie for (dueling banjos anyway?)

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text (Modern Library) by William Faulkner
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Oprah's Book Club) by Carson McCullers
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
Deliverance by James Dickey
The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
The Long Home by William Gay

St. Patrick's Day Special: Top 10 Irish Fiction Books

While doing everything in my power to avoid St. Patrick’s Day today (amateur hour, hello!), I was, naturally, bombarded with all things Irish while trying to push my way through the throngs of people downtown waiting for the parade.  While trying not to get run over by strollers, I noticed that the interblogonetasphere is busy recommending various best of the Irish lists today, so not to be left out, I decided to make my own top 10 list!

10. Patrick McCabe – Breakfast on Pluto: A Novel

I actually bought this book years ago when I was living in France on a study abroad and desperate for any and every English language book I could find. I was in Dublin for New Years and honestly spent most of my time there haunting the bookshops. I picked this crazy book up on a whim and I’m really glad I did.  How could a book about the adventures of a transsexual woman named Pussy who moves from Ireland to London and becomes a prostitute and then a suspect in an IRA bombing NOT be awesome?  In addition, it was also short-listed for the 1998 Booker Prize and was made into a movie a few years ago starring Cillian Murphy.

Now before I get too carried away, I want to keep this short and sweet because we've all obviously got some Irish whiskey to drink. So, without further ado, my completely unqualified and unexplained list:

9. John Banville – The Sea

8. Joseph O’Connor – Star of the Sea

7. Frank O’Connor – Collected Stories

6. Roddy Doyle – Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha

5. William Trevor – Selected Stories


3. Elizabeth Bowen – The Last September

1. James Joyce – Ulysses

Book Cover Porn

Confession: I totally judge books by their cover. In fact, sometimes the only reason I buy a book is because it’s pretty. Good book design will definitely turn my head and make me pick up a book, even if it’s not something I’d normally be interested in. I even fantasize about becoming a book designer (totally disregarding the fact that I can barely use a computer and I wouldn’t know how to design my way out of a paper bag).

I know I’ve ranted before about how poorly US covers stack up to UK covers on the whole, but this year the US might actually give the Brits a run for their money. I’ve seen some really fantastic book covers so far this year and I’m looking forward to what the second half of the year has in store! Without further ado, here are my top 20 favorite book covers so far this year:

20. Molotov’s Magic Lantern: Travels in Russian History by Rachel Polonsky (Released 1/4/11) 

19. Separate Beds by Elizabeth Buchan (Released 1/20/11) 

18. Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (released 3/1/11)  

The rest of the list after the break!

17. The Adults by Alison Espach (Released 2/1/11) 

16. The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier (Released 2/1/11) 

15. We The Drowned by Carsten Jensen (Released 2/9/11) 

14. The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (Released 3/8/11)  

13. The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard (Released 1/25/11) 

12. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
(Released 3/3/11)

11. The Information: A History, A Theory, a Flood by James Gleick (released 3/1/11)

10. Solo by Rana Dasgupta (Released 2/1/11)

9. Night Soul and Other Stories by Joseph McElroy (Released 1/11/11)

8. Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them by Ted Danson, Michael D’Orso (Released 3/15/11)  

7. Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss (released 3/15/11) 

6. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Released 2/1/11)  

5. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (Will Be Released 4/15/11)

4. Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin (Released 3/15/11)

3. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (Will Be Released 5/10/11)

2. The Art of Asking Your Boss For a Raise by Georges Perec (Released 3/14/11)

1. Pym by Mat Johnson (Released 3/1/11)