Wednesday, 23 October 2013

News: Banned Books, Naughty Books, And A Winning Book

A furore erupted over the presence of really disturbing e-books from Kobo being sold alongside children's books on the web site of UK books and stationery retailer WH Smith, which was blamed on "a select group of publishers and authors violating the self-publishing policies of our platform".

Kobo has stopped selling self-published books, while WH Smith temporarily suspended their web site while it was being scrubbed.

With reports of disruptions to bookselling in the wake of what Writer Beware calls "The Great Erotica Panic of 2013", independents and the self-publishing sector are crying foul over how their books were affected, even though they're not 'naughty'.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware, however, notes that the incident seems to have revealed how dependent these 'independent authors' are on the platforms they're published on. "Like it or not, your access to the tools of self-publishing--and, more crucially, to your published books--are controlled by your publishing platform's Terms and Conditions," she writes. "These typically allow the platform to yank books, close accounts, and enforce content policies at will, often without notification or explanation. When the platforms choose to exercise this power--appropriately or inappropriately--authors often have little recourse."

On a related note: Not long after (or about the same time) Neil Gaiman's speech on "why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming", his novel Neverwhere was banned over a tiny bit where the protagonist witnesses a couple getting frisky, and the F-word. Guess this means you can't dream some dreams, either.

Media outrage ensued. "'Burn down the forest!' you shout. 'There is a naked tree!" thundered someone at The Washington Post, who thinks all classics should likewise be banned over 'inappropriate content'. Gaiman himself helpfully points out the 'offending bit'.

In case you're interested, American Mensa made a list of top ten banned books. You might have seen some, if not all of the books in other similar lists.


  • "In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are – about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime." Eleanor Catton, youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize so far, on how female writers are treated and why her book, The Luminaries, riled certain male critics.
  • Nik Raina Nik Abdul Aziz, the Borders store manager who's being charged by the Syariah court for 'selling' a book someone else wrote and someone else neglected to ban until later.
  • The future of digital publishing in Kenya.
  • What goes on inside a book publishing house - not often talked about, I think.
  • Forget "e-book" - call it a "codex". Because "e-books are so different from traditional reading that they need a new word."
  • "Words are like little kids; you don't want to send them out of the house until they're dressed and have brushed their teeth." Words with Dwight Garner, New York Times book critic. By the end of it you'll know the difference between "book reviewers" and "book critics".
  • To sell in China, some authors are letting Chinese censors have a go at their books. This includes Harvard professor Ezra F Vogel, whose book Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China, "sold 30,000 copies in the United States and 650,000 in China," according to The New York Times.
  • Book publishing's doomsayers are wrong, and here's why.
  • Is Simon & Schuster editor Jeremie Ruby-Strauss "The New King of Trash Publishing"? And do other editors have to walk his path to be commercially viable? Eww.
  • Wanna write a business book? Some advice to ponder before putting pen to paper.
  • The "little-known" history of Sriracha sauce, which was modified from the original Thai version by a Vietnamese immigrant to the US who had hot sauce withdrawal.


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