Monthly Archives: December 2010


Find of the morning:  the new(ish) literary journal Assembly, a Canadian/American print and online venture with fiction, reporting, poetry, art, etc.  Includes regular “Five Books…” lists, which are exactly the kind of thing that make me ravenous to read more.

Five Books About the US/Mexico Border

Five Books from Kevin Lippert of Princeton Architectural Press

Five Books: African Books Collective

Five Swedish Books You Haven’t Read But Should

Five Really Depressing Books*

and so on.

Yes please.


*”Five books that are really difficult to praise without sounding like a sociopath.”



New work at PANK

I have a little story-like thing out, by the good graces of the folks at PANK.  It’s mostly fiction.  It’s called “Agenda.”

Thanks, PANK!

Image from Flickr Commons, Smithsonian collection, here.

Best American Shorts (a microcosm)

I don’t think I have anything really intelligent to add to what Roxane Gay is talking about over at HTMLGiant, here and here.  Which is:  the scales of literary publishing are weighted against people of color, poor people, and (I might add) women.  We know it’s true, it’s no surprise.  But she says intelligent, reasonable things in an intelligent, reasonable fashion.  And many people agree in intelligent, reasonable ways, and a few people probably disagree in intelligent, reasonable ways (or at least offer alternative ideas) and I guess a lot of people just get shouty.  The shoutiness makes me so weary.  Also, this:

To my mind, one of the reasons these conversations are so difficult, particularly between white people and people of color, is because, so often, white people question concerns raised as if the question is not “how do we solve this problem,” but rather, “does this problem exist.”

This also makes me tired.  But wearily, I repost.  Because it’s an intelligent conversation that apparently still needs to be had.

ETA:  Nerdily, I keep track of the books I read each year, and run stats on them.  Last year, after trying consciously to read more women, more people of color, more Jewish folks, more everything/anything that isn’t just handed to me by the New York Times Review of Books, I achieved…29% books by women, 15% books by or about a person of color, and 4% by or about a (known) Jewish author/character.  That’s me, a feminist who’s slightly awake, trying.  That’s scary.

Some thoughts on Google’s eBookstore

[cross-posted here]

Paul Oliver, over at MobyLives, reviews the new Google eBookstore venture, and finds it neat but wanting.  For one thing, his downloaded copy of A Tale of Two Cities came complete with a scan of the contributing library’s aged book pocket, stamped with past borrowers’ dates.  For another, it was volume two…of a two-volume set.

Google’s cataloging, OCR quality, and organization of its digital book files seem to be still stumbling around a little, like a toddler just learning to walk.  In a separate MobyLives post, more than a few sticky cataloging and quality-of-information glitches were exposed.  (Mae West biographies filed under “Religion,” anyone?)  It seems likely that these problems will be cleaned up before too long, but for now at least, caveat searcher.

Other folks have been pointing out that if you use a Kindle, you’re out of luck as far as the eBookstore is concerned.  No .mobi, .prc, or .azw files up there…for obvious reasons.  I’ve seen some folks blaming Google for this, but since those are proprietary Amazon file types, and since you can’t read .epub files on the Kindle, that one seems to sit pretty squarely in Amazon’s lap.

Google is making an effort (at least a marketing effort) to include indie booksellers in its sales strategy, which is not only smart (long tail!) but seems less determinedly hostile to a rich bookselling ecosystem than the “kill them all” Amazon approach.  And Google is (for now) wisely staying out of the business of making a proprietary device or file format, instead making money off doing what it does best; mediating access to information, and skimming a little profit off every exchange.

If I had to lay money on where we’ll be in three years with purchasing e-books, I’d lay it on Google over Amazon.  I have a Kindle 2.  I’ve written here before about my reservations about its physical design and the business model on which it relies.  The way Google’s positioned, it seems to me that it’s not so much Google vs. Amazon, as it is Amazon vs. every other e-reader designer out there that wants to make money off Google’s huge reach.  Amazon’s going to have to do something pretty amazing to stay ahead of that.