Archive for the ‘Literary – Books’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Rent an E-Book? Who Knew?

Amazon-Kindle2The hot topic at the just-concluded American Booksellers Association convention this week in New York was the growing, and potentially threatening, role of e-books.  E-book sales started biting into conventional clothbound copies when Amazon introduced its Kindle reader.  The competition has only gotten hotter with the entry of Barnes and Noble’s Nook and, most recently, Apple’s I-Pad.

Authors are really worried about what online book sales will mean for the marketing budgets and royalty payments for their titles. That’s not their only concern. The biggest fear for writers?  Digital piracy with authors, like musicians with past music downloads, reaping none of the proceeds.

Publishers are just as perplexed. However, they are reacting proactively, spreading their marketing and sales dollars across all media channels to not be left out of online’s sales potential. They hope that more channels and more readers will lift both hardcover and online sales but are preparing for the worst.

This week, I read that one publisher, the University of Chicago Press, even rents access to books for a limited period.  It rents online access to any title for either a six-month or 30-day period, a real boon for students needing the book for a term paper or final exam.

The rate is less than the current freight of $12.95 or even $9.95.  How does $5 sound? Readers pay half the cover price for six months and only $5 for 30 day access.  If a reader wants indefinite access, he or she pays the full cover price.

You would think that the elimination of print and shipping costs would translate to impressive savings for the university press. Not so, says Carol Kasper, Chicago’s marketing director.  Those saving are eaten up by the cost of PDF-ing each page, maintaining the press’s digital infrastructure and added employee hours to run the program.

I’m not aware how many other publishers are jumping on this new bandwagon. The U of C Press also makes one title available each month for free downloading. However, since the press primarily publishes scholarly material, I’m not sure how many readers will fork over even $5 for “Gender and Social Justice in Wales” or “Writing, Law and Kingship in Old Babylonian Mesopotamia.”

To view and rent a title, go to

PostHeaderIcon Lit Lite


Editor’s Note: In a most unlikely match, Twitter has hooked up with Literature to produce one of the year’s more imaginative and enjoyable parodies. Twitter’s  calling card is brevity (140 characters or less) while literature’s defining trait is prolixity. Two University of Chicago undergraduates decided to blend the two in their recently-published, “Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books in 20 Tweets or Less”. Is no part of American life safe from the all-consuming reach of social networking?  What follows is my article on the new book—currently ranked 42nd on Amazon’s list of Best-Sellers in the parody category—that appeared in the January issue of Chicago magazine.

In Fall 2008, Alex Aciman and Emmett Rensin met as freshman roommates at the University of Chicago. It was kismet at first quip. Both were published writers: Aciman had written about film noir for The New York Times and Rensin had blogged about religion and youth culture for the Huffington Post.

Bring two bright students together, mix with winter cabin fever in Chicago, and intellectual sparks soon flew.  Twitter had gone viral several months before; the two roommates decided to write a book proposal. Aciman recalls, “As soon as the pun on “twitter” and “literature” appeared, we got into it.”

Their first book tweeted was Albert Camus’ The Stranger (“Atmosphere heavy, taking a walk. Taking revolver too, Arabs abroad.  Still hot and still drunk. Good combination.”). In three weeks, they completed tweets for 19 more classics and sent them to an agent. Penguin bought the book, gave it its title and the students fleshed out the remaining 60 or so works in June at Rensin’s home in Los Angeles.

The book appeared in England in November; an expanded American edition appeared in December (Updated note: a French edition has just been published). It ranges from the epic Gilgamesh (“It’s pretty great being king: part human, part God, ALL ladies’ man”) to The Da Vinci Code (“Driving to a bank. Good time to exposit the history of all these crazy Catholic secret societies to this French girl—maybe get her hot?”).

Both 19-year-old sophomores gravitate toward the unconventional.  A New York native, the short, red-haired Aciman, says he is a devotee of Napoleon Bonaparte. “I am a failed Napoleon, but I try my best to fail with a passion.”  Rensin, who is from Los Angeles, is an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church with three goals: to master card magic, to create the perfect shaggy-dog joke, and to pen the Great American Novel.

In a moment of seriousness, though, each student admits to harboring future writing dreams. “We’re like velveteen writers right now,” says Aciman. “We want to be real writers.”