Likely in Store

“Comic Book Heaven” is a short documentary directed by New York City-based filmmaker E.J. McLeavey-Fisher that examines the day to day operations of the (now closed)titular comic shop in Sunnyside, Queens. The piece is narrated through interviews with the store’s colorful — and opinionated — owner, Joe Leisner. The farmers had the right idea. In […]

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A collection of bookstore owners and media representatives are suing Arizona officials, saying the state’s new law that attempts to prevent pornographers from using people’s nude photos without their permission is too broadly worded.

The plaintiffs, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, are fighting a law they claim will infringe on their lawful media and publishing efforts. Those suing Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and all the state’s county attorneys include Antigone Books and the Association of American Publishers, which represents booksellers that sell non-fiction books containing images such as those from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal or art photography books of naked models.

In the cases of nude model photos, some of the plaintiffs say the models “may have specifically consented to being photographed by the photographers, but not specifically to being distributed by said booksellers,” leaving them potentially liable, according to Sarah Jeong at Forbes.

“This law puts us at risk for prosecution,” Gayle Shanks, owner of plaintiff Changing Hands Bookstore, said in a statement, according to Courthouse News Service. “There are books on my shelves right now that might be illegal to sell under this law. How am I supposed to know whether the subjects of these photos gave their permission?”

Other examples cited in the suit of images covered by the law include a history professor showing the iconic “Napalm Girl” photo from the Vietnam War and a library in which patrons can access photos of nude subjects on the internet.

The law, which targets so-called “revenge porn,” makes it a felony to distribute nude photos of someone without his or her consent. Violators face up to three years and nine months in prison.

“It is unlawful to intentionally disclose, display, distribute, publish, advertise or offer a photograph, videotape, film or digital recording of another person in a state of nudity or engaged in specific sexual activities if the person knows or should have known that the depicted person has not consented to the disclosure,” the statute reads.

-Noel Brinkerhoff

To Learn More:

Is Arizona’s Revenge Porn Law Overbroad? (by Sarah Jeong, Forbes)

Bookstores, Publishers Fight Nude Photo Ban (by Jamie Ross, Courthouse News Service)

Antigone Books v. Tom Horne (U.S. District Court, Arizona) (pdf)

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It’s Banned Books Week! An annual event held in the last week of September, Banned Books Week seeks to draw attention to books being banned or challenged in libraries and schools while promoting free and open access to knowledge.

Here at EFF, we’re celebrating Banned Books Week by revisiting our favorite banned and challenged works and checking out some of the texts at issue in important First Amendment cases. It’s directly in line with our work fighting for your rights to free expression and open access to information.

Supporting a movement to call attention to book bans is important, because librarians are often the first line of defense against attacks on intellectual freedom, whether these attacks come in the form of censored speech, invasions of privacy, or restrictions on finding information. EFF recognized that role in 2000 with a Pioneer Award dedicated to “Librarians Everywhere.” And libraries and schools are especially vital resources in communities where individuals rely on public computers for access to information, or where students want to explore issues they may feel uncomfortable discussing with adults.

In the US, attempts to ban books have often been found to violate the First Amendment and the rights of the students to access information. They amount to censorship that directly contradicts the spirit of learning and engagement that make libraries so valuable.

These challenges are not just an artifact of the past. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom collects reports of challenges and publishes a list of the top ten most challenged works every year. Each year, they receive hundreds of reports, but 85% of challenges and bans are thought to go unreported.

Just this year, a high school principal canceled the school’s summer reading program rather than have students read Little Brother, EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow’s bestselling young adult novel about challenging a dystopian surveillance state. Though it was published in 2008, elements of the book are scarily prescient given what we now know about mass surveillance technologies. It’s an especially apt text for sparking discussion and thought in the context of our current national and global conversations about surveillance and the rule of law, but the principal was concerned about its supposed lauding of questioning authority and “hacker culture.”

To see that sort of argument in 2014 is disappointing. But fortunately, it’s easier than ever to learn about this censorship and route around it. Cory and his publisher, Tor Books, publicized the censorship and sent 200 copies of Little Brother to the school, but it’s also available for purchase or even free download from his site.

Care to join us in celebrating Banned Books Week? Go ahead and read a new banned book or reread one of your favorites, then check out the great resources and activity ideas available at the Banned Books Week and ALA sites. You can also fight against censorship and for open access in libraries and schools by asking your librarian about filtering software on library computers and signing our Open Access petition.


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The censorship or banning of books is a phenomenon that occurs in countries around the world. Books that are considered “scandalous” or inciteful in some way are often targets of censorship by governments, schools, libraries and other entities.

In the United States, as NPR explains, books have historically been banned for violence and sexual content, as well as profanity, and continue to be banned by individual school districts. In Australia, the sale of certain books—such as Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho—is restricted to readers 18 and over. In Egypt, books challenging the political status quo are often targets of censorship. Amazon maintains a list of countries where particular books cannot be shipped. And the list goes on.

For individuals living in countries with high levels of censorship, the Internet has become a means for circumventing restrictions on book sales. Access to online bookstores and platforms like Kindle have, for example, helped people in China get around the infamous Great Firewall. New platforms like Oyster provide reading materials in English that might not be available for purchase, either due to censorship or lack of demand. And free platforms like Project Gutenberg create access where cost or censorship is an issue.

But for some, these workarounds have restrictions as well. Copyright and related licensing restrictions can curtail access to books in certain places; for example, a new book on atheism in the Arab world by journalist Brian Whitaker is unavailable for purchase in the Middle East and Africa, apparently due to international distribution issues. App stores sometimes restrict access to book platforms out of copyright or liability concerns, as well as when faced by government pressure. And restrictions on international banking—not to mention the cost of e-books—can limit people in many countries from taking advantage of online book platforms.

In Sudan, books can be especially hard to come by. Not only does the government confiscate and ban books and harass authors, but high customs taxes have forced numerous bookstores to close over the past few years.

“Online access to books is so important for the new generation,” says Sudanese activist Dalia Haj Omar, but US sanctions prevent individuals from accessing a number of sites and resources that would allow young Sudanese to circumvent restrictions on reading and learning. Among the sites that are unavailable to Sudanese are Khan Academy and the Google Play Store.  

Despite the sanctions, which Haj Omar is working to reform, she says that young Sudanese are finding ways around the various restrictions, and points to an article in the New York Times detailing Khartoum’s literary revival. It describes the work of Abdullah Al-Zain, the man behind a monthly book swap event called Mafroush (“displayed”). “The Internet is not necessarily an enemy of books,” says Al-Zain. Indeed.

Related Issues: 

International


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I have been blogging for nearly five years (hard to believe). In that time, I’ve written over 650 posts on a wide variety of topics: religion, metaethics, applied ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of law, technology, epistemology, philosophy of science and so on. Since most of my posts clock-in at around 2,000 words, I’d estimate that I have written over one million words. I also reckon I spend somewhere in the region of 10-15 hours per week working on the blog, sometimes more. The obvious question is: why?

Could it be the popularity? Well, I can’t deny that having a wide readership is part of the attraction, but if that’s reason then I must be doing something wrong. The blog is only “sort of” popular. My google stats suggest that I’ll clear 1,000,000 views in the next month and half (with a current average of 35,000 per month).… Read the rest

The post Can blogging be academically valuable? Seven reasons for thinking it might be appeared first on disinformation.

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If you were able to read straight through without any breaks, how long would it take the average person to read all of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones? This infographic estimates how long it will take at average reading speed to get from beginning to end.

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Millennials Are Reading More Books Than You Think They Are

A new survey has peered into our bookshelves, and it’s revealing some good news about the reading habits of young Americans.

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By Zachary Karabell

Photo by Raylipscombe/ThinkstockA few years ago, observers projected that the rise of chain stores and Amazon would lead to the decline of independent bookstores.

Photo by Raylipscombe/Thinkstock

The recent news of the opening of an independent bookstore on Manhattan’s Upper West Side was greeted with surprise and delight, since a neighborhood once flush with such stores had become a retail book desert. The opening coincides with the relocation of the Bank Street Bookstore near Columbia University, leading the New York Times to declare, “Print is not dead yet — at least not on the Upper West Side.”

Zachary KarabellZACHARY KARABELL

Zachary Karabell is an author, money manager, and commentator. His most recent book is The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World.

Two stores don’t constitute a trend, but they do point to a quiet revival of independent bookselling in the United States. They also underscore the shifting sands of physical bookselling, where the biggest losers are not—as was once assumed—the independent booksellers, but rather the large book chains.

Only a few years ago, observers projected that the rise of chain stores and Amazon would lead to the vast shrinkage of independent bookstores. According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of member independent bookstores has increased more than 20 percent since the depths of the recession, from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014. Meanwhile, Borders went bankrupt in 2011, and the fate of Barnes & Noble, which failed to make the Nook into a viable e-reader competitor with Amazon’s Kindle, appears murky. What happened?

The short answer is that by listing their shares as public companiesboth Borders and Barnes & Noble were drawn into a negative vortex that destroyed the former and has crippled the latter. Not only did they become public companies, but they positioned themselves as high-growth companies, focused on innovation and disruption. That forced them to compete with the growth company par excellence in their space: Amazon. It also forced them to pursue high sales volume at the expense of inventories. Those strategies, as it turned out, were precisely wrong for the actual business they were in: selling books to a selective audience. Which is precisely what independent bookstores are good at.

Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, and even Costco looked to be squeezing the life out of indies in the 1990s and into the aughts. Borders alone went from 21 stores in 1992 to 256 superstores in 1999. Barnes & Noble saw even greater growth. Those stores offered more choices, cafes, magazines, and for a while, music. Many independents, already operating with razor-thin margins, couldn’t compete. Between 2000 and 2007, some 1,000 independent bookstores closed.

Sales at indies have grown 8 percent a year over the past three years, which exceeds the growth of book sales in general.

But even as they were expanding, the chains were beset by questionable management decisions pressured by the demands of public markets to grow, grow, grow. Facing the need for expensive investment in technology, Borders sold its online distribution to Amazon in 2001 and threw its efforts into more stores and bigger stores, using its share price to finance massive debt. Barnes & Noble opened more superstores as well, but it also decided to challenge Amazon by developing the Nook at a cost of more than $1 billion.

The results were disastrous. Barnes & Noble bled money; it just announced earnings with yet another quarter of losses and declining revenue. Amazon dominated because it could spend far more money on technology than the chains, and because its core competency was in the disruptive technologies of e-readers, distribution, and inventory management. Amazon was never seen primarily as a retailer, and hence it could carry massive inventories that were a drag on its earnings and then spend billions on research and development because investors accepted Amazon’s narrative that it was a disruptive technology company redefining how everything is sold, not just books.

The chains, however, were valued as retailers, which meant that they had to have higher sales, more stores, and lower inventory to justify their stock prices. Because investors viewed the chains as retailers, they had to move product. That is what clothing stores do: Old inventory gets put on sale and then off-loaded to discount stores. Unsold inventory shows up on income statements as a negative against sales. To demonstrate higher profitability, retail stores have an incentive to turn over their inventories quickly.

For clothing and electronics and automobiles, that workflow is in sync with consumer behavior. Consumers want new fashion, the newest flat-screen, the latest model car. Book consumers aren’t the same. Yes, new titles can drive sales, but book buyers also look for forgotten classics and hidden gems. That means poring over shelves, and that requires old inventory. The chains and their management could have tried to set investors’ expectations for higher unsold inventories as a healthy part of the specific business of buying and selling books. But they didn’t. They treated old inventory as a drag rather than an asset and began to trim their shelves of titles. (Alternatively, they could have tried to position themselves as larger, better-stocked versions of the independents, focusing on the particular desires of book customers.)

Independent bookstores never had to answer to the dictates of public markets. Many of their proprietors understood, intuitively and from conversations with customers, that a well-curated selection—an inventory of old and new books—was their primary and maybe only competitive advantage.In the words of Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, “The indie bookselling amalgam of knowledge, innovation, passion, and business sophistication has created a unique shopping experience.”

Teicher is hardly a neutral observer, but the revival of independents can’t be statistically denied. Not only have numbers of stores increased, but sales at indies have grown about 8 percent a year over the past three years, which exceeds thegrowth of book sales in general. One of the strongest categories last year and into this year is hardcover nonfiction, and that has not been the most robust area for Amazon-dominated e-books. Amazon’s sales have been strongest in mass-market fiction. No independent bookstore could thrive on mass-market softcover sales.  Instead, they do well with hardcovers, illustrated children’s books, cookbooks, and the like. And while indies cannot compete with Amazon’s inventory, Amazon evidently cannot supplant indies as shopping and social experiences.

The independent stores will never be more than a niche business of modest sales and very modest profitability. But the same is true for many small businesses, which makes them no less vital—but also means they’ll never be candidates for public markets. The chains competed in public markets for investor dollars with precisely the wrong metrics and with Amazon undercutting their growth prospects. They churned inventory and tried to become digital players, and they lost. (Barnes & Noble may yet reverse that trend with its recent partnership with Samsung to develop a next-generation tablet and e-reader.) The independents, meanwhile, offer something neither Amazon nor the chains can: attention to the quirky needs of their customer base. For the Upper West Side and thousands of other neighborhoods, those stores have turned out to be irreplaceable.

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Time Capsule of Unpublished Books Won't Be Opened Until the Year 2114

Sadly, you won’t be able to read Margaret Atwood’s new book. When it’s finally published you’ll be dead. Well, you’ll probably be dead. Because her latest work is going to be placed in a time capsule that won’t be opened until the year 2114. And hers isn’t the only book.

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via Scientific American

via Scientific American

I am very unsure about these creatures: part of me is intrigued and delighted but the other part of me would definitely recoil in disgust if I were to ever come across a book scorpion.

via Scientific American:

Book scorpions are the best/worst thing to happen to books, because book scorpions! But also book scorpions…

Properly known as pseudoscorpions, these tiny, tiny creatures have a fondness for old books, because old books also happen to contain delicious booklice and dust mites. And they’re really not book scorpions… at all because they can’t hurt us, and they’ve basically been performing a free pest control service since humans started stacking excessive numbers of dusty, bound-together piles of paper along our walls and nightstands. This arrangement works because old book-makers used to bind books using a starch-based glue that booklice and dust mites love, so without a healthy population of book scorpions patrolling your collection, those gross parasites are probably having a horrible, silent field-day chewing them all apart.

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The post Book Scorpions: They Want to Inspect Your Books appeared first on disinformation.

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A set of four wooden bookcases magically build themselves in a wood shop in this charming stop motion animation by woodworker and filmmaker Frank Howarth. In addition to being a very entertaining work of animation, the video doubles as a surprisingly fascinating step-by-step demonstration of how to make a bookcase. This is the fully animated […]

The post A Charming Stop Motion Animation of Bookcases Magically Building Themselves in a Wood Shop appeared first on Laughing Squid.

via http://ift.tt/eA8V8J Whether it’s Oliver Twist or Harry Potter, Hester Prynne or Katniss Everdeen, literary characters offer us a chance to vicariously experience life in all its drama, humor, mystery, and adventure. […]

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Why This Bestselling Author Decided To Start Self-Publishing

Author Karen Traviss has published a slew of successful books, from her own Wess’har Wars series to a number of Star Wars, Halo and Gears of War novels. But for her new techno-thriller Going Grey, she decided to walk away from a mainstream publishing contract and self-publish. She explains why.

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With This Library Cake, You Can Literally Eat Yourself Some Knowledge

Once again, we find a cake that I love too much to eat. On the other hand, does eating cake versions of books make you smarter? Because that sounds like a learning avenue that we should be exploring.

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