Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time Special Edition book "Francis: The Pope's Bold Message Comes to America"

Time Magazine sells, in supermarkets, a Special Edition glossy large-page book, “Francis: The Pope’s Bold Message Comes to America”, 96 pages, by John R. Allen, Jr. The author covers the Vatican for the Boston Globe.

The book has ten chapters and three inserted sidebars, one of them (“Kiss the Ring”) by Elizabeth Dias.

The book is heavily illustrated with very full photos from around the world, but also has double-columned pages of text with no pictures.

The book traces Francis’s background, as a Jesuit, and as one who grew up as a rough-and-tumble boy in Buenos Aries, and who even once had a girlfriend.  It also covers an unusual medical emergency for a young man in 1953, a strange kind of pneumonia that required surgery and was almost fatal.

The third chapter, “Moderate to an Extreme” would suggest the tone for how the book characterizes the Pope.

The Pope has tried to avoid condemning anyone’s inclinations or psychological makeup, while maintaining a traditional position on social issues.  But the Pope is more inclined to say that priests and congregations should be flexible on practical situations, like giving communion to same-sex couples.

But the most telling passage in the book may be a statement about the predecessor Joseph Ratzinger’s views, regarding “equality” for women (since they cannot hold many positions in the church but have their own, as nuns).  That is to say, end the “arms race with men . once and for all and reject power as the only way to evaluate one’s worth or dignity.”  That comports with Francis’s interest in working with the poor on a personal level, and with emphasizing compassion over more common ideas of virtue and personal merit.

The book does not get into family values as much as Francis did in Philadelphia, where he recognized that many people today have learned to live without familial intimacy or commitment but where he says the trend does not bode well for the future (my main blog, yesterday).
The book discusses the Pope’s monitoring of the Middle East in some detail, and also his push for financial reform in the Vatican.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How does copyright registration and LCCN work for self-published and print-on-demand books?

Self-publishers will want to know if they need to pay for copyright registration and for Library of Congress Catalogue numbers (LCCN’s).
I’ve checked back over my own books, as summarized here.
My first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book had an initial print run which I managed in 1997.  It looks like I submitted a Form TX for copyright registration, and a separate PCN for the catalogue itself.
The copyright registration may not be legally necessary, as technically a book is copyrighted by the author’s or publisher’s notice in the book once published.  Authors who have good practical reason to believe that “piracy” would occur (or plagiarism) should consider formal registration, which results in a RX number and a certificate in a few months.  The registration has nothing to do with the catalogue number.  (The Writers Guild West has a similar formal registration for screenplays.)
The Library of Congress has a link with all questions at a website specifically for Copyright, and the correct form is TX, link here. Print-on-demand self-publishing companies will offer to do this, but usually charge more than the author can do for herself.
The Library of Congress Control Number does relate to the actual catalogue at the Library in Washington DC. There is a Preassigned Control Number Program that the publishing industry uses to assign control numbers before publication. There is also a Catalogue in Publication Program.  All of this is explained here .  Generally, Print-on-demand companies can get LCCN’s assigned (if requested and paid for – when the actual service is free) but this does not guarantee that the LCCN can be located in the LOC database or that (simultaneously) the LOC will have a copy of the book in Washington along with a card catalogue entry. Generally, the Library of Congress does not catalogue print-on-demand books unless there is a large initial print run and evidence that libraries will actually carry the book physically. The practical importance may be minimal for newer books, since Google book search exists. 

I’ll report later on the issue of placing self-published books (mine at least) in independent books stores and chain stores (I’ve mentioned it before).  

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Books now delivered by cyclists in some cities; do booksellers now have to compete with "It's free"?

I do get questions as to why I don’t spend time with booksellers or with retail of my product as a “commodity”.  Of course, personal accounts with heavy doses of moral philosophy don’t typically become best-sellers, at least in print.  As I’ve explained elsewhere, I’m quite busy with music, a screenplay, a novel, and blogging, and some travel.  My work is horizontal rather than vertical.  And I came into this business as a second career.  I didn’t start off by “getting published’ and going on to write branded series.  (Stephen King, by contrast, has sold over 350 million copies of his books in print.)

Nevertheless, as last weekend’s festival showed, a lot of the public does like “popular books” for normal entertainment or family use (not footnoted college texts).

NBC News (story by Joe Fryer) is reporting on pedaling librarians bringing “Books on Bikes” to little outdoor book festivals.  The report focused on Seattle, but the idea has taken off in a few cities.  Another trade name is “Spokes and Word”, story here. One pedalist was even willing to wear advertising tattoos on his arms and legs (a sacrifice).
Back in 2010, the New York Times had reported, “With Kindle, the Best Sellers Don’t Need to Sell”, link here. Same idea for Nook.  More books are given away free on Kindle, and publishers disagree on whether this helps sales (by introducing new authors) or hinders them (by competing with oneself).  This would be a good topic for Reid Ewing to follow up on some day, after his “It’s Free” video in 2011, centered on a public library. 
There are some ideas that are popular now, that might not have been so in the past, because of social media.  Some charitable efforts could make stories that sell, but writing a book is not a noble incentive itself for a charitable venture that one wouldn’t get into anyway out of the natural course of one’s own life. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

National Book Festival from Library of Congress: authors Weber (sci-fi) and Kristoff and WuDunn (policy)

Today, I did attend the National Book Festival in Washington DC at the Convention Center.

I was amazed at the size of the crowd, and overheard a woman say how much she admires these authors.  But you probably had to be a best selling author to be invited to have a podium.  The festival was divided into many fiction and non-fiction areas of genre categories. 

I first picked out David Weber, author of the “Honor Harrington” military science fiction series with a female hero. Weber explained how he first got published – by a referral from a big publisher who foun his work too long.  He said that writing is a skill like walking.  He also talked about storytelling, and that in his works he tries to have his characters do “what they have to do because they can”, not because they made some choice that obligated them. He distinguished between fantasy and science fiction.  In fantasy, you have a world that is impossible but self-consistent.  Characters in fantasy tend to be more clearly good or evil than in proper science fiction, which is supposed to be a scenario that really could happen.

My own science fiction is more concerned with what would really happen if there were initial contact, or what it would be like to live on another planet if abducted and the alien world somewhat resembled ours. Will all advanced civilizations have money systems?  Are non-monetary advanced societies possible?  (Try orcas.)  Another thing: my novel plots and scripts never have sharply defined villains as such.  (But then, I don’t see the “Autarch” or the “Unbeheld” as a villain in “Imjica”.)
Weber did talk about adaptations of novels to movies and television.  He feels that some of his work is better adapted to cable series than to 100-minute films.  He said that most writers (particularly if in the “business” of being best-selling authors as such)  don’t try to control how their novels will play out in film, and let others approach them about this (although I often see novelists credited as secondary “screenwriters” on imdb.com).

Weber’s Festival site is here.   Here is his regular site
Then I visited the Contemporary Life sessions, and listed to Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof, whose featured book is “A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity”, published by Vintage.  I may purchase this and do a separate review later. 

But I did want to hit their theme of inequality, and how they see the biggest problem as inequality of opportunity, not just income or wealth (Piketty and Stiglitz).  WuDunn talked about the importance of parental (especially maternal) attention very early in life (which feeds the paid parental leave debate). Kristof talked about the fact that in poor societies, children fall behind very early in life in brain development that would enable them to learn to behave according to modern western ideas of “personal responsibility”.

 He gave one example where there was more benefit in Gambia for paying for deworming kids than anything else.  He also gave any example of a librarian who allowed a poor kid to “steal” books to read, and the kid grew up to become a leader of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.
Kristof’s event site is here.  The site for the book is here and there is a DVD (don’t know if this actually has a film, too, will look). 
I know someone can ask me, why didn’t I hustle and get a session in the Current Life pavilion?  I haven’t made “sales” of books as a commodity my main objective.  I work horizontally, trying to develop the same content across all media, rather than selling on just one medium. 

Update: September 8, 2015

"A Path Appears" is indeed a series on PBS Independent Lens, three episodes so far.  Check my TV Blog Sept. 8 for details.

Kristof and WuDunn had previously authored "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide"  (Vintage, 2010). 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Time: "Inside the New Cuba" -- how "new" really is this Communist island?

Time offers a supermarket illustrated book “Inside the New Cuba”, heavily illustrated with color photos, edited by Stephen Koepp, many contributors (Bryan Walsh, Karl Vick (several). Marc Peyser, Mitch Maxley, Nathan Thornburgh, Julia Cooke, Edel Rodriquez, Robert Siegel, Eyder Peralta, Tim Padgett, and Andrea Ford. The subtitle is “Discovering the charm of a once-forbidden island: the people, the culture, the paradise”.

Despite the opening of diplomatic relations and of the embassy in Washington on 16th St., the country is still Communist and no paradise for people who live there. On p. 9 (“Cuba on the Cusp”), Vick writes “ordinary Cubans need permission to move and go into business.” Internet access is not widely available to average people and censorship is heavy, far worse than China’s. Neighborhoods have their local chapters of the “Committee for the Defense of the Revolution”, and people spy on one another.  I recall a conversation with my own father about the lack of privacy under communism when growing up.  The last chapter has black-and-white “scenes from the revolution”. Cuban communism seems more extreme that what was practiced in the Soviet Union (at least after Stalin and Khrushchev).  Like Maoism (in the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960s) it seemed dedicated to the idea that ordinary citizens must be kept “right-sized” by sharing their rightful shares of manual labor, and that wealth not earned directly by labor was immoral.  

Vick also quotes others as saying that the United States handled Cuba badly from the beginning, after the 1959 ouster of Batista (as in the ponderous Andy Garcia film “The Lost City”).  The US pushed Cuba into the maw of the Soviet Union. We all remember the Bay of Pigs, and then the existential Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 “the world’s closest brush with nuclear war.”  I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog post now if that threat hadn’t been contained (when I was a “patient” at NIH, a dark period of my own life).
Vick covers some of the refugee crises from flotillas, especially one in 1980 where appeals went out in gay communities in southern cities (like Dallas, where I lived at the time) to house refugees personally, an expectation that has not recurred this go-round with the Central American crisis the past two years or the Syrian crisis from Europe (usually only relatives are asked if they can sponsor people), but that is a topic that needs more reporting. 

The chapter on baseball (Siegel and Peralta) is interesting, and notes that Cuban baseball emphasizes “small ball” rather than power hitting.
 My own travel plans don't include Cuba in the foreseeable future. Pesyer has a chapter on the travel basics.