Pottermore, a website which provides an immersive Harry Potter experience and will be the only place online for Harry fans to purchase e-books of the series, entered into an agreement with e-book company Overdrive to bring the electronic versions of the seven books to more than 18,000 public libraries and schools all over the world.
“J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter is a once-a-lifetime phenomenon and has been an extremely significant catalyst for reading and literacy for current and future generations,” OverDrive CEO and president Steve Potash said in a statement. “We are honored to bring this beloved storytelling experience digitally to public and school libraries worldwide.”
Overdrive will first offer the e-books in English, Italian, Spanish, French and German, and the press release from Pottermore said more languages will soon be added. The e-books will be accessible from smartphones, e-reading devices like the Kindle and Nook, and tablet devices as well as computers. Fans will also be able to borrow the audio book for listening on computers, iPods, and smartphones in MP3 format.
The press release did not list a date on which the e-books will be made available.
The website Pottermore, which will be the only place to purchase Harry Potter e-books, is currently still in beta mode and is not accessible for most users. There has not been a date given as to when the website will open to the general public.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
On a night devoted to the wonders of film, at least one category at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony offered a shining testament to the wonders of books, too.
Children’s author William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, directors of a 14-minute cartoon called “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” took home an Oscar Sunday for Best Animated Short Film.
True to its title, the animated short is a magical story about the joy of books. In a nod to the state where Joyce and Oldenburg’s studio is located, “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” has a Louisiana theme, as the title character, his books blown away in a storm that closely resembles Hurricane Katrina, finds his library reconstituted by whimsical volumes that fly like birds. As Lessmore faces old age and the prospect of mortality, he realizes that literature, like his timeless flying books, has the power to outlive individual lives.
A clip of the film, and an app that allows viewing of the entire cartoon, is available at for online viewing.
Joyce, who lives in his native city of Shreveport, La., is best known as the author of fantastical children’s books such as “Dinosaur Bob,” “George Shrinks” and “Rolie Polie Olie,” many of which have been adapted as animated productions.
In accepting the award, Joyce gave a nod to the resilience of his fellow Louisiana residents since Katrina. “We’re just down there in Louisiana, where people just keep on trying and keep going, and thank you to the Academy,” Joyce told the audience.
Joyce’s Oscar proved more auspicious than his first attempt at an award for his work.
In a 2000 interview with The Baton Rouge Advocate, Joyce recalled his second-grade entry in an elementary school contest to see which student could write and illustrate the best story.
Joyce thought he had the contest cinched with his entry, “Billy’s Booger.”
When he was summoned to the principal’s office where his parents had gathered, Joyce thought his family had been assembled to watch his take home the trophy. Instead, the Joyces got a lecture from the principal on little William’s lapse in good taste.
Discouraged but not defeated, Joyce kept drawing and writing.
Sunday’s Oscar win is a measure of how far he’s come – and of the power of books to change lives forever.
Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Baton Rouge Advocate, is the author of “A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.”
Writer Ed Falco, uncle of actress Edie Falco who starred in the HBO Mob drama “The Sopranos,” based his book “The Family Corleone” on a screenplay by Puzo. The book is said to follow Vito Corleone as he struggles to become a powerful Don.
Paramount officially filed its lawsuit against the executor of the Puzo estate, Mario Puzo’s son Anthony. The studio said it holds the copyright to “The Godfather” and that while it gave the go-ahead to the 2004 book “The Godfather Returns” by Mark Winegardner, it did not authorize another book by Winegardner published in 2006 titled “The Godfather’s Revenge.”
“The studio has tremendous respect and admiration for Mario Puzo, whose novel 'The Godfather' was acquired in 1969 and helped spawn one of the most celebrated film trilogies of all time," a Paramount spokesperson said in an interview with TheWrap. “We have an obligation to and will protect our copyright and trademark interests.”
Paramount said that when “The Godfather’s Revenge” was promoted, it was implied the studio had authorized the book, which was untrue. The studio wants damages from “Revenge” and to block the publication of “The Family Corleone.”
Grand Central Publishing planned to release “Corleone” in June.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Our collective knowledge of the past doesn't go back very far when it comes to quantifying the worst things humans have done to each other.
We know the wars of the last century caused tens of millions of deaths. But what about the Crusades, the African slave trade, and the many conflicts in China's history? How do they compare? Were they even worse?
Maybe they deserve more attention as we try to understand humanity's most horrific moments and prevent future ones.
Matthew White thinks so. The Richmond, Va., librarian believes it's time for a fuller accounting of man's inhumanity to man. In the newly published The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities, he ranks the deadliest human-caused catastrophes of all time, topped by World War II, the regimes of Genghis Khan and Mao Zedong, famines in British India, and the fall of the Ming Dynasty.
The 669-page book's unusual approach to an exceedingly grim topic has attracted attention, including a New York Times story that noted it's gained credibility thanks to scholarly fans.
Despite being a kind of encyclopedia of evil, it actually manages to be a fascinating read thanks to White's keen grasp of history and his wry take on the villains of the past.
It helps that White is careful to respect the victims who died at the hands of others and correct the record when necessary about the identities of those who were responsible for so much misery.
In an interview this week, White talked about his desire to set the record straight, the one part of the world that seems largely immune to the worst of the worst, and the way chaos and tyranny compare.
Q: What's a nice guy like you doing writing about the worst things humans ever did to each other?
A: I've always been statistically minded, and for a while I was doing a lot of local history. Then when the Internet came along, I set up a website on world history. This turned to be one of those things people argued about – who's responsible for the worst things that ever happened? – and I kept getting into arguments.
Q: Why do people argue about this?
A: A lot of it is that they want to file things on their enemies and accuse them of doing all these terrible things. And there is this sense that if we know about mistakes in the past we can start working around them in the present, deciding whether we intervene in certain wars.
And then there's orneriness.
Q: You're pretty specific about how many died in atrocities, even if they happened thousands of years ago. Can you really quantify the effects of long-ago events like conflicts and the collapses of civilizations?
A: Within limits you can. There are records that go back, and a lot of them are based on things like money – tax records, for instance. There are suddenly fewer people after a war.
Archaeology is another way. If one layer of the past has a thriving civilization, and a war comes through and the next layer is pretty empty, you can get into the area of numbers, whether it's tens of millions or hundreds of thousands.
We tend to discount some of the chronicles that have been told, but I didn't base this on the historians of these eras. It's usually based on some sort of modern academic scholarship.
Q: What value does your ranking have?
A: A lot of it is just seeing how societies work. That's the broadest use of it – understanding how wars start. Once you start studying several different wars instead of focusing on one or two, you can start to see patterns.
The one that I jumped out at me is about dictators. You hear about oppressive dictators as being terrible, and they are, of course. But there are fewer of those compared to times when an entire culture just collapses and you have decades of civil war and the population is cut in half.
If you’re looking at risk assessment, you see that the collapse of civilization is sort of the worst-case scenario. That happens on a narrow level in history, something like Somalia or the Roman Empire.
The big pattern is that chaos is deadlier than tyranny. There are deadlier events when everything falls apart.
Q: Is your ranking useful in terms of preventing atrocities?
A: At the least, it sets out the case studies that other people can start looking at.
One of the problems is that when people start studying society is they tend to focus on the things that interest them. But if you look at the 100 worst, it gives you a broader sample of events.
Q: What made you spend so much time on events that we may not be as familiar with in the West, like the many conflicts in Chinese history?
A: I wanted to try to access everything in the world that fit the criteria. It did push me into studying and trying to explain Chinese history, something that most of my readers know nothing about, and make it interesting.
Q: What have you learned in the big picture about history?
A: Some historians almost forget the human element. They’ll talk about conquests and cultural mingling without saying people got killed.
There's even an attempt to rehabilitate the fall of Rome by saying it wasn't that bad. Sometimes they act like there aren't actual real living people involved in these events.
Q: What about bright spots amid all this misery?
A: One of the odd things I found was that I could not find many horrible events in India. It might be that their history is not well recorded, or it could also be there’s something about their civilization that’s more peaceful. I don’t know.
Q: Did you find heroes that we may not be familiar with?
I tried to bring out people who spoke against these things.
Bartolomé de las Casas was a Dominican monk who lived in the West Indies shortly after their discovery. He made a strong effort against what the conquistadors were doing against the Indians.
I also mention St. Francis of Assisi.
For some reason, people are trying to rehabilitate Genghis Khan, giving him a better reputation. They say you have to judge him by the times. But his career is at the same time as St. Francis of Assisi. That's to point out that it was possible, if you were living in the 1200s, to be a nicer person. You don't have to be Genghis Khan.
Q: Was it challenging to set the tone of the book?
A: It is sort of my nature to be a wise guy. I tried to direct insults, sarcasm, and irony at the bad people of the world.
Q: What did you learn on a personal level?
A: In some ways I found it enlightening and useful just to know things could be worse. However bad things seem to be now, they could be worse. I don’t get as worked up over things I see in the news.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor correspondent.
The author of the blockbuster “Harry Potter” series is back to writing and this time she’s writing for adults. Rowling has signed an agreement with publisher Little, Brown in the US and Britain to publish her first novel for adults, the publisher announced Thursday. Little, Brown has been tightlipped about the details, refusing to release the title, release details, or genre of the forthcoming book.
In choosing to publish her first adult novel with Little, Brown, Rowling has deliberately decided not to go with Bloomsbury, which published the Harry Potter series in Britain, or Scholastic, which published it in the US.
“Although I've enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world,” Rowling said in a statement released by Little, Brown. “The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.”
The good news – while Potterphiles await Pottermore and the Harry Potter ebooks, Little, Brown promises that it will publish Rowling’s adult novel “both in print and e-books” simultaneously.
Of course, Rowling’s forthcoming novel is almost guaranteed to be a bestseller – her Harry Potter books have sold more than 400 million copies around the world, been translated into 70 different languages, and made the author a self-made billionaire adored by her fans.
Nonetheless, it’ll be tough for Rowling to attract the same mass following as her Harry Potter series did. Like child actors, children’s authors sometimes struggle to transition to adult novels. Writes the AP, “Winnie the Pooh creator A.A. Milne, a successful playwright in his early years, once confessed that he was forced to say "goodbye to all that" after his beloved books about the bear and friends. Margaret Wise Brown, author of the classic "Goodnight Moon," tried for years to write stories for The New Yorker.”
Still, Rowling has rocked the publishing world before, by making children’s books popular again, and by showing publishers that children’s books weren’t just for kids. It’s a new era in publishing, one in which books like Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” novels and Suzanne Collins’ “Hunger Games” trilogy are as popular with kids as they are with parents. Rowling could draw a similar mixed audience.
One thing is clear: expectations for the new Rowling novel are immense. Tweets Rowling fan Natalie Summers: “JK Rowling announcing a new book is almost like god announcing a follow-up to the Bible.”
No pressure, JK.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
A former aide to Sarah Palin, who wrote an unflattering tell-all about working for her while she was governor of Alaska, has paid the fine he was charged for including in his book e-mails considered to be confidential.
According to the Alaska Department of Law, Frank Bailey, whose book was titled “Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin,” broke Alaska’s ethics laws by profiting from the use of confidential state e-mails, one of which concerned a candidate for state attorney general.
Bailey, who worked as the director of Boards and Commissions for Palin’s administration, had showed a manuscript of his book to the Attorney General’s office before it was published. When the AG's office indicated that some of the material that he was including would be considered confidential, he took some – but not all – of the material in question out of the manuscript.
Bailey was charged with the $11,900 fine after Andree McLeod, an activist who had been seeking the e-mails Palin sent from her personal e-mail to a state account. McLeod has told the press that every e-mail in Bailey’s book should be released to the public.
McLeod first complained in 2010 and wrote that she and various media outlets had all tried to get access to the e-mails, without success.
“Yet, it seems that a former Palin aide and two others who remain anonymous have free access to Palin's emails ... all because Bailey worked for her in the governor's office,” she wrote in her official complaint.
In the text of Bailey’s settlement with the state of Alaska, he states that some of the e-mails he used in the book were in fact confidential.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
After a disagreement over the renewal of a contract with independent book distributor and publisher Independent Publishers Group, Amazon took the Chicago company's titles out of its Kindle e-book store on Monday.
Five thousand of IPG’s books were taken out of the book giant’s Kindle e-book store. Paper versions of IPG’s books are still available on Amazon’s website.
“They decided they didn't like the terms we offered,” Suchomel said of the contract dispute between IPG and Amazon. “And we said, 'We're not going to change,' and they removed [the e-books].”
He said he didn’t feel he could further discuss the disagreement between the two companies.
“Amazon has issues with us talking too much,” Suchomel said.
IPG is the second-biggest distributor of books published independently in the country. Mark Suchomel, president of IPG, told the Chicago Tribune that e-book sales on Amazon only accounted for about 5 percent of the company’s earnings, so there isn’t any possibility that the removal of their e-books will cause them to go out of business.
“If they want to buy our books, they can buy them,” Suchamel said of Amazon. “We are happy to deal with them.”
Amazon didn't return calls for comment, said the Tribune.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
What is a traditional paper-and-ink book fan going to do in the age of Kindles, Nooks, and iPads? The percentage of readers who have made the switch to e-readers is growing quickly: Over the winter holidays, the number of adults in the United States who own e-book readers nearly doubled from 10 to 19 percent, according to a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
But readers who prefer a turn of the page to a swipe of a finger should not despair yet. Instead, they should make the acquaintance of Samuel B. Ellenport, who not only loves paper-and-ink books, but also earns a living making them – the old-fashioned way.
Ellenport is the president of Harcourt Bindery, a hand bindery business in Charlestown, Mass., that is the largest for-profit hand-bookbindery in the United States
and the last one in the country to operate on the 19th-century production model. Books produced here have landed in the halls of Ivy League universities and major museums. A custom case was once made here at Harcourt to hold the sleeping cap of Charles Dickens and Ronald and Nancy Reagan commissioned work from this bindery when they were in the Oval Office.
The operation runs much as it would have at the height of manual bookbinding in the US, when each person in the shop was highly skilled in one area of the process.
“The beauty of it is that the sum is bigger than all the parts, because you have expertise in different areas,” said Ellenport in an interview at the bindery. “The downside is, whether you get bored or not.”
Bookbinding is a repetitive process. While we tend to glamorize the trade as it becomes rarer, Ellenport says it has never been a romantic practice.
“It’s like going into a bakery where the wedding cake looks so pretty, and it smells so good, but the baker’s been up since 4 am making rolls.”
Ellenport himself has been in the book binding trade for nearly 40 years. A former history professor who taught at Brown University, Ellenport found a job at Harcourt in the early 1970s when academia was rife with young professors and teaching jobs were scarce. At the bindery, he bridged the gap between a mostly blue-collar workforce and an elite clientele.
He became the office frontman and bought the business when the previous owner, who had been there since 1918, offered to sell.
“I spoke the right language. I had a tweedy jacket. I loved old books. It was a very comfortable move,” Ellenport said.
Step inside the bindery and you’ll immediately see a workshop from another era. Two cast-iron arming presses tower over the hall. There are shelves full of decorative paper, some dating back to the 1880s. Huge rolls of leather, mostly goat and calf skin imported from North Africa and tanned in England, fill another bookshelf.
At Harcourt, the day begins at 8 am. Every employee is assigned to a specific task. Some sew the book’s spine and add end papers, others round the spine, cut the leather, and bond the leather cover to the book.
Each task is exacting and requires the use of tools mostly confined to antique stores. The finished product is a sight to behold: more satisfying than a Kindle to many, and the reason Harcourt still has a loyal customer base.
The client base has changed from universities and museums, which used to order the bulk of the work, to book dealers, private collectors, and New York publishing houses who want to give their bestselling authors leather-bound copies of their work.
Despite its success, Harcourt is fighting an uphill battle. Ellenport was the last independent owner. He sold to Acme Bookbinding Company, a larger industrial binding company, at the height of the housing bubble in 2007 when developers bought the property where Harcourt was located near Boston Harbor.
Ellenport remains on as the head of the Harcourt Bindery division and operates as he did when the company was independently owned. He says he doesn’t know what will happen to the bindery after he’s gone. He travels around the country more often these days, giving talks and writing.
But he’s not afraid of the future. On the contrary, he demonstrates a keen perception, probably natural to the trained historian, of the past and the present. He identifies the present era as the second great information revolution. The first, he says, was caused by Gutenberg’s press in the 1400s.
“This shift is going to represent not only an enormous change in technology, but also how we think about information,” he said. “I’m not against it. In the long run, the information and the technology are neutral. It’s really what people do with it.”
Chelsea Sheasley is a Monitor contributor.
"A House of Stone," a memoir by Anthony Shadid, a New York Times reporter who recently died in Syria of what seemed to be an asthma attack, will be released on Feb. 28 rather than on the book’s original March 27 release date.
Shadid had previously written other books, including “Legacy of the Prophet,” which was released in 2002, and “Night Draws Near,” which came out in 2005. The reporter had won two Pulitzer Prizes for his work with the Washington Post.
Shadid’s memoir follows his quest to renovate a house originally built by his great-grandfather in Lebanon.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Weeks before the first “Hunger Games” movie hits theaters, fans will be able to get an up-close-and-personal look at the film’s stars.
"The Hunger Games" is the first movie adaption of Suzanne Collins's futuristic literary trilogy which tells the story of a young teen who must fight for her life in the post-apocalyptic land where North America once existed. “Games” actors Jennifer Lawrence, who plays heroine Katniss Everdeen; Josh Hutcherson, who plays loyal competitor Peeta; and Liam Hemsworth, who plays Katniss’ hunting partner Gale; and the movie’s director Gary Ross, as well as others, will be touring the country appearing at various malls the week of March 3. The first stop will be in Los Angeles on March 3, then the quartet will be coming to malls in Phoenix, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, and Minneapolis.
According to the press release, attendees will be able to enter giveaways to win "Hunger Games" items, and the actors and Ross will participate in question-and-answer sessions.
Other actors who will appear at some of the mall stops include Amandla Stenberg, who plays young competitor Rue; Isabelle Fuhrman, who portrays vicious Games player Clove; and Leven Rambin, who plays beautiful Games competitor Glimmer.
Information has not been released as to whether fans must buy tickets or if the events will be first-come, first-serve.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.