America's favorite babysitters will come to iPads and Kindles everywhere starting next month when the first 20 books in Ann M. Martin's children's series "The Baby-sitter's Club" are released in e-book format.
The series follows a group of mainly female middle school students who create a babysitting club in which parents can call and get whichever club member is available for the time they need versus having to call eight different babysitters separately. The books start out with four girls belonging to the club, and membership fluctuates during the series as members move away or quit, with several new students joining over the course of the series.
The e-books will be released on Dec. 1 and have the original covers from the series' first publication in the 1980s. Until the end of December, the series' publisher, Scholastic, will add new material on the books' Facebook fan page, including videos, photos and trivia as well as a new app through Facebook which will let "Baby-sitters" fans get a sneak peek at the e-books and take quizzes, among other activities.
The first book in Martin's series, "Kristy's Great Idea," appeared in 1986 and new titles appeared regularly until the 131st book, "The Fire at Mary-Anne's House," was published in 1999. The last book in the series, "The Summer Before," came out in 2010 and served as a prequel to the first book. The books were briefly out of print during the beginning of 2010 but were re-released before the publication of "The Summer Before" in May of that year.
While the series itself ran for 132 books, supplemental novels, including slightly longer "Super Special" books, were published, and two spin-off series titled "Baby-sitters Little Sister," about main character Kristy's younger sister Karen, and one about character Dawn when she moved to California titled "California Diaries," were published. "Little Sister" also got its own spin-off series, titled "The Kids in Ms. Coleman's Class," which followed Karen's friends.
The original books were adapted into a TV series for the Disney Channel that ran for one season in 1990, and the series was adapted into a 1995 movie of the same name with different actors, including Schuyler Fisk, Rachael Leigh Cook and Ellen Burstyn.
Martin told Entertainment Weekly that the series' enduring appeal lies in its storylines.
"The books tackle real life themes and issues that still resonate today — friendships, family, and seeking independence," she said.
Writer Louise Erdrich, author of "The Round House," and "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" author Katherine Boo captured the big prizes at the National Book Awards this year, with Erdrich taking home the prize for fiction and Boo capturing the nonfiction award.
Erdrich's novel tells the story of a boy of Ojibwe descent who struggles to come to terms with the rape of his mother on a reservation in North Dakota. "You've heard of paint by number?," wrote Monitor fiction critic Yvonne Zipp, commenting on the novel's powerful language. "Erdrich paints word by word." (Check out the entire Monitor review here.) During her acceptance speech, Erdrich, who is also of part Ojibwe descent, spoke briefly in the Ojibwe language during her acceptance speech before using English to dedicate her fiction prize to "the grace and endurance of native people."
"This is a book about a huge case of injustice ongoing on reservations," Erdrich said, according to the New York Times. "Thank you for giving it a wider audience."
The author also thanked her daughters.
Boo's book focuses on Annawadi, a slum in India located near the airport in Mumbai, and its residents, and was Boo's debut work. Monitor reviewer Terry Hong called the book "an unforgettable true story, meticulously researched with unblinking honesty." (Check out the entire Monitor review here.)
"I find myself like Mitt Romney the other night, without a speech," the author quipped, according to the New York Daily News. "If this prize means anything, it is that small stories in so-called hidden places matter because they implicate and complicate what we consider to be the larger story, which is the story of people who do have political and economic powers."
Author William Alexander took the young people's literature award for his novel "Goblin Secrets," which follows a young boy who searches for his actor brother in a country where choosing that profession is illegal.
In his speech, Alexander referred to his book's themes of it being forbidden to pretend to be someone you're not.
"The way things are, are not the only possible way they can be,” Alexander said, according to the New York Times. “Stories are the first way we figured that out."
Writer David Ferry took home the poetry prize for his collection "Bewilderment." Ferry told the audience that the only way he had been able to capture the award was because he was older than his competitors.
"My only hope was a preposterous pre-posthumous award," he said, according to the New York Times.
Winners for each prize receive a small statue and $10,000 each.
Other nominees for the fiction prize included Dave Eggers' "A Hologram for the King," "The Yellow Birds" by Kevin Powers, "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" by Ben Fountain, and "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz.
The awards ceremony for the National Book Awards, which was held for the sixty-third year, was held at Cipriani in New York. Planning beforehand was complicated by Hurricane Sandy and the damage the storm inflicted on the area, including water damage which occurred in the National Book Award offices.
Internet 1, English language 0.
If you, like us, spend more time with your nose in a book than in tech circles, here’s a primer: GIF, which is actually an acronym that stands for “graphic interchange format,” is a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, jerky, looping animations. The word, traditionally used as a noun, is a longstanding part of Internet meme culture and has been in use for 25 years. But, Oxford American Dictionary claims, this is the first year it “broke free of the bounds of being a mere noun, transcending into the territory of verbs, where GIF has come to mean ‘to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event),’” according to The Week.
“The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier,” Katherine Martin, Head of the US Dictionaries Program at Oxford University Press USA, said in a press release marking the announcement.
“GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”
Oxford included a list of “Highlights of the year in GIFing,” including its contributions to the viral ubiquity of Gangnam Style, the pop-hit Korean music video; as a tool in covering Olympic events; and its use in live-GIFing the presidential debates.
Amazingly, GIF beat out other contenders such as Eurogeddon, the potential financial collapse of the European Union countries that have adopted the euro; nomophobia, anxiety caused by being without one’s mobile phone (from no + mo(bile) + phobia); super PAC, a type of independent political action committee which may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, and individuals; superstorm, an unusually large and destructive storm, as in “superstorm Sandy”; and YOLO, an acronym for "you only live once," typically used as a rationale for impulsive behavior.
GIF joins other recent popular tech-oriented words like ‘podcast,’ ‘tweet,’ ‘blog,’ and ‘google.’
As odd as we find this year’s selection, we can’t argue that it – and its fellow contenders – provides a fascinating window into the zeitgeist of 2012.
And now, back to our favorite lexicographer, Samuel Johnson.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
During the event, volunteers give out certain titles to friends, family, and people they meet on the street when they stand on street corners. The event was founded by UNESCO and started in the UK and Ireland in 2011, coming to America and Germany for the first time in 2012. World Book Night is celebrated on April 23 because the date is also William Shakespeare's birthday. In the four countries combined, more than 2.5 million books were given out by 80,000 volunteers last year. The honorary chairpersons for this year's event are "State of Wonder" author Ann Patchett and writer James Patterson, whose children's book "Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life" will be one of the titles to be distributed.
"What better way to spread a love for reading than to inspire passionate readers to go out into their communities and share copies of their favorite books with those who don’t regularly read?" the organization's website reads. "Giving is an incredibly powerful part of our culture – and culture, art, and a writers’ talent are all themselves ‘gifts’."
The titles that will be given out by volunteers are selected by a panel of librarians and those in the book business, and those who distributed books in the last celebration can suggest books to be considered. This year, novels that will be distributed include "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisnero, "The Language of Flowers" by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and "My Antonia" by Willa Cather, among other titles. Nonfiction picks include "Bossypants" by Tina Fey and "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis. Cisnero's book and the novel "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho will also be available in Spanish.
"We received a few strange stares, a couple of 'no thank you's, but generally our audience was accepting of Strange Ladies Bearing Free Books," 2012 giver and Scholastic employee Shanella Ramiall wrote on the Scholastic website. "We were asked for more information by several people and I got the opportunity to explain in detail what World Book Night is and why we were giving the books away. Overall it was an amazing experience, even for this bookish introvert."
Books given out as part of the celebration have sometimes experience sales bumps after the give-away, with titles such as "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" by John Le Carré seeing sales triple after being distributed during the 2010 World Book Night.
Last year, it was noted that, in a book industry that's frosty towards its competitor Amazon, the book giant is one of the few booksellers that wasn't asked to sponsor the event, despite the participation of companies like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. For the record, Amazon is missing from the 2013 World Book Night website's list of sponsors, though Barnes & Noble is again included.
Say it ain’t so!
The 78-year-old novelist announced his retirement quietly, in an interview with a French magazine that does not appear to have been reported in the US.
“To tell you the truth, I’m done,” Roth told Les Inrocks last month. “’Nemesis’ will be my last book.”
(The actual interview was published in French and quoted Roth’s words as “Pour tout vous avouer, j’en ai fini. Némésis sera mon dernier livre.”)
A seminal American novelist whose novels explored Jewish-American life, Roth produced a number of exemplary works of twentieth-century American fiction, including “Goodbye, Columbus,” “Portnoy’s Complaint,” the collection “Zuckerman Bound,” and “The Human Stain.”
Roth told interviewer Nelly Kaprielian that at age 74, he realized he didn’t have much time left and began revisiting his favorite literature. He re-read his favorite novelists like Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Conrad, and Hemingway. Then he revisited his own books in reverse chronological order before writing his final work, “Nemesis,” in 2010.
“I wanted to see if I had wasted my time writing,” he said. “And I thought it was rather successful. At the end of his life, the boxer Joe Louis said, ‘I did the best I could with what I had.’ This is exactly what I would say of my work: I did the best I could with what I had.
“And after that, I decided that I was done with fiction. I do not want to read, to write more,” he said. “I have dedicated my life to the novel: I studied, I taught, I wrote and I read. With the exclusion of almost everything else. Enough is enough! I no longer feel this fanaticism to write that I have experienced in my life.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
The French tax authority made the request in September. Their claim on the taxes is based on Amazon's practice of channeling all their sales in Europe through Luxembourg, which taxes companies’ profits at only 11 percent, – less than what the company would pay in other countries. The French tax claim is for 2006 to 2010 only, and the amount includes additional charges accrued through penalties as well as interest.
Andrew Cecil, the director of public policy for Amazon in Brussels, said he could not tell the PAC the Amazon sales numbers in the UK, but Reuters said that Google’s reports state the company’s UK sales account for between $5.3 and $7.2 billion, 11 to 15 percent of the company's overall sales for 2011. All sales made through amazon.co.uk, as well as every other country in Europe, are seen as sales made by its Luxembourg business, which has a staff of 500. The Amazon UK company that employs 15,000 people technically operates as a "service provider" to the Luxembourg business, according to the BBC, and takes care of deliveries and other services.
Cecil said he was unable to answer questions about topics including the company's sales in each individual European country and would have to give the information to the committee at a later time.
Cecil said Amazon is fighting the request for back taxes made by the French tax authority.
Hodge told the BBC she thinks consumers should boycott Amazon and the other companies questioned during the hearings, Starbucks and Google.
"One of our concerns is that the ability of global companies to choose where to they put their costs and their profits gives them an unfair tax advantage that damages UK-based businesses," she said.
Fielding, who is behind the two previous books, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” said that the novel will be set in current London. While a third film is being planned, the two plots will not be related (the third movie is said to follow Bridget becoming pregnant), and the book will have Bridget’s tweets in place of the usual entries in her diary.
“[It’s] an entirely new scenario for Bridget,” Fielding said during an appearance on the TV show “Women’s Hour”. “If people laugh as much reading it as I am while writing it, then we’ll all be very happy… It’s more like ‘number of Twitter followers: 0. Still no followers. Still no followers’… She is still on the diet… She's trying a bit harder, and is a bit more successful, but she's never really going to change.”
The new book is due next fall and will be released through the publisher Jonathan Cape.
“Great comic writers are as rare as hen’s teeth,” Jonathan Cape publisher Dan Franklin told the Telegraph. “Helen is one of a very select band who have created a character, Bridget, of whom the very thought makes you smile. Like millions of others, I can’t wait to see what’s happened to her.”
It’s another installment of Sherlock Holmes: Amazon Edition. In the latest mystery to stir suspicion in the book world, Amazon’s buy button disappeared on its US website for several hours Thursday night.
The buy button disappearance affected the Kindle e-book versions of a range of titles, perhaps all, by the big six publishers. No other publishers were affected by the mysterious disappearance. The buy buttons returned within a few hours.
“The Kindle Store is experiencing a technical issue,” Amazon said in a statement described as “laconic” by bookseller newsletter Shelf Awareness. “We’re working to correct it.”
Herein lies the mystery. Was it indeed a “technical” issue, as Amazon described it? Or, as many in the publishing industry believe, was it a deliberate action designed to threaten major publishers?
It turns out this isn’t the first time Amazon has experienced this particular technical issue. The most famous incident occurred in early 2010 when Amazon removed buy buttons for all Macmillan titles to protest the publisher’s adoption of the agency model for e-books which allowed Macmillan, rather than Amazon, to set e-book prices. During that particularly nasty books war, Amazon halted the sale of Macmillan titles on its Kindle store before ultimately backing down.
“I think everyone thought they were witnessing a knife fight,” Sloan Harris, codirector of the literary department at International Creative Management, told The New York Times. “And it looks like we’ve gone to the nukes.”
This time around things haven’t quite escalated to that level. Thursday night’s technical issue comes on the heels of a Justice Department settlement over e-book pricing in which three of the five publishers accused of conspiring to fix e-book prices agreed to pay consumers to settle the DOJ suit. The settlement was seen as a victory for Amazon, which was a target of the alleged price fixing scheme.
Perhaps more tellingly, the disappearance of the buy button also coincided with the announced merger of Random House and Penguin Group. That move would create the world’s largest publisher and provide a more united front against the growing power of retailers like Amazon.
The merger, wrote the Wall Street Journal, “will create a publishing giant that will have more heft at a time when the book business is being rocked by the rise of online retailers and e-books.”
In other words, Amazon isn’t happy about this merger. So was the buy button disappearance a warning to publishers linked to these recent developments in the industry or was it a bona fide technical issue?
We’ll probably never know, but you can bet industry observers have their hunches.
President Barack Obama wasn’t the only person who won Tuesday night.
New York Times political statistician and FiveThirtyEight blogger Nate Silver celebrated his own victory: successfully predicting essentially all 50 states correctly, then seeing sales of his recent book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – but Some Don’t,” soar 850 percent on Amazon.
After climbing to No. 15 on Wednesday on Amazon.com, “The Signal and the Noise” rocketed to No. 2 after Silver correctly predicted the election results. The 544-page book published in September is second only to Jeff Kinney’s popular children’s book “The Third Wheel (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Seven).”
The victory is all the more significant considering Silver’s growing chorus of skeptics. Pundits like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and the New York Times David Brooks were critical of Silver’s reliance on poll data, writes Politico. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein described Silver’s methodology as “little more than a sophisticated form of poll aggregation.”
There were a lot of eyeballs watching Silver ahead of and into election night. In the days and hours prior to the election, roughly one in five NYT.com visitors visited Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog, which analyzes polling data to predict how many electoral votes each candidate will win. (The blog is named after the 538 total electoral votes.)
The result? Silver correctly predicted every state. (Though Florida votes are still being counted, Silver predicted the state would be very close, with a slight edge to Obama.)
Those interested in his electoral prediction would do well to check out “The Signal and the Noise,” in which Silver explains the art of prediction and outlines the methodology behind his system for determining everything from how well a major league baseball player will perform to who will win the presidency. (We listed Silver’s book as one of the “11 best books of September, according to Amazon.")
Being the mastermind statistician-soothsayer that he is, you’d think Nate Silver saw this coming.
Of course he did.
“I’m sure that I have a lot riding on the outcome,” Silver told Politico last month. “I’m also sure I’ll get too much credit if the prediction is right and too much blame if it is wrong.”
For now, Nate Silver and his “Signal and the Noise” gets our vote.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
My spell-checker doesn't like losers.
It recognizes presidential last names, even Fillmore, Van Buren, and Coolidge. But it's dumbfounded by McCain and McGovern, let alone Willkie, Frémont, and Breckinridge.
Such is the fate of most of the major candidates who make it onto presidential ballots, but no further. Some are forever forgotten (Thomas Pinckney, anyone?). But others manage to make a mark despite coming up short.
Where will Mitt Romney fit in? For perspective, I contacted author Scott Farris, a leading specialist in presidential also-rans who wrote 2011's "Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation."
Farris has some experience with the phenomenon of non-winning: he's run campaigns, been a political columnist, and even ran for Congress in Wyoming in 1998. (He lost.)
From his home in Portland, Ore., Farris considered Romney's options, pondered the fates of the second-placers, and looked back at a sore loser or two.
Q: What's next for Romney?
A: He's made it clear – or at least his wife has – that this is his last campaign. That eliminates the option of the loser making one more run at the presidency, which doesn't happen as often as it used to.
I look at him and think about Bob Dole in 1996. The day after the election, he held a press conference and said that, for the first time in 50 years, "I don't know what I'm going to do today."
That's a bit where Mitt Romney is.
Dole wrote a couple of books, he did some advertising – some of it notorious, like for Viagra and a controversial spot for Pepsi. He made a lot of speeches and ended up reconnecting with George McGovern to work to combat world hunger.
They ended up saving hundreds of thousands of children. It's been a very admirable career.
My guess is that Romney will do a hodgepodge of things. Could he be one of his church's leaders and continue to try to gain acceptance of the Mormon faith? He also obviously has a big family and will spend a lot of time with them.
I'm sure it will take some time for him to find himself.
Q: Who are some losers who set a high standards?
A: For the first 150 years of the US, it was OK to be a loser, you weren't stigmatized. Henry Clay lost but remained very influential. And William Jennings Bryan was an extremely influential man for a quarter century.
There are so many ways to serve.
John Kerry and John McCain went back to the Senate. Michael Dukakis completed his term as governor of Massachusetts and decided to become a college professor. Some of his students still talk about what a terrific teacher he is.
Q: Who should not be emulated?
A: Horace Greeley, who ran against President Grant, died within a month of the election, which he lost badly. He'd just lost his wife, and when he went back home, he realized he'd lost his beloved newspaper, too.
He had the most tragic life of a losing candidate.
Q: Who did the most to help his rival after the campaign?
A: Stephen Douglas worked very hard to work with Abraham Lincoln and convince the South to not secede.
The assumption is that Lincoln is a secular saint, and Douglas, his rival, must have been representing the dark side. There's no doubt he was a racist and on the wrong side of slavery.
But when the chips were down, he made a heroic effort. When he realized that he had no chance to be elected president, he devoted all his energies to trying to preserve the union and he spoke highly of Abraham Lincoln.
FDR asked for his help to sell "lend-lease" to the American public, to lend weapons, ships, and tanks to the British before the US got into World War II.
There was a huge sentiment to not enter the war, but it passed with a narrow margin. An alliance between the two also helped get Congress to extend the draft six months before Pearl Harbor.
Q: What about bad behavior? Were any also-rans less than gracious?
A: The two most ungracious of modern times were Barry Goldwater and McGovern. They really disliked the men they lost to.
Goldwater was appalled by some of Lyndon Johnson's tactics. Even though it was clear he was losing on Election Night, he didn't concede until the next morning and gave a fairly defiant speech.
When McGovern conceded, he said there was no way we're going to rally behind policies we abhor. When Inauguration Day came, he refused to show up and went abroad to criticize Nixon's behavior on foreign soil that day.
That would generally be considered bad form.
Q: Who's the most obscure also-ran of all?
A: That's probably Alton Parker, who ran against Teddy Roosevelt.
He was of the old "front porch campaign" school, while Roosevelt was very energetic and toured the country.
Parker is the only losing candidate who's never had a biography published. That's pretty obscure when you're up against candidates like Lewis Cass and Winfield Scott Hancock.
A: I'm afraid he's not driving me to write one. I've got a few book in mind, but he's not in the hopper. Maybe someday!
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.