“We’re absolutely delighted to have reached this agreement with Pottermore. This is the kind of significant investment in the Kindle ecosystem that we’ll continue to make on behalf of Kindle owners,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement.
There are restrictions. Pottermore remains the only place to purchase Harry Potter e-books. The Potter books can only be borrowed through the Kindle lending library, and only by Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle. Amazon announced that the deal was made through an “exclusive license” with Pottermore that allows Prime members to borrow one e-book free each month.
“Over a year, borrowing the Harry Potter books, plus a handful of additional titles, can alone be worth more than the $79 cost of Prime or a Kindle,” Bezos said in a statement. “The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library also has an innovative feature that’s of great benefit for popular titles like ‘Harry Potter’ – unlimited supply of each title – you never get put on a waiting list.”
The e-books will be available in many different languages, including English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish.
One more big reveal: Pottermore CEO Charlie Redmayne told the Guardian that he would be announcing new partners and new platforms for the Pottermore site “in the next few weeks.” We don’t yet know who those partners will be, but Apple won’t be among them.
“We’re not live with Apple,” Redmayne told the Guardian. “We’re having conversations with Apple, but there is no date, no agreement.”
In the Harry Potter Quidditch race that’s Amazon 1, Apple 0.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
In “Jack the Ripper: The Hand of a Woman,” Morris posits that the famous serial killer was in fact a woman named Lizzie Williams, the wife of a doctor named Sir John Williams, who himself is often pointed to as a suspect in the case.
“The case for a woman murderer is overwhelming,” Morris told the Birmingham Mail. “There’s absolutely no doubt that the Ripper was a woman. But because everyone believes that the murderer was a man, all the evidence that points to a woman has always been ignored.”
In his book, Morris cites the fact that three of the victims were missing their wombs as a clue pointing to Williams, who was said to be infertile. Morris also claims that one of the victims, Mary Jane Kelly, was having an affair with Sir John Williams, whom Morris says was in charge of abortion clinics in the Whitechapel area where the murders took place. Items of women’s clothing that were discovered in the fireplace of Kelly later, but did not belong to Kelly, also point to a female murderer, says Morris.
Morris also mentions three buttons of the kind that would be on a woman’s boot that were found near Catherine Eddowes, a victim, as evidence.
The murders of five women in 1888 in Whitechapel are commonly ascribed to Jack the Ripper, though many claim that other murdered women were victims of his (or hers) as well.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
The erotic novels by E L James, a trilogy collectively titled “Fifty Shades of Grey,” may be topping bestseller lists, but you won't necessarily be able to find them at your local library.
Libraries in a few states in the US are choosing not to stock the books or pulling them from shelves, with many citing what they say is inappropriate content.
“We do not collect erotica at Gwinnett County Public Library,” the library director of materials management Deborah George told the Associated Press of the policy at the Gwinnett, Ga. library. “That’s part of our materials management collection policy.”
“We believe the Brevard County Public Library System is indulging in an act of censorship, and essentially is saying to library patrons: ‘We will judge what you can read,’” Bogaards said in an e-mail.
Some libraries that are not stocking the book cite financial reasons or bad reviews for the trilogy.
“It has not received what we would consider good reviews,” Cay Hohmeister, the director of libraries in Florida’s Leon County, said in an interview with the AP. “It doesn’t meet our selection criteria.”
In other areas, the demand for the trilogy has only increased. In Florida’s Pinellas County library system, there are 30 copies available but more than 650 people on the waiting list for them.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Bob Woodward and his “All the President’s Men,” which outlined the revelation of the Watergate scandal, had its share of critics, many of whom doubted the existence of Woodward’s secret source “Deep Throat.”
According to a new book, they weren’t alone: even Ben Bradlee, legendary Washington Post executive editor, questioned whether Bob Woodward was completely “straight” in recounting elements of the landmark scandal in his best-selling book “All the President’s Men."
For “Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee,” Jeff Himmelman (an associate of both Bradlee and Woodward) was given full access to Bradlee’s files and embarked on a fruitful exploration of the legendary editor’s misgivings.
Himmelman’s account does not call into question the veracity of Woodward’s reporting, but it does suggest “that even a relationship as close as that of Woodward and Bradlee was not immune to moments of doubt,” writes the Washington Post.
“You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat,” Bradlee told journalist Barbara Feinman in an unpublished 1990 interview, according to Himmelman’s account. “Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen?.... And meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage.... There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”
(In “All the President’s Men” Woodward and co-author Carl Bernstein wrote they would move a potted plant marked by a flag to the rear of Woodward’s balcony to signal to his source, “Deep Throat,” that he needed to meet immediately. He and “Deep Throat” met in a garage, later revealed to be located in Northern Virginia.)
Woodward said of the excerpt, “It is a total dishonest distortion of our discussions, Jeff’s and mine.”
After reading the excerpt, Woodward went further, providing The Post with a transcript of a 2010 interview of Bradlee by Himmelman. In the interview Himmelman asked Bradlee whether he doubted any parts of Woodward’s reporting.
“Well, I mean, if you would ask me, do I think that he embellished, I would say no,” Bradlee replied, according to the transcript. (Himmelman told the Post this exchange is also included in his book.)
And although critics have questioned Woodward’s reporting and the very existence of Deep Throat, decades of investigation after the scandal and its coverage have confirmed Woodward’s reporting, notes the Post, most notably with the 2005 disclosure that “Deep Throat” was W. Mark Felt, the No. 2 official at the FBI at the time.
Bradlee’s take on the book centering on his own doubts about his star reporter?
“I love Bob, and I love Jeff, and I trust them both, and let’s move on,” he said Sunday night in a comment relayed through his wife journalist Sally Quinn.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis could hardly be more different. Yet, as young women, each of these 20th-century icons spent a seminal year in Paris. In Dreaming in French, Yale University French professor and National Book Award finalist Alice Kaplan follows the three through their days in the French capital and considers the ways in which Paris left its mark on the rest of their lives. I recently had a chance to talk with Kaplan about the relationship of these three women to Paris, the magic of the city itself, and the ongoing importance of the "junior year abroad" experience. Here are excerpts from our conversation:
Q: You follow Jackie Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis through the year each spent in France. Which young woman was most profoundly impacted by her Parisian sojourn?
They were impacted in so many different ways that it’s hard for me to choose. [But] Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy got the intellectual sense of self that she would call on more in her life.
Susan Sontag got freedom. She got freedom from a marriage she never should have made. Paris was a place that gave her permission to live out her sexuality. She got a model of how to be an intellectual without being in a university. That was really key for her. What she had was like a model of a way of life.
Then Angela Davis, her case is very different than the other two. I would say that France had a profound impact on her in that she learned in France that racism is not confined to Birmingham, Ala. That it was an international phenomenon, that the French were extremely racist toward the Algerians. That opened her up to all sorts of analysis. She’s been very important in the American scene for having really had a very broad and nonparochial perspective on issues of race. That was important to her. But I would say that in general she was more important to France than France was to her.
Paris was then and remains the world capital of literature. Each of these women had dreams about Paris before they went there. Their families had dreams about Paris. Jacqueline Bouvier’s grandfather gave [his family] all a genealogy showing that they were descended from [French] royalty. Susan Sontag imagined herself as a European when she was a child at North Hollywood High. Her imagination wasn’t any European. I do believe she imagined herself a French European. She was reading about Marie Curie at school. She was reading André Gide at school.
There were so many layers for Americans of French mythology. You see it in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.” You see how deep that romantic love affair is with French culture. Of course Angela Davis was reading Camus before she went to France. She was an existentialist on the Brandeis campus.
Q: Study abroad is more and more a part of the US college experience today. How different is it from what the young women in your book experienced?
It is very different today. There have been so many debates about various [American] schools exporting themselves to other places – to Dubai, to Singapore, exporting brand as it were. The theory behind these new exported American schools is that we have something wonderful to offer to the rest of the world. The American university system is really one of the things the United States does best.
The other thing I’d say is that most people agree that there’s less difference now between Europe and the US. France has been Americanized in many ways. Not in all ways. The other thing that’s happened is a remarkable form of connection among countries because of the Internet and various technologies. And I wouldn’t completely bash those new technologies. I’ve had students who’ve entered into relationships, very interesting correspondences in French with students, you know, having fun on Facebook in French. It’s really nice to be able to stay in touch that way with friends in a different language.
On the other hand, when you look back at the 1949-1950 group [of Smith College students who studied in Paris with Jacqueline Bouvier, some of whom Kaplan interviewed for her book], for example, they would go for months without talking to their parents. And this is almost inconceivable to us. They would go for months and as for being out of touch, there’s something good about it. Going to a new country, just being away, not being in the expectations of the American social life or whatever their parents may have expected, they could try out new ways of being and that was very freeing for them.
Q. Another difference is that not all of today’s students strive for total foreign language mastery the way these students did. Does that make a difference?
You’re asking the wrong person. You are so totally asking the wrong person! My life’s work has been to insist that language is key and to value France because it is the place that takes language seriously as the essence of the human experience and so what I want to do most in my work is to help escort young people into another language, into the French language particularly. So I do think it’s key.
One of the reasons I wanted to write my book was to remind people that there was a time when Americans were so eager to learn something from the rest of the world. And learning another language is part of that. It’s giving yourself up to another system of thought and another way of doing things. And that is what I would call an endangered experience. And I wanted to remind people how valuable that could be, even if the experience is tough or horrible.
Q: Two of these women (Jackie Kennedy and Angela Davis) were in Paris on academic programs. Susan Sontag was not. Did it matter?
People go to Paris for all different reasons but I would say that the story of Susan Sontag is very poignant because she didn’t have enough money to go on a study-abroad program. The huge advantages Jacqueline Bouvier and Angela Davis had in the abroad programs was having directors that organized activities and put them in touch with all sorts of people living and working in France who arranged for them to take courses. Susan Sontag would sit in cafes, she was surrounded by other Americans. She didn’t have French friends. She would sit in cafes and open her notebooks and listen and make list after list of French words. And that’s really beautiful but it’s just much harder for her. That’s the beauty of these study abroad programs. They give students such opportunities.
Q: Did you have a junior year abroad experience of your own?
I went to the University of Bordeaux in the 1973-74 school year. The book is dedicated to my group of women friends from that year. We call one another l’équipe. It’s also dedicated to [my French host family]. I’m still in touch with all of them. There are things that happen to students on their junior year abroad that might not seem important at the time, but they grow through memory and take on new meaning through subsequent study and living.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's books editor.
Perhaps that’s because in “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy is Wrong,” former Bain Capital managing director (and former colleague of and major donor to presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign) Edward Conard argues that economic inequality isn’t a problem – and in fact, the US could use more of it to spur risk-taking, innovation, and growth.
“Unintended Consequences” “aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged,” writes Adam Davidson, founder of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, in a New York Times Magazine column that’s been raising a firestorm. “On the contrary, Conard writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.”
“This,” writes Davidson, “could be the most hated book of the year.”
(In a blog posted Wednesday after the NYT piece was published, Conard said he felt misrepresented by the Times story, but acknowledged it was the price one pays to land the cover of the NYT Magazine.)
Crucial to Conard’s argument is the proposition that we, the 99 percent, benefit proportionally from the vast wealth of others. “Most citizens are consumers, not investors,” he told the Times. “They don’t recognize the benefits to consumers that come from investment.” In other words, the vast majority of Americans spend their money on survival and entertainment; the superrich spend only a fraction of their money on personal comforts, the rest “is invested in productive businesses that make life better for everyone,” as Davidson writes in the Times.
Case in point: computers. A few innovators and wealthy investors earned billions improving personal computing and giving rise to the IT industry. Their work, in turn, has helped billions work more effectively and efficiently, making life more productive and growing the economy.
More payoff, says Conard, motivates more people to take risks, a handful of which could have huge payoffs for society and the economy.
But Conard doesn’t stop there. He argues investment banks make the economy more efficient, too, and argues in his book that the financial crisis was not due to greedy bankers selling sketchy financial products. (“It was a simple, old-fashioned run on the banks, which, he says, were just doing their job,” Davidson writes in the Times piece.) Collateralized debt obligations, credit-default swaps, mortgage-backed securities, and other dubious financial products (now deemed toxic) were sound tools that served the needs of sophisticated investors, according to Conard.
He goes even further, arguing for more – not less – government support of banks, even advocating the creation of a new government program that guarantees to bail out banks if they face another run.
That’s where economists, who have been growing hoarse in voicing their opposition to “Unintended Consequences,” tend to part ways with Conard.
“Until now, the official line has been that what we need are incentives — that jaawwb creeaytohrs (sic) won’t do their thing unless we dangle the carrot of immense wealth in front of them," writes economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman. “But now we’re supposed to think that it’s not the prospect of future wealth, but wealth in being, that’s what is really so wonderful.”
“Undoubtedly some degree of income inequality is necessary and good to provide appropriate incentives, but at some point – and I believe we’ve hit that point – it harms an economy by robbing the vast middle class of the purchasing power it needs to keep an economy going, and it generates social and political upheaval,” Robert Reich, former labor secretary under President Clinton and currently Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, told MSNBC.
Even less left-leaning, more pro-market economists like Glenn Hubbard -- a respected economist, dean of the Columbia School of Business, and one of Romney’s chief economic advisors -- had qualms about Conard’s as yet unreleased book.
That perhaps, is the point, suggests Conard in the NYT interview.
“People get very angry before they change their mind,” he said. “Economics is counterintuitive. It just is.”
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
And so the battle rages on.
The Authors Guild said in court Thursday that many authors have been negatively impacted by Google’s efforts to scan millions of books, while Google requested the lawsuit be dismissed. The guild doesn't have the right to represent the authors whose books were scanned, argues Google, because it doesn’t have the copyright to the texts that were scanned by Google.
There are currently three lawsuits against Google related to its efforts to scan books for its digital library program. The guild wants its case to be certified as a class action so it can represent all authors whose works have been scanned by Google. Google, which began the scanning process in 2004, has since digitized about 20 million books found in public and university libraries.
Google has said that because only parts of the books’ text are displayed, their scanning and display of these texts is protected under fair use.
“The ultimate question is who owns the rights to display a small excerpt of the work,” Google lawyer Daralyn Durie told the judge in court on Thursday, according to Businessweek. “Many authors contracted that right away to publishers.”
Chin rejected a settlement that was earlier suggested by Google and the Authors Guild. That agreement would have allowed Google – in exchange for $125 million – to obtain rights to display excerpts of in-copyright books without charge and to provide full online access to readers willing to make individual purchases or buy subscriptions. Chin rejected the agreement saying that would have allowed Google access to full text of books without the company having to ask permission of those who held the copyright.
One of the key unresolved issues in the ongoing dispute remains the question of how to deal with "orphan works" – books whose copyright owners can't be located.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.
Still, Peking has plenty of vice, much of it based right next to a diplomatic enclave full of Western-style hotels, saloons, and shops. It's a volatile mix, and in 1937 it becomes a deadly one: a vivacious young British woman is found brutally murdered and mutilated.
In his new book Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China, author Paul French tells the true-life story of a shocking murder that occurred as China itself stood on the edge of catastrophe in the shadow of a looming World War II.
"Midnight in Peking" is true-crime writing at its best, full of vivid characters, an exotic locale, secrets galore, and a truly bewildering mystery.
In an interview, French talks about the fear spawned by the death of a diplomat's daughter, the stray footnote that spawned his book, and the international "driftwood" who called China home during the Great Depression.
Q: What was happening in Peking – now Beijing – in early 1937, when the young woman was so viciously murdered?
A: This was absolutely the last gasp of old China. The Japanese have surrounded Peking, and it's not really a question of if Japan is going to invade China, but when.
Q: What did her murder mean in the larger picture?
A: In January 1937, she became a great symbol for foreigners and citizens alike in Peking about how bad things could get. If this could happen to a foreign privileged girl, what chances would anybody else have?
Later in 1937, the Japanese would invade and occupy Peking, bomb Shanghai, and commit the Rape of Nanking. That would leave the British Empire weak in facing the Japanese, and in a year Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaya would be gone to Japan. And we know what happened then.
Q: How did you come across this story?
A: I learned about it by reading a footnote in a very academic biography of the American journalist Edgar Snow, a Missourian who came out to China during the Depression.
He wrote the famous book "Red Star over China," and said this Mao guy may not be an idiot, and the Communists might be the ones who might take over. He over-glamorized Mao, but he's very well known for the book.
He and his wife lived in a traditional Chinese courtyard with a half-moon entrance gate and buildings on all three sides, on a very traditional street like the little lanes and alleys that made up Peking.
Their next-door neighbors were a British family called the Werners, a father and daughter.
He had been a very well-known diplomat in China and was retired and living as a scholar. His 19-year-old daughter was home for school for the holidays. On Jan. 7, she was murdered, and her body was found near a building called the Fox Tower.
Q: So you discovered the tale of an incredible murder by reading a footnote?
A: Only an academic would write a footnote more interesting than the text. They take fascinating subjects and render them bum-numbingly boring.
Q: What does your book tell us about that time and place?
A: It is a story of a small expatriate foreign community in a faraway place, in a different culture. There is a tendency for what we called white mischief – lots of scandals and lots of people losing their moral compasses.
There was a community, called the Badlands, made up of European and American lowlifes who went to China to become lost in a community that wasn't very policed.
Many were White Russians, those hundreds of thousands of Russians who left to escape the Russian revolution. Many ended up homeless and often penniless because they didn't have any skills. A lot went to China, where they tended to fall into the business of pimping, prostitution, and drug dealing.
Q: Peking had quite an underground world of crime and vice, didn't it?
A: Another place I write about quite a lot is Shanghai. When you mention Shanghai in the 1930s, a lot of light bulbs go off. Shanghai was jazz, gangs, and parties. It was like Chicago gone to the East.
People know about that one, Peking hasn't been written about as much.
Q: When it comes to vice and high-living, was Peking like Shanghai lite?
When you’re in Shanghai, you’re in a treaty port, a kind of hybrid. By contrast, Peking is an ancient city and the former imperial city, and at this time it was a little bit of a lost backwater and wasn’t the capital of China.
It was a city of 3 million people with about 3,000 foreigners that had been the capital and center of China.
The foreign embassies had secured a square mile in the center of Peking. The buildings are still there: in this very Chinese city is a square mile of buildings that look like Bloomsbury of London.
This was where respectable foreign Peking lived, with department stores and bakeries and respectable Western apartments. Just next door was this area of sin and vice run by the White Russians and various driftwood from Europe and America.
They called them "the driftwood," which I thought was very good.
What Pamela's murder showed was the overlap between the responsible people and the Badlands.
Q: Is there any hero in this story?
A: The hero is the father [who was a major suspect]. I think that he solved the crime.
In the book, he comes across to Americans as a cold, unemotional father. He's so unemotional that people say he’s almost autistic.
He’s not autistic, he's English.
To me he was just an English father. That’s what our dads are like: We're sent away to school at a young age. I shake hands when I see my father, I don’t hug him or anything like that.
Q: What are you working on next?
A: I live in Shanghai, and I want to do the great book about the gangs and the girls, the jazz and the dope, and the guns.
It was the Wild East, Chicago writ large: Big Trouble in Big China.
Shanghai was crazy in those days, and the place to be in for a good portion of the world's completely bad folks. It was wild.
Randy Dotinga is a Monitor contributor.
Yet again, Amazon has found itself at the center of a retailing dispute.
Target Corporation announced Wednesday it will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices, the latest in a series of brawls between the two companies.
Target will cease sales of all Kindle e-reader and tablet devices, including the new Kindle Fire tablet, as well as all accessories for the devices like covers and chargers. The retailer will continue to sell other e-readers and tablets, however, including Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iPad.
"Target is phasing out Amazon- and Kindle-branded products in the spring of 2012," Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder wrote in an email to Reuters. "We will continue to offer our guests a full assortment of e-readers and supporting accessories."
There are a few potential reasons for Target’s decision. As Reuters noted, Amazon ran Target’s website for several years, but that relationship ended last year amid a legal battle.
“That’s probably something Target now regrets. It put them behind in the world of multi-channel retail and let a serious competitor learn a lot about their business,” Matt Nemer, an analyst at Wells Fargo, told Reuters. “This is evidence that Target is getting more serious about Amazon as an enemy rather than a partner.”
After all, everything sold in Target is also offered by Amazon, Reuters noted. “Target is trying to distance themselves from Amazon as much as possible because they recognize they are losing sales to them,” Scott Tilghman, an analyst at Caris & Co. told Reuters.
Amazon’s practice of undercutting the prices of traditional retailers certainly can’t help their case, either.
The other potential reason Target may have dropped the Kindle line has everyone talking. Target carries Apple products. Apple competes with Amazon. Might Target be dropping Amazon’s Kindle line to appease Apple? (Although the iPad and the Kindle aren’t direct competitors, they do compete in terms of e-books.)
“If Target did make the decision in an effort to mollify Apple, that would be sort of a retro-chic move in an era when big retailers tend to dictate terms to manufacturers rather than the other way around,” writes CNN Money. “There aren’t many manufacturers with market power like Apple’s however.”
Another Apple-Amazon war, by proxy?
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.
Confused book buyers may be ending up with a different novel than they meant to purchase when it comes to the similarly titled “50 Shades of Grey” by E L James and the young adult novel “Between Shades of Gray” by Ruta Sepetys.
“Between Shades of Gray” was released last year and tells the story of a Lithuanian teenager who is sent to one of Stalin’s work camps in Siberia in 1941, while “Shades" is an erotic novel that follows college student Anastasia Steele and billionaire Christian Grey. "50 Shades of Grey" has been racing up the bestseller charts and has become a publishing phenomenon. (If you search the Barnes and Noble website for "Between," "50 Shades of Grey" actually comes up first.)
Both James and Sepetys are currently on tour, Sepetys for the paperback edition of her book, and Sepetys told Entertainment Weekly that she’s attracted a lot of “Gray” fans, many of them men and many of whom stay to listen even after figuring out she’s not that author.
“The subject has come up at every high school and every bookstore I’ve been to,” Sepetys said.
After its release, “Between Shades of Gray” was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the best children’s books of 2011 and was a finalist for the William C. Morris young adult debut award for 2012, among other recognition.
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.