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We lead this week with two lengthy but absorbing pieces about the future of writing and bookselling. Seriously, give these an hour over the weekend.

In The Chronicle of Higher Education, an anonymous contributor writes about his/her career ghostwriting papers for college students. This person takes assignments (often well-paid) from students who write like this:

“did u get the sorce I send

please where you are now?

Desprit to pass spring projict”

and turns those assignments into passable college-level term papers.

And not just term papers–read to the end to find out what happens when a one-time client becomes a totally dependent full-time client.

This is the kind of thing that makes me want to throw myself off a bridge. Or autodefenestrate. (For those who may not be familiar with the term, “defenestration” is the act of throwing someone or something out a window. The English language contains a word for that action! Isn’t that wonderful? But what chance does “defenestrate”–along with thousands of other words–stand against text-speaking youth and those who fail to teach them how to write?)

— And this, from Boston Review, is basically an overview of the immense shittiness of Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com. How’s this for a pull quote:

Bezos calls the Kindle a response to “the failings of a physical book.” He told attendees of a technology conference in New York: “I’m grumpy when I’m forced to read a physical book because it’s not as convenient. Turning the pages . . . the book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment.” His conclusion? “It’s had a great five-hundred-year run . . . but it’s time to change.”

Jeff Bezos, ladies and gents, is “grumpy” when “forced” to read a “physical book” because of the hassle of “turning the pages” and the fact that these unwieldy books are “always” “flopping” shut at the “wrong moment.”

Thankfully, Ma and Pa Bezos spawned a little revolutionary who is leading the charge to end our “five-hundred-year” (how many?) nightmare.

Some of the nonsense that this company tries to pull is just staggering. For instance, taking free, public-domain files from Project Gutenberg, doing basically nothing to reformat them,  and then charging users to download them to the Kindle. In plain English, Amazon is charging you for ebooks that are free elsewhere.

You want to do me a personal favor? In 2011, please buy your “physical books” from your local independent retailer. And if you don’t have a local indie store, or just want to buy online, please do so at Better World Books, where the prices are comparable, the shipping is free, and a portion of the profits (somewhere between 5-10%) go to funding literacy across the globe. And if you’re an e-book reader, donate your Kindle to charity or the refuse bin and try a different device.

— Okay, let’s move on to brighter chit-chat. The reluctant winner of the 2010 Bad Sex Award writes about the publicity it’s bringing his novel–like it or not. Here are a few passages that garnered him the guerdon. “Disappointment melting like ice in hot cream,” indeed.

— Here’s an interesting piece from Paris Review on how writers often feel compelled to meet, and then seek validation from, their literary heroes.

— I may have included this in an earlier post, but it’s worth a second mention: OneLook.com is now offering a Reverse Dictionary. If you can’t come up with that word on the tip of your tongue, type in the concept and OneLook will return you some suggestions.

Of course, you always have to take human error into account. For instance, when you type “Throwing someone out of a window,” the first result is “defenestration.” Good. If you type “throwing one’s self out of a window,” it also suggests “defenestration.” Good. But if you’re a fool like me and first type “Throwing ones (no apostrophe) self out of a window,” it suggests “Look.”

Of course, that could be a rebuke. “Defenestration” is the second result, so perhaps OneLook is saying, “Look, idiot, the word is ‘defenestration,’ so please stop asking.”

Did you know that “defenestration” is also the word to use when “throwing poop out of a window”? Also, “when throwing Pop out of a window”? And “throwing Pop’s poop out of a window”?

To quote Mr. Vonnegut’s epilogue to Timequake: “What a language.”

— WBN ToW: @WritesOPassage and @LittleFrogPub, whose pleasant company we enjoyed at Wednesday night’s combined meetup. Give them a follow, and check out their literary board game, Writes of Passage–a great holiday gift for the writer(s) in your life.

— Shameless Plug of the Week: WBN is offering a 20% discount on membership between now and December 31. Details here. MS consults, gift cards, and much more.

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One Comment

  1. The word “defenestrate” was literally the best thing I ever learned in Latin class. “fenestra” = window.


One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Friday’s Links « WriteByNight's Blog on 10 Dec 2010 at 6:05 am

    […] Amazon takes steps to correct the issue we touched on last week relating to public domain […]

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