Tag Archives: publishing

What to Read and Watch While Awaiting Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

Every so often, a moment occurs in the literary world that is so remarkable and so unexpected that one wonders if this isn’t the stuff of fiction.

I’m talking, of course, about last week’s news that a new (sorta) novel by Harper Lee is scheduled to be published this July.

Yes, that Harper Lee, the same one of To Kill a Mockingbird fame.

I can’t speak for everyone here at the Library, but my sentiments are in line with those shared by my colleagues Don Wentworth and Miguel Llinas (“Western Pennsylvania literary community weighs in on Lee news” Pittsburgh Tribune Review, 2/3/2015).

Of course, this announcement has its own plot twist with some accompanying controversy and speculation, which I’m not going to get into here today.  Despite being an English/Communications major in college, I’m just an admirer and appreciative fan of TKAM and Harper Lee — not an expert. Nor do I play one on the Internet.

Instead, what I — and the Library — can offer are some thoughts on what you can read and watch while you’re awaiting Go Set a Watchman.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Chances are, it has been a few years since you’ve picked up To Kill a Mockingbird.  Maybe you never read it in school. Perhaps you don’t remember reading it, or perhaps some aspects of the story have gotten a little fuzzy over the past 55 years. Doesn’t matter. A July publication date means that there is plenty of time to revisit this classic and say hi to your old friends Atticus, Scout and Boo.

To Kill a Mockingbird - DVD

There’s the movie version, which I admit I’ve never seen. (I know. I know.) Must remedy that soon.

Mockingbird - Charles Shields

In my view, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles Shields is required reading for everyone who loves To Kill a Mockingbird.  So much of Harper Lee’s life is written into the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, which I never realized until reading this.  Shields’ well-written biography is based on at least 600 interviews with people connected to Harper Lee, who is referred to as Nelle, her given name, throughout the book.

Other titles that look intriguing:

Scout, Atticus and Boo

Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird, by Mary McDonagh Murphy

The Mockingbird Next Door

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills

What are your thoughts about To Kill a Mockingbird and the publication announcement of Go Set a Watchman?

And what else Mockingbird-related should I be reading (or watching) to hold me over until July?

~ Melissa F.


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Something is Rotten, and it isn’t in Denmark

It’s much closer to home amongst us at the library and with you the reader.  To be more precise, with you the eBook reader.  Not to worry though: this isn’t anything either of us did – it’s the way things currently are.  I’ll elaborate shortly, but first a little background.

When Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh buys books (the original paper ones), it’s a pretty straightforward process.  We select titles based on several criteria, determine how many copies are needed, and place our order. Given our size and the volume of materials we purchase, process, catalog and distribute, we aren’t buying retail.  We don’t do this at Barnes & Noble, on Amazon or at Half-Priced Books. We buy from wholesale book distributors called jobbers.  We have a preferred hierarchy based on pricing and service models, and can purchase pretty much anything in print — regardless of publisher. Remember that last line — regardless of publisher.  The books (or journals, magazines, microfilm) arrive and are physically owned and stored by the library, and used by you the user.  We all usually know where they are or how to find them. They are as real as . . . go ahead and pick a cliche.

EBooks aren’t such a straightforward proposition. Much of the selection process is the same, matching need and potential need with titles, subjects and appropriate numbers of copies.  Beyond that though, eBooks become more complicated. There are format considerations, staff training requirements, privacy concerns, and questions about ownership. (Are they really ours if we don’t physically have them?)  And finally the rotten aspect — the blatant, deliberate, and unwarranted discrimination practiced against public libraries based on incorrect assumptions in the name of an unknown or undeveloped business model.

What do I mean? Remember my tag line in the paragraph before last — regardless of publisher?  Well, in the eBook world it doesn’t work like that. Look at the following list, and see if you think it makes sense.

  • Simon & Schuster and Macmillan outright do not “sell” or license ebook content for distribution to public libraries.  Neither does Hachette.
  • Harper Collins will, but only for a lifespan of 26 circulations,  a bibliographic actuarial assessment they pulled out of their. . . ears.
  • On November 19th Penguin had been selling ebooks through Overdrive to public libraries in several formats including Kindle.
  • On November 21st Overdrive (a digital distributor of eBooks, audiobooks, music, and video) informed its public library customers that Penguin was suspending sales to public libraries of new titles in eBook format, AND was going to retract the Kindle format from titles previously purchased.
  • On November 23rd Penguin relented and restored the Kindle format to previously purchased titles, but announced that new titles would not be available to public libraries.
  • Not all titles available in Kindle format at Amazon are available for purchase by public libraries. I haven’t been able to determine if that’s a specific publisher issue, or if Amazon regulates the number of Kindle compatible titles that are made available.

This isn’t supposed to be entirely about Amazon and my intention isn’t to paint them as the bad guy. The reality though, is Amazon’s proprietary Kindle format is to eBooks what Windows and Microsoft were to operating systems in the 90s — the dominant or preferred emerging format. We’re still in the infant stages of the eBook as a practical and popular format/medium.  Amazon’s licensing of the Kindle format for use by public libraries has ignited eBook use, leading to multifold increases (by percentage) of eBook circulation, and real increases in eBook’s share of circulation relative to all library circulation, a trend that seemed unstoppable just two months ago. I’m no exception. I thoroughly enjoy my Kindle, reading both borrowed eBooks from the library and buying others from Amazon. I believe these publishers mistakenly assume one use precludes the other, that they’re mutually exclusive.  I have to tell them, that assumption is a mistake.

But now? I’m not so sure the upward curve will be what it might have been. We the libraries and you the library user are more than a little marginalized as authors, publishers and distributors/vendors try to determine how they can make a profit (not a bad word IMHO,) or even just an income in a non-traditional marketplace. For them, it may be a brave, or fearful, new world; for us, it just stinks.

— Richard


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Writer’s Block Party!

Are you working on your acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay as we speak?  Is there a draft copy of the Next Great American Novel hidden away on your hard drive?  Do you secretly harbor Walter Mitty-esque fantasies about chucking your conventional career for the unpredictable, yet sometimes glamorous, world of freelance writing? Of course you do! You’ve got big dreams. You want fame!

Well, I hear fame costs…but the Carnegie Library’s collection of support materials for creative writers of all stripes can help you move a little closer to your goals, without a huge investment of start-up capital. Here’s a sample of the kinds of materials we provide:

We also make sure to keep copies of several key writers’ tools at the second floor reference desk.  These include the most recent editions of Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market*, and Literary Market Place. Why not treat yourself to an afternoon at the library doing research, and save your hard-earned cash for that congratulatory round of drinks you plan to buy when your brilliant screenplay finally gets picked up by a major media mogul?

Obviously we can’t guarantee you fame, fortune, or a seat next to David Hyde Pierce at the Tonys. We can, however, provide the tools and the atmosphere you’ll need to at least get going in the right direction.

Dream on, creative writers. We can’t wait to say we knew you when.

–Leigh Anne

*Fret not, folks – we’d love it if you’d come sit a spell, but if you absolutely can’t, we do carry circulating back issues of these publications. Just make sure to double-check contact information before you submit, lest your heartbreaking work of staggering genius go to an incorrect address.

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