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Books considered indecent

being destroyed in the furnace room of Police Headquarters

in Manhattan in 1935.


Photograph: New York City Municipal Archives


Dusting Off a Police Trove of Photographs to Rival Weegee’s


MARCH 20, 2015



















Clay Bennett

political cartoon


November 26, 2023

















censor        USA










censor    USA




















censorship        UK / USA


























clampdown on books        USA




















Rob Rogers

political cartoon


July 18, 2023



























































ban        USA












be banned        USA












banned books        UK












ban        UK










ban        USA










book bans        USA












































banned books        USA




































Brooklyn Public Library's Books Unbanned project        USA













bans on books

about race and LGBTQ+ identities        USA










book bans        USA












schoolbook bans        USA




















Mike Luckovich

political cartoon


May 08, 2022

















burn books        USA












book burners        USA


























1953 > USA > Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451'        UK / USA

















story.php?storyId=1464578 - October 13, 2003
















book purge        USA


























Corpus of news articles


Arts > Books > Ban, Censorship




Encyclopedia Britannica

halts print publication after 244 years

The paper edition of the encyclopedia
ends its centuries-long run,
but is it a victim or beneficiary
of the digital age?


Tuesday 13 March 2012 22.18 GMT
Tom McCarthy
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 22.18 GMT on Tuesday 13 March 2012.
It was last modified at 23.00 GMT
on Tuesday 13 March 2012.


Its legacy winds back through centuries and across continents, past the birth of America to the waning days of the Enlightenment. It is a record of humanity's achievements in war and peace, art and science, exploration and discovery. It has been taken to represent the sum of all human knowledge.

And now it's going out of print.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has announced that after 244 years, dozens of editions and more than 7m sets sold, no new editions will be put to paper. The 32 volumes of the 2010 installment, it turns out, were the last. Future editions will live exclusively online.

For some readers the news will provoke malaise at the wayward course of this misguided age. Others will wonder, in the era of Wikipedia, what took the dinosaur so long to die. Neither view quite captures the company or the crossroads.

Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, suggested that the encyclopedia was already something of a relic within the company itself, which has long since moved its main business away from its trademark publication and into online educational tools.

"The company has changed from a reference provider to an instructional solutions provider," Cauz said. He projects that only 15% of the company's revenue this year will come from its namesake publication, mostly through subscriptions and app purchases. "The vast majority" of the remaining 85% of revenue is expected to come from educational products and services, said Cauz, who declined to provide dollar amounts but said the company was profitable.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc, is owned by the Swiss banking magnate Jacqui Safra. The company's websites, which include Merriam-Webster dictionaries, attracted more than 450 million users over the course of 2011, according to internal numbers.

If the company's move over the last decade into the education market is an impressive example of corporate versatility, the competitive difficulties the encyclopedia faces are easy to grasp.

Wikipedia English has 3.9m articles. The comprehensive Britannica has about 120,000. Wikipedia is free. The DVD Britannica, which includes two dictionaries and a thesaurus, costs $30 on Amazon. Individuals will also be able to sign up for an annual $70 subscription (universities will be charged about $1 per student).

Cauz said the product was worth the price.

"We may not be as big as Wikipedia. but we have a scholarly voice, an editorial process, and fact-based, well-written articles," Cauz said. "All of these things we believe are very, very important, and provide an alternative that we want to offer to as many people as possible. We believe that there are 1.2 to 1.5bn inquiries for which we have the best answer."

Asked whether the decision to end the publication's monumental run had not caused a backlash inside the company, Cauz said the opposite was true.

"The transition has not been that difficult," he said. "Everyone understands we needed to change. As opposed to newspapers, we felt the impact of digital many years ago – we had a lot of time for reflection. Everyone is very invigorated.

"We are the only company that I know of, so far, that made the transition from traditional media to the digital sphere, and managed to be profitable and to grow."

But what of the kids who will no longer grow up in the beneficent shadow of the physical volumes, or be guided in their learning by happy chance, as when they go looking for "kookaburra" and accidentally encounter "komodo dragon" on an adjacent page?

"I understand that for some the end of the Britannica print set may be perceived as an unwelcome goodbye to a dear, reliable and trustworthy friend that brought them the joy of discovery in the quest for knowledge," Cauz wrote in a company announcement. The product will improve, however, when it finally leaves the space constraints and black-and-white finality of print behind, he said.

"Today our digital database is much larger than what we can fit in the print set. And it is up to date because we can revise it within minutes anytime we need to, and we do it many times each day."

Encyclopedia Britannica halts print publication after 244 years,






Defied Censors,

Making Racy a Literary Staple


February 22, 2012
The New York Times


Barney Rosset, the flamboyant, provocative publisher who helped change the course of publishing in the United States, bringing masters like Samuel Beckett to Americans’ attention under his Grove Press imprint and winning celebrated First Amendment slugfests against censorship, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 89.

His son Peter said he died after a double-heart-valve replacement.

Over a long career Mr. Rosset championed Beat poets, French Surrealists, German Expressionists and dramatists of the absurd, helping to bring them all to prominence. Besides publishing Beckett, he brought early exposure to European writers like Eugène Ionesco and Jean Genet and gave intellectual ammunition to the New Left by publishing Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

Most of all, beginning in high school, when he published a mimeographed journal titled “The Anti-Everything,” Mr. Rosset, slightly built and sometimes irascible, savored a fight.

He defied censors in the 1960s by publishing D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” ultimately winning legal victories that opened the door to sexually provocative language and subject matter in literature published in the United States. He did the same thing on movie screens by importing the sexually frank Swedish film “I Am Curious (Yellow).”

Mr. Rosset called Grove “a breach in the dam of American Puritanism.”

Beyond being sued scores of times, he received death threats. Grove’s office in Greenwich Village was bombed.

In 2008 the National Book Foundation honored him as “a tenacious champion for writers who were struggling to be read in America.”

Other mentions were less lofty. Life magazine in 1969 titled an article about him “The Old Smut Peddler.” That same year a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post showed him climbing out of a sewer.

Mr. Rosset was hardly the only publisher to take risks, lasso avant-garde authors or print titillating material. But few so completely relied on seat-of-the-pants judgment. Colleagues said he had “a whim of steel.”

“He does everything by impulse and then figures out afterward whether he’s made a smart move or was just kidding,” Life said.

Simply put, Mr. Rosset liked what he liked. In an interview with Newsweek in 2008, he said he printed erotica because it “excited me.”


A Counterculture Voice

In 1957 he helped usher in a new counterculture when he began the literary journal Evergreen Review, originally a quarterly. (It later became a bimonthly and then a glossy monthly.) The Review, published until 1973, sparkled with writers like Beckett, who had a story and poem in the first issue, and Allen Ginsberg, whose poem “Howl” appeared in the second. There were also lascivious comic strips.

Barnet Lee Rosset Jr. was born into wealth in Chicago on May 28, 1922. His father owned banks, and though the elder Mr. Rosset had conservative views, he sent his son to the liberal Francis W. Parker School. The school was so progressive, Mr. Rosset told The New York Times in 2008, that teachers arranged for students to sleep with one another.

“I’m half-Jewish and half-Irish,” he told The Associated Press in 1998, “and my mother and grandfather spoke Gaelic. From an early age my feelings made the I.R.A. look pretty conservative. I grew up hating fascism, hating racism.”

He called his 17th year his happiest. He was class president, football star, holder of a state track record and, he said, boyfriend of the school’s best-looking girl. He circulated a petition demanding that John Dillinger be pardoned. In 1940 he went to Swarthmore College, which he disliked because class attendance was compulsory. After a year he transferred to the University of Chicago for a quarter, then to the University of California, Los Angeles. A few months later he joined the Army and served in a photographic unit in China. After the war he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He joined the Communist Party but soon rejected it, he said, after visiting Eastern Europe.

Initially interested in film, he spend $250,000 of his family’s fortune in New York to produce a documentary, “Strange Victory,” about the prejudice that black veterans faced when they returned from World War II. The film was poorly received, and afterward he headed for Paris with Joan Mitchell, a former high school classmate who became an acclaimed Abstract Expressionist painter. They married in 1949 and returned to New York, where he studied literature at the New School for Social Research, earning another bachelor’s degree in 1952.

Told that a small press on Grove Street in Greenwich Village was for sale, he bought it in 1951 for $3,000. His goal almost from the beginning was to publish Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer,” an autobiographical, sexually explicit novel that had been published in Paris in 1934 and long been banned in the United States.

But he decided first to publish “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” which had originally appeared in Italy in 1928. He theorized that though it was also banned in the United States, it commanded greater respect than Miller’s book.

Arthur E. Summerfield, the postmaster general, lived up to Mr. Rosset’s expectations and barred the book from the mails — Grove’s means of distribution — in June 1959, calling it “smutty.” But a federal judge in Manhattan lifted the ban, ruling that the book had redeeming merit. The reasoning pleased Mr. Rosset less than the result: as a foe of censorship he was an absolutist.


A Free Speech Advocate

“If you have freedom of speech, you have freedom of speech,” he said. He faced a new round of censorship after buying the rights to “Tropic of Cancer” for $50,000 in 1961, the agreement having been struck by Miller and Mr. Rosset over a game of table tennis. Mr. Summerfield again imposed a ban but lifted it before it could be challenged in court.

Nevertheless, the book was attacked in more than 60 legal cases seeking to ban it in 21 states, and Mr. Rosset was arrested and taken before a Brooklyn grand jury, which decided against an indictment. Grove won the dispute in 1964 when the United States Supreme Court reversed a Florida ban, bringing all the cases to a halt. Grove sold 100,000 hardcover and one million paperback copies of “Cancer” in the first year.

In 1962 Grove released “Naked Lunch” by William S. Burroughs, a series of druggy, sexually explicit vignettes first published in Paris in 1959. Mr. Rosset had already printed 100,000 copies and kept them under wraps while the “Cancer” case was still in the courts. Almost immediately a Boston court found “Naked Lunch” without social merit and banned it. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed that judgment in 1966.

Many more Grove books proved controversial. One was “Story of O,” a novel of love and sexual domination, by Anne Desclos writing under the name Pauline Réage. But lawsuits dwindled. It was the film “I Am Curious (Yellow),” the rights to which Mr. Rosset bought in 1968, that sparked the next firestorm. He saw it as an exploration of class struggle, he said, but its huge audiences were clearly attracted by the nudity and staged sexual intercourse.

When a theater refused to show “I Am Curious,” Mr. Rosset bought the theater. He then sold it back after showing the movie. The authorities in 10 states banned it entirely.

After Maryland’s highest court ruled that the film was obscene, the matter went to the Supreme Court. In 1971 it split, 4-to-4, on whether the film should be banned everywhere. Justice William O. Douglas had recused himself because an excerpt from one of his books had appeared in Evergreen Review, which he said could be perceived as a conflict of interest. The deadlock meant the Maryland ruling would stand, although it had no weight as precedent.

By that time Grove had made $15 million from the film, doubling the company’s revenues.There were other run-ins over films. Ruling on a suit by the State of Massachusetts, a Superior Court judge in 1968 banned further showings of another Grove release, “Titicut Follies,” Frederick Wiseman’s harrowing film about the abuse of patients at Bridgewater State Hospital.

There were triumphant moments, like Mr. Rosset’s late-night Champagne session in Paris with Beckett in 1953 that led to his acquiring the American publishing rights to “Waiting for Godot.” It sold more than 2.5 million copies in the United States. Beckett was just one winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature published by Grove; others included Harold Pinter and Kenzaburo Oe.

At Grove’s peak in the late 1960s, Mr. Rosset ran what he called “a self-contained mini-conglomerate” from a seven-story building on Mercer Street. Mr. Rosset was adept at spotting potential best sellers. “Games People Play: The Basic Handbook of Transactional Analysis,” by Eric Berne, spent two years atop the Times best-seller list and has sold more than five million copies.

But he also made mistakes. Mr. Rosset turned down J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” saying he “couldn’t understand a word,” and a planned trilogy of films based on short works by Beckett, Ionesco and Pinter was never completed, though it did lead in 1965 to an unusual art-house film, “Film,” starring Buster Keaton with a script by Beckett. In 1967 Mr. Rosset sold a third of the common stock of Grove to the public, retaining the rest himself. As a businessman he stumbled when he diversified into other fields, including real estate, film distribution and Off Broadway theater programs modeled on Playbill.

A violent blow occurred on July 26, 1968, when a fragmentation grenade, thrown through a second-story window, exploded in the Grove offices, then on University Place. The offices were empty, and no one was hurt. Exiles opposed to Fidel Castro took responsibility, angry that the Evergreen Review had published excerpts of “The Bolivian Diary,” by Che Guevara, the former aide to Mr. Castro who had been executed by Bolivian troops less than a year before.


Protests in the Office

To Mr. Rosset, things turned decidedly against him in 1970 when employees, led by a feminist activist, tried to unionize the editorial staff. He was accused of sexism, and some said his publications were demeaning to women. When protesters took over the office, Mr. Rosset called in the police. The union proposal was voted down.

Mr. Rosset sold Grove in 1985 to Ann Getty, the oil heiress, and George Weidenfeld, a British publisher. Part of the deal was that he would remain in charge. But the new owners fired him a year later. He sued, contending that the dismissal had violated the sales contract. The dispute was settled out of court.

After leaving Grove, Mr. Rosset published Evergreen Review online and books under a new imprint, Foxrock Books. After discovering a trove of suppressed 19th-century erotic books, including “My Secret Life,” he started Blue Moon Books, which published those as well as newer titles. He also took up painting and filled a wall of his Manhattan apartment with a mural. Grove’s backlist was acquired by Atlantic Monthly Press in 1993. The combined entity today is Grove/Atlantic.

After his marriage to Ms. Mitchell ended in divorce, Mr. Rosset married four more times. His subsequent marriages to Hannelore Eckert, Cristina Agnini and Elisabeth Krug also ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Astrid Myers; his son Peter, from his second marriage; a daughter, Tansey Rosset, and a son, Beckett, from his third marriage; a daughter, Chantal R. Hyde, from his fourth marriage; four grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren.

Algonquin Books plans to release an autobiography Mr. Rosset was writing, tentatively titled “The Subject Was Left-Handed.” A documentary film about his career, titled “Obscene” and directed by Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor, was released in 2008.Mr. Rosset liked to tell the story of how he had responded to a Chicago prosecutor who suggested that he had published “Tropic of Cancer” only for the money. He whipped out a paper he had written on Miller while at Swarthmore (the grade was a B-) to demonstrate his long interest in that author. He won the case.

“I remember leaving the courtroom and somehow getting lost going home,” he told The Times in 2008. “It was snowing. But I was so happy that I thought, ‘If I fall down and die right here, it will be fine.’ ”

    Defied Censors, Making Racy a Literary Staple, NYT, 22.2.2012,





Selling Literature

to Go With Your Lifestyle


November 2, 2006
The New York Times


Most customers at the Anthropologie store in SoHo come for the delicately woven knits and the ultrafeminine floral dresses. But these days at least some are coming for the books.

Last Sunday the merchandise and books were coordinated with near-perfect precision. Resting beside a black sweater ($68) and a jet-black skirt with orange embellishments ($118) were copies of Annie Leibovitz’s “A Photographer’s Life: 1990-2005,” big and black and gleaming, for $75. A pop-up book called “One Red Dot” echoed a display of polka-dotted canvas sneakers, while another title, “The Persistence of Yellow,” perfectly matched a strategically positioned yellow knit sweater.

Books are turning up in the oddest places these days.

With book sales sagging — down 2.6 percent as of August over the same period last year, according to the Association of American Publishers — publishers are pushing their books into butcher shops, carwashes, cookware stores, cheese shops, even chi-chi clothing boutiques where high-end literary titles are used to amplify the elegant lifestyle they are attempting to project.

What began as a trickle of cookbooks in kitchen shops and do-it-yourself titles in hardware stores has become, in recent months, the fastest growing component in many major publishers’ retail strategies.

“It’s a way for the book business to stay alive,” said Abby Hoffman, the vice president of sales and marketing for Chronicle Books in San Francisco, which sells most of its 350 offbeat titles each year to places like high-end grocery stores, children’s clothing stores and wineries. “Anyplace that sells merchandise is a place to sell books.”

When Starbucks got into the book business last month, it hitched its brand to Mitch Albom’s latest inevitable best seller, “For One More Day,” helping propel it to the top of the lists. But the shift in the business can more clearly be seen in the sale of lower-profile authors in lower-profile settings, where the right title in the right location can make all the difference for a book that might otherwise sink without a trace.

Mike’s Deli in the Bronx, for instance, has sold more than 4,500 copies of Ann Volkwein’s “Arthur Avenue Cookbook” at $25 each. That book otherwise sold only 8,000 copies nationwide, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales at major book chains, independent bookstores and online retailers, but not at places like Mike’s. But it sold so well at Mike’s that David Greco, the deli’s owner, began stocking more titles, including “The Italian American Cookbook” by John Mariani and “Con Amore: A Daughter-in-Law’s Story of Growing Up Italian-American in Bushwick” by Bea Tusiani.

Mr. Greco says he must factor in at least one expense that bookstores don’t: “When you deal with salami and mozzarella, its a little greasy. So we keep the books in plastic bags.”

After years of concentrating on big-box retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble and online retailers like Amazon, many major publishing houses are retooling their tactics to take advantage of this new frontier.

Simon & Schuster, one of the industry’s largest publishers, is urging its sales representatives to punctuate their bookstore rounds with impromptu pitches at promising shops and markets they spot in their travels. The Time Warner Book Group routinely changes the color or design of book jackets at a store’s request so the book will color-coordinate with merchandise. And HarperCollins plans to design books for its spring catalog in shades of “margarita and sangria,” greens and reds that store owners have told the publisher will dominate that season’s color palette, said Andrea Rosen, vice president for special markets.

At Penguin Group, sales representatives have begun pushing into rural areas that are short on big bookstores, selling at cattle auctions, among other places.

The total number of books sold outside bookstores is impossible to discern. BookScan’s sales figures typically account for 60 percent to 70 percent of a book’s sales, but those figures do not include copies sold in nontraditional places.

Nonetheless, publishing houses know how it has affected their bottom line.

In the last four years Simon & Schuster’s special market sales, as they are called, have grown by 50 percent, surpassing total sales to independent bookstores, said Jack Romanos, the publishing house’s president and chief executive.

“The publisher now has a responsibility to put books in front of more eyeballs,” Mr. Romanos said. “The market was always there, but I don’t know that most publishers were as aggressive about trying to develop it 10 years ago as they are today.”

Some placements make intuitive sense: publishers sell a baby book to a specialty store like Buy Buy Baby; cookbooks go to Williams-Sonoma and other cookware outlets; glossy fashion books to clothing boutiques; design books to stores like Restoration Hardware. But some matches may not be so obvious. Even Bath & Body Works, at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., for instance, sells a half-dozen titles on subjects including weddings, gardening and travel to Provence.

With the proper placement, a book displayed at a national chain like Urban Outfitters can easily sell more there than at any other retailer, including blockbuster stores like Barnes & Noble. A recent article in Publishers Weekly noted that one surprise fall hit, “Wall and Piece,” written by the graffiti artist Banksy and published by the Century imprint of Random House in Britain, saw its biggest sales at Urban Outfitters and independent bookstores.

The point, publishers say, is to follow customers who might not otherwise visit bookstores into the places where they do shop, rather than waiting for customers to show up at bookstores or click on Amazon.com and other online sales sites.

People who buy books at farm-supply stores, for instance, are a prime potential market because there may be no bookstores in their rural communities, said Barbara O’Shea, president of nontrade sales for Penguin. “There is nobody selling books, so we’ve gotten these places to sell books,” she said.

The phenomenon is an urban and suburban one, as well.

Martin & Osa, a new clothing retailer aimed at 25-to-40-year-olds, stocks dozens of titles in its four stores and is planning to add more, including a “reading list” of graphic novels, fiction and nonfiction for customers. “We try to offer them things that aren’t mainstream, more unusual, more unique,” said Arnie Cohen, the chief marketing officer.

At Anthropologie on Sunday, Ruth Rennert lounged among the throw pillows on a mustard-yellow sofa — not far from that display of yellow sweaters and books — leafing through “Jackie: A Life in Pictures,” about the former first lady. Shopping for books in a setting like this, she said, is preferable to enduring the hustle and bustle of big bookstores.

While the bulk of books sold in some of these places are novelty titles — like “Bruce Aidells’s Complete Book of Pork” from HarperCollins, now in hundreds of butcher shops — in recent months a broader list of titles has also begun to emerge.

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is for sale at Urban Outfitters, for instance. Staples, the office-supply chain, began carrying business books several years ago, but more recently has added titles like “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” by Joel Osteen.

And publishers have stumbled on advantages that often come with this territory: outside of a bookstore, a title enjoys less competition, a more inviting display space and the store’s implicit stamp of approval.

“You walk into Restoration Hardware and you want the couch and the vase and the nightstand, and then you want the two books that are on the nightstand,” Ms. Rosen said. “The books complete the story.”

    Selling Literature to Go With Your Lifestyle, NYT, 2.11.2006,






Technology Rewrites the Book


July 20, 2006
The New York Times


When Steve Mandel, a management trainer from Santa Cruz, Calif., wants to show his friends why he stays up late to peer through a telescope, he pulls out a copy of his latest book, “Light in the Sky,” filled with pictures he has taken of distant nebulae, star clusters and galaxies.

“I consistently get a very big ‘Wow!’ The printing of my photos was spectacular — I did not really expect them to come out so well.” he said. “This is as good as any book in a bookstore.”

Mr. Mandel, 56, put his book together himself with free software from Blurb.com. The 119-page edition is printed on coated paper, bound with a linen fabric hard cover, and then wrapped with a dust jacket. Anyone who wants one can buy it for $37.95, and Blurb will make a copy just for that buyer.

The print-on-demand business is gradually moving toward the center of the marketplace. What began as a way for publishers to reduce their inventory and stop wasting paper is becoming a tool for anyone who needs a bound document. Short-run presses can turn out books economically in small quantities or singly, and new software simplifies the process of designing a book.

As the technology becomes simpler, the market is expanding beyond the earliest adopters, the aspiring authors. The first companies like AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse and others pushed themselves as new models of publishing, with an eye on shaking up the dusty book business. They aimed at authors looking for someone to edit a manuscript, lay out the book and bring it to market.

The newer ventures also produce bound books, but they do not offer the same hand-holding or the same drive for the best-seller list. Blurb’s product will appeal to people searching for a publisher, but its business is aimed at anyone who needs a professional-looking book, from architects with plans to present to clients, to travelers looking to immortalize a trip.

Blurb.com’s design software, which is still in beta testing, comes with a number of templates for different genres like cookbooks, photo collections and poetry books. Once one is chosen, it automatically lays out the page and lets the designer fill in the photographs and text by cutting and pasting. If the designer wants to tweak some details of the template — say, the position of a page number or a background color — the changes affect all the pages.

The software is markedly easier to use — although less capable — than InDesign from Adobe or Quark XPress, professional publishing packages that cost around $700. It is also free because Blurb expects to make money from printing the book. Prices start at $29.95 for books of 1 to 40 pages and rise to $79.95 for books of 301 to 440 pages.

Blurb, based in San Francisco, has many plans for expanding its software. Eileen Gittins, the chief executive, said the company would push new tools for “bookifying” data, beginning with a tool that “slurps” the entries from a blog and places them into the appropriate templates.

The potential market for these books is attracting a number of start-ups and established companies, most of them focusing on producing bound photo albums. Online photo processing sites like Kodak Gallery (formerly Ofoto), Snapfish and Shutterfly and popular packages like the iPhoto software from Apple let their customers order bound volumes of their prints.

These companies offer a wide variety of binding fabrics, papers, templates and background images, although the styles are dominated by pink and blue pastels. Snapfish offers wire-bound “flipbooks” that begin at $4.99. Kodak Gallery offers a “Legacy Photo Book” made with heavier paper and bound in either linen or leather. It starts at $69.99. Apple makes a tiny 2.6-by-3.5-inch softbound book that costs $3.99 for 20 pages and 29 cents for each additional page.

The nature and style of these options are changing as customers develop new applications. “Most of the people who use our products are moms with kids,” says Kevin McCurdy, a co-founder of Picaboo.com in Palo Alto, Calif. But he said there had been hundreds of applications the company never anticipated: teachers who make a yearbook for their class, people who want to commemorate a party and businesses that just want a high-end brochure or catalog.

Picaboo, like Blurb, distributes a free copy of its book design software, which runs on the user’s computer. Mr. McCurdy said that running the software on the user’s machine saves users the time and trouble of uploading pictures. The companies that offer Web-based design packages, however, point out that their systems do not require installing any software and also offer a backup for the user’s photos.

As more companies enter the market, they are searching for niches. One small shop in Duvall, Wash., called SharedInk.com, emphasizes its traditional production techniques and the quality of its product. Chris Hickman, the founder, said that each of his books was printed and stitched together by “two bookbinders who’ve been in the industry for 30 or 40 years.” The result, he said, is a higher level of quality that appeals to professional photographers and others willing to pay a bit more. Books of 20 pages start at $39.95.

Some companies continue to produce black-and-white books. Lulu.com is a combination printer and order-fulfillment house that prints both color and black-and-white books, takes orders for them and places them with bookstores like Amazon.com.

Lulu works from a PDF file, an approach that forces users to rely on basic word processors or professional design packages. If this is too complex, Lulu offers a marketplace where book designers offer their services. Lulu does offer a special cover design package that will create a book’s cover from an image and handle the specialized calculations that compute the size of the spine from the number of pages and the weight of the paper.

A 6-by-9-inch softcover book with 150 black-and-white pages from Lulu would cost $7.53 per single copy.

These packages are adding features that stretch the concept of a book, in some cases undermining the permanent, fixed nature that has been part of a book’s appeal. The software from SharedInk.com, for instance, lets a user leave out pages from some versions of the book. If Chris does not like Pat, for instance, then the copy going to Chris could be missing the pages with Pat’s pictures.

Blurb is expanding its software to let a community build a book. Soon, it plans to introduce a tool that would allow group projects, like a Junior League recipe book, to be created through Blurb’s Web site. The project leader would send out an e-mail message inviting people to visit the site and add their contributions to customized templates, which would then be converted into book pages.

“Books are breaking wide open,” Ms. Gittins said. “Books are becoming vehicles that aren’t static things.”

    Technology Rewrites the Book, NYT, 20.7.2006,






'Da Vinci' as a Brand:

From Soup to Nuts


May 20, 2006
The New York Times


If you, like more than 100 million readers around the world, enjoyed "The Da Vinci Code," marketers are betting that you might like the "Da Vinci" video game for PlayStation2 and Xbox, too. Or a "Da Vinci Code" paint-by-number. Or "The Da Vinci Fitness Code," a diet book based on the Fibonacci sequence.

With the movie opening this weekend, "The Da Vinci Code" has already spawned a mini-industry unto itself that encompasses video games, cookbooks, walking tours of the Louvre, even pornography. And despite the film's mostly scathing reviews, more products are likely to add to the "Da Vinci" collection.

Dan Burstein, the author of "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind the Da Vinci Code (Client Distribution Services, 2004)," estimates that "The Da Vinci Code," in all its permutations, has already generated some $1 billion in sales. And that number will only rise with the movie, even if it proves less than the superblockbuster that Sony Pictures has been counting on.

"We're talking about something that over time will be a multibillion-dollar brand business," Mr. Burstein said. "This movie is going to be seen all over the world; it's going to be debated and discussed all over the world; it's going to have large DVD sales. It has a very long tail on it."

Most of the merchandise and services surrounding "Da Vinci" are offered by independent operators unaffiliated with the movie or book. And a lot of it can be found on eBay. There are more than 2,000 entries for "Da Vinci Code"-related items on the site, including a "vintage" Da Vinci Code bracelet ("Super for going out clubbing!" promised a seller in Hong Kong). And don't forget the 9-inch wall clock featuring "code, ciphers and symbols" on the dial, which is being offered by a seller in Guthrie, Okla.

No matter what happens to the movie, the merchandise and travel tied to the brand will stay strong, some marketing experts said.

"Very rarely does the merchandise succeed if the underlying property doesn't succeed," said Marty Brochstein, the executive editor of The Licensing Letter, a newsletter published by EPM Communications in New York. "That said, the popularity of 'Da Vinci Code' is based on the book and how many people loved the book, not the movie."

The film, which opened in general distribution yesterday, is expected to take in perhaps $70 million or more in the United States this weekend. While Sony has already been moving to damp outsize expectations, that kind of opening could still put "The Da Vinci Code" not far behind some of the biggest box-office openers of all time, according to Exhibitor Relations, a company that tallies box-office receipts.

"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" collected more than $88 million in its opening weekend in November 2002. (The biggest box-office opener of all time was "Spider-Man," with an opening gross of $114.8 million that stretched over a slightly longer period.)

Of course, at the core of the "Da Vinci" brand is the book, which has 60.5 million copies in print and has been translated into 44 languages since it was first published. The book has produced roughly $400 million in revenue so far in worldwide sales.

The book industry has already produced dozens of titles that tie into the themes of "Da Vinci," from explorations of Opus Dei to biographies of Biblical figures.

Most of the books tied to "Da Vinci" are unrelated to the official franchise, but capitalize on the interest in the book's religious and historical themes.

Among them are "The Templar Legacy (Ballantine Books, 2006)," by Steve Berry, the story of a former Justice Department operative who is searching for the secrets of the medieval Knights Templar; "The Secret Supper (Simon & Schuster, 2006)," a novel centered around an investigation of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper," by Javier Sierra; and "Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church (Doubleday Religion, 2005)," by John L. Allen Jr.

In March, Random House published "Fodor's Guide to The Da Vinci Code," a travel book that traces the steps of the novel, which takes place in Paris, London and Rome, among other places. Random House printed 100,000 copies of the book, which Rachel Lieberman, a spokeswoman for Fodor's, called "the largest print run in recent memory" for a Fodor's guide.

But few groups have benefited from "Da Vinci" as much the travel industry has. The film's release has even enticed more Americans to plan trips to Europe this summer, according to a survey released on Thursday by AAA, formerly the American Automobile Association. AAA travel agents, according to the survey, have reported a 25 percent increase in bookings to Europe.

One tourism company, Cross-Culture Journeys in Amherst, Mass., is offering 14-day all-inclusive tours that trace the book's events in sequence, beginning in Paris and ending in Edinburgh, for $8,895 a person. The trip includes stays at the Ritz in Paris (the dwelling of Robert Langdon, the character played by Tom Hanks in the film) and the Hotel Bernini Bristol in Rome.

The frenzy over "Da Vinci" travel is not just for die-hard fans, said Ati Jain, the president of Cross-Culture Journeys.

"You've been to London, you've been to Paris, you've been to Rome and now you can add a different perspective to it," Mr. Jain said. "It's allowing people to look at things in a different light."

A typical tour in Paris, sponsored by the travel company, Paris Vision, offers a guided visit of eight and a half hours to sights from the book, including the Church of St. Sulpice and the Musee d'Orsay, for about $208.

Even the normally staid Louvre has capitalized on the "Da Vinci" frenzy. Last year, the novel helped lure a record 7.5 million visitors to the museum on the right bank of the Seine in the heart of Paris. Hoping to undercut private tours, the Louvre is sponsoring an audio tour of its own, "Step Inside the Da Vinci Code," narrating a walk down the parquet floors where the fictional murder takes place, setting off a chase surrounding the main character, the Harvard scholar Robert Langdon.

And the film has gotten its share of free publicity from television documentaries and specials devoted to the subject. Last week was Da Vinci Decoded Week on the History Channel, which ran more than a dozen programs exploring the book and related topics. In the end, the makers of the film may eventually cash in on lucrative merchandising, which they have avoided so far. Mr. Burstein of "Secrets of the Da Vinci Code" said they may be waiting for the controversy surrounding the film to die down.

"This month, you couldn't get McDonald's to have Robert Langdon action figures," he said. "But in the future, there's going to be reality shows; there's going to be treasure hunts; there's going to be cellphone downloads. Everything."

    'Da Vinci' as a Brand: From Soup to Nuts, NYT, 20.5.2006,    






The Bookseller Joel Rickett

on the latest news

from the publishing industry -

12 March 2005


The Guardian Review


• More than a third of adults in the UK never buy books. That is the most worrying statistic to emerge from "Expanding the Market", a research project funded by publishers and the Arts Council into those elusive "light and non book buyers". The survey found that a quarter of people do not feel welcome in bookshops, which they see as elitist or off-putting. Many who only buy a few books a year are daunted by the vast range on display, and don't trust newspaper reviews or "pretentious" quotes on novel jackets. Instead they are reliant on recommendations from family and friends, and to a lesser extent mass media such as Richard & Judy's Book Club. Books are still viewed as overly expensive by 21% of people, yet extensive discounting of new hardbacks has also devalued them as gift purchases. There are still many who maintain that they will never buy books, but half of light buyers said that they would buy more if books were available more widely and cover prices came down.


• The survey shows that the industry has done a superb job selling more books to existing readers — those who buy more than 11 books a year — but largely failed to reach out further. A rich output of at least 100,000 titles a year actually alienates much of the potential audience: light readers see books as a major investment of time, and resent it when they are "mis-sold". Publishers have cut back lists over the last few years, but have they gone far enough? With children's books, people are put off by the difficulty of choosing the right reading level; publishers are now working on an age-range banding scheme to aid selection. They also need to experiment with fresh formats. Most literary novelists are still pub­ lished in hardback, with the more appealing paperback receiving a fraction of the publicity and losing momentum. Could they be better served through a single concerted publication?


• One barrier to book reading is low literacy levels: 12m adults in the UK have a reading age below that expected of a 13-year-old. Random House chief executive Gail Rebuck says: "The problem is all around us — and the irony is that those of us who read can't see it. Our job is to take emergent readers and make them addicted readers." Next year the industry will aim to change this with a series of short, easy £2.99 books from big-name authors including Maeve Binchy and Joanne Trollope. Buyers can also use a £1 voucher to be distributed through government literacy programmes and a BBC campaign. The scheme aims to echo the runaway success of World Book Day for children: last week sales of the six WBD £1 books soared a fifth higher than 2004, with Francesca Simon's Horrid Henry's Bedtime finally ousting The Da Vinci Code from number one. Bookshop events and the backing of Tesco helped the overall book market grow 15%.


• One author who has single-handedly expanded the market is Dan Brown, with The Da Vinci Code and his backlist appealing to hundreds of thousands of new readers. But fans will have to wait until 2006 for Brown's next opus. His publisher, Transworld, had hoped for a Christmas blockbuster, but it has now accepted that the freemasonry thriller — provisionally called The Solomon Key — will not be ready in time. The challenge is to convert new Brown readers to other authors — without alienating them by flogging pale imitations.

The Bookseller Joel Rickett on the latest news from the publishing industry,
The Guardian,
Review, p. 38,
12 March 2005










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