Weeklings: Expensive E-books and Unapologetic Plagiarism
Posted by: Keir Graff
While agents and authors cheer Macmillan’s stand against Amazon, some e-book aficionados are angry at authors. In an anecdote-rich but fact-impoverished article in the New York Times, Motoko Rich and Brad Stone quote a bunch of people who are willing to pay a few hundred books for a gizmo — but balk at a few more bucks for a book (“E-Book Price Increase May Stir Readers’ Passions“).
“They’re just books,” said Mr. Wagoner, who left an angry one-star review on the Amazon page for Mr. Preston’s novel. “I do other things other than reading.”
If we in the embattled book-reviewing biz need any more ammunition for our own defense, consider the concept of amateur reviewers who review a book based on price — PRICE! — rather than a subjective analysis of the author’s ability to achieve what he or she set out to accomplish.
Frankly, the best reponse to this article was written by Michael Cader on Publishers Lunch.
But also, among the large group of people who do not intend to buy an ereading device, 80 percent cited the price of the device as the biggest obstacle to ownership. Why is the conversation about a few dollars on ebook prices, instead of hundreds of dollars for a device? That’s what most people “can’t afford.”
Of course, now Rich has reported that “Apple’s Prices for E-Books May Be Lower Than Expected” (NYT). Sounds like some people have some Amazon reviews to rewrite!
While many people lament e-readers’ lack of colorful book covers, Charlie Brooker celebrates the same thing (“Why I’m an E-book Convert,” Guardian).
The lack of a cover immediately alters your purchasing habits. As soon as I got the ebook, I went on a virtual shopping spree, starting with the stuff I thought I should read – Wolf Hall, that kind of thing – but quickly found myself downloading titles I’d be too embarrassed to buy in a shop or publicly read on a bus. Not pornography, but something far worse: celebrity autobiographies.
In other news, if you’ve found yourself wondering, “Who will be the next Kaavya Viswanathan?” it’s Helene Hegemann, the 17-year-old German author of Axolotl Roadkill (“Author, 17, Says It’s ‘Mixing,’ Not Plagiarism,” by Nicholas Kulish, NYT). Her best-selling novel about club culture is apparently a mashup of her own life — and other writers’ work. All credit to Ms. Hegemann, she is not only unapologetic but great for a pull quote.
Although Ms. Hegemann has apologized for not being more open about her sources, she has also defended herself as the representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new. “There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity,” said Ms. Hegemann in a statement released by her publisher after the scandal broke.
I take that to mean that her use of other writers’ work is more authentic than the original authors’? As Laura Miller points out on Salon, Hegemann is essentially recycling something that Jim Jarmusch said much more poetically — not that he’d mind her recycling it, and not that he was the first to say it.
Also in plagiarism news, DealBook blogger Zachery Kouwe resigned after the Wall Street Journal noticed that Kouwe had borrowed more than inspiration from them (“The Accidental Plagiarist,” New York Observer). Kouwe, apparently, shared their surprise:
“I was as surprised as anyone that this was occurring,” said Mr. Kouwe, referring to the revelation that he had plagiarized. “I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff. As soon as I saw, I guess, like six examples, I said to myself, ‘Man what an idiot. What I was thinking?’”
And J. K. Rowling Faces Another Plagiarism Suit (Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor).
The suit, being brought in a London court by the estate of the English children’s author Adrian Jacobs, alleges that she lifted concepts – wizard contests, wizard prisons, wizard hospitals, and wizard colleges – from his 1987 book “The Adventures of Willy the Wizard: No. 1 Livid Land” and used them in writing “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire.”
Will this one have any more merit than the one in which Nancy Stouffer alleged that Harry Potter was a rip-off of her character “Larry Potter”? Only time will tell.