Books In The News
Statistics released by the Association of American Publishers reveals that in February, electronic books became the largest selling book format. For the first time, they surpassed paperbacks. In January, paperbacks were still leading the way. These figures were gathered from publisher sales figures. Sales for e-books have grown more than 200% since the previous February. Meanwhile, sales of printed books continue to lag. In January, Amazon.com revealed for the first time that e-books had outsold paperbacks on their website. That is more to be expected on a website, where downloading is instantaneous, but that e-book sales have so quickly come to lead among all sources is something of a surprise. The evolution has been swift and dramatic.
Gary Indiana's Library Board has announced that it will be closing down its main library at the end of the year. Four of five branches will remain open. The vote was close - 4-3 - but Gary is an example of current economic problems taken to the extreme. Gary grew to great heights during the first half of the past century. It was founded by U.S. Steel, and America's largest steel producer provided lots of good, industrial jobs. The main library opened in 1964, just around the time the American steel industry was peaking. The prosperous American Midwest was about to become the "Rust Belt," and Gary, as much as any city, its symbol.
According to the 1960 census, Gary, a city that did not exist in 1900, had 178,000 residents. Today, there are fewer than half that number, just 80,000. There was another 22% drop in the last decade alone. And, many of those that left were people of middle and upper middle class incomes, replaced mostly by poorer minorities. So, Gary has been faced with fewer residents of lesser means, a declining property-value tax base, and now a recently adopted statewide property tax limitation that will further devastate Gary's revenues. We hate to see libraries close, particularly in poorer neighborhoods where people need all of the services they can get. Still, it is hard to imagine what else the Board could do in a situation where their revenues are about to be cut by more than half. Ultimately, the choice was between closing the main library, the most expensive to operate, or the branches. It chose to keep four branches around the city open on the grounds this will provide services closer to home. It is likely around 30 employees will lose their jobs, some through layoffs, others attrition.
The American Library Association released its list of the… hmmm… not sure whether this is a most popular or least popular top 10. This is a list of the ten most challenged books at libraries, as compiled by their Office for Intellectual Freedom. In other words, this is a censorship list, the books various unhappy people have attempted to have banned from their local public or school library. The reasons are the usual - sex, sex, and more sex, along with sexual orientation, drugs, offensive language, violence, and ruffling someone or other's religious feathers. We publish the list here because we know, going back to the old prohibition lists put out by the Church in the 16th century, if it's on someone's banned list, you will want to read it (perhaps that's the only reason for reading a few of these).
Books In The News
Andy Rooney still prefers printed books.
1. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. Issues: homosexuality, religious viewpoint.
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Issues: language, racism, sex and violence.
3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. Issues: insensitivity, language, racism and sex.
4. Crank, by Ellen Hopkins. Issues: Language, drugs and sex (but not rock and roll).
5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Issues: sex and violence.
6. Lush, by Natasha Friend. Issues: drugs, language and sex.
7. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones. Issues: sex and sexism.
8. Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Issues: drugs, accuracy, language, politics, religious viewpoint.
9. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie. Issues: sex and homosexuality.
10. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. Issues: religious viewpoint and violence.
The good news is that To Kill A Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye dropped off the list this year. The not so good news is the classic Brave New World made it. I don't know most of the books on this list, though my high school daughter read Twilight. I didn't realize it was objectionable. I thought it was just boring. Kudos to Ms. Ehrenreich for managing to hit just about every hot-button issue other than sex.
I have not read the leader, And Tango Makes Three, but my understanding is that it is about penguins, a true story to boot. Sounds harmless enough until you discover it is about two male penguins raising a young flipper. You can see the problems here. Apparently, one of the males later moved on to a female. Hopefully being bi isn't quite so offensive to those who would ban this book.
Commenting on the list, American Library Association President Roberta Stevens said, "Danger does not arise from viewpoints other than our own; the danger lies in allowing others to decide for us and our communities which reading materials are appropriate." Amen.
Veteran commentator Andy Rooney had a few choice words on the subject of printed vs. electronic books on the venerable CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes recently. Rooney already expressed his appreciation for the printed word in a commentary on his visit to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair a few years back, so his reaction was as expected and welcome. Rooney likes printed books. "If you were to make a list of all the good things in the world," Rooney said, "books would be right up near the top. Someone did a great thing when they invented books." He goes on to say, "I'm not interested in having my books on an electronic device. I want them in books. I want my words in books." If Andy Rooney represents the wave of the future, those who prefer the traditional, printed book have little to fear.
Mr. Rooney is 92 years old.