Thursday, March 31, 2011

Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved on this day in 1988

The Community Healing Network, an organization that promotes healing from the psychological legacy of enslavement, posted this note on Facebook today:

On this day in 1988, Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, a haunting tale which, in part, examined the psychological impact of slavery. In a lecture, she discussed why we should never forget

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

But Some of Us Are Brave: Foremothers Maria W. Stewart and Sojourner Truth

Black women have a strong activist tradition of speaking out against injustice in America, which is documented in the early decades of the 19th century. In an era that frowned on women asserting themselves in public, both Maria Stewart and Sojourner Truth risked public scorn and personal safety as outspoken advocates of social equality for Black women.

Maria W. Stewart, America's
First Black Woman
Political Writer
Maria (Miller) Stewart (1803-1879) is credited with being the first African American woman to publish her political views in America. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Maria Stewart began life in domestic servitude, was widowed several years after marriage in 1826, and following a Christian conversion, felt called to be an activist promoting social equality for Black women. In fact, Maria Stewart is thought to be the first woman of any race to speak her mind on matters of equality and justice in a public forum in America, in an address titled, "Why Sit Ye Here and Die?" delivered on September 21, 1832 at Franklin Hall in Boston. Stewart was not afraid to challenge even the liberal anti-slavery sect of Bostonians to be more aggressive in agitating for Black women to have access to education and gainful employment. 

Sojourner Truth

Isabella Baumfree (1797-1883) who adopted the name Sojourner Truth in response to a Christian calling, was born in Ulster County, New York, and worked her way from field laborer to liberty. Known for her fiery public speaking, Sojourner Truth made a lasting impact with her brief but landmark speech, "Ar'n’t I a Woman," which she delivered on an outdoor platform in Ohio in June 1851. Her speech defends the dignity of Black women who were forced to perform physical labor against social attitudes that narrowly equated femininity with White womanhood.

The courageous voices of these African American foremothers blazed a trail for succeeding generations of Black women who have continued to speak out against injustice, promote sisterhood and self-empowerment, and offer words of inspiration. The pioneering impact of Maria Stewart and Sojourner Truth is exemplified in the title of a groundbreaking anthology of Black women's writing published nearly a century after their deaths: All the men are Black, All the women are White, But Some of Us Are Brave (1982).

Read more NRB notes on Black women authors and books on our catalog list catalog list of books by and about Black women.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Judge rejects Google settlement

Google's goal to digitize every text on the planet and make them all available online is an appealing goal on its face. Afterall, wouldn't we all like to settle down in an easy chair with our iPads and pull up a centuries-old moral tale rescued from an Egyptian papyrus or a love story transcribed in a lost Ethiopic writing system?

What would be the impact if the world had access to most of the lost texts of history? All of that access would be great, but would we read those texts?

In any case, I worry that the outcome of Google's agreement with publishers and writers would be that Google will gain a monopoly on the access to the world's knowledge bank, as some have called such a collection of books. If Google had gotten its way, I am concerned that it would be in a position to charge whatever price it wants for access to these works, and ultimately Google would do just that, making the books still out of the reach of most readers. 

Going forward, I think important protections must be added to the settlement plan that Judge Denny Chin rejected. These protections must ensure that Google does not have the exclusive rights to digitize the world's books. For example, fair competition should be protected so that other tech companies can also digitize any orphan or lost book. A "lost" copyright owners' rights should be protected, as well.

Look forward to reading about how Google and other stakeholders revise the settlement plan according to Judge Chin's guidelines. Here's the story about the Judge Chin's decision reported in the NY Times.

Judge Rejects Google’s Deal to Digitize Books
Published: March 22, 2011
Google’s ambition to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore has run into the reality of a 300-year-old legal concept: copyright.
The court’s decision throws into legal limbo one of Google’s most ambitious projects: a plan to digitize millions of books from libraries, such as this rare, antique Bible.
Judge Denny Chin said the legal settlement with publishers and authors would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly.”
The company’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed on Tuesday when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.

Read the full story at:

Another take on the story from the L.A. Times:
The rejected Google e-books settlement: What it means and what comes next

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alexander Book Co. news

Profile of Alexander Book Company in Bay area
Bernard's B-list puts authors, bookstore on A-list
Edward Guthmann, Special to The Chronicle
Monday, March 14, 2011
When authors visit Alexander Book Co. in San Francisco, Bernard Henderson hosts the event like a personal party for his best friends and neighbors.
"Hey, girl!" he says to his best customers, giving them a hug. For actresses Pam Grier and Mo'Nique, singer Jill Scott and attorney Johnnie Cochran, he prepared a feast of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, black-eyed peas and cornbread. For Russell Simmons, he arranged a catered vegan meal.
A Detroit native and Bay Area resident since 1993, Henderson, 45, also produces "Bernard's Bookshelf," a public-access TV show, and occasionally performs stand-up comedy. He's single, has a daughter, 16, and shares a house in Richmond with two roommates.
Mo'Nique was the nicest, the sweetest of all the people who came here. She talked on the cell phone to people, she signed every book.
If someone was standing in line and talking on the phone she'd go, "Who you talkin' to?" They'd say, "I'm talking to so-and-so and waitin' to get my book signed. And they don't believe I'm here." And Mo'Nique would say, "Gimme that phone!"
I have Sister Souljah coming with her new book, "Midnight and the Meaning of Love," on May 5. She's credited with starting the urban lit, or street lit, genre with "The Coldest Winter Ever" (1999), about a young girl named Winter, the daughter of drug lords.

Amazon sales tax looms on the horizon

The cost of doing business keeps getting more costly--see excerpt from the New York Times article below.

Amazon Pressured on Sales Tax
Published: March 13, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Across the country, state officials struggling with big budget shortfalls are trying to get to take on a role it does not want: tax collector.
Amazon’s skirmishes with states over whether it should collect sales taxes have been an ongoing battle. But the fighting has recently escalated, coinciding with the economic woes that have left a number of states struggling with multibillion-dollar deficits, and looking for money wherever they can find it.
Last Thursday, Gov. Pat Quinn, Democrat of Illinois, signed a law that compels online retailers that work with affiliates in his state to collect sales tax on purchases by residents.

Read the full article at:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

University Presses partnering for survival

The plight and survival plans of university presses was recently reviewed in an article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website.

March 7, 2011

University Presses Are Urged to Work Together to Survive

By Jennifer Howard
Operating in this digitally powered era of "information hyperabundance," university presses still get most of their sales revenue from print sales. But they're also putting more and more energy into trying electronic, open-access, and nontraditional publishing—and are likely to be experimenting for a very long time. So says a new report made public today by the Association of American University Presses.

Read the full article at:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Promoting literacy through World Read Aloud Day

A great event to participate in tomorrow -- and every day!

World Read Aloud Day: March 9, 2011

Nearly 1 billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their name. What would you miss most if you could not read or write? Imagine your world without words.

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.

Read the full story at:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A view of why the big box model made Borders bankrupt

Cultural shift hurt Borders' image
Sunday, February 27, 2011
By Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When Borders opened its first outlet in Pittsburgh in 1990, the book-selling world was a far different place than it is in 2011, the year that store and two other Borders in the region are preparing to close in April, dropped by the bankrupt chain.

Read more: