Small Press, Great Books

Michael Dirda had a column in The Washington Post about small presses that I found interesting. Some of these smaller presses are doing innovative and interesting things in publishing so they are often worth a look. Whether you are looking for mysteries or reissues of great literature or just English translations of excellent books from around the world, you are sure to find something that appeals from one of these publishers.

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Early English Printing Found

William Caxton
William Caxton portrait from Library of Congress

For all the history fans out there, a librarian found what is thought to be from one of the oldest printed books created in England. The pages, found in a box in the University of Reading archive, are from a religious book originally printed by William Caxton in the late 1400s. The university press release has more detail on the pages and how they ended up where they were discovered.

Follow the links for some fascinating reading for history buffs and bibliophiles alike.

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Evolving Language

latin LoC Image3
From Library of Congress. Antonio da Rho, O.F.M., Tres Dialogi in Lactantium. (Three dialogues against Lactantius). In Latin. Parchment. Rome. Dedication copy for Pope Eugene IV. ca. 1450

The Oxford English Dictionary, or OED, has a blog about language that I usually find very interesting. I particularly liked this recent entry on how modern speakers change ancient languages. It’s an interesting look at communication between language and how time and technology have changed our perception of many terms and words.

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Secret Libraries

Library of Congress Jefferson Building
Library of Congress Jefferson Building – not a secret library!

Last year, BBC Culture highlighted secret libraries around the world. The libraries had been hidden or restricted for various reasons – religion, politics, or just plain forgetfulness. This piece highlights a few of these libraries in different countries. I’d love to visit some of these!

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Shakespeare’s Contemporaries

Shakespeares Contemporaries
Folger Shakespeare Library photo from LUNA catalog used under CC-BY SA License.


The Folger Shakespeare Library has created a Digital Anthology of Early Modern English Drama to assist readers and researchers around the world. This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in history, language, or theater will find much to learn and read in this set of resources.

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EU Commission’s New Bookselling Rules

Publisher’s Weekly had a good article this week about the EU Commission announcing updated bookselling rules. The rules are likely to have significant pricing impact, particularly the change to VAT for ebooks and the refusal to allow Amazon contracts to include “most favored nation” clauses. The third rule that was issued ends the practice of ebook sales being determined by geographic location and making the EU one market in terms of ebook sales.

Check out the interesting changes and what people think will happen because of them.

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Print vs Ebook Sales

Last week, The Guardian published two articles with titles that purported to discuss the decline of ebooks and the resurgence of print in the UK. Additionally, CNN had a story online about the same situation playing out in the US.

The first article, How ebooks lost their shine, is actually more about the bounce back of print books and books as art objects (versus books as reading material). The article even states “The figures from the Publishing Association should be treated with some caution. They exclude self-published books, a sizable market for ebooks. And, according to Dan Franklin, a digital publishing specialist, more than 50% of genre sales are on ebook. Digital book sales overall are up 6%.”

The second article, Screen fatigue sees UK ebook sales plunge 17% as readers return to print, does not make the same note about the statistics but goes more in depth as to the fact that the decline might be attributable to the decline of dedicated ereaders in favor of tablets and cell phones which are harder to read on.

The CNN story gives similar data and ends with a depressing statistic for the US, “A quarter of the population hadn’t read a book of any kind, whether in print, electronic or audio form.”

Both Guardian articles have good points but I think reading all three of the articles together gives a better and fuller picture of the British and US book market and reader engagement.

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Old School Mysteries


In honor of this weekend’s Malice Domestic conference, the Washington Post’s Michael Dirda recommends some mysteries from the 1930s that have been reissued and will likely be fun reading for any fan of Christie or Doyle. I definitely plan to check out some of these older works and also have on my TBR Amy Stewarts’ Kopp Sisters mysteries, new works in the old school style.

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Literature and History: Jane Austen

East front of the Wentworth Woodhouse from A Complete History of the County of York by Thomas Allen (1828-30) – public domain image


A recent statement from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer caused a bit of a history and literary kerfuffle. In the statement regarding financial aid for historical preservation, the Chancellor said that Wentworth Woodhouse was the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice. Almost immediately, the Jane Austen Society put out a statement that Austen had never seen Wentworth Woodhouse and so it couldn’t be the inspiration.

It looks like Jane Austen is still causing mischief and mayhem in the 21st century. And they say romance novels are ephemeral!

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EU Court Allows Library Ebook Lending

Last month, the Court of Justice of the European Union put forward a ruling that libraries may lend ebooks just like physical books so long as authors are paid for their work. It appears that until now libraries in the EU did not have the right to lend ebooks the way libraries in America have for quite some time.

Publishers, of course, are quite unhappy with the decision because they will lose some money. However, the apocalyptic rhetoric coming from publishers is obviously overblown. If publishers have been able to make ebook lending work in America, they can certainly do so in the EU. Additionally, the idea that they find this decision shocking is ludicrous. Back in June, the advocate general for the court published an opinion on this case so publishers had five months to prepare for the court’s ruling.

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