Tag Archives: amazon.com

Books Acquired Recently: Holiday Gift Edition

This post lists the various books I’ve received as gifts this holiday season. I actually didn’t ask for very many this year (I went a more purely aesthetic route, getting some snazzy clothing and several pieces of art), hence the small number, though I’ll probably buy a few more with some holiday cash. There are also more books coming from relatives who shipped them late, so expect a part two to this post sometime soon.

Konikowski, Jerzy, and Marek Soszynski. The Sokolsky Opening: 1. b4 in Theory & Practice. Milford: Russell, 2009.

1. b4 was my favorite opening as white when I played chess regularly, and soon after this book came out I put it on my amazon.com wishlist because I enjoy collecting books about such a deliciously esoteric opening. The book will be good to have on hand when I begin playing again.

Sensitive Skin 9 (2012).

This journal issue includes a story by my favorite author, Samuel R. Delany. I have heretofore been unfamiliar with Sensitive Skin, but in flipping through the issue it looks like a venue for some exciting writing and fascinating art work.

Tossell, David. The Great English Final: 1953: Cup, Coronation & Stanley Matthews. Durrington: Pitch, 2013.

I have been fascinated by the 1953 FA Cup final between Blackpool and Bolton Wanderers ever since I read Paul Gardner’s firsthand account of it in his book The Simplest Game. I am eager to read Tossell’s description of why the match has remained so ingrained in soccer fans’ memory, which contextualizes the match within early-1950s British society.

Young, Kevin. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2012.

This again is a book that I have had my eyes on since I first heard about it. It examines African American literature within the broader context of American pop culture.

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Book Acquired Recently: Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues

Feinberg, Leslie. Stone Butch Blues. 1993. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2003.

I’ve been meaning to read this queer classic for a while, and recently was on amazon.com buying something else, and decided to finally buy Feinberg’s novel to help me get to the $25.00 free shipping threshold. To my horror I discovered that the book is currently out of print! I was able to buy a used copy for $20.00, which seems high, but since it is both out of print and important it may become rare quite quickly, so I felt it was worth it.

The reason this important book is out of print is that its publisher, Alyson Books, went out of business a few years ago. This is yet another example of the publishing industry’s troubles–it is more and more difficult for independent publishers to stay alive. Alyson was an important publisher of LGBT works that are now in limbo. One hopes that some other publisher will recognize their value and buy the rights. In the case of Stone Butch Blues, it still gets written about, and remained on syllabi while it was in print, so it would be a good investment for another company to make.

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Books Acquired Recently

Kane, Daniel. All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s. Berkeley: U of California P, 2003.

I am a major fan of the New York School of Poets (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, et al.) and its descendants. Kane’s book covers both groups, so I bought it to read for fun.

McNeill, Elizabeth. Nine and a Half Weeks: A Memoir of a Love Affair. 1978. New York: Harper, 2005.

I recently learned about this book when a friend posted an article about it on Facebook which mentions that the author went to my alma mater/my friend’s former employer, Goshen College. This fact was not enough for me to buy the book, but its subject matter–bondage, a scholarly interest of mine–was.

Millay, Edna St. Vincent. A Few Figs From Thistles. 1922. Fayetteville: Juniper Grove, 2008.

I enjoy poetry, but have read very little of Millay’s work. I read about this collection in an essay on Greenwich Village in the 1920s that made the book sound delightfully scandalous, and since I hadn’t bought any poetry in a while I decided to buy it.

Both this and McNeill’s book bear a note on the final page that they were printed on 2 December 2012 in San Bernardino, California. This has also been the case with other lesser-known books that I’ve ordered from amazon.com (Walter Abish’s Alphabetical Africa immediately comes to mind). On the one hand, it is wonderful that publishing technology has advanced to the point where books are able to stay “in print” even when they have not actually been printed yet because more books are able to remain available to readers, which is a good, important thing. But it also helps large retailers such as amazon, who have the facilities to print the books on-site, save on warehousing costs, which gives them a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores. This is a bad thing.

All books bought via amazon.com.

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Books Acquired Recently

Braun, Jan Guenther. Somewhere Else. Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring,  2008.

A friend who knows that I like Stephen Beachy recommended this to me; apparently it’s another Mennonite novel dealing with queer issues. I will read it as soon as I have time, hopefully by the end of the week.

Califia, Pat. Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Cleis, 2000.

I’ve been reading as much as I can about BDSM lately for an essay I’m working on, and Califia’s work has attained “classic” status in the field, which is why I bought this book. I’ve already begun reading it, and while some of it is dated, it still has some very relevant ideas. The dated stuff is interesting, too, and even encouraging in a way because it shows how much progress has been made in the past decade in the area of LGBT rights and sexual freedom in general.

Both of these books were bought via amazon.com, but both came from bookstores from outside of the U.S., which is worth noting. The Califia came from the U.K. (I forget where exactly, because I already threw away the packing slip and packaging), and the Braun came from Russell Books in Victoria, British Columbia. Hurray for independent bookstores, even if they are forced to rely on amazon to sell their wares.

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Book Acquired Recently: Nicholson Baker’s U and I

Baker, Nicholson. U and I: A True Story. 1991. New York: Vintage, 1992.

I am very excited to read this book. Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite writers because his prose flows like hot chocolate syrup, which makes his books virtually impossible to put down. I love his attention to detail and his obsession with book culture, which I share, and which leads to the best, most observant writing about literature in both its physical and intellectual manifestations that I have ever read. This book is about his love affair (well, intellectual love affair, but wouldn’t it be quintessentially Updikean if they had actually had a clandestine physical affair?) with John Updike, a writer who I also like when I’m not feeling guilty for liking him.

I went through a voracious period of reading Baker’s fiction last fall and winter, and have been getting to his nonfiction here and there. I bought this book to help me reach amazon.com’s $25.00 plateau for free shipping on a recent order (the other book in the order was Samuel R.Delany’s Starboard Wine, which is coming out later this summer). In other words, my book-buying addiction feeds my study of Baker’s book addiction. We addicts have to stick together!


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Real Books Forever! or, Just Say “No” to ebooks

Some of my fiction collection.

There is a fascinating and disturbing article by Ken Auletta in this week’s (June 25, 2012) New Yorker about the current legal face-offs between amazon.com and six large publishing companies in the U.S. (Random House, Penguin, Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster). Basically, Apple created a deal with the publishers to fix their ebook prices at a higher rate than amazon demanded from them, and amazon then entered into a similar deal, which has resulted in the publishers now being able to sell their ebooks on amazon at a slight profit rather than a loss, but the Department of Justice has initiated an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of consumers as a result (if you want all of the legal nitty-gritty, read the article itself [you need a subscription to the print version of the magazine to read the article online, so support print culture by going and buying a copy at your local newsstand!]—I’m more interested here in the larger ramifications for the future of books in general).

I am normally against big companies setting price controls because they hurt consumers, but in this case I am rooting for the publishers to win because they need the price controls in order to stay in business. Books are essential to a functioning democracy, and, while one could question whether our “democracy” is currently functioning considering how ridiculous the goings-on in Congress have been for the past fifteen years or so, anyone who has an interest in education or civil rights or, to put it bluntly, freedom must recognize the necessity of books and do everything they can to help protect them. If amazon—which I must admit I love and buy print books from frequently (I will never, ever buy an ebook as long as paper books exist), though this article forces me to re-think this practice—is able to force publishers to provide them with books at a loss to the publishers, the end result will be that publishers (especially independent publishers [including university presses], who are the most important because they publish valuable books that are not necessarily profitable, and thus would never be published by large publishers) begin to go out of business, leaving amazon as both distributor and publisher of books, which means that readers will be forced to accept their view of what is important enough to publish or not. I try not to let large corporations make these types of decisions for me.

The issue is not just about physical objects, it is about how ideas are disseminated, and the avenues available for this dissemination play a major role in what ideas are put into the public eye. The more of these avenues that are available, the more new ideas enter public discourse, which benefits everyone because it stimulates further thinking. Books (and print culture more broadly) have been the primary way of disseminating ideas since the 1500s (we see their power in the example of the Protestant Reformation, which would have been impossible without them), and while that does not mean that other forms of idea dissemination are invalid, it does mean that we must do everything we can to ensure that books will survive, which means ensuring that a competitive publishing field survives.

A note on ebooks versus real books: according to Auletta’s article, ebooks “make up about a third of all book sales” (37). More and more of my friends and colleagues, educated people who should know better, prefer ebooks because they are supposedly more “convenient” because you don’t have to carry them around and they take up less space. This is a ridiculous argument. If carrying several books with you is too much of a physical strain, you need to be in better shape anyway (or you are elderly or disabled, in which case I am willing to make an exception), so just think of it as some informal weightlifting. As a compulsive book-buyer, I can see the space argument, but a) you can do wonderful things with modular shelves from a store such as Ikea to maximize the space you have for your books, because any room is made better by the presence of books—they show that you are an intelligent person, which is always sexy; and b) the benefits that physical books have which ebooks do not far outweigh the minor problem of figuring out where to put your books, anyway. Aside from the unquantifiable aesthetic pleasure of holding and smelling an actual book in your hand as your read, enjoying the different fonts in different volumes and thinking about the history of the physical object in your hand if you acquired it used, a major benefit of real books is that you can flip through them, finding favorite passages with ease, or looking in the index for the subject you are interested in and going straight there. With ebooks, you are forced to go through chronologically, or at least chapter-by-chapter, not to mention ruining your eyes by using yet another electronic device (real books give me a much-needed break from the computer) and the uselessness of ereaders once we run out of fossil fuels.

A similar point is made in the article, which discusses how the process of browsing in a bookstore is essential for finding new authors, whereas online shoppers tend to just go straight for what they are looking for. This both hurts lesser-known authors and is less fun for customers. Part of the joy of book-buying is finding unanticipated treasures, and the chance of this is greatly diminished when shopping online. It is true that it is more convenient to shop at a site such as amazon’s—if I know what I’m looking for I can literally buy a book from them in less than sixty seconds—but the most convenient way isn’t always the best way. It’s fun to spend an hour or two just lazily browsing at your local bookstore. I fear that, the way things are going, this activity will no longer be an option when I am older. To prevent that horrific possibility, it is necessary to support printed books and reject their much less satisfying electronic impostors.


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