‘Surprising and concerning’ – Quoted in the Guardian, discussing legal threats to book sellers

Jim Waterson of the Guardian reports a bizarre story of legal reputation managers at Schillings sending threatening letters to booksellers and independent book shops, in an effort to stop them stocking a book about an (allegedly) corrupt banker.

I’m quoted near the end of the story, expressing my dismay:

Robert Sharp of English PEN, the free speech campaign group that co-founded the Libel Reform Campaign, said the decision by Low’s lawyers to target booksellerswas deeply worrying. “This is surprising, concerning and sets a terrible precedent,” he said. He argued that by focussing on the synopses, “the effect of these legal letters is to short-circuit the legal process, by putting booksellers in an impossible position”.

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On Borrowing and Buying e-Books

More on the trend towards the digitisation of books and what that means for culture, politics and society… this time, from George Orwell.

Given a good pitch and the right amount of capital, any educated person ought to be able to make a small secure living out of a bookshop…. Also it is a humane trade which is not capable of being vulgarized beyond a certain point. The combines can never squeeze the small independent bookseller out of existence as they have squeezed the grocer and the milkman.

Orwell did not forsee the rise of the Amazon behemoth!  Nevertheless, his 1936 essay ‘Bookshop Memories’ is still relevant today (indeed, one might argue that Orwell’s nack for remaining relevant is the source of his greatness).  Our current appeals to tactility-as-a-virtue are there, alongside concerns that the public generally has a taste for low-brow thriillers and romances, rather than classics from the canon.

Elsewhere, he mentions the fact that bookshops were also lending libraries.  In this, I wonder if there is a parallel with Amazon?  Since the early days of the Kindle, we have known that books one ‘buys’ for the machine are actually just licenced.  Three years ago, Amazon remotely deleted all copies of Nineteen Eighty-Four from Kindle devices, a manoever that was at once horrifying and hilarious.  Last month, a Norwegian woman was declared a persona non grata by the company, and all her purchases were deleted from her device without warning. Continue reading “On Borrowing and Buying e-Books”