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idly requested last week, Chad has more fully explained his thoughts on pricing Open Letter's new ebooks at $4.99 for a limited time. Essentially, his argument is two-fold . . ." />

The End of Oulipo?

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Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

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Translate This Book!

Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Fall Read: The Tunnel by William H. Gass

A group read of the book that either "engenders awe and despair" or "[goads] the reader with obscenity and bigotry," or both. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Life Perec

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Starting March 2011, read the greatest novel from an experimental master. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Last Samurai

Fall Read: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

A group read of one of the '00s most-lauded postmodern novels. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

Tale of Genji

The Summer of Genji

Two great online lit magazines team up to read a mammoth court drama, the world's first novel.

Your Face Tomorrow

Your Face This Spring

A 3-month read of Javier Marias' mammoth book Your Face Tomorrow

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Ten Memorable Quotes from William Gaddis’ Letters

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


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  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
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    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
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  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
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  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

Cheap eBooks: Good or Bad?

As I idly requested last week, Chad has more fully explained his thoughts on pricing Open Letter’s new ebooks at $4.99 for a limited time. Essentially, his argument is two-fold:

1. that too-cheap ebooks (i.e., full-on novels for less than $5.00) promote an idea of books as disposable entertainments; but,
2. that cheap ebooks can provide a kind of “advertising” for a small publisher like Open Letter, helping move people up the ladder to the $13.00 paperbacks

I do think there’s something to the idea of ereaders promoting an idea of books as disposable, though I don’t think it’s overly related to price. My own take is that our culture is sufficiently awash in remainders, garage sales, huge library booksales, used mass market paperbacks, etc, that we’re already rather comfortable with getting a real book for $1.00 or $2.00. Sure, 99 cent ebooks with further promulgate this idea, but I think it was already pretty fixed in the mind of your average book lover pre-ebook.

But then there’s the actual ebook product, something I’ve discussed on this site before. As much as I’ve gotten used to reading books electronically, I just can’t get my brain to consider it an ebook a real book. If I really like an ebook that I’ve read, I’ll want to go out and buy a “real” copy. It’s interesting to note that I don’t have this same kind of dichotomy with bound galleys and finished books (even though, theoretically, the galley isn’t actually a “real” book since there will be subtle differences between it and the finalized, printed book). Clearly, to me, this is something to do with having a printed thing to read versus having a bunch of computer code that will be displayed as a book in the presence of a certain device.

But anyway, I think Chad’s idea of using ebooks as loss leaders sounds about right, and I like how it essentially gives primacy to the printed book as the final repository of value, both for a reader and for a publisher. Maybe in the end low prices will be what saves us from a world without printed books.

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1 comment to Cheap eBooks: Good or Bad?

  • VersieC

    I kind of have mixed feelings about the whole ebooks vs real books matter. On one hand, with ebooks, the paper industry would stop cutting so damn many trees which is good. I like trees. Also, with ebooks, the authors themselves are also publishers, meaning lower prices and the money going directly to the author. I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s the same as with the music industry, and people self-promoting their albums and so on without need of record labels. One other benefit of ebooks would be that you can carry loads of them on some Kindle or whatever, and not having to drag along a whole backpack of books with you wherever you go. I’ve always thought that knowledge should be free, and cheap books are basically giving people that might not afford expensive books a chance to read those books, gain knowledge, etc. I’m buying my books from a neat little website called allyoucanbooks, and for a monthly fee, I can download whatever books I want. That would be another benefit of ebooks. You can get them anywhere, fast and easy, with the click of a button. Saves a lot of time, considering our current society’s hectic lifestyle.

    Now with classic books, yes you get that feel when you actually flip the page, the feel of the paper on your fingers, etc. But other than that, I sincerely don’t know why people hang on to this type of writing books.

    In my mind, times are changing, technology evolves, and these publishing companies are left behind, catering to the needs of a few through “ancient” needs.

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