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Today in publishing and literature: Amazon's disappearing gold badges, the messy scrawl of Charles Dickens, and Jeff Bezos is  testing the patience of America's independent booksellers once more.

  • Back in June, Amazon named Alison Espach's debut novel The Adults one of its "Best Books of 2011...So Far." She was understandably happy, until the 'so far' part kicked in near the end of the year, and she found herself crowded out by bigger names and bigger books. To her credit, she's not treating this like some sort of betrayal on Amazon's part. So far means so far. But she does bring up one policy Amazon might want to reconsider: the removal of  "the gold badge...inscribed Best Book of 2011, and then in small print, 'So Far" from Espach's author page after she was moved off the list. Those things encourage buyers, and let people know, "Hey, we also liked this as well." It may have been in a different time and different place, but there's no harm in standing by the good ones. [Salon]
  • A manuscript facsimile of Great Expectations is available to purchase for the first time. Buyers should steel themselves, however, for the terrible handwriting of author Charles Dickens. Dr. Caroline Murphy, the publisher of the facsimile, says that's part of the charm. "We tend to forget how easy it is with computers," Murray notes you just do it and delete it. The actual visual sense of how something is composed will be lost to us in the future, but here it is very tangible." She continues: "What I find interesting is first how terrible his handwriting was, and second what an awful lot of changes there are. He obviously went back and revised and scribbled things out quite frequently ... The fact he did have changes of mind, that he scribbled things out, makes him seem more human." This will likely be true, for the readers who don't suffer migraines after five paragraphs. [The Guardian]
     
  • Oren Teicher, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association, has written an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos complaining about the company's Price Check app, which lets users go into a bricks-and-mortar star, scan an item's bar code, and then see if Amazon offers it for a lower price. As part of a special promotion tomorrow, Amazon will shave 5% off the price of items looked up on Price Check, with savings capped at $5. The tactic has Teicher fuming. ""We could call your $5 bounty to app-users a cheesy marketing move and leave it at that," he writes. "In fact, it is the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries." That's followed by an oblique reference to Amazon's new push for an online sales tax, capped off with the Dirty Harry Callahan approved parting line: "See you on main street." [ABA via Publishers Weekly]
  • Cambridge University Library houses the bulk of Isaac Newton's papers, which the school is just now starting to digitize and make available online. It's an ambitious project (the five notebooks currently online total 1,750 scanned pages), but you don't have to remember any calculus to derive pleasure from reading 350-year-old first drafts and methodically worked-out equations and diagrams on pieces of scrap paper. These are just the notes he took while doing his geometry and mathematics readings as an undergrad. Look at all the words! Words don't belong in math homework.

 

And here, just a few years later is some real writing: his early draft for "The Division of a Monochord," in which he would try to prove each musical note is related to a single color in the visual spectrum. Again, the science doesn't really matter. What does matter is that Isaac Newton's original manuscripts from the 1660s are crisp, unblotchy, and available online until the Internet falls apart. [Cambridge University]

 

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