Today in books and publishing: E-books are now the best-selling format for adult fiction; queering comic books; how Shakespeare inspired South African activists; and blind Chinese dissident gets a book deal.
Chen Guangcheng to publish memoirs. The man at the center of a brief diplomatic crisis between China and the U.S. earlier this year, has signed a book deal with Henry Holt & Co. The publishing house will release his memoirs in 2013. [Los Angeles Times]
E-books take biggest chunk of adult fiction sales. According to an annual publishing industry sales survey, e-books became the most popular format for consumers of adult fiction in 2011, surpassing hardcover and paperback sales. The survey also reports that total book sales dropped 2.5 percent last year. But, don't start lamenting the death the printed page just yet! Publishers Weekly reports that bookstore sales rose 5.7 percent this May, making it the strongest month for brick-and-mortar stores so far this year. [Publishers Weekly]
Shakespeare and apartheid. Though cultures, continents and centuries stood between them, South African activists looked to William Shakespeare for inspiration while imprisoned. An upcoming British Museum exhibition will display the copy of Shakespeare's complete works which inmates of apartheid-era Robben Island prison circulated amongst themselves secretly. Readers often annotated their favorite passages from the "Robben Island Bible." In 1977, Nelson Mandela signed his name next to these lines from Julius Caesar: "Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once." [The Telegraph]
On queer comic books. The Rumpus just posted its third and final piece in a fascinating series on queer comics anthology No Straight Lines, released by Fantagraphics this month. The essays, written by anthology editor Justin Hall, explore the double-marginalization of LGBT comics, which face stereotypes about both queer people and the literary merit of comic books. "The insular nature of the world of queer cartooning, however, has created a truly fascinating artistic scene," writes Hall. "LGBTQ comics have been an uncensored, internal conversation within queer communities, and thus provide a unique window into the hopes, fears, and fantasies of queer people for the last four decades." Here are the first and second entries. [The Rumpus]
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