Iraq’s Constitution "guarantees freedom of expression, but only if it 'does not violate public order and morality,'" according to the New York Times, and that loophole is a cause for concern among many citizens as the "Iraqi government moves to ban sites deemed harmful to the public, to require Internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books."
The Times reported that last spring, "the government contacted the handful of Iraqi book publishers still in business and asked them to compile lists of their books, along with a description of the subject matter. The material is to be kept at the Ministry of Culture, which is also preparing a document to be signed by publishers in which they will pledge not to distribute books the government deems offensive."
"After the fall of the previous regime we were optimistic," said Ghada al-Amily, manager of the House of Arts and Cultures, a Baghdad publishing company. "But instead of activating and encouraging publishing houses, they are incapacitating them."
Iraqi writer Taha H. al-Shebeeb called the policy "an awful retreat" and observed: "If this is true, I will hold a press conference where I will burn my novels and say that I had been mistaken when I objected to the policies of the previous regime."
Congratulations to Roger Saginario of Hachette Book Group, winner of this year's Gilman Award for outstanding service as a sales rep to New England bookstores. He will be honored at the NEIBA Trade Show Awards Luncheon in Hartford, Conn., October 1.
Saginario has been a Hachette rep for the past eight years. He began his publishing career 20 years ago at Putnam and also held sales positions with Simon & Schuster and Krikorian Miller.
The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. Becky Dayton, who purchased the store in 2005, told Business People-Vermont that her decision to take over the venerable shop was essentially an "impulse purchase . . . I bought the business because I was dreadfully bored and wanted something to sink my teeth into, but also because I love Middlebury. This is my home, and I don’t want it to die. I want it to have a vibrant downtown community."
In addition to altering the bookstore's inventory mix to increase margins, Dayton has established an online presence through her website and social media networks. "These days you can't have a business without some kind of Web presence," she said. "Facebook is the ultimate vehicle for personal service. I look at it several times a day, and if someone wants recommendations about a book, I can get back to them really quickly."
St. Paul, Minn., police believe the safe stolen from Common Good Books last week (Shelf Awareness, August 3, 2009) was found by a woman walking her dog Friday. The Pioneer Press reported that police Sergeant Paul Schnell said the safe had been pried open, and that "miscellaneous papers, deposit slips and receipts were left behind . . . All valuables were gone, but what is left is being processed for evidence . . . No arrests have been made, though police are looking at a couple of 'people of interest,' Schnell said. Police have received leads and investigators are following up on them. They're also looking into whether the case is connected to other burglaries in the area.'"
In other news from the bookselling police blotter, Valeria's Last Stand author Marc Fitten was an on-the-spot reporter Monday during his visit to bookshop #46--Alexander Book Company, San Francisco, Calif.--on his "Look At 100 Bookstores Across America" tour.
"It’s not even 10 a.m. and I've witnessed my day’s high drama," Fitten wrote on his blog, noting that "an overzealous reader and not a career criminal" had been nabbed leaving the bookshop with "a backpack full of summer reading."
Fitten's subsequent investigation revealed a bookstore that is "great! Really great! A huge store. Three floors. A gorgeous, pre-1908 building with exposed brick walls and reinforced beams."
"We sell portable reading devices." Rich Rennicks, bookstore liaison
for Unbridled Books and a bookseller at Malaprop's Bookstore,
Asheville, N.C., took this photograph of an excellent sign for the times in the window of Jackson St. Books, Athens, Ga.
Location, location, location. "The best bookstore in Southern Nevada is four trailers nailed together off Highway 372 in Pahrump," according to the Las Vegas Sun, which suggested that the Bookworm Haven is representative of the kind of great used bookshop that "sells titles that are not only used, but used and cheap, and specializes in paperbacks. The stock will stretch across decades of authors. There will be so many books that the shelves can't contain them. Books will be stacked on top of shelves and on the floor. Ideally, there will be a smell, an earthy must of aging paper."
Beginning yesterday at 11 a.m., Random House is offering Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann "as a free download for 48 hours exclusively on Oprah.com" to website members in anticipation of the author's upcoming visit to the site, where he will be "taking questions from Oprah.com readers."
The Great Falls, Mont., Tribune profiled area used bookstores River Breaks Basecamp, Latigo & Lace and Oasis.
"A small-town bookstore has access to estate sales, with older books and collections," said Tom Carrels, owner of River Breaks Basecamp, Fort Benton. "And people come to me with nice, old collections. They don't want a lot of money; they just want their value and to see them used locally."
The New York Times introduced its profile of Nick McDonell by observing that the author "ought to be an easy person to dislike. He is young, smart, good looking and ridiculously well connected. His father is Terry McDonell, the editor of Sports Illustrated, and he grew up in the kind of gilded New York household where Joan Didion, Jay McInerney and George Plimpton were drop-in guests. His godfather is Morgan Entrekin, the publisher of Grove/Atlantic, who bought Mr. McDonell's first novel, Twelve, when Mr. McDonell was just 18." The final verdict, however, was that McDonell is quite likable after all.
Obituary note: Author and journalist Sidney Zion, who "wrote a novel, a book on gangsters, a volume of essays and a biography of the lawyer Roy Cohn," died Sunday, the New York Times reported. He was 75.
Steven L. Isenberg has been appointed executive director of the PEN American Center. He succeeds Michael Roberts, who resigned in June after 11 years at the helm.
"In a richly varied career, Steven Isenberg has demonstrated over and over again that he is imbued--as PEN is--with a love of literature and an unyielding commitment to free expression around the world," said Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN's board of trustees. "He has taught British and American literature and written elegantly about the poets who have always inspired him. As a former newsman, he knows from first hand experience why freedom of expression matters; and as a member of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steve understands the critical importance of organizations dedicated to protecting it. He combines this vision with long experience as an effective and inspiring leader. I couldn't be more delighted to welcome him to the executive directorship of our organization."