Books and Screens and the Reading Brain

From the earliest clay tablets down to the latest touch screens: reading is an interaction of embodied humans with technology. Over time technological developments have caused numerous changes, and even transformations, in reading habits and the reading culture. The introduction of the rotary press together with industrial paper production in the nineteenth century, for example, made available cheap reading materials for the masses. This was followed by a tremendous growth not just in the number of readers but, more significantly, in the demographics of the reading public. By contrast, in the course of the second half of twentieth century, notably after the introduction of television, many unskilled readers stopped reading books.

Similarly, the current wholesale adoption of digital screens – in educational as well as leisure settings – has begun to affect our reading habits. Screens offer a substitute for reading from paper, but equally offer viewing, gaming and listening opportunities on the same device, not to mention the constant lure of the social media. This increases screen time, offering strong competition for people’s leisure time and reducing time spent on sustained (book) reading. It also raises urgent questions concerning small-and large-scale effects of technology on educational outcomes. There is evidence that screens change the reading experience in terms of memory and (in the case of fiction) transportation. It is also likely that digital texts are simply taken less seriously than texts on paper to begin with. Together with the 24/7 availability of huge amounts of searchable information, these and other changes will no doubt affect how we think about knowledge and information. It promotes just-in-time information gathering rather than memorising of facts, and thinking in terms of smaller fragments of information rather than longer chunks that have already been synthesised into knowledge.

The multidisciplinary EU COST E-READ Action, running between November 2014 and November 2018 has fostered a great deal of empirical research on the effects of the wholesale adoption of screens for reading. The conference ‘Books and screens and the reading brain’ is intended to showcase some of the preliminary findings. What really changes and why? But these findings also need contextualisation, relating them to the history and present practice of reading and the social history of literacy. They invite pondering the next questions. Issues the conference proposes to address include (but are not confined to):

  • Empirical evidence of reading practices, e.g., book industry statistics; library statistics; media use/time-spending surveys;
  • How are we to interpret the outcomes of empirical research and what are their implications for the future of reading and the role of reading in education?
  • Relations between different formats (e.g., hardcover vs softcover; print vs screen) and reading practices;
  • The history and present use of books and digital learning tools in education and their relative effectiveness;
  • The changing status and social position of reading for various purposes, such as learning and leisure;
  • The changing definition of literacy;
  • The changing historiography of reading and development of research instruments.

Conference place

  • Vilnius University (Lithuania).

Conference language

  • English.

Key dates

  • 1 March 2017: Final deadline for proposals for individual papers and/or sessions.
  • 1 May 2017: Notification of acceptance.
  • 29 May 2017: Deadline for registration of participants.
  • 27 September 2017: Opening of the conference.

Submission guideline/Registration

Please submit proposals and register online through the website of the conference ( Time allocated for papers, 20 minutes. Proposals for individual papers must include a title, an abstract (max. 150 words), and a short biography of the presenter (max. 50 words). Articles based on the papers probably will be published in COST Action E-READ special publication and Vilnius University peer reviewed, open access scholarly journal „Knygotyra“ (Book Science) volumes of the year 2018. Conference fee – 200 Euros. There is a reduced rate of 150 Euros for SHARP members and 100 Euros for PhD students. Conference is free for EU COST E-READ Action members.


  • Participants are responsible for their own accommodation during the conference.


Correspondence address

  • Institute of Book Science and Documentation Faculty of Communication Vilnius University Saulėtekio av. 9 LT–10222 Vilnius, Lithuania

The Author – Wanted, Dead or Alive

New perspectives on the concept of authorship, 1700-1900
European University Institute (Florence, Italy)
A SHARP Regional Event
5-6 June 2017

Proposals are sought for a workshop aiming to bring together fresh perspectives on the concept of authorship in the period 1700-1900. Especially encouraged are submissions which focus on marginal or ‘accidental’ authors, examine the authorial roles of publishers, printers and other actors, deal critically with the notion of authorship from a broader methodological, historiographical or theoretical angle, or consider non-European and colonial contexts. Possible additional topics include: transnational or comparative aspects of book production and authorship; processes of self-presentation; constraints on authorial agency; legal frameworks such as censorship and copyright; the commercialization and marketing of authors; the uses and meanings of anonymous or pseudonymous publication.

The two-day workshop will take place at the European University Institute in Florence on 5-6 June 2017. Abstracts of 300 words should be sent by 31 January 2017 to, including an updated CV and contact information. Participants will receive notification of acceptance no later than 15 February 2017.

Bursaries for graduate students, sponsored by SHARP, are available to help with travel expenses. Applicants should indicate their interest in these bursaries along with their abstracts.

Any further questions about the event, funding or the application process should be directed to the organizing committee, Matilda Greig (, John-Erik Hansson ( and Mikko Toivanen (

Click here to view / download the flyer.

Radical Book History

SHARP Affiliate Organization Panel at MLA
Radical Book History: People, Archives, Methods
Thursday, 5 January 2017, 5:15–6:30 p.m., Franklin 3, Philadelphia Marriott

  • This roundtable will discuss the study of “radical” book trade figures, the use of “radical” methodologies or archives. Digital humanities will be an important aspect of this discussion. Literary modernism and censorship in the twentieth century will be another common theme.
  • Amy Chen will look at the market for literary collections in the United States from 1944 forward, and its impact on the literary canon.
  • Ronan Crowley will talk about large-scale digitisation initiatives that shed light on the way James Joyce wrote Ulysses.
  • Hannah Field will discuss the issue of titles rejected from British deposit libraries and its impact on the ideal of the universal repository.
  • Laura Heffernan will look at a largely neglected figure, the editor John Rodker who collaborated with major modernists such as Ezra Pound and James Joyce.
  • Eric Loy will talk about the Henry Miller Literary Society and censorship in twentieth-century America.
  • Heidi Morse will look at American small presses that helped catalyze the spread of black feminist discourse and writing by radical women of color in the 1970s and 1980s.


A Quantitative Approach to the Canon: Literary Collection Acquisition Patterns

Amy H. Chen

A radical reconceptualization of book history requires us to think not only about how books are composed, published, and read, but also how writers’ papers, which document the creation of these books, circulate in their own market.

This paper will examine literary collection acquisition trends for the authors listed in Volume E of the Norton Anthology of American Literature using quantitative descriptive analysis with primarily nominal data. Results of this study include, but are not limited to, the demographics of writers with placed and unplaced collections; how often literary collections are given rather than sold; and what type of connections are most likely to result in an author selecting one academic library over another to hold his or her collection.

The research presented in this paper comprises three chapters in a forthcoming book to be titled Archival Bodies: The American Literary Collections Market since 1944.

‘Trieste-Zurich-Paris’: Literary Geography and Large-Scale Digitisation

Ronan Crowley

As an émigré Irishman living on the Continent during and immediately after the First World War, James Joyce wrote Ulysses (1922) in ‘Trieste-Zurich-Paris, 1914–1921’, as its final line famously proclaims. Criticism has suffered, however, from being too narrowly focused on the social networks to which this itinerary introduced the writer. Moreover, while generations of readers have noted the densely allusive nature of the novel, entirely overlooked is the role that Joyce’s migrations played in creating this multilayered, reiterative effect. Ronan Crowley’s paper, ‘“Trieste-Zürich-Paris”: Literary Geography and Large-Scale Digitisation’, focuses on the transforming print ecologies of war-torn Europe in order to trace the impact that relocation around the Continent had on the preeminent resource for Joyce’s writing: the printed material from which he derived reusable copy. Not only will such analysis sharpen our understanding of the compositional history of a modern masterpiece – revealing an even wider, more fundamental cosmopolitanism than previously suspected – but it also reveals the relationships between the print culture of the early twentieth century and the mass digitisation of this material ongoing since the early 2000s.

No Such Book: Legal Deposit, Rejected Items, and the Ideal of the Universal Repository

Hannah Field

Arguments for the legal deposit of books—the process by which a select group of libraries receives all copyrighted publications gratis, and preserves them for posterity—are typically founded upon egalitarian principles. Indiscriminate conservation of absolutely everything is legal deposit’s chief recommendation as an archival practice. However, legal deposit is also marked both by debates around what should be included in these (elite) libraries, and by a relatively unexamined history of rejection. Plays, novels, almanacs, sheet music, digital media: these materials, among others, have challenged not just the practical implementation of legal deposit, but also its catholic ideals. This paper will use titles rejected from British deposit libraries as the basis for a radical methodology for examining ephemerality, canonicity, national print cultures, and the universal repository. Examining items rejected from legal deposit brings currently high-status items (such as novels and plays) into dialogue with items that remain neglected to this day (such as almanacs and sporting manuals); it also illuminates the negative formulation of concepts of print’s value, which comprise exclusion—the ‘no-such-books’ that will not be preserved—as well as positive decisions. At the paper’s centre are copyright debates in 1818, when publishers and authors complained that deposit libraries, including those at Oxford and Cambridge, rejected too many books. Library representatives were then forced to justify their acquisition practices in the House of Commons. These parliamentary records provide an unexpected location for disavowals and defences of the period’s key print forms, including the novel, as well as for meditations on the universal repository in theory and in practice.

John Rodker and the Failures of Print

Laura Heffernan

This paper opens with an overview of the humbler histories of print recently offered by scholars such as Leah Price, Lara Cohen, and Trish Loughran. Arguing that we have over-estimated print’s power, these critics highlight instead the failure of books to furnish individual interiority, foster imagined communities, or even be read at all.  What, if anything, could be radical about these new accounts of print’s inefficaciousness?  To answer this question, this paper turns to the 1920s to consider a constellation of projects undertaken by poet, publisher, and editor John Rodker. Though Rodker collaborated with major modernists such as Pound and Joyce, he has largely been left out of literary histories of that movement — ostensibly because of the frankly sexual content of his writing and of his subscription-based Casanova Press, which produced luxury editions of historical erotica.  We might thus associate Rodker with the promises of radical print and book shop counter-culture, yet I argue that Rodker himself grappled through the 1920s with his own lived sense of print’s failures. Indeed, Rodker envisioned a future without print and a public undivided by literacy; he ceased writing and publishing himself in the early 1930s.  Drawing on his publisher’s papers, editorial correspondence, and the dream journals he kept during his psychoanalysis, I reconstitute Rodker’s experience of the limits of print and suggest how his work indicates the radical promise of book history’s own turn from authorial geniuses to uncelebrated publishers/editors/readers and, most recently, to non-readers.

The Henry Miller Literary Society: Subverting Censorship in 20th Century America

Eric C. Loy

Published in 1934 in Paris by Obelisk Press and an instant classic for the European world that produced the book, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer was “immediately famous and immediately banned in all English-speaking countries” (Shapiro ix). Three decades later, Grove Press published and released an American edition, which led to dozens of obscenity lawsuits in more than twenty states—a legal quagmire not settled until 1964 by the U.S. Supreme Court decision that vindicated Tropic as a work of literature.

Through an archival excavation of original correspondence and official publications currently stored at the University of Minnesota, this presentation recounts the genesis and development of the little-known Henry Miller Literary Society (HMLS) as it represents and participates in the cultural shifts surrounding Miller’s and Tropic’s tumultuous history of reception in the United States. The society, founded by Minneapolis printer Eddie Schwartz in 1958, comprised a grassroots effort for the publication and promotion of Miller in his own country, in his own time. Examination of letters between Schwartz and Miller as well as the society’s newsletters and other publications reveal a highly motivated and coordinated campaign for the cultural and academic acceptance of Miller’s work.

Accordingly, primary documents will be presented to illustrate the society’s historical narrative of subverting literary censorship and their support for one of American literature’s most radical figures. This account of the HMLS thus engages radical book history twofold: by recovering lost or suppressed narratives of censored literature and through the proposed model of an archive of documents to tell such a story. Invited roundtable discussion will focus on the continued importance of material archives and on strategies for editing primary documents in a political context.

From Shameless Hussy to Kitchen Table: Women in Print History

Heidi Morse

The first editions of Pat Parker and Ntozake Shange’s first books, Child of Myself (1971) and For colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf (1975), share a surprising intimacy: they were both run off the same AB Dick 360 offset press in poet-publisher Alta Gerrey’s garage.  Alta’s Shameless Hussy Press, founded in 1969, produced bold chapbooks with a philosophy of minimal editing and maximum exposure.  A decade later, Barbara Smith co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which published key feminist texts such as Home Girls (1983) and This Bridge Called My Back (1983, 2nd ed.).  Both presses helped catalyze the spread of black feminist discourse and writing by radical women of color, but they also depended on DIY methods and a very small labor force—mostly unpaid—for production and distribution.  Alta carried boxes to local Bay Area bookstores, while Kitchen Table used longtime volunteer Lucretia Diggs’ home address for years because she was such an integral part of daily operations.  Feminist print circuits in the 1970s-80s were bound to the daily lives of the women who made them work, and scholarship on radical print history offers a unique opportunity to examine this interconnectivity.  Using the daily operations of these two presses as case studies—with archival evidence from UCSC McHenry Library (Shameless Hussy) and the Lesbian Herstory Archives (Kitchen Table)—this paper theorizes radical women’s print history as a history of radical everyday actions by women who believed in the power of print.

The Sixteenth Century Society and Conference

Two sessions on “Movement of Counter-Reformation Orthodoxy and Ideologies” and “Bureaucracy, Knowledge, and the Book in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America” will be held at the 2015 meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC), October 22-25, in Vancouver, BC. These panels are sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP), and the submission deadline for both is March 31, 2015.

Movement of Counter-Reformation Orthodoxy and Ideologies

Proposals are sought for a session examining the movement of Counter-Reformation orthodoxy and ideologies throughout Europe and the Colonial World, to be held at the 2015 meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC), October 22-25, in Vancouver B.C. Possible topics might include the migration of Counter-Reformation spirituality and thought throughout a changing socio-political world, the production, translation, and dissemination of religious texts, policies of censorship and expurgation, and examinations of the diverse cultural and political circumstances that shaped the reception and interpretation of Counter-Reformation orthodoxy and ideology. Papers should relate to the period covered by SCSC, defined roughly as 1450-1660. This session is sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP). Proposers need not be members of SHARP to submit, but panelists must be members of both SCSC and SHARP in order to present. Send a 250-word abstract by March 31 to José Espericueta (

Bureaucracy, Knowledge, and the Book in Early Modern Spain and Spanish America

Proposals are sought for a session examining the interrelation of Bureaucracy, Knowledge, and the Book in early modern Spain and Spanish America, to be held at the 2015 meeting of the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC), 22-25 October at the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Papers may consider topics such as, church and crown regulation of the printed book, including preventive and punitive censorship; author and book affiliations to the interlocking crown and church bureaucracies; roles of bureaucratic agents in book production; bureaucratic and political interventions in the production and dissemination of knowledge via the printed book; and circumvention of church and crown bureaucratic mechanisms in book production and dissemination. Papers should relate to the period covered by SCSC, defined roughly as 1450-1660. This session is sponsored by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP). Proposers need not be members of SHARP to submit, but panelists must be members of both SCSC and SHARP in order to present. Send a 250-word abstract by March 31 to Felipe Ruan (

Manuzio in Spain

We take great pleasure in announcing the forthcoming SHARP-sponsored colloquium “Manuzio in Spain”. The Colloquium will be held at the Historical Library of the University Complutense of Madrid, on 10 April 2015. The event has been organised by our very own liaison to the Iberian region, Benito Rial Costas, and by Antonio Carpallo Bautista. Supporting organizations include SHARP; Asociación Española de Bibliografía, Bibliopegia (Univ. Complutense); and Biblioteca Histórica. Universidad Complutense de Madrid. In conjunction, the library will also be presenting a micro-exhibition that includes some of its material from the press of Aldus Manuzio. The language of the presentations will be Spanish. For more details, please download the programme or view it below. Those with interests in Aldus Manutius may be interested in the Manutius network page at CERL: Consortium of European Research Libraries.


Segundo Coloquio sobre Publicaciones Periódicas Argentinas

Centro de Estudios de Teoría y Crítica Literaria (CTCL)
Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales (IdIHCS)
Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación, Universidad Nacional de La Plata Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET)
Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP)

2 al 4 de diciembre de 2015

Comité científico
Verónica Delgado (Idihcs, UNLP-CONICET)
Geraldine Rogers (CONICET / UNLP)

En diciembre de 2013 realizamos el Primer coloquio sobre publicaciones periódicas argentinas. El encuentro reunió en el rectorado de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata a un grupo de veintitrés investigadores, formados y en formación, de distintas disciplinas y de varias instituciones universitarias y centros de investigación, con trabajos en curso sobre revistas, diarios, suplementos semanales y otras formas de publicación periódica en la Argentina de los dos últimos siglos (XIX y XX). La participación de los expositores a lo largo de esas dos jornadas hizo posible el intercambio de información, la discusión de avances y perspectivas metodológicas.

El libro colectivo Tramas impresas: publicaciones periódicas argentinas (XIX-XX) (Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 2014, ISBN 978-950-34-1163-6, en prensa) es producto de aquel encuentro, donde se discutieron las versiones iniciales de cada capítulo.

En diciembre de 2015 llevaremos a cabo el Segundo coloquio sobre publicaciones periódicas argentinas, como continuidad y profundización de la tarea iniciada hace dos años, fundada en la relevancia del estudio de las publicaciones periódicas para la comprensión integral de los procesos culturales. Como señalamos en aquella oportunidad, diversos análisis muestran que no son simples contenedoras de textos e imágenes (fuentes documentales para el estudio de autores o ideas) sino formas específicas de la cultura impresa de la modernidad, cuya complejidad y relevancia las vuelve objetos de estudio en sí mismas. Advertir su densa materialidad equivale a descubrir una dimensión que excede en mucho su consideración como meros vehículos de textos e imágenes. Estudiarlas como bienes simbólicos elaborados colectivamente obliga a pensar la significación que adquirieron los grupos nucleados alrededor de ellas (o que circularon a través de ellas) atendiendo tanto a las prácticas específicas como a sus relaciones con procesos sociales de carácter más general.

El coloquio tiene como objetivo generar un espacio de discusión interdisciplinar sobre revistas, diarios, suplementos semanales y otras formas de publicación periódica en la Argentina de los dos últimos siglos. Se busca crear un ámbito productivo para las investigaciones actuales y futuras, favoreciendo el intercambio de información sobre recursos disponibles o en desarrollo (acervos hemerográficos, medios técnicos), la exposición de avances de investigación y el debate sobre perspectivas metodológicas. El encuentro contribuirá también a relevar cuestiones que podrían abordarse a través de una cooperación más sistemática.

Condiciones de participación y aspectos organizativos

Este coloquio está destinado a un grupo de 30 investigadores, formados y en formación, con líneas de trabajo (sobre publicaciones periódicas argentinas de los siglos XIX y XX) afines a los propósitos de este evento. Todos los participantes serán convocados por el comité científico.

Se trata de una reunión científica no arancelada, concebida como un espacio de intercambio genuino. En función de la muy positiva experiencia del Primer coloquio, buscamos preservar la participación activa en los debates a lo largo de las jornadas.

El encuentro se desarrollará en la Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata a lo largo de tres jornadas de trabajo (sin mesas paralelas) los días miércoles 2, jueves 3 y viernes 4 de diciembre de 2015.

Los participantes deberán confirmar su participación antes del 30 de junio de 2015 enviando un título y un resumen del trabajo.

Cada expositor contará con 15 minutos para presentar su ponencia y 15 minutos para la discusión posterior.

La versión final de los trabajos se publicará en 2016 en un libro de acceso abierto, con ISBN y propiedad intelectual registrada, en la web de la Facultad de Humanidades.

Correo para envío de resúmenes:

Print Culture and the Arts

Print Culture and the Arts
Durham, North Carolina
13-15 November 2015

Papers are invited for the SHARP affiliate session at the 2015 South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) Convention. Potential topics include print culture, history of the book, authorship, publishing history, ephemera, illustration, publishers’ archives, circulation, and reception. Papers addressing this year’s theme, “In Concert: Literature and the Other Arts” are especially welcome. What connections can be made between print culture/book history and the areas of visual art, theatre, and music? How has the relationship between print culture and the arts evolved from the manuscript age to the digital world of the 21st century?

The 87th annual SAMLA Convention will be held November 13-15, 2015, at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center, located in Durham, North Carolina. Proposers need not be members of SHARP to submit, but panelists must be members of both SHARP and SAMLA in order to present. By June 1, 2015, please email a 350-word abstract and short biography (including contact information) to SHARP liaison Dr. Melissa Makala, at

Please also visit SHARP at SAMLA’s Facebook page for more updates:

The Minority Book

International Book Science Conference
“The Minority Book: Historical Experiences and Modern Expressions in the Global World”
24-25 September 2015, Vilnius

With long traditions of printing and book culture, Vilnius was an important centre for book publishing and production in the Eastern part of the Central Europe for hundreds of years. Coexisting side by side, a wide range of book worlds evolved and developed in the city, each defined by the traditions of different religious and ethno-confessional communities, along with their information and communication needs. Due to changing political, economic and cultural conditions in different historical stages, the culture and publishing of the minority book developed new forms and expressions over the ages. The situation illustrated in Lithuania is representative of the typical traditions of publishing activity features of small countries and of minorities. These changes and differences are important for the harmonious development of societies in the global world.

The Book Science and Documentation Institute of the Faculty of Communication at Vilnius University is kindly inviting you to take part in the International Book Science Conference “The minority book: historical experiences and modern expressions in the global world”, which is planned for 24–25 September 2015 at Vilnius University. This will be the 23rd Vilnius Book Science Conference and it will be organised together with the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing and The Nordic-Baltic-Russian Network on the History of Books, Libraries and Reading. SHARP unites scholars of different disciplines conducting book studies and is a global network for book historians working in a broad range of scholarly disciplines. Based in the Baltic and Nordic states, HIBOLIRE is also a multinational and multidisciplinary network of book scholars  focussing on book history, reading history and library history.

 The 2015 conference will deal with broad issues from within the minority book culture and publishing history, as well as the challenges of modern times. The organizers of the conference hope that it will be attended by researchers studying printed and digital media creation, publishing, production, distribution and reception, as well as their expression in small social groups and communities. Contributions to the conference in these fields could influence the emergence and development of the relevant research of the minority book and publishing in the Baltic region, as well as in other European states and other countries.

The organizers of the conference relate the concept of minorities with the ethnic, confessional, cultural, social, linguistic and other types of social groupings and communities. Their book and print cultures are understood as a phenomenon that existed in different historical contexts, but have acquired increasing significance in the global world of our times. Thus, research in this thematic area becomes especially relevant for the modernity.

The call for the papers on the minority book covers the following topics:

  • Multilingual worlds of book in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania;
  • The book of small European nations in the modern society of the 19th century;
  • The renaissance of the regional (ethnic) community book in the 20th and 21st centuries;
  • Book publishing and culture in ethno-confessional communities in Europe (for example, Jewish, Tatar, Karaim and Old Believers’ books in Lithuania);
  • Alternative modes of publishing in different historical periods (collectable books, artists’ books, self-publishing, illegal publishing, publishing books in alternative formats, etc.);
  •  Publishing by emigrants’ communities in national and other languages;
  • Small country publishing in the global world.

Conference languages

Preferred presentations language is English. Presentations in Lithuanian and Russian also can be considered (please contact organizers for simultaneous translation during the conference)

Women & 19C Literature

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand
Hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and the Alexander Turnbull Library
23 January 2015

This one-day conference will explore the theme of women and nineteenth-century literature from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Please visit our website for more information. Topics include:

  • New approaches to canonical women writers (Austen, Mary Shelley, the Brontës, Gaskell, and many others)
  • Women and the Gothic in nineteenth-century writing
  • Nineteenth-century New Zealand women’s writing (Māori, Pākehā and tauiwi)
  • Women and genre in nineteenth-century writing
  • The depiction of women in nineteenth-century writing
  • Nineteenth-century women readers
  • Nineteenth-century women writers and their connections to earlier or later periods
  • New archives and sources for nineteenth-century writing and their connection to women

Into the Digital Future

SHARP Affiliate Organization Panel at MLA
“Into the Digital Future: Amazon, Apple, and Google Make Book History”
Vancouver Convention Center West 121
Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Book Trade from the Perspective of Its Businesses: Recent Developments
Daniel Raff, Univ. of Pennsylvania

This talk will survey the evolution of channels of distribution for long-form reading matter and the relationship of channel actors to their customers from the mid-1990s to the present. It will begin with the growth of “superstore” bookstore chains in the 1990s, probing the consequences of this for mall-based chains and independent bookstores and also the internal impediments to profitability and further growth the chains developed as the 90s wore on. The possible and actual histories of online bookselling will be sketched, from the early 1990s roots through the near catastrophe of the early post-millennium years to the present. The current state of play is one in which the number of independents       is much diminished, the principal mall chains have been absorbed by larger entities, Borders (with its captive mall chain) has gone bankrupt, Barnes & Noble is troubled, and Amazon’s book sales and market share are flourishing with many of the “books” it is selling being electronic files readable only on Amazon-sold and -controlled devices. The legacy publishers are very worried, with, as the recent and ongoing struggles between Amazon and selected major publishers this calendar year have shown, good reason. Amazon’s resources and competitive strategy—as these have developed, as they have the firm currently situated, and the opportunities they have created for Amazon and other collective actors going forward—will be characterized in a way that will situate the discussion in the papers by Laquintano and Sickmann to follow.

Amazon Et. Al.: Self-Publishing and the New Intermediaries
Tim Laquintano Assistant Professor of English Lafayette College

This presentation will begin by profiling the meteoric rise of self-publishing and its growing role in the contemporary publishing economy (recent estimates suggest 30% of Amazon’s best selling ebooks are self-published). Then, working from the premise that digital giants (e.g., Amazon) have become key intermediaries in the publishing chain, it will attempt to theorize, in a grounded way, how the “new intermediaries” shape the work of self-publishing ebook authors. The presentation draws on ethnographic interview data from a six-year study of seventy ebook authors to show how digital distributions systems impinge on the relationship of writers and readers. It pays particular attention to how the affordances of such systems (publishing policies, payment systems, metadata) shape the production of writers and their attempts to foster the circulation of their texts. It ultimately aims to advance a burgeoning discussion about how writers negotiate new models and possibilities for publishing.

Co-Creating Fictional Worlds Online: Hugh Howey and Kindle Publishing
Carrie Sickmann Han, Indiana University

Hugh Howey’s bestselling science fiction series, The Silo Saga, is attracting attention in the book industry for its unique online publishing history. What began as a short story published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform (KDP) quickly grew to a three-novel series (all first published using KDP) when an enthusiastic readership took advantage of online forums to demand more. Despite an unparalleled deal with Simon & Schuster that allows Howey to retain electronic rights to the books after they appear in print, Howey adamantly rejects any claim to exclusive rights to the fictional characters, events, and worlds he creates. He actively denounces Digital Rights Management (DRM) and encourages readers to use his fictional worlds as springboards for their commercial publications. Howey’s view of fiction as “a potentially collaborative affair” is gaining popularity with digital authors and readers, and major publishers like Amazon are responding by developing platforms that encourage readers to become co-creators of their favorite stories. By tracking Howey’s innovative use of Amazon’s newest publishing platforms, this paper will argue that we’re progressing towards a digital future that treats fiction as co-created, interactive, expanding worlds that extend beyond a single book or author.

Posted in MLA