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Book News: Apple Seeks Patent For Digital Book-Signing Technology

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Although ebooks can be more convenient than their ink-and-paper counterparts, they still have some decided disadvantages: There is no such thing as an old-ebook smell, you can't decorate your apartment with them to make yourself look smarter, and you can't get them signed by the author. But on Thursday, Apple applied for a patent on technology that would allow authors to digitally autograph ebooks, noting that "some users still prefer paper media products for the physical attributes of paper media products, which include the ability to have a copy of a book personalized." PC Magazine explains, "A digital tome would come embedded with a specific autograph page, or a 'hot spot' autograph widget area configured to receive autographs." It adds, "Don't expect to see this e-autograph system added to iBooks anytime soon. Many patent ideas never come to fruition — though this idea seems more plausible than others."
  • Critic Lee Siegel discusses why he no longer writes brutal takedowns: "Nowadays the abstractions of aesthetic and intellectual criteria matter much less to me than people's efforts to console themselves, to free themselves, to escape from themselves, by sitting down and making something." Naturally enough, Siegel's essay attracted its own brutal takedown.
  • Teju Cole memorializes the Ghanaian poet Kofi Awoonor, who was killed in the attacks on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. Cole was also in the Kenyan capital at the time, attending the same literary festival as Awoonor. He writes, "Like his late friend Christopher Okigbo, he was invested in the ritual and chthonic possibilities of African vernacular language, in his case Ewe. From that Ewe tradition came the feeling for elegy, which he applied with seriousness and dark irony to the serial crises of post-independence Ghana. The Ewe language also gave his poetry strong musical cadences, so that even when the meaning was opaque, the lines were fluent."
  • Just more than half of Americans read at least one book for fun last year, according to an annual survey from the National Endowment for the Arts. More women than men read at least one work of literature, and 64- to 75-year-olds read more than any other age group.
  • David Gilmour, who said in an interview that he doesn't teach books by women or Chinese authors, has been roundly disowned by faculty members at the University of Toronto, where he teaches classes. English professor Holger Syme wrote in a blog post: "David Gilmour is not a colleague of mine." Paul Stevens, the acting chair of the university's English department, sent an email to the faculty that was obtained by Gawker, saying, "First, David Gilmour is not a member of the Department of English at the University of Toronto, and second, his ill-informed and offensive views could not be less representative of the ... practices of the Department."
  • "Passing Place," a new poem by Helen Mort, appeared in Granta: "Stall here and let the world / go past, the way / the world well might / on heather-coloured days like this..."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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